Business Questions 2 February 2017

At Business Questions I raised various issues with the Leader of the House, Rt Hon David Lidington MP. My speech is below:


May I thank the Leader of the House for the statement? I note that we still do not know when the House is rising for the summer recess, so I ask him again to announce that date.


May I add the Opposition’s voice to your letter, Mr Speaker, and the letter from the Lord Speaker about a date for a debate on restoration and renewal? Members need to know what is going on and engineers and everybody else need to keep the House safe, so the sooner that we can have that debate the better.


Mr Speaker, you will not believe this, but on this day in 2004, Roger Federer began his 237th consecutive week run as world No. 1, and that record remains unbeaten. He has now won the Australian Open—possibly because you, Mr Speaker, interviewed him. Roger Federer has had longer to get to the final of the Australian Open than Parliament has had to debate triggering article 50.


This is not a democratic Government. The Government thought that they could trigger article 50 on their own, but the Supreme Court dragged them back to Parliament. The Prime Minister said that the Supreme Court did ​not tell them what form the Bill should take, but drafting the legislation is the job of the Executive. It is the Court’s job to interpret that legislation.


The Government produced a two-clause Bill, but they were clearly having a laugh, because in the first line, it says, “The Prime Minister may—”. They used the word “way” instead of, possibly, “must”. There is no discretion in this. In order to leave the EU, as the people of Britain have voted for, all the Prime Minister has to do is to give notice to trigger article 50; that is all article 50 is about.


This is a secretive Government who failed to tell Parliament about the misfiring of a missile. That is why Her Majesty’s Opposition has been asking for a plan from the end of last year and for a White Paper since the Prime Minister made a speech to Lancaster House—not this House—which will be published only today.


We cannot trust this Government, because the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union was among those who said that £350 million would go to the NHS if the UK leaves. That has now been proved to be incorrect, so how can we trust them now? That is why the Prime Minister has to report back to Parliament on the deals. Will the Leader of the House, in the interests of the British people and democracy, ensure that there is a vote on the final deal made by the Government so that we can protect workers’ rights and EU citizens, retain tariff-free access to the single market and all EU tax avoidance and tax evasion measures, consult with the devolved Governments and ask the Government to publish any impact assessments?


As the Prime Minister’s words yesterday showed, this is not the Government of the NHS. Could we have a statement on the Prime Minister’s response to the letter from 2,000 senior clinicians who said that they have reached unacceptable levels of safety concerns for their patients, and could that statement also say whether hospitals are operating at safe staffing levels? Will the Government publish a response from the Prime Minister to the letter from the Chairs of the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government, the Public Accounts Committee and the Select Committee on Health?


Now we see the recklessness of the Government’s policies. They changed NHS bursaries, which has resulted in fewer people wanting to become nurses. It is the same recklessness that was shown by the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), who now says that he regrets cancelling Building Schools for the Future. Tell that to the Joseph Leckie Academy in my constituency, which had its allocation cancelled; children now have to be sent home when it rains heavily. With 46% of schools losing funding under the new funding formula, could we have a statement on why the £384 million that was in the education budget has been clawed back by the Treasury? Schools deserve the money now, not in a budget giveaway.


The Leader of the House has failed to respond to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham (Pat Glass) about her Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill, having said two weeks ago that he was not in a position to make a statement. Will he now state the position on that Bill?


The Speaker of the House of Representatives of Burma, Win Myint, was here last week at your invitation, Mr Speaker. Sadly, a key constitutional expert and lawyer ​for the National League for Democracy, Ko Ni, was assassinated in Burma this week. He just happened to be a Muslim. Will the Leader of the House ask the Foreign Secretary to do all he can to support the Burmese Government in their quest for peace?


Finally, it is World Cancer day on 4 February. Every hon. Member will have been touched in some way or know of someone who has been affected by the disease, so will the Leader of the House join me in thanking all the researchers looking for a cure? On Saturday, let us remember all those who have lost their lives to the disease, wish all those well who are currently going through treatment, and celebrate with those who have beaten the disease.