- Posted by: Valerie Vaz MP
- Category: News
At Business Question on 21 June 2018, I raised with the Leader of the House the President of the United State’s policy of separating children from their parents. This Government appear to lack moral authority. They have lost their place in the world as a moral force. The Prime Minister could have telephoned the President and told him that this is barbaric and inhumane.
Below is my speech in full:
I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business. I note that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) is away on Committee business and I welcome the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) to these proceedings.
I am pleased that we have the business for the next two weeks. It is very interesting and very important, but there must be some mistake; I am sure that the Leader of the House will notice that there is a mistake. On 5 July, it is Back-Bench business.
The Secretary of State for Health wears the badges to remind everyone that he is the Secretary of State for Health. The Government make a big announcement just before the Brexit vote and then they do not schedule a debate on the 70th anniversary, celebrating 70 years of the NHS. I wonder whether that is because it was a Labour Government who innovated the NHS, a Labour Government who enacted it, and there have been record levels of investment by Labour Governments since 1997—nothing from the Government. There is no Brexit dividend because the Minister confirmed yesterday that the money will come from taxes. Does the Leader of the House agree with the Minister? Will she schedule a debate in Government time to congratulate the NHS because the shadow Health Secretary has many unanswered questions following the statement?
The Government criticise, as the Prime Minister did yesterday, the health service in Labour Wales, yet since 2010 they have cut back the block grant and reduced the capital grant by 10% and the revenue grant by 6%. They are also thwarting economic growth by stalling on a decision on the Swansea bay tidal lagoon. When will the Government make a statement on the decision on the Swansea bay tidal lagoon?
I note and welcome the Government’s move, under Standing Orders 57 and 9(6), to present the Voyeurism (Offences) (No. 2) Bill and introduce the Second Reading of the Bill—there is a business of the House motion at the end of the day—but can the Leader of the House confirm that the Bill will have all its stages before the start of the festival season? My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds East (Richard Burgon) has asked that question. With regard to the Edinburgh festival, I hope that the Bill will apply to everyone—men, including men in kilts, and women. It is good to see that the Government are using Standing Orders, but it is a pity that they have not applied that to money resolutions on private Members’ Bills.
Despite the written statement by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, hon. Members wanted to include the “meaningful vote” in the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, because it appears that the Government are flouting conventions; they are changing the convention on Committees of the House. They gave themselves a majority on the Selection Committee, even though, by convention, they should not have a majority without an overall majority in the House.
Yesterday, I was standing right next to my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami) when he asked, as late as 3 pm, whether the Government were nodding through. He was told that the Government were not, which resulted in hon. Members being forced to attend to vote when they were sick. I gave evidence to the Procedure Committee mentioning this process and its members nodded in agreement, as this is a convention that is based on trust. It seems that the Government do not trust Members on their own side and told them to be here. All the trust and conventions that enable us to carry out our work here appear to have broken down. I thank the Doorkeepers, who, when I asked for a wheelchair, found one and delivered it in time for my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford West (Naz Shah) to vote. Can the Leader of the House ensure, through discussions with the usual channels, that the nodding through process will continue to be the convention in the House and that Government Whips cannot break it at their whim?
This Government appear to lack moral authority. They have lost their place in the world as a moral force. My hon. Friend the Member for Luton South (Mr Shuker) asked the Prime Minister: what does it take to withdraw the invitation to the President of the United States, whose policy is to separate children from their parents and make them sleep under foil? The Prime Minister could have telephoned the President and told him that this is barbaric and inhumane. This country was one of the founding framers of the European convention on human rights and the League of Nations and the birthplace of Mary Wollstonecraft, Tom Paine and others. The policy may have changed, but can the Leader of the House ask the Prime Minister, on behalf of the citizens of the United Kingdom, to tell the President that that was not and never will be acceptable?
Will the Leader of the House ask the Foreign Secretary on behalf of four-year-old Gabriella Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who had her birthday last week and has been separated from her mother, when we will see the release of Nazanin? Today marks 810 days of her imprisonment on spurious charges.
Finally, I want to send Heidi Alexander all good wishes for her new post. She will use her talents in Mayor Khan’s office, and we welcome the talents of her successor. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Vicky Foxcroft), who was the candidate support, and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham East (Janet Daby) will continue her parents’ tradition of brilliantly serving our country.