Business Questions 24 May 2018

I asked the Leader of the House if she could confirm whether any of the Bills relating to Europe will be debated in this place before the European Council meeting scheduled for 28 and 29 June? This Minority Government is too afraid to debate any Bill with the letters “EU” in it.

You can read my speech in full below:

May I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the forthcoming business and for her statement? I say to her gently, however, that by making a statement she eats into the time for right hon. and hon. Members to ask questions, so perhaps she should provide statements at the end, when she is the last person to speak.

The forthcoming business is very light and no Lords amendments are expected for when the House next sits—[Interruption.] I will take longer if Government Members keep chuntering. Will the Leader of the House confirm what the Government Chief Whip said to the 1922 committee, namely that the European Union (Withdrawal Bill) will be back on 11 June? It seems that the respected journalist Faisal Islam is announcing House business: he has tweeted about the withdrawal Bill, the trade Bill and the customs Bill, and that there will be a debate on 11 June. Will the Leader of the House confirm whether he is the new virtual Leader of the House? Will the trade Bill and customs Bill, which should by now have passed Report stage and Third Reading, be debated on 11 June? I am asking the Leader of the House rather than Faisal Islam. Will she confirm whether any of the Bills relating to Europe will be debated in this place—she obviously cannot talk about the other place—before the European Council meeting scheduled for 28 and 29 June?

It is unprecedented to treat Parliament in this way, with business being announced in the media, not in the House. Surely Democratic Unionist party Members do not want to prop up a Government who treat Parliament in such a way—short-termist, limping from one week to the next.

Brexit is so important. We need to take time to consider the proposals, in the best interests of the country. However, yesterday’s session of the Treasury Committee heard that the Government still have not worked out the customs arrangements. It is no wonder that the Tory party has to have a loyalty scheme to try to attract young people. This is about the interests of young people and the future of this country.

Where are the hon. Members for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg), for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope), for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) and for Stone (Sir William Cash)? They have been calling for parliamentary sovereignty, but why have we not heard in this House when we will debate the Bills? [Interruption.] I will take longer.

What about a debate on the fact that the number of French, Belgian and Dutch companies registered 48%, 38% and 52% fewer businesses respectively in 2016-17 than in the previous year, and that there was a 90% collapse in foreign investment in the UK last year compared with 2016?

If the Government are too afraid to debate any Bill with the letters “EU” in it, how about heeding the words of the Prime Minister: “to make Britain a country that works for everyone and not just the privileged few”; or, to put it the other way—the way we put it—for the many, not the few? Perhaps, therefore, we could have a debate on the report by Professor Peter Dwyer of the University York, who tracked claimants over five years and said: “The outcomes from sanctions are almost universally negative.”

Or what about a debate on the social injustice of the growing number of homeless people being fined, given criminal convictions or even being imprisoned? A judge said: “I will be sending a man to prison for asking for food when he was hungry”.

Or what about a debate on “Still Dying on the Inside”, a report by the charity Inquest? Most women who go to prison—84% of them—do so for non-violent offences, and two thirds of women in prison are mothers of dependent children. Where is the Government’s commitment to social justice?

And what about the head of Motability, whose salary is more than 10 times that of the Prime Minister? He can afford to buy a top of the range car, but I have had to write to him about constituents who have had their cars taken away, and some of them cannot even walk while waiting for their assessments. He has had support from the Government through tax breaks.

We have had the chaotic situation of the Government standing to support the Opposition in the application made by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Afzal Khan) for an emergency Standing Order No. 24 debate on his constituency boundaries Bill, when all that was needed was a money resolution. The hon. Member for North East Somerset said that the quote I gave from “Erskine May” did not apply to private Members’ Bills, but I have taken advice and found that it applies both to Government Bills and to private Members’ Bills. Indeed, the Standing Orders that he himself mentioned apply to both.

I want to raise another House matter, raised last week by the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), about the post office counter in Members’ Lobby. Will the Leader of the House use her best offices to talk to the Chair of the Administration Committee to ensure that Members are consulted about the closure of that counter, because they have not been. It is very useful to have it there, particularly if there are queues in Central Lobby.

Finally, will the Leader of the House confirm, following the wonderful wedding last week and the performance by the gospel choir, that the Prime Minister is now singing that Ben E. King classic, “Stand by Me”? I, too, wish everyone a happy Whitsun break.