- Posted by: Valerie Vaz MP
- Category: News
It is Armed Forces Day on Saturday to honour the men and women who make up our armed forces. The Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Defence Secretary are announcing our five pledges to support the forces and their families—fair pay, decent housing, a voice for servicemen and women, an end to privatisation, and support for forces children—but there has been a real-terms pay cut for our servicemen and women over the past seven years. The starting salary of an Army private is now £1,150 lower in real terms than in 2010.
You can read my speech in full below:
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for announcing the business for next week. The Chair of the Backbench Business Committee seems to be the de facto Leader of the House once again, because he is setting the agenda with debates on two days—lucky him.
The motion for the House to rise on 25 July was passed on Monday. I understand that the results of the ballot for the Tory party leadership will be out on Tuesday 23 July. The Prime Minister may have to go Buckingham palace on Wednesday 24 July, and then the new leader of the Tory party will also have to go to the palace—possibly on the Thursday—to confirm with our gracious sovereign that he has the confidence of the House. Many hon. Members are concerned that there may be no time to question the new Prime Minister before the House rises, so will the Leader of the House assure us that he will make time for the new Prime Minister to make a statement and answer questions from hon. Members?
Last week, the Leader of the House said that the House would return on 3 September. Some press reports suggest that he has been involved in discussions about the House not rising for the conference recess. Will he confirm whether those discussions have taken place, whether and when the conference recess will start, or whether the House will sit during our conferences?
It is no wonder that ambassadors are saying that the UK’s standing around the world is diminished. On the one hand, the Government said that they are setting net zero carbon targets for 2050, but on the other hand the Treasury introduced its Value Added Tax (Reduced Rate) (Energy-Saving Materials) Order 2019, which is in effect a steep VAT increase for the installation of energy-saving materials. More importantly, is the Leader of the House aware of the point raised by my noble friend Baroness Smith of Basildon, the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords? The Prime Minister said that Labour peers were blocking the motion relating to climate change targets, but it is a regret motion, not a blocking motion, and it seeks to improve the proposals. Baroness Smith said that she regrets the lack of detail in the SI, because it leaves shipping and aviation out of the targets. Will the Leader of the House ask the PM to apologise to my noble friends in the other place? The Prime Minister was plain wrong, and I have the relevant exchange here if it would be helpful to the Leader of the House.
The right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) withdrew the dangerous bendy buses from London, and they have since been removed in Swansea, York, Bradford and Leeds. Despite that, the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, has proposed bendy buses for a route between Walsall and Birmingham. It is a wholly inappropriate use of public funds, because a perfectly good service already exists and local people are opposed to the decision. Will the Leader of the House use his good offices to ensure that the Mayor understands that bendy buses are dangerous and unwanted? The Mayor said that the buses were being introduced for the Commonwealth games. The Government have announced a funding package for the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth games, with 75% coming from central Government and 25% being raised locally. However, there was no news of consequential funding for Wales, and the Secretary of State for Wales did not mention that yesterday. I am pretty sure that the Government have to provide such funding, so will the Leader of the House ensure that the Secretary of State writes to the First Minister of Wales to explain whether Wales will receive it?
More than 40 Members have signed early-day motion 2368, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Stephen Lloyd) and calls on the Government to automatically fund the legal representation of all victims of terrorist atrocities and their families.
[That this House expresses concern that victims of terrorist atrocities are not automatically eligible for legal aid; regrets that a recently published government review rejected introducing automatic non-means-tested legal aid funding to bereaved families after a state-related death; notes that state organisations involved in deaths from terrorist attacks have access to legal teams and experts at public expense; recognises that in France victims of terrorism, and their families, are automatically eligible for state-funded legal representation; and calls on the Government to automatically fund the legal representation of all victims of terrorist atrocities and their families, inclusive of all coroner hearings and inquests.]
Lawyers acting pro bono on behalf of families of the victims of the London Bridge terror attack have had their legal aid applications denied. At the same time, Government agencies have used public funds to hire some of the best legal teams to represent their interests in court. Families of victims of the March 2017 Westminster attack have also been told that they are unlikely to receive funding for the inquest, which ended last year. This is an insult to victims of terror, and the Government need to reverse it as soon as possible.
It is Armed Forces Day on Saturday to honour the men and women who make up our armed forces, and we had a good debate on that this week. At this very moment, the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Defence Secretary are announcing our five pledges to support the forces and their families—fair pay, decent housing, a voice for servicemen and women, an end to privatisation, and support for forces children—but there has been a real-terms pay cut for our servicemen and women over the past seven years. The starting salary of an Army private is now £1,150 lower in real terms than in 2010.
Sunday 30 June is the United Nations International Day of Parliamentarism. In total, there are 272 Chambers of Parliament, with more than 46,000 Members, and there has been no shortage of demand for you, Mr Speaker, to visit other countries. It has been helpfully pointed out by certain people that your ambassadorship and valuable insight into the workings of this Parliament are so important. On Sunday we can celebrate how the parliamentary system improves the day-to-day life of people across the world. That allows us to raise the plight of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, which I will do every week from this Dispatch Box until she is free. Turning to the hypocrisy of President Trump, he brought his family on a state visit while presiding over a policy that separates families. With Oscar and his daughter Valeria lying dead, I am sure every single parliamentarian around the world, and the whole House, joins me in saying, “May they rest in peace.”