Business Questions 3 November 2016

On Thursday 3 November 2016, as Shadow Leader of the House, I started Business questions by calling for the Government to announce the forthcoming business.


Below is my speech in full:


May I just say that it was the Master of the Rolls and the Lord Chief Justice who handed down that judgment?


Business questions are proving to be very successful in many areas. Not only was Marmite returned to the shelves on the same day that it was raised here, but now Bob Dylan has contacted the Nobel Committee.


We still do not have a negotiating position on exiting the European Union. We had a glimpse of it—not in Parliament, but on the “The Andrew Marr Show”—the day before a statement to the House. The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy admitted that he had given assurances to a company that there will be continued access to markets in Europe, and vice versa. So, not a complete hard exit then, which reflects the Prime Minister’s comments to City bankers that she is worried about the effect of Brexit on the British economy.


A recent report by Professor Menon of King’s College said that cuts to personnel over the past few years have left the civil service depleted and with little expertise. Where do we get the expertise from? It is Europe, which is why we need a debate on the Government’s negotiating position. If the Government are going to provide letters of comfort, as the Secretary of State said, sector by sector, the British people would also like a letter of comfort. Sadly for us and for you, Mr Speaker, if the British people want to know what is going on and what the Government are thinking, they have to watch “The Andrew Marr Show”.


Mr Speaker, you will recall the words:


“You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning”,


but this Government seem to be turning again. In a written statement, the Education Secretary said last week that there will be no changes to education legislation in this parliamentary Session, which will run until next summer. Will the Leader of the House confirm that that is correct? Does that mean no forced academies, no education Bill and parents back on governing bodies? Will he please be explicit? If that is not enough, the legacy of the beleaguered Education Secretary at the Department for International Development has been trashed by her successor, who says that there will be a greater focus on trade and that she will “call out” foreign aid organisations using British money. The Government are in disarray and speak with forked tongues.


I recall the former International Development Secretary telling the House that she had undertaken an audit of all aid donations, and that the Department’s website clearly states where the money has gone. You know, Mr Speaker, because you sat on the International Development Committee, that aid is about supporting fledgling democracies. It is about what we saw in Burma—children going to school, fighting disease, and supporting the rule of law so that people will want to stay in their country. Our own Clerks, Library staff and others, under your leadership, Mr Speaker, go to places such as Burma as they enter into peace. They help to build capacity, expertise and confidence, and out of that comes growth. May we have a debate on the Government’s policy on aid and whether the 0.7% of GDP for aid, which was voted for by this House, is protected?


This week, all of us will take part in Remembrance Day services. We will hear the Kohima epitaph:


“When you go home,

tell them of us and say,

for their tomorrow,

we gave our today.”


That is why we remember them. The Royal British Legion wants us to rethink Remembrance to include today’s generation who have died serving their country. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) has secured a debate next week to draw attention to that call. May I ask the Leader of the House to ensure that, across the parliamentary Estate, we take up the call to rethink Remembrance?


Those who served fought for future generations, and future generations will be here next week when we welcome the Youth Parliament on 11 November. Its sitting will involve more than 300 young people between the ages of 12 and 18 from throughout our United Kingdom. We can learn from them how to focus on debates.


Will the Leader of the House join me in sending a message to Bob: “If you don’t want the Nobel peace prize money, could you donate it to the White Helmets of Syria?”? That charity did not win the Nobel peace prize and was the beloved charity of our beloved colleague Jo Cox, who would have been delighted by the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Spen (Tracy Brabin) yesterday.


Finally, we look forward to the result of the United States presidential election. Faced with a scary clown and the possibility of the first woman President of the United States, I think I know who I would vote for. I am sure the whole House will join me in wishing President Obama and his family all the best for the future.