Business Questions 4 April 2019

The Government cannot govern, because again the Prime Minister has run down the clock. The Brexit process has been a shambles. There is no solution, and Ministers are resigning.

You can read my speech in full below:

I thank the Leader of the House for the business. I appreciate that it is difficult to have settled business, but this is yet another sign that the Government cannot govern, because again the Prime Minister has run down the clock. However, I have to say that we have not had an Opposition day—there are Backbench Business Committee debates and general debates—so may I ask again for an Opposition day?

Last week, I asked whether we could have a statement from the Government on the timetable for the progress of the key legislation that needs to pass through Parliament before exit day on 12 April, but the Leader of the House responded by just mentioning the progress of secondary legislation. There are important Bills that need to have their next stages, particularly the financial services Bill. There is cross-party support for the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge) calling for Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man to have registers in place by the end of 2020. This is a crucial piece of legislation to tackle tax evasion. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has confirmed that in a clampdown on offshore tax evasion in 2018, it received reports about the offshore financial interests of around 3 million UK residents or the entities that they controlled. Figures from Accountancy Daily show that this involved 5.67 million individual records detailing offshore financial bank accounts. When will the Government find time for the Report stage of this Bill?

Will the Leader of the House update the House on whether she is confident that all the necessary Brexit statutory instruments will go through the House before exit day? The Brexit process has been a shambles. There is no solution, and Ministers are resigning. The Prime Minister has now decided that she wants to stop speaking Klingon—or should I say ERGon—to the European Research Group and start speaking to the Opposition. In her statement—made at No. 10 Downing Street, not to the House—she failed explicitly to rule out leaving the EU with no deal. The Bank of England estimates that the worst case scenario, involving border delays and a loss of market confidence in the UK, could result in the economy contracting by 5%. Nearly 30% of our food comes from the EU, and some imports are particularly high at the moment because they involve foods that we cannot grow ourselves at this time of year, such as lettuce, tomatoes and soft fruit. Academics at Imperial College say that two extra minutes spent checking each vehicle at Dover and Folkestone could lead to traffic queues of 29 miles on nearby roads.

In the meantime, my constituents want to know why spending per pupil has fallen by 8% since 2010. The Leader of the House has mentioned the fact that it is Autism Awareness Week. It was announced today that 17% cuts had been made for those with special needs in the past four years. Just last week, a constituent of mine was in tears because her 11-year-old daughter has to take two buses or have a 40-minute car journey to school because all the local schools are full. May we have a statement on school places?

We had Home Office questions on Monday, but no statement on knife crime. My hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) had asked for a statement, but nothing was forthcoming. One question to the Prime Minister is not sufficient. This is more than a public health issue; it is about giving young people facilities and community places where they can find their talents. So could the Leader of the House ensure that we have a statement, either from the Prime Minister or from the Home Secretary, on the knife crime summit?

It is the 20th anniversary of the national minimum wage, which was introduced by a Labour Government and opposed by the Conservative party. When will the Government implement the real living wage, which should be our goal?

We celebrate today the 70th anniversary of NATO. That treaty was signed by a Labour Foreign Secretary. The Leader of the House will be interested in the report published today by the Defence Committee entitled “Missile Misdemeanours: Russia and the INF treaty”. The Chair of the Committee, the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), says that the continent of Europe is less safe as a result of the Russian decision to develop missiles in contravention of the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty. We are not a party to the treaty, but the Committee says that the Government need to push NATO for a proportionate response that sends a firm message. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on this important report?

The Ministry of Defence has instigated an inquiry into the use of a picture of the Leader of the Opposition for target practice. I am sure that the Leader of the House will condemn that activity. While the investigation is ongoing, will she ensure that the following questions are put to the Secretary of State for Defence? First, what action will be taken under section 19 of the Armed Forces Act 2006 against the soldiers on the grounds of good order and service discipline? Secondly, will the commanding officers and officials higher up the chain in the Ministry of Defence take responsibility, and how will they prevent this from happening further? Thirdly, can they confirm who supplied the image, and can they confirm that there are no other such photos circulating among the armed forces? If the Secretary of State for Defence or the Prime Minister would like to apologise to the Leader of the Opposition, I am sure that that would be very welcome. In the meantime, we would like a response to those questions.

Will the Justice Secretary meet my hon. Friend the Member for West Lancashire (Rosie Cooper)? We rightly paid tribute to her resilience yesterday when she received the House’s appreciation. She may have some suggestions about improvements to the trial process, given the terrible things she was put under while she was waiting for the result.

I do not know whether you are aware of this, Mr Speaker, but BBC Parliament has had excellent ratings. I want to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) and the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) for their great courage in ensuring that the Government do not put our economy at risk with no deal. Once again, I thank the talented and dedicated staff of the House for ensuring that our business was done.

Finally, it is cherry blossom time, so I urge hon. Members to go outside and look at the blossom.