Business Questions 7 March 2019

The Government has faced a number of defeats in the courts. The International Court of Justice said that Britain’s acquisition of the Chagos archipelago in the 1960s was “wrongful” and the High Court ruled that the Government’s ‘Right to Rent’ scheme is “discriminatory” and that its fracking guidelines are“unlawful”.

You can read my speech in full below:

I thank the Leader of the House for the very short business for next week and her very long speech on various other matters. I thought this was business questions.

I am absolutely staggered to hear what the Leader of the House says about the business next week. It would have been more appropriate to fulfil what the Prime Minister set out in her statement to this House on 26 February, rather than doing it the other way around and putting in debates that then have to be moved. That would have been more appropriate in the light of the utmost seriousness of what is going to happen to the country in the next few weeks.

The Leader of the House seems to be openly in defiance of the Prime Minister. We also see that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs appears to be announcing that the Easter recess will be cancelled. Will the Leader of the House confirm that he said to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that “there may not be an Easter recess”?

More Government chaos: the Financial Services (Implementation of Legislation) Bill was pulled before it was debated on Monday. May I ask the Leader of the House why, because a very important cross-party amendment was going to be put to the House? Will she say why, and when is it likely to come back?

Something else that needs to come back to this House is the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union—[Interruption.] I am really sorry, but the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), has had her go. I need to ask the Leader of the House some questions, so would she mind not speaking so loudly?

Something else that has to be brought back to the House is the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. I do not know whether the Leader of the House heard the point of order from the Chair of the Exiting the European Union Committee yesterday, but he suggested that the Secretary of State is meeting individuals privately and has not said when he is coming to the Committee. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) has made it absolutely clear that the Committee wants to hear from the Secretary of State before the vote on Tuesday. Will the Leader of the House please ensure that the Brexit Secretary—with or without his other half, the Attorney General—appears before the Committee, particular as one of the Government’s red lines was lost in the House of Lords yesterday?

We know that the Government have paid £33 million to settle a lawsuit. Labour Members have totalled up the amount of money that the Secretary of State for Transport has cost the taxpayer, including in his previous guises, and it amounts to £2.7 billion. Imagine if all that was given to police officers, bringing them back on the beat. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner said that there is “some link” between violent crime on the streets and police numbers. Of course there is—everybody can see that. It does not matter whether the Prime Minister is in Cabinet Office briefing room A, B or C, the fact is that west midlands police and crime commissioner David Jamieson has asked for £964,000 to set up a violence reduction unit. All PCCs should be given funds straight away, before another young person dies this weekend. Yesterday, my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) raised a point of order to ask when the Home Secretary or Prime Minister will come to the House to update it on knife crime.

There has been yet another defeat in the courts—yesterday the High Court ruled that the Government’s fracking guidelines were unlawful. Mr Justice Dove said that the consultation was “flawed in its design and processes”. May we have a statement on the Government’s policy—well, lack of policy—on fracking, given that High Court judgment?

It may be the 50th anniversary of the Race Relations Act 1968, but the Government’s “hostile environment” policy has caused immeasurable misery for ethnic minorities. A challenge by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants found that the Government’s right to rent scheme is “discriminatory” and in breach of human rights laws, and that evidence “strongly showed” that landlords were discriminating against potential tenants because of their nationality and ethnicity. That, again, is a judgment of the High Court, so may we have a statement on the change in policy following that ruling?

The Public Accounts Committee has published its report on the Windrush generation and the Home Office, and stated that the Home Office has failed to take ownership of the problems it created. The Home Office considered 11,800 Caribbean cases, but failed to renew around 160,000 non-Caribbean Commonwealth cases. When will the Government end their discriminatory polices?

Last week the Leader of the House said that the United Kingdom is doing extremely well, and that we are well prepared for exiting the European Union. I think she needs to correct the record, because the Institute for Government identified eight red areas where the Government will not be able to mitigate fully the major negative impacts of a no-deal scenario in 2019. On Tuesday, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs warned that businesses in Northern Ireland will not be ready for new border procedures if there is no deal. Which is it? The Leader of the House mentioned World Book Day—is she “Alice Through the Looking Glass” or is she going through the cupboard into Narnia?

It is with sadness that we remember Lord Bhattacharyya, founder of the Warwick Manufacturing Group—never has his advice been more important than it is now.

I thank Sir Amyas Morse for all his public service. He said that not enough Ministers “sweat blood” over how they spend public money. That lesson needs to be learned by us all, and particularly the Secretary of State for Transport.

We are celebrating International Women’s Day. It was women’s pay day yesterday, which means that as of today women will start being paid for the work they do—they will not be paid for the work they did in the first 65 days because the current pay gap stands at 17.9%. May we have a statement on how the Government will close that gap? We also celebrate the next generation of young women activists, including Greta Thunberg who started a movement to combat climate change. Our young people are getting ready for their day of action on 15 March. They know that climate change and equality know no boundaries, and that such matters are not about the ego of the few, but that the compassion and co-operation of the many will change the world.