Valerie responds to Business Statement

Responding to the Business Statement on Thursday 25 June 2020, I called on the Government to ensure local authorities receive the coronavirus data they need to combat the pandemic. You can read my full speech below: 

“I thank the Leader of the House for the business for next week.I start by sending our condolences to the families and friends of James Furlong, David Wails and Joe Ritchie-Bennett, described as three of the loveliest people. My hon. Friend the Member for Reading East (Matt Rodda) has worked tirelessly to support his constituents. It is a terrible shock to the whole community.

“It is unlike the Leader of the House not to answer some of my questions, but answers were wholly absent last week, so let me ask again. The Opposition names are in for the Intelligence and Security Committee, but it seems that the Government names were in and then they were out. It is quite careless to lose two experienced members of the Committee—the right hon. Members for Hemel Hempstead (Sir Mike Penning) and for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers). The delay seems to be on the Government side, so could the Leader of the House update the House? Will the Committee members all have a letter of comfort from the Prime Minister that they will not be sacked if they vote against the Government? When will the Committee be set up?

“The list of ministerial responsibilities that I have is dated October 2019. Could the Leader of the House ensure that there is an updated document?

“The Leader of the House is usually very courteous, but there was no mention in the Houser of the merger of the Select Committee on International Development into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Committee, other than the Prime Minister coming to the House. It was extremely chaotic, as the Chair of the International Development Committee was only told an hour before the announcement. It is not very female friendly, is it—losing a female Cabinet Minister, and then losing a female Chair of a Select Committee? And it is one of our Select Committees, too. When will the Leader of the House come here with an appropriate mechanism whereby that Committee can hold the Government to account over their work and in relation to money?

“It is the Secretary of State for Education’s birthday today; we wish him a very happy birthday. The Government have allocated £1 billion for pupils to catch up, including £650 million for primary and secondary schools—but that is for the academic year 2020-21—and £350 million for primary tutors with the National Tutoring Programme. That seems incredibly bureaucratic. Why can the money not go straight to the heads, given that they know exactly what is needed for their schools? Worse still, 16 to 19-year-olds and pre-schoolers have been excluded. Will the Leader of the House ask the Education Secretary to come to the House to clarify that? I think the Prime Minister allocated £120 million following our Opposition day debate last week, but there is also £9 million that has been allocated to schools for summer food and activities. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson) has asked whether that is still available and whether communities still have to bid for that money. We definitely need a statement clarifying that.

“Will the Leader of the House find time for us to debate the report from the Childhood Trust that says that children are suffering post-traumatic stress because of the coronavirus? Why on earth, then, are the Government introducing the reception baseline assessment for four-year-olds? They have been through lockdown, some have been through bereavement and some of their parents are key workers. Will he please ask the Education Secretary to reverse that decision?

“The Government response to covid has led us a merry dance—slow, slow, quick quick. The Prime Minister said on Friday that the country was moving from a “huge one-size-fits-all” to a “more localised” response, leaving public health officials baffled as to why the Government will not share the data. How can local communities and authorities respond when they do not have the information? Will the Leader of the House ensure that this information is disseminated to local authorities? And how do we get our information now that the press conferences have been cancelled? Do we table more written parliamentary questions? The scientists are saying that the crisis is not over, so could we have a weekly oral statement on what is happening with the coronavirus pandemic?

“The Leader of the House will say to me that there are FCO questions next week, but may I ask for the Foreign Secretary to make a statement on Nazanin, Anousheh and Kylie? They must be released soon.

“Finally, on behalf of Her Majesty’s Opposition—and probably the whole House—may I ask the Leader of the House to convey our thoughts and prayers to the right hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson)? The whole House is thinking of him at this very difficult time.”