Valerie responds to Business Statement

During Business Questions on Thursday 2 July 2020 I urged the Government to protect renters who have lost income due to coronavirus from eviction. You can read my full speech below: 

“I thank the Leader of the House for the business for next week. May I just say that the voting on Tuesday and Wednesday was absolutely appalling? I cannot think of anything less productive than Cabinet Ministers queueing up in the way that they had to—and all of us, for that matter; we have better things to do. Also, there is still the exclusion of hon. Members from taking part in debates on legislation. I plead with him again to return to hybrid proceedings for substantive business.

Silence—that is the sound of the Prime Minister coming to the Chamber to announce the £5 billion financial package. I had not realised that Parliament had moved to Dudley. And that is slightly less than they have announced in Germany, which is £50 billion. It would have been nice for hon. Members to be able to question the Prime Minister. Is this new money or old money? Is it money that has been previously been announced, or new money? I note that the Leader of the House has mentioned the financial statement on Wednesday. Can he tell us whether there will be a money resolution attached to that?

The Leader of the House will know that the Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary said on 18 March:

“The government is clear—no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home…These are extraordinary times and…we are urgently introducing emergency legislation to protect tenants in social and private accommodation from an eviction process being started.”

Given the masses of job losses in every sector—retail, food services, aerospace, hospitality, arts and music—and with the emergency legislation coming to an end and the furlough scheme winding down, this is going to be a perfect storm and people are going to be caught up in it. The shadow Housing Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), wants to co-operate with the Government, so could the Leader of the House ensure that she and the Secretary of State talk about bringing back emergency legislation before it runs out in August? It cannot be in the renters’ rights Bill, because that is not coming to Parliament until the end of the year. We need to help people in this situation.

The shadow Public Health Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham North (Alex Norris), has reminded me that the independent medicines and medical devices safety review led by the noble Baroness Cumberlege will report its findings next Wednesday. Those who have suffered from Primodos, sodium valproate and surgical mesh have campaigned for this. I pay tribute to those campaigners and to hon. and right hon. Members from across the House who have ensured that we have this review. Will the Leader of the House find time for an oral statement to allow colleagues to discuss the next steps?

The Prime Minister said yesterday that the information on testing is provided. What he did not say was that it is provided two weeks later, making it impossible for any local authority to react in time. Labour in Wales publishes both pillar 1 and pillar 2. The Leader of the House will know that pillar 2 is provided to officials only if they sign the Data Protection Act, and only within their area because it is collected commercially. What was in the contract about releasing the data immediately, and why are the Government sitting on this data? Apparently Walsall is on the list for lockdown, but officials say that they are not considering a lockdown. So can we have an urgent statement on exactly what information is available, when it is available, and to whom?

I know that the Leader of the House is comfortable in various different centuries, but I am not sure how he can sit back and watch the destruction of the civil service. They are a professional civil service, they understand the public interest, they abide by a code, they follow policy set by the Government, and they act within the law. Instead, Whitehall is threatened with a hard rain. Could the Leader of the House tell the special special adviser that Malcolm Tucker is actually a fictional character? I think he has already been done—and he is not Alastair Campbell, who is in fact a pussycat.

A national security adviser has been appointed with no proven experience. The Intelligence and Security Committee still has not been set up. As I asked last week, and as many other Members have also asked, why are the Leader of the House and the Government taking a risk with our national security?

I know the Leader of the House keeps saying to hon. Members, “Don’t forget to ask that at Question Time”, but at FCO questions on Tuesday there was nothing about Nazanin, Anousheh, Kylie, who is still a British citizen, or Luke Symons. Could we have an update, please?

I want to join the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), the former Prime Minister, in thanking Sir Mark Sedwill, and other civil servants who have been ousted from their jobs, for all their many, many years of public service.

After last week—I am sorry that hon. Members are having a difficult time—this week our thoughts and prayers are for the hon. Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman) and Flora.

I hope that all hon. Members will think about the NHS on Sunday and thank the NHS for 72 brilliant years and many more to come.”