(4 months, 2 weeks ago)
Before I call the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) to open the debate, I am afraid I am obliged to inform the House that there must, with immediate effect, be a six-minute limit on Back-Bench orations. We will be led in this important mission by Sir David Amess.
Before the House adjourns for the summer recess, there are a number of points I wish to make. It is really good to see so many colleagues recognising that this is such a valuable debate.
The all-party parliamentary fire safety and rescue group will not shut up until sprinklers are installed in all high-rise buildings and the cladding issue is dealt with following the disaster at Grenfell, just as I will not shut up about city status until it is awarded to Southend-on-Sea. I am glad that the new Prime Minister has said we are going to get it.
Two of my constituents, Stephen and Rosalind Clifton, have paid full contributions for 47 years and, extraordinarily, now find that they do not qualify for a full state pension, so I want an answer from the Treasury Bench on that.
Recently, Mrs Margaret Tothill came to my surgery and told me that in January this year, her granddaughter, Maisie, died in her sleep from a sudden epileptic seizure at the age of 22. The condition is called sudden unexpected death in epilepsy or SUDEP. The charity SUDEP Action has been helping the family with their loss and is calling on the Government to do more to prevent such incidents. Specifically, it is calling for a Government inquiry into avoidable epilepsy deaths and a funded annual risk check for people with epilepsy.
I am very concerned about the number of constituents whose visit visas are being turned down. There does not seem to be any fairness in this. An Australian constituent of mine signed up to an organisation called Sopra Steria and paid £2,400 to try to get a visa. It was a complete mess and now they find they have lost their money and they are having to pay for access again.
Carl Beech—I mean, for goodness’ sake! Harvey Proctor was my neighbour when I was Member of Parliament for Basildon. Leon Brittan died with his name being trashed, and there is Lord Bramall. The way the courts dealt with this matter just is not good enough. People can never restore their reputations, but there should be some compensation. My former colleague, Harvey Proctor, has lost everything, including his home and any future employment.
I recently had a meeting with the Schools Minister—I hope that he is still the Schools Minister—together with my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge) , regarding primary and secondary school funding in our area. We are losing out to London’s schools. Darlinghurst Academy has recently had a wonderful Ofsted report, and I congratulate Emma Nicholls, the executive head, and Mrs Beverley Williams, on all that they have achieved.
I was once a paid advocate for the Caravan Club, although I am not any more. It has advised me that two motor homes that are identical in almost every way can be charged either £265 or £2,135 in vehicle excise duty. This really needs to be looked at by the Treasury, and these vehicles should be classified as commercial vehicles. Recently, I parked my car on a meter but did not have my mobile phone—
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Yes, but I just want to point out that the clock has not stopped. Okay—it has now.
The hon. Gentleman is making a really important point. Is he aware that many manufacturers around the country, including Forge Europa in Ulverston, which makes lights for many motor homes, are deeply concerned by this proposed tax change?
If the clock was not functioning, it must have been because it was smiling on the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess), perhaps because it approves of his views on Southend city status. Who knows?
You are too generous, Mr Speaker. I did not want to deprive other colleagues of their time, but I thank the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock) for making that point.
Prost8 tells us that 12,000 chaps lose their lives as a result of prostate cancer every year. I congratulate Paul Sayer, a local constituent, on his work on this. We had a reception in the Jubilee Room that was attended by colleagues, and a new non-invasive treatment is now available.
Last weekend, I was in Albania supporting the National Council of Resistance in Iran and visiting the home of Mother Teresa, but I could not see a statute of Norman Wisdom. We really need to do more to support those people, and it was great to visit Ashraf-3 camp.
On ending the debt trap, I absolutely support The Sun newspaper’s “Stop the credit rip-off” campaign. So many of our constituents are being tempted to get even further into debt, which is not satisfactory.
All colleagues apparently love Southend airport, but the residents of Wells Avenue are not too keen on the huge jets that are now are pouring fumes into their back gardens. I am meeting them on Friday, when I hope we can deal with that matter.
I recently attended the Tamil sports day. They are wonderful people, but there is still concern about the people lost in Jaffna, and we need some reconciliation there.
The Smart Energy Partnership showcase is doing its best to help blind and partially sighted people to switch suppliers.
A local constituent called Kelly Swain is an absolute inspiration for what she has done for Young Minds to show how beneficial alternative therapies can support people with their various challenges.
Recently, I attended the hearing loss action day—I think I am beginning to need help with that myself—in Southend, and it was very good indeed in the way it was run.
Mrs Sharon Williams and the N-Act Theatre Company are touring Essex with shows that are trying to encourage young people to turn away from crime.
South Essex College has built a new facility in Stephenson Road, and it is doing a wonderful job with apprenticeships. Westcliff High School for Girls is now the computer hub for the whole of Essex, which is a wonderful achievement. It is a marvellous school.
The Lighthouse care home is a wonderful care home that is helping people with learning difficulties.
I recently visited the Refill Room, where Gemma and Alan are recycling products, and I support them.
I recently hosted the Bengal Pride awards in the House of Commons.
Jota Aviation is giving all sorts of opportunities to young people to go into the aviation industry.
Figure of Eight is helping people with learning difficulties, and we saw the unveiling of pictures by some of its pupils.
The South East Essex Schools Music Association festival was a wonderful celebration of musical talent at the Cliffs Pavilion in Southend.
The 150th anniversary of St Helen’s Church was led by the Philippine community and was a wonderful day of celebration. The mosque open day in Southend was a great success.
Armed Forces Day was on 29 June, but it is so sad that Charles Benford has died today at the age of 100 before he could be awarded the freedom of Southend. That is such a shame.
Leigh Town Council’s community day was a wonderful event.
I wish all colleagues, the Speaker, the Deputy Speakers, and all the servants of the House a very happy summer. I am looking forward to returning on 3 September and getting Brexit done.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess), who as usual made reference to his wish to see Southend receive city status. It is a great status to have, and we were fortunate in Preston to receive city status in 2002 as a result of the Queen’s golden jubilee. It was heavily contested and took place in jubilee year, so I am afraid he might have to wait until there is another jubilee year.
I stand here feeling bewildered following the statement from the Prime Minister about his plans for the future. The comments that we have heard today are comments that we have heard many times from the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), who is full of bluff and bluster, but there are many serious issues up and down the country, many of which are important topics being faced by those in my own constituency.
Universal credit continues to be a scourge for people in Preston, with something like twice as many claimants of jobseeker’s allowance migrating to universal credit in the city of Preston. To me, this is an indicator of the state of the economy in many parts of the country. London will not be greatly affected by Brexit, but the people of Preston will be very hard hit by it, and the region as a whole will see a reduction of up to 12% in GDP. The less money people have in their pockets because of the transition to universal credit, the more difficult life is going to be for my constituents.
We have also seen serious poverty in many places, including my constituency. Something like 38% of children in Preston—that is nearly 8,000—are living in poverty. The Prime Minister says that the best way out of poverty is to have a job. Yes, that is the case, but 70% of children living in poverty live in a household where at least one parent is working. That poverty cannot be allowed to continue. We will expect the Government and the new Prime Minister to deal with that.
Another issue that has affected many of my constituents is the personal independence payment. The reassessments that have gone on in that area are absolutely ridiculous. People with serious disabilities and illnesses have been given zero points, and many of them—more than 50%—have to win on appeal. Again, this should not be allowed to continue, and I want to see the new Prime Minister and the new Government doing something about this.
I want to discuss foreign policy, because although there are many problems in my constituency, we have a multi-ethnic, multi-faith community that looks not just inwards to what is happening in Preston and in Lancashire but outwards to what is happening elsewhere in the world. There is continued dismay, anger and upset at what is going on in the occupied territories in Palestine.
On Monday, Israeli troops accompanied by bulldozers began ruthlessly demolishing homes in the Palestinian village of Sur Baher, close to the separation wall in the occupied west bank. Residents of the village’s Wadi al-Hummus neighbourhood were shocked to see 16 residential buildings, which hold about 100 apartments, targeted on the pretext of security. Innocent Palestinians were watching as their homes were destroyed in front of their very eyes.
I first visited Palestine and Israel about 12 years ago. Then, there were about 15,000 to 20,000 settlers. Now I think there are around 100,000. This cannot be allowed to continue. The international community needs to take stronger action. In particular, we need stronger action by the United States. Unfortunately, under the current President, that does not seem as though it is going to happen any time soon.
I was also dismayed today when the Prime Minister talked, in answer to questions, about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been detained since 2016. How can this Prime Minister look in the mirror or sleep at night with a conscience, given the comments he made, which have contributed to this poor woman’s plight? The latest we hear is that she has been chained down and held as a prisoner. That is terrible, and it cannot be allowed to continue.
Another issue that is greatly affecting people in Preston is drug crime, which is rife in a deprived ward in my city. I recently met with local councillors from Deepdale ward, who witnessed horrific gang-related violence on the streets in broad daylight while out canvassing at local elections. Young people and children are used to distribute illicit drugs on the street, and shockingly, this activity takes place in broad daylight within yards of school playgrounds. It is rife up and down the country, and many of us here know about county lines because we are experiencing them at first hand.
I want to speak about gambling not just by adults but by young kids and children. I am hearing about kids with mobile phones who have their parents’ credit cards and are playing during lessons, gambling large sums of money—thousands of pounds, in many cases, of their parents’ money. The Gambling Commission tells us that 55,000 11 to 16-year-olds have serious gambling addictions. The country is in a mess. We have a new Prime Minister and a new Government. Let us see whether they can deal with it.
It is a great honour to follow the hon. Member for Preston (Sir Mark Hendrick). In Stafford, we, too, have the issue with county lines, which our police force is going after at the moment. I accompanied police on a raid just two weeks ago, when they managed to seize a considerable quantity of drugs, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. A lot more has to be done.
I want to start by talking about development, particularly unauthorised development. Later today, with your permission and your favour, Mr Speaker, I shall present a petition that I should have presented on Monday. It is about authorised development in Penkridge that should not have been authorised. The council and local people objected to it, but because, on a technicality, the council had slipped below the five-year land supply for a short period, the developer claimed that the council was in breach and that this totally unnecessary and unwanted development should therefore go through. We must listen more to local people on things such as this, not just have a tick-box exercise and permit developments that are long term and not wanted. This is in an area where we are building more than twice the national average in terms of housing. This is not about nimbyism at all.
I also want to point out the importance of the quality of new housing. Many of the new houses that are being built are not up to standard, and it is vital that that should be tackled, but not only that—we should go further, including with insulation. We should ensure that all new houses are built to the highest possible energy saving standards; that they have, where possible, integrated solar; that they have car charging points; and that they have the highest quality insulation.
My local hospital, County Hospital, has had its difficulties over the years, but I want to praise the work that it has done such that, on most weeks, more than 95% of people are seen, admitted, treated or discharged within four hours. That is one of the best records in the country and the hospital deserves great credit for that, but it is under consultation at the moment, and one of the issues is, again, the future of our emergency department. However, I am glad that the trust has made it clear that that department is secure. It has my absolute support in that. I will not tolerate the downgrading in any way, shape or form of the emergency department.
However, the stand-alone maternity department is at more risk. The reason is that people are not using it. This is one of those “use it or lose it” cases. I urge all those in my area who are talking with their patients—pregnant women—to say, “Look, there is this alternative.” Clearly, it has to be a safe alternative, which I fully understand, but I want that stand-alone maternity unit—
I know Stafford quite well. If those people are not using the unit, where are they going?
Most women will be going to a consultant-led unit in Stoke, Wolverhampton or Walsall. I understand that, and they may have received advice from their GP on the issue—this has to be clinically led—but I very much value the stand-alone unit in Stafford and want it to continue.
We also have a problem with shortage of general practitioners in Stafford. In fact, there is a shortage across the country, so I welcome the new medical schools that are being opened. I am delighted that my wife, who is a GP, was up in Sunderland this week giving some training at the new medical school, which is about to be opened. I welcome the ones that are going to be opened in Chelmsford and other places.
I want to raise a few other issues, such as visas, including for foreign spouses and partners. Many people have come to my surgery with real problems in getting visas, including visas to visit, let alone visas for residence, and those issues need to be looked at more sympathetically, as does the issue of visas for visitors from Africa. Last week, the hon. Members for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) and for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah) and I published a report on the difficulties that African visitors have in getting visas. These are Government officials and business people. I had one case recently involving the headmaster of a school in Ghana who was coming to visit his brother for a couple of weeks—a very distinguished man. Of course he does not want to stay in this country—he would much rather go back and teach his students in Ghana—but it has taken ages and he still does not have that visa. We must, must do better and I urge all Members to read the report that we jointly produced.
Turning to business, this is a minor matter, although not so minor for those affected by it—bailiffs. The behaviour of bailiffs has been considered by the House and new rules have been put in place. However, there is also the matter of fees. Sometimes, fees go up enormously—exponentially—over time. We should look at capping bailiff fees. I understand that bailiffs are necessary; their role is important in enforcing payment of debt, but it must be carried out in a reasonable manner.
We also need to look at the infrastructure for charging electric vehicles. We talk about needing to move to electric transportation. Quite frankly, the charging infrastructure is very poor. It is getting better, although not nearly fast enough, but the grid is simply not there to support it, nor is the generating capacity. I have asked questions about this in the past. I believe that we are too complacent. If we are to move to electric vehicles fast—we are making them in the west midlands and in Sunderland—we need the infrastructure to support that.
Finally, two issues. First, I welcome the start, after about 30 years of discussion, of the African continental free trade area. This will be tremendous for the African continent, but also for all those such as the United Kingdom who wish to trade and invest far more with our friends and neighbours across the Mediterranean in Africa.
Secondly, I have recently had the pleasure of being appointed to the Environmental Audit Committee. We have heard that Natural England is grossly underfunded and cannot do the work that needs to be done on all these fantastic sites of special scientific interest, so I ask the Treasury to look carefully at restoring the funding that has been cut from Natural England.
I will focus on the rise in pensions mis-selling and say why this growing problem needs an urgent response.
Just this week, an investigation by The Times found that £60 billion had been moved out of defined-benefit pensions in recent years. That is much higher than was previously thought. The Financial Conduct Authority says that most savers would be better off staying in defined-benefit schemes, but The Times says that a third of all transfers now exhibit red flags. Already, pensions mis-selling is costing savers £4 billion a year. Those are concerning figures; behind them are pensioners and families who have worked hard only to find that their pensions and pension pots have been put at risk by rogues.
South Wales was at the centre of a mis-selling crisis with the British Steel pension scheme two years ago. Steelworkers were aggressively targeted by unscrupulous advisers when deciding what to do about their pension options. At least several hundred of them received unsuitable advice, while the response of key regulators was halting and insufficient. I hope that the authorities and the police will take firmer action in future. This was a serious example of what can go wrong, but many of the underlying causes are still there.
The new Administration urgently needs to do three things. They should get the regulators to improve their performance, legislate for tougher action against mis-sellers and protect hard-working people’s life savings from the scammers and the swindlers. The Conservative-led coalition Government’s attempt at pensions liberalisation a few years ago is starting to sour. This new Conservative Government must sort it out quickly.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Nick Smith), who raised an important issue that affects constituents across the country.
Before we rise for the summer recess with a spring in our step after the zinging performance by our excellent new Prime Minister, I wish to raise a number of issues for the Government to think about over the summer and for us to concentrate on.
During questions to the Leader of the House, I raised the consultation that is under way across a number of areas in London on Transport for London building high-density, multi-storey housing on car parks attached to stations. That will dramatically reduce the number of car parking spaces available at the terminus of every single line in London and affect commuters right across the south-east who drive to a station, leave their car and use public transport to travel in. Equally, there is a concern that the properties that will be built will be rabbit hutches and will become the slums of the future, causing further problems.
Building is taking place on railway car parks in my constituency. That is pushing people out on to other local roads and clogging them up even more.
I thank my hon. Friend; that is clearly another impact.
That leads me to my next issue, which is the bus consultations that are going on in London. The proposals will increase the speed at which buses move around London, but reduce the continuity of service between buses and stations. Residents in my constituency will have to change buses twice to reach Northwick Park station, whereas currently they can get on one bus and reach the station on public transport. That is absurd.
I have raised before at questions to the Leader of the House the impact of the illegal occupation by Travellers of areas in my constituency. We had—I use my words carefully—an illegal occupation on Stanmore Lodge. They were then evicted and moved to Stanmore marsh, which once again is public land. They were removed from there and moved to Canons Park. They then moved to Hatch End and then Whitchurch playing fields. Harrow Council and the police worked quickly to remove them, but we need new laws that prevent illegal occupation from taking place. It is not only the illegal occupation that has an impact, but the clear-up costs after these people have left. That is left to the council tax payer to pick up, which is clearly grossly unfair.
We have a new Chancellor who, in a previous role in government, was very helpful to the victims of the Equitable Life scandal, but there is still unfinished business. The people who were scammed by Equitable Life are still owed £2.6 billion. I hope that the Chancellor will live up to his word and honour the Government’s commitment to fund in full the settlement for those individuals.
I have raised the Vagrancy Act before. It is a disgrace that this country still has on the statute book the Vagrancy Act 1824, which criminalises people for being homeless. People should be helped into housing, not arrested because they have nowhere to live. I hope that the new Government will take action to remove it from the statute book and to ensure that prompt and proper action is taken against aggressive street begging, which is a real problem in this country.
My hon. Friend the Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley), who is no longer in his place, has spoken about leasehold reform. The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has produced an excellent report—well, I was party to it and to the evidence—and we had a debate in this Chamber on the need for the reform of leasehold. The Government must take that up quickly and deliver.
There is also the challenge of financing local government, on which the HCLG Committee will publish a report shortly. We need to reform the financing of local government, because it is suffering from a lack of finance and a crisis in the provision of services. The basis on which any finance is provided to local government across the country is unfair, so reform is necessary.
I am delighted that shortly before my right hon. Friend the previous Prime Minister left office, the Government released the long-awaited prevention report, which contains action on smoking and obesity and a number of other measures. I am, as many people know, the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on smoking and health, as well as an avid anti-smoker. We have to ensure that we become a smoke-free society as quickly as possible. At the moment, the ambition is too slow and we have to speed up the process. We can use the taxation system to discourage people from smoking and put a levy on the tobacco companies, which make millions of pounds of profit from a drug that kills people who use it in the way they intend. The burden on the national health service and smoking cessation services could be paid for by that levy if we were bold enough to implement it.
I attended the recent rally in Ashraf in Albania with my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) and I hosted a meeting in this place on human rights in Iran, at which one of the guest speakers was Richard Ratcliffe. I have said previously in the House what an honourable man he is in his suffering. He has been deprived of having his wife beside him and his child is not able to share family life, but he is diligent in trying to ensure that his wife is released from prison and returned to her family. Given the situation arising in the Gulf, we need to make every effort possible, but the reality is that what we need is regime change in Iran and the end of the theocracy.
What is going on in Sri Lanka right now for the Muslim minority is a disgrace. Those people need protection and they need support from this Government. I trust that our new Foreign Secretary will provide it.
As we rise for the summer, some people may be going on holiday. On Monday, I shall be assembling my work experience team of students, who will find out what it is really like to be an MP during the vacation. I look forward to that and to assisting—
Order. I ask all Members, if they take an intervention, please to try not to use the extra minute. We are really struggling; the time limit will now go down to five minutes.
It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman), who spoke with great authority about a large number of international issues, as well as about his local buses; I always instinctively trust a Member of Parliament who knows about his local buses. It is also a great pleasure to take part in a debate started with such panache by the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess).
It was Lord Hague of Richmond who said that early-day motions in this House were “parliamentary confetti”. Although he is a distinguished Yorkshireman, I disagree with him—for me, they are the bread and butter of our Parliament. I want to bring to the attention of the House, before we adjourn for the summer recess, three early-day motions that just happen to be in my name, which the House may have missed while other things have been happening over the last few days.
Early-day motion 2649 calls for a review of the Heathrow expansion decision. It is supported by nearly 30 hon. Members—including some Labour Front Benchers, which I was pleased to see; I hope that it will be supported by the Labour leadership. Things have changed over the past year: we have declared a climate emergency, and we now have a target of net zero. In the north of England, it has become very apparent that, given our net zero target, any expansion of Heathrow will choke off any possible expansion of routes in the north of England. The Prime Minister famously said that he would sit down in front of the bulldozers to stop Heathrow expansion. I am not asking him to do that, but I do think that a review is the least that we can expect.
My hon. Friend and neighbour is making an excellent speech. It is vital that we cancel the third runway at Heathrow and that we share the reduction in aviation emissions right across the country, so that we do not play airports against each other.
My hon. Friend makes a good point. There is express provision for such a review in the Planning Act 2008, so it would not be difficult.
I move on quickly to early-day motion 2650, which is about commercial local radio and Bauer. Although it stands only in my name at the moment, I am confident that at least a dozen MPs will sign it overnight. It deals with an important issue of commercial local radio, to which two things have happened in recent years. The market has consolidated: Global and Bauer now own over half the market. Furthermore, Ofcom has weakened the regulations so that local radio stations now have to have only three rather than seven hours of local content on a weekday and local content can come from regional centres; it need not come from the area of the franchise.
Bauer is trying to buy over 30 local radio stations in four different groups. The good news is that yesterday the Competition and Markets Authority stood up to it and said that there was a clear competition case to answer. There will be a phase 2 investigation of these possible purchases of Bauer’s. The fear must be that local advertisers will be taken out of the market, all the advertising will become national and Bauer will follow Global in closing local studios; Global has already closed 10 local studios. If the purchases go through, Bauer will own exactly 80% of the Yorkshire commercial local radio market: 16 of 20 stations. I fear for stations such as Stray FM, which covers part of Keighley constituency. I fear that, ultimately, programmes will be made just from Leeds and London.
The third early-day motion to which I want to draw attention, Mr Deputy Speaker, may be to your taste: it is to do with cricket and football World cups and free-to-air TV. It is EDM 2608. One thing that the retiring Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport did in his last few days in office was to announce for the first time in about 20 years additions to the list of events that must be shown on free-to-air TV. He said that he wanted a consultation on future women’s World cups and future women’s FA cup finals and that they should be listed just as the men’s events are. Some 11 million people were inspired by the football World cup this year, and that will now also be true for future women’s football World cups: women will have equal status with men when it comes to great sporting events. The right hon. and learned Gentleman also suggested that the Paralympics should be added. I would like his successor to go further and to add the cricket. We cannot just have one game every 15 years, courtesy of Sky and its owners Comcast—at the very least, England internationals in the cricket World cup and in the T20s, as in Australia, should be free to all the nation, to inspire them.
Finally, I want to preface an early-day motion that is not yet on the Order Paper but will be in September. It is to do with the private security industry. One of the great benefits of being an MP is that, courtesy of Mr Speaker, we can see in the new year on the Terrace. I was coming to do that last year and met Mr Michael Thompson, who turned out to be from Keighley. He was outside the Palace. I kept in touch with him over the months that followed. He told me that the firm he was working for, 24/7 Security, have not paid a lot of people—not just on that occasion but on others, including the Leeds festival and so on. The security industry is very heavily regulated for the individual security guards but not when it comes to the contracting companies. Under the Private Security Industry Act 2001, there is provision to have such regulation of the contracting companies. I hope that, as we approach the 20th anniversary of the Act, we will review the situation.
Finally, I wish you a happy summer holiday, Mr Deputy Speaker. Particularly in view of the county of your loyalty, I wish you a happy Yorkshire Day on 1 August next week.
In just over one hour, the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, which I have the privilege of chairing, will be publishing its latest report—a substantial and groundbreaking one, entitled “The Limits of Consent: Prostitution in the UK.” That is not a subject often considered in this place. We need to. The whole basis of the report is that many of the women drawn into prostitution—often through trafficking but also by other means, and often very young—are abused and suffer abject sexual exploitation.
Those women deserve our compassion, practical help and support and must not fear criminalisation under our complex, confusing and inconsistently applied laws. Those laws need reform. We need to penalise those who exploit, coerce and abuse others in this area, but not those who are themselves exploited. The recommendations in our report are clear and I am pleased that Conservatives are leading on this human rights issue. We need to reduce the demand for prostitution by creating a new criminal offence of paying for sexual services—by criminalising the trade, but making it absolutely clear that those personally abused in this way will not fear being treated as criminals. If anyone is under any illusion as to what the trade really means and its links with organised violent crime, drug and people trafficking and international money laundering, they need only read our report.
By creating a new offence, we will help to halt human trafficking into this country by making it a less attractive destination for those who engage in the heinous organised international trade in human beings for the purposes of prostitution. We can strike a spoke into the wheel of modern-day slavery and challenge and call to account the often violent and degrading sexual exploitation associated with the trade. Sadly, all these crimes are still growing in this country. It is indeed a heinous trade. I have heard it said, “You can sell a drug once, but you can sell a girl a thousand times.” I heard of one trafficked girl who decided one day that she would count how many men were sent to abuse her; after 100, she stopped counting.
The experiences in other countries support our proposed approach. The UK needs to be at the forefront of this human rights work. Our report is different from others in this policy area because it gives in-depth consideration to the questions of principle around prostitution that are often neglected—questions such as: what does it mean to make a free choice? Is prostitution inherently harmful? What does sexual consent really mean in the context of prostitution? We found more agreement on these issues than one might first expect from a superficial reading.
The report, which is the fruit of more than a year of research and inquiry, meticulously weighs the evidence in favour of and against different legislative models and solutions. I pay tribute to the lead commissioner on the report, Luke de Pulford, and thank those who gave their time to help draft it. I also pay tribute to the many survivors of prostitution and the dozens of concerned interest groups that gave evidence to us. I thank in particular one remarkable woman, the brave survivor Rachel Moran. I implore colleagues to read her book “Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution”, which tells her heart-scorching personal story. I challenge any colleague then to deny that these abused women, and some men, need our effective help, and need it now.
In the coming months, I shall bring forward a private Member’s Bill to strengthen the law around sexual consent and end the demand for prostitution in this country—an approach that I know has cross-party support. If enacted, the Bill will repeal criminal sanctions against prostituted people while creating a public sector duty to enable those caught in prostitution to exit, and to give them safe homes, health help, support and protection, as well as the educational skills that so many never have the chance to develop because frequently they are drawn into prostitution in their early teenage years. Our report can be found at Scribd.com. I ask for support from all colleagues from all parties in this endeavour.
It is an honour to follow the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), who, through her care, compassion and faith, does so much good work in this place.
I speak first as the co-chair of the drugs, alcohol and justice cross-party group and as a member of the all-party group on alcohol harm. Earlier this month, a major review revealed that one in 10 people in a hospital bed in this country is alcohol dependent, and that one in five is doing themselves harm by drinking. In response to the review Professor Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said:
“More than 80 people die of alcohol-related causes across the UK every day, and there are more than 1 million alcohol-related hospital admissions every year in England alone.”
We urge the Government to prioritise reducing the harm that alcohol causes. They need to take action and introduce targeted, evidence-based measures, including minimum unit pricing to raise the price of the cheapest, strongest alcohol products.
The massive burden that alcohol puts on the NHS highlights the need for the urgent adoption of measures presented in the alcohol charter, which was launched by the drugs, alcohol and justice group and the all-party group on alcohol harm and is supported by more than 30 organisations. However, the Government have not produced their promised alcohol strategy. They have postponed ministerial meetings to discuss the charter and barely mentioned alcohol in their new prevention Green Paper. I very much hope that the new Prime Minister, the new Chancellor and, indeed, Ministers across Government, including from the Department of Health and Social Care, the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Education—they all have a part to play—will adopt a more enlightened approached. A serious, joined-up approach based on the charter recommendations could reduce the blight of alcohol harm significantly.
Let me turn to other issues. Together with colleagues from across the House, I have raised the issue of access to the drug Spinraza for patients with spinal muscular atrophy. Yesterday, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence published its final guidance on the drug. There is good news for those patients who will soon start to access the drug through the managed-access agreement, which must be implemented quickly and fairly, but it is disappointing that it does not include full access for SMA types 1, 2 and 3. We look forward to further clinical evidence being gathered, with a view to future positive changes being made to the managed-access agreement eligibility criteria. NICE and NHS England can expect continued pressure for those changes from MPs, as well as from patients, carers and clinicians—in fact, from all those involved in Muscular Dystrophy UK, TreatSMA, and Spinal Muscular Atrophy UK. The objective is access to Spinraza for all who need it, and the campaign will continue until that goal is reached.
Finally, I am sure the whole House will join me in congratulating Depaul on its 30th anniversary, which was celebrated in the Lords yesterday. Depaul runs fantastic services for homeless young people in North Tyneside and throughout the UK. Its work is guided by the belief that no matter what they have been through, young people can reach their potential if they have a safe, stable home and a support network that they can depend on. When the House returns, I will carry on working with Depaul UK to make the case for more Government investment in homelessness prevention, such as the Nightstop volunteer host service, and for a fairer welfare system in which young people do not have to wait five weeks for their first universal credit payment and in which local housing allowance is unfrozen and is worth at least the 30th percentile of local rents.
I wish everybody an enjoyable and fruitful time during the summer. I do hope that everyone finds time to pursue some relaxation during this recess.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for North Tyneside (Mary Glindon).
May I begin by putting on record my thanks and, I am sure, the thanks of all Scottish Conservative colleagues here in Westminster, Holyrood and across Scotland for the sterling service of the previous Scottish Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale (David Mundell). He has been a staunch supporter of Scotland and the Union, and really was Scotland’s man in the Cabinet. I know that his successor, my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries and Galloway (Mr Jack), will continue that work, but the right hon. Gentleman certainly made me and my colleagues who joined this place in 2017 feel extremely welcome. We valued his support—no one more so than me for his efforts to get the Moray growth deal over the line. I read an article by the Scottish journalist, Stephen Daisley, today in which he said that my right hon. Friend’s time in office as the Scottish Secretary was the longest since Lord Lang. He was appointed by David Cameron to the shadow Cabinet 13 and a half years ago, which meant that he was the longest serving Scottish spokesperson for either party since Willie Ross served under Harold Wilson, and that is a commendable record.
There would not be a Stirling and Clackmannanshire city region deal without the former Secretary of State either, so I put on record my grateful thanks to him too.
I appreciate that comment from my hon. Friend.
May I also use this opportunity in the House of Commons today to thank another person for sterling service, and that is Clare Russell who will shortly retire after 14 years as the Queen’s representative as Lord Lieutenant of Banffshire? In those 17 years, she has organised more than 40 royal visits, the last of which was for the Earl and Countess of Forfar to visit Glenfiddich Distillery in Moray. Over and above the royal visits that Clare Russell organised and participated in, she has been part of countless community events throughout Banffshire. She is always ably assisted by her husband, Oliver.
The Lord Lieutenant of Banffshire was presented with the Commander of the Royal Victorian Order by Her Majesty in 2018 and a few years earlier received an honorary degree from Aberdeen University. I want to say from these Green Benches that the people of Banffshire are extremely grateful for the commitment and dedication that Clare Russell has shown to our area and for the 17 years of great service. We are also extremely grateful to her for everything that she has done to promote Banffshire and for being the Queen’s representative in our area.
I also want to use the time available today to mention once again our armed forces, who are an integral part of the Moray community. Time and again, I mention RAF Lossiemouth and our brave men and women who serve there, and, of course, those at 39 Engineer Regiment in Kinloss at Kinloss barracks. Tomorrow, I will be joining them in Grant Park in Forres where there will be an Operation Trenton medals parade. The regiment will march down Forres high street and assemble in Grant Park. I hope that this great weather that we are currently having will continue for the men and women who will receive their honours tomorrow.
A slightly negative point that I feel I must bring to the attention of the Chamber today is the closure of the East Beach bridge in Lossiemouth. This is an extremely popular beach in Lossiemouth where I enjoy taking my family and our dog for a walk. Indeed, I even train on the dunes sometimes at East Beach, but, yesterday, after a report from the public, Moray council carried out an inspection and the bridge was closed. It was estimated just on Tuesday this week that 3,500 people cross that bridge in a single day, and the East Beach at Lossiemouth attracts tourists all year round. I hope that we can find an immediate solution to these problems, and that the UK Government, the Scottish Government and private investors can get involved to ensure that the bridge reopens as quickly as possible. It is such an important attraction to the area, and there are real concerns from the business community that its closure could affect tourism in the area. I spoke to the chairman of Lossiemouth Community Council, Mike Mulholland, this morning and was told that there would be an emergency meeting at 12 o’clock this afternoon to get an update from the council. I worry that there will not be an immediate solution, but we all must work together to try to get the bridge opened as quickly as possible.
Finally, in the last few seconds I want to mention the great community spirit in Moray. Just last week I visited the baby bank that has been set up by Susan and Ian Sutherland, who collect clothes and the other goods that people require for young babies and distribute them in the local community. The project originally started in their dining room and has now moved into premises in Urquhart. Those people are doing great work, and I praise them and all the volunteers in Moray who do outstanding work throughout the year.
People who have watched this House during this Session might think that all we do is talk about Brexit, but we have also been addressing the absolute disaster that universal credit is proving to be and the devastating effect it has had on too many families. We have also been very engaged with the issue of many seriously ill people receiving the wrong personal independence payment assessments. Many of these people are terminally ill and some have got zero points at assessment. I am still battling against failed assessments and it is totally unacceptable. My Access to Welfare (Terminal Illness Definition) Bill has not been able to move forward because we have not had ongoing sitting Fridays. That is really frustrating.
Another issue we face is that of the bereavement benefits lost by children and their parent when the person they lost was not married to the child’s mother or father. It is absolutely shocking. We were promised that that would be resolved, but we are still waiting. There is also the matter of child trust funds, some 2,700 of which are dormant in my Bridgend constituency, with claimants who did not even know they had a trust fund waiting for money that could change their life. What are we going to do to make that possible?
The devastation of Brexit has led to the closure of the Ford plant in my constituency, with the loss of 1,700 jobs there and 12,000 job losses at Ford across Europe. I am not involved in the meetings between Westminster Ministers and Welsh Assembly Ministers, yet it is to me that people come to know what is happening. Can we have access to the relevant people for my constituents and those of my colleagues in the south Wales region whose families are terribly worried about their future? Those who work in small and medium-sized enterprises are also devastated. We need to know what is going on, with regular feedback.
Earlier today, the Leader of the House talked about the important role the Foreign Office plays in protecting British citizens when they are abroad. My constituent John Tossell left his hotel on 17 June wearing a T-shirt, shorts and open-toed sandals, with €10 in his pocket. He disappeared. He was last seen going for a swim near the Windmill hotel in Argassi on the island of Zante. Can anyone who is going to Argassi on holiday please look out for this man? Will they look at their holiday photographs and let his family know if they have seen him? Also, will the Foreign and Commonwealth Office agree to keep the family aware of what is happening in the investigation throughout the summer?
Bridgend is a great place with great people, great hospitality and the best further education college in the United Kingdom. If anyone is wandering into Wales, I suggest they visit Porthcawl, where we have sea, sun, surfing, sandcastles, strolling on the prom and probably the best Italian ice cream in the whole of Wales. Our lifeboat, which is one of the busiest in the UK, keeps people safe in the water; hon. Members would be amazed at how many people on this island nation have no understanding of the risks of going into the sea. Our National Coastwatch Institution is absolutely superb. It is possible to walk from Newton bay down the River Ogmore, along a local nature reserve and right around the coast to the site of special scientific interest at Kenfig. It is an amazing opportunity to visit Wales and see the wonderful life that we are determined to protect and to ensure remains a part of the European Union. I will certainly be doing my best, when the House comes back, to ensure that that continues.
We all have to thank all the staff of the House—especially the catering staff who keep us going, the Doorkeepers who keep us informed and the security staff who keep us safe, but also the guides who show our visitors around the place. I also want to thank my staff, both in my Bridgend office and my Westminster office, because none of us would get through the volume of work without them.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon), but also bittersweet, because, like her, I will be talking about the closing of an automotive plant in my constituency. She knows, as I do, what that entails for constituents.
In fact, I had not intended to speak, but this morning I received by letter what is for my constituents a bitter blow regarding the Delphi diesel plant in Sudbury. In June 2017, Delphi Technologies, which is a large multi-billion-dollar American corporation listed on the New York stock exchange, confirmed that its diesel plant in my constituency will be closing with loss of around 500 jobs, phased until 2020. Later that year, I set up the South Suffolk taskforce, including the local authority and the local enterprise partnership, to look at how we could try to encourage a buyer for the site to keep it on an industrial basis so that we could protect those jobs, because the key thing about them is that they are highly skilled and nearly all are held by people who live in the vicinity of the plant, so they are very precious to our local economy.
Interestingly, we then had sessions of the taskforce where representatives of Delphi sat in front of us and told us that it was also their priority to keep the site for industrial use. In fact, in October last year I received a letter from Delphi that said:
“Regarding the future of the site, 1 can confirm our preference for the site to remain an industrial one and we have already invested significant sums to create an industrial assessment report to support this.”
But since then there has been a period with no engagement from the company and almost no communication unless, basically, I kicked off, threatened to talk about it in the Chamber and so on. Eventually, this morning, we received another letter; some of us had been starting to think, “Are their plans still the same?” It says:
“We intend to sell to Charterhouse Property Group…We understand that Charterhouse’s intention is to clear the site following our vacation in order to facilitate the necessary remedial works.”
In short, the site will be bulldozed and every job lost. That is the position as of today. Extraordinarily, the letter goes on to say:
“We note that the draft Local Plan has been published on the Council’s website and is due out for public consultation imminently. Following our initial review there appears to be no provision for the redevelopment of this site. The scale of the site—standing at 22 acres—provides your Authority with a significant opportunity to prioritise brownfield redevelopment as part of the overall spatial strategy avoiding the need for unnecessary development on greenfield land.”
It concludes by saying:
“In parallel to this, we would ask you to engage with”
Charterhouse Property Group
“so that it maximises the prospects of obtaining planning consent for a future use of the site.”
This is a company that is not engaged—that has basically shown a blank face to us in recent months—and then, on concluding that it is going to sell the site for property development, entirely residential, has realised that it needs the support of the stakeholders on my taskforce, most notably the planning committee. I find this quite extraordinary. When I first heard that the company had instructed a commercial agent last October, I “mystery shopped” the estate agent. I simply said to it, “I represent a large number of people with an interest in the site”, which was factually correct, asked if the site was going to be sold for residential development, and was told, “We consider all bids.” At this point, I challenged Delphi on its intentions, and it continued to say that its priority was industrial use.
My position is, first, that our planning authority should stand firm. If a planning application comes in, it should reject it as being out of policy and say that this site should remain for jobs and employment because it is absolutely key to our local economy. I say both to Delphi and to the property development company that were their application to be rejected—which, as we know, happens in the system these days—and they appealed with all their legal power and the rest of it, I would have no hesitation in asking for it to be called in by the Secretary of State, because, I can confirm to the House, we have had interest from companies that want to buy the site for industrial use—for new technology. One was from a company that has strong links to China regarding bringing forward electrical automotive technology. The truth is that companies like that do not have the muscle of the property developers, and in this case Delphi has decided that it wants the biggest bang for its buck.
I recognise that Delphi has offered excellent terms of severance, and the staff who are leaving do so with contracts that many newer employees in companies would envy, if we are honest. But the fact is that we have a Government, as we heard today, who want to see us pushing forward with investment in new technology. When we have an employment site with brilliant staff, which is the asset in this case and the reason why people have been interested in it, we should be looking to maximise the potential for the local economy, rather than selling to the highest bidder and leaving the site vacant for years as we go through the courts with applications for commercial and residential development. I hope we can still have a mixed-use site that maintains employment, and if Delphi wants to do that, I will work with it.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge). Like the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess), I want to raise the issue of avoidable deaths as a consequence of epilepsy. This issue does not get enough focus in the House. It causes a great deal of distress, for obvious reasons, to many families.
There are 21 epilepsy deaths each week in the United Kingdom. The organisation SUDEP Action does an excellent job in not only supporting bereaved families but highlighting this issue. What we want from the Government is an inquiry into avoidable epilepsy deaths; a funded annual risk check for all people with epilepsy; local training, so that all frontline professionals have greater awareness of this issue; and a willingness that has not been present for a number of years for Ministers to meet SUDEP Action and Members of Parliament to address these issues. A remarkable woman in my constituency called Lynn McGoff lost her daughter Samantha Ahearn 10 years ago to an avoidable epilepsy death. She has raised more than £45,000 for SUDEP Action, and she is a great advocate and campaigner for this cause and many others. Her courage, and that of the many people like her who turn personal tragedy into campaigns, is an inspiration to us all.
As we speak here today, there is a real risk that the English Football League is about to give Bury football club notice that it will have to leave the league due to a series of administrative issues. I want to use this speech to ask the English Football League to sit down with me, my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (James Frith) and the club to do everything we can to prevent that from happening, because it would be a devastating blow to the town of Bury.
When we come back, I hope to be in a position to confirm that we have submitted a bid to the Government for a new secondary school in Radcliffe in my constituency. It is a scandal that that community has not had a secondary school for well over 10 years, but we are making tremendous progress in submitting a bid to the Government, and I hope the Government will look upon it favourably. Likewise, for Prestwich precinct, we are making a bid to the town centre fund administered by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
I want to touch briefly on the issue of antisemitism. It is important to say that this has ruptured the relationship between my former party and large sections of the Jewish community, and the consequence is that the majority—this is not an exaggeration—of Jews in the United Kingdom fear that they would not feel welcome in this country if my former party, under its present leadership, were to win an election. I therefore ask those who are still members of that party in this House to understand the impact of that on people’s everyday lives and their duty to send different messages to the Jewish community in this country from those they have been sending in recent times. That is a very serious issue.
I also want to raise the matter of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. I had the privilege of meeting her husband Richard, as many others did, outside the embassy. The way Iran has behaved is scandalous. Whatever we say about wanting to stay part of the nuclear deal, Iran is a rogue state. It continues to fund and encourage terrorism around the middle east and then, despite this country staying in the nuclear deal, it imprisons and treats Nazanin in the most appalling manner. We should use every opportunity in this House to condemn the Iranian regime and say that we will not take our eye off the ball until she is released.
I want to raise the question of HS2. What I have discovered in recent weeks about HS2 is shocking. It seems that a significant number of former senior staff were made to sign non-disclosure clauses, as part of redundancy notices, because they had brought it to the attention of the company’s senior management that they were not providing accurate information to this House about the true costs of HS2. People were marched off premises and made redundant purely because they were whistleblowing and saying that this House and the public were being misled about the cost. I urge the Government and the Department for Transport to come totally clean and to be transparent about this issue, because if they do not come clean, we will drag out of them this information about what I believe is a public scandal.
May I welcome the new Prime Minister’s commitment to come forward with a fundamentally new plan for social care? This is one of the great public policy challenges of our time. Elderly people and their families, as well as disabled people and people with mental health problems, are being let down. I hope that the new Prime Minister is genuine in his commitment finally to bring forward, on an all-party basis, a radical plan for the reform of social care.
I am grateful to follow the hon. Member for Bury South (Mr Lewis). I was deeply impressed by what he said about antisemitism, and also about whistleblowing. I am the co-chair of the all-party group on whistleblowing. Just a couple of weeks ago, we produced a significant, I believe, report entitled, “The Personal Cost of Doing the Right Thing and the Cost to Society of Ignoring it”. In that report, we call for a review of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. It was passed 20 years ago and was groundbreaking at the time, but it is well past the date for it to be reviewed. The hon. Gentleman highlighted a case in point where the Act should be protecting whistleblowers but does not. The report also makes the case for an independent office for the whistleblower.
I was enlivened—I think the whole Chamber was—by the exciting, energetic and enthusiastic performance of our new Prime Minister earlier today. Had I taken my turn and bobbed for two and a half hours, I would have asked my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to commit to taking seriously the recommendations arising from the review that Lord Dunlop will produce later this year. It is very important for the sake of our Union that the United Kingdom Government update their structures and configuration to make them fit for the post-devolution Britain we live in.
I would like to raise the lack of any ministerial statement on the shocking rise in drugs-related deaths in Scotland, the highest per capita death rate in Europe. It is beyond my reasoning why Home Office Ministers were so reluctant to come here and make a statement on this important subject. I would like a meeting with the new Leader of the House to discuss how the Government respond to matters relating to Scotland in general. The sovereign Parliament of the United Kingdom must surely have an interest in all aspects of life in all parts of these islands.
Every Friday and Saturday, I spend time doing the thing I enjoy most about this job, which is speaking to my constituents, most frequently on their doorsteps. I am struck by the things that concern my constituents—not the things that fill up column inches of the national newspapers or the hours of ongoing, 24-hour rolling television news but the things that fill the columns of the Stirling Observer and the airtime of Central FM and Stirling City Radio. Those are the things my constituents care about, so let me mention some of them very quickly.
Since I was elected, I have been involved in a campaign to increase the number of Changing Places. Changing Places are toilets and changing facilities for people with a wide range of disabilities. They are fully equipped with showers, hoists and changing tables to make it possible for families caring for family members and others who suffer from severe disability to enjoy the facilities that we all—those of us who are able-bodied—take for granted. I opened a new Changing Places facility in my first few months as an MP, at the Blair Drummond safari park, working with Gary Gilmour, the manager there. It really brought home to me the effect that these facilities can have on individuals and the families who need them. They enable them to enjoy a day out without anxiety about the hygiene and care of the people they love.
I am working with Stirling shopping mall manager, Gary Turnbull, because it would like to have a Changing Places facility there. I am also working with the centrepiece of Stirling’s sports village, the Peak, and Active Stirling, because it would like a Changing Places facility, as well as with the McLaren Leisure Centre in Callander—led by its chairman, David Moore, and manager, Trish Thompson—which is planning a Changing Places facility soon. I want to pay tribute to the local area access forum, under the chairmanship of Robert Dick. It does so much to highlight these issues, and so much more, and I pay full tribute to it. I hope that Ministers will consider looking at policy on these issues. Why is it not required that these facilities are installed at motorway service stations and other key public facilities that make such a difference to the quality of people’s lives?
I pay tribute to Grant Wallace, a local driving instructor, and to local Councillor Martin Earl, who saved the Callander test centre from the clutches of the DVLA, which wanted to shut it down and save £2,500. Together with Mark Griffiths they came up with a novel solution so that Callander could retain its DVLA test centre and also make that saving. I also pay tribute to Valerie Brand from Buchlyvie, who managed to change the route of the C12 bus so that people in rural Stirling had access to a proper bus service, and to Donald and Alicja Fraser who set up a transport scheme in Killin to ensure that people could access appointments at hospitals and other far away medical facilities. Rural communities are often forgotten, but they should not be.
I would like to mention many other things, but one success story involves my constituent, Helen Bovill, who was concerned about the state of a public walkway. She got in touch with her councillor and her MP, and things changed. That is the kind of civic volunteering responsibility we have in Stirling, which makes it the greatest place in the United Kingdom to live.
It is a pleasure to follow all colleagues who have spoken in this debate. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the D-day landings in Normandy, and although many Members of the House—and, indeed, outside it—are far more qualified to speak on that issue than me, I wish to use my role as co-chair of the all-party group on charities and volunteering to thank those voluntary organisations that exist to support veterans and their families, including current serving personnel.
The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund marks its centenary this year. It was set up by Lord Trenchard with donations from the public, and it still supports veterans, serving personnel, and their families. All support is tailor-made, but the charity provides assistance in 12 key areas: financial assistance with day-to-day living costs; unemployment, retraining and resettlement support; help with housing; disability adaptations and aids round the home; mobility equipment; care costs; support for carers; wellbeing holiday breaks; help with funeral costs; benefits advice; housing and care advocacy; emotional health and wellbeing, and so much more.
Like many of the finest charities, the fund works in partnership with others, including case working organisations such as SSAFA and the Royal Air Forces Association, which have direct contact with those who need their assistance. Every serving member of the RAF voluntarily donates half a day’s pay to the fund, and last year it spent £21.4 million on supporting beneficiaries, meaning that more than 55,000 people received RAF Benevolent Fund support.
I have chosen to mention that fund today because it wants more beneficiaries. This year, the charity launched a new campaign—Join the Search. Change a Life—to raise awareness of the fund, and to find RAF veterans and their families who have fallen off the radar and help them before it is too late. It is concentrating specifically on the national service generation. There are currently 1.5 million people in what is described as the RAF family, three-quarters of whom are over 65. Worryingly, the benevolent fund estimates that up to 300,000 members of the RAF family could be in need of support, with about 100,000 of those in urgent need.
The benevolent fund wishes to double the number of people it supports and ensure its sustainability for years to come. I am pleased and privileged to raise the matter in the House. We never know who reads these debates in Hansard, follows them in the media or watches BBC Parliament, but we know there are a lot of such people. If only a few of them are able to get in touch with the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund and help someone in need, my small contribution to today’s important debate will have been worth it.
I begin by agreeing with the hon. Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr) on the seeming inability of the House to react to the news about Scottish drugs deaths. There has been a cross-party effort this week from Scottish Members of Parliament to get this issue on to the Floor of the House. Sadly, that has not happened, but I am sure that he and many on the Opposition Benches—not least my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss)—will press to draw the attention of the House to this issue at some point.
I want to talk not about anything or anyone hyper-local to my constituency, but about a woman from Russia. Her name was Elena Grigorieva and she was butchered to death at the weekend by thugs in St Petersburg. She was an extraordinary and brave woman. She was an unrelenting defender of civil and human rights. She was a thorn in the side of the thugs in Red Square in Moscow and she was a staunch proponent of LGBT rights, which is not easy in that country. She was killed at the weekend by what can only be described as complete and utter cowardice. I believe that her memory will live on and many people who knew her will keep making the case for human rights and civil rights in that country, which so badly needs them.
Elena Grigorieva was also a great believer in Ukrainian sovereignty. She was a great opponent of President Putin’s behaviour in Ukraine, not least the illegal annexation of Crimea and the illegal terrorist activities he continues to fund and co-ordinate in east Ukraine. As we have a new UK Government and all the disaster that undoubtedly will flow—I hear the word “Opportunity” from the Treasury Bench; I am sure those on the Government Benches disagree with me—I appeal to Members not to forget Ukraine, because it has to fight every single day for its independence and its sovereignty. It has just entered uncharted political territory. An entirely new Parliament was elected earlier this week. The governing party, under President Zelensky, managed to achieve a majority for the first time since independence in 1991. It should also be noted that it has elected its first ever ethnic minority Member of Parliament in the country’s history. That is a bit like the Scottish National party in 2011, which achieved a majority in our country for the first time and elected the first ever ethnic minority Member of the Scottish Parliament.
Ukraine requires our support and I encourage the fraternal support of Members of this House through the all-party group on Ukraine. It is undoubtedly a testing ground for the hybrid war that is creeping and crawling more and more into western democracies, including our own. It is incumbent on all of us to understand that; it is not enough to stand up and thump one’s chest about how terrible President Putin is and say all the right things that you read in The Times that morning. We must also understand what that interference might look like in the form of Russian oligarchs and their money in this country. This week, the United States House of Representatives announced that it will be looking into the use of Russian oligarch money in UK political parties. That is a damned sight more than what is happening in this Parliament. We will be letting the electorate down if we do not grapple with that issue after the recess.
Finally, I say to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and to all the staff of the House, all the Members here present, and those who are already enjoying their gin and tonics on the train or on the terrace, I hope they enjoy the summer.
There are certainly no gin and tonics in this Chamber, may I add.
What a pleasure it is to follow such a compelling speech from the hon. Member for Glasgow South (Stewart Malcolm McDonald). It is to his great credit and of great use to the House that he raised the issues that he did. The plight of Ukraine is too often forgotten about entirely or put to one side by the whole of the west, and this Chamber no less. He is absolutely right to raise the highly suspicious death of Elena Grigorieva. The brutality of the way that she was clearly targeted speaks volumes about the threat to those who are prepared to speak up in Russia and the danger that they put themselves in by speaking up for human rights or by opposing Putin’s regime. We must do more in this Chamber and in this country to oppose the lawlessness and dictatorial nature of that regime.
In this final debate before recess, I want to raise very serious concerns about the current conduct of my hospital trust, the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust. Many Members will unfortunately be familiar with the way that the trust was engulfed in a scandal regarding maternity and neonatal deaths over a number of years and with the incredibly difficult process of drawing the culture in Morecambe Bay from being one of the suppression of the truth—of closing ranks around practitioners—into openness. The effort to do that had to be led by grieving families, in the main.
The Kirkup report in 2015 was groundbreaking and had the full support of the former Health Secretary, the right hon. Member for South West Surrey (Mr Hunt), who is now returning to the Back Benches. It drove forward patient safety and transparency right across the NHS, so it is of huge concern that very serious concerns and allegations are now surfacing about the neurology department in Morecambe Bay and about the way that, it seems, the trust is treating a man who was a very highly respected consultant for many years within that department. He felt forced to retire a number of years ago and this week, he published a book, “Whistle in the Wind: Life, death, detriment and dismissal in the NHS—A Whistle-blower’s Story”. I urge the Minister to get word to the Health Secretary to instruct his officials to read that and perhaps to look at it personally. The author makes deeply alarming allegations of malpractice over several years, a number of which concern consultants who are still working in that department. He details a process where he was, in his view, singled out over a period of 10 years, accused anonymously of racism and felt forced to leave the trust.
It is right that these allegations are treated fairly and without prejudice to either side, but what is not right is the way that the trust is seemingly not learning the lessons of transparency. It is refusing FOI requests made by our brilliant local newspaper, which has led the way on this matter. We all owe a debt of thanks to Amy Fenton, a reporter who is just not taking no for an answer. She is being told time and again that she cannot have information from the trust. The Health Secretary must look at this, and I hope that he will come back to us when the House comes back in September.
It is a pleasure to follow so many thoughtful and interesting speeches on all aspects of public service in our constituencies and further afield. Bringing matters of concern before the House, and considering their further debate in the House, is the best expression of public service.
There are matters of urgency that often do not get a hearing in this House, so it is particularly pleasing that I have been fortunate enough, in the past two days, to ask two successive Prime Ministers within 24 hours whether they would commit to saving the Caley railway works in Springburn. Unfortunately, I had a fob-off response from both. It is absolutely shameful that this Government have not offered to make any constructive or proactive effort on this issue. The hon. Member for Boston and Skegness (Matt Warman) mouths “It’s devolved” from the Treasury Bench; let me point out the nuances of the devolved arrangements.
There is an ongoing effort to market the site to international investors. That could involve the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, but interestingly BEIS does not wish to engage in that effort, or to collaborate with the Scottish Government. I condemn the Scottish Government for their inaction, which is for entirely different reasons, but the UK Government could certainly add their efforts to a combined, collaborative approach. I am dismayed that the Prime Minister and his predecessor had neither the wit nor the tact to offer that to the campaign. It would become anyone who aspires to lead the country to seek to work in collaboration with all parts of all Administrations across the United Kingdom to achieve this objective.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the best strategy for preserving the Union would be to banish “devolve and forget” for good?
I could not agree more, to put it succinctly.
There needs to be much more effort to collaborate across Governments. Where different aspects of problems can be solved at different levels of government, that ought to be discussed collaboratively and efficiently, rather than people simply mouthing “It’s devolved” and abrogating any sort of responsibility. That is not acceptable, frankly.
In Springburn, there is a long-standing tradition of railway engineering excellence that goes back to the dawn of the railway age. It is the railway metropolis of Scotland. It once exported half the world’s locomotives to all parts of the world. People look at the Finnieston crane in Glasgow—that great icon of the city’s skyline—and think it is to do with shipbuilding, but it was entirely to do with taking locomotives down to the docks to load them on ships and export them all around the world. I had the idea of bringing one of the old locomotives back to the Caley works and restoring it to working condition. Unfortunately, the Scottish Government did not entertain that solution.
In the next few days, we hope to have a meeting with the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity in Scotland, but of course, that will be closing the door after the workers have left, which is a great shame. We need to come around rapidly and create a cross-governmental taskforce at UK and Scottish Government level to reopen the Caley railway works quickly. I hope to work constructively, and in a spirit of collaboration, with all Governments in all parts of the UK to achieve that objective. I hope that Members on the SNP and Government Benches here are receptive to that.
That is just one example of how we can bring a local issue to national prominence through agitating here for a solution. Hopefully that nuanced expression of what could be done has been heard by those on the Treasury Bench. We can look forward to correspondence on this in the next few days, and hopefully can pull together a plan to save the works and restore them to production as quickly as possible.
There are many other wonderful aspects of my community, which is why I am so proud to represent it in Parliament. Often, there is innovation in the face of adversity; I think many Labour Members could reflect on the same theme. In the wake of a decade of austerity, many people are rising to the challenge of trying to help their community. Public services have been extracted, statutory responsibilities have been reduced, and there has been further erosion of the public realm and public service, which is a great shame, but the situation has also brought out the best in people and brought about great innovation. There is an opportunity for the Government to identify where people on the ground are innovating and doing very well indeed in offering really productive and efficient services to their community. We can perhaps think of those services as benchmarks and templates that could be scaled up to national level.
We could look more effectively at what is done very well locally. I have a couple of examples. I recently worked in the constituency with a local community activist, Susan Wilson, who is a local community champion in Tesco’s by day, and does a lot of other voluntary work outside that. She is a real dynamo in the community. She works with the Allotment Angels in Reidvale. That is part of the Include Me 2 Club, a fantastic charity that helps adults with additional support needs and disabilities. It helps many local people, including people from sheltered housing and a homeless man who, as a result of his voluntary work on the allotment, was recently able to find a job building a wonderful community garden. That is a real exemplar of fantastic community innovation in the face of adversity.
Will the hon. Gentleman also congratulate Susan Wilson’s mother, Jan O’Neil, who has done some great charity work, including raising £99,000 for the ACCORD hospice? That is celebrated in an early-day motion that has been launched today.
I welcome those sentiments and commend the family, who are certainly a tour de force. Susan’s mother was also able to attend the recent garden party, which she thoroughly enjoyed. It was a fantastic opportunity. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and I can both welcome them to the House of Commons in the near future to celebrate their grate success in the community. That is just one example of the fantastic and inspiring work that we often discover as Members of Parliament—having lived in an area our whole lives, we then discover so many wonderful hidden nuggets of excellence that we would never previously have thought existed.
Another such example is Glasgow’s No. 1 Baby and Family Support Service, which sprung up in response to much of the poverty that young parents find themselves in as a result of the benefit cuts and sanctions that we have seen the Government implement in the transition to universal credit. It is looking at setting up community baby banks so that necessary equipment and facilities can be made available. People can then come and access vital supplies, such as nappies, and even share prams. Those are expensive items that are only really needed for a temporary period, so it makes total sense to exchange them. It is a wonderful service that has been developed there, and I often wonder why on earth we do not invest in making it a national system. It would be much more efficient and environmentally friendly. We should be looking to our communities for examples of excellence that can then be turned into Government policy. Those are just some of the wonderful ideas that I see sprouting up. Often adversity and necessity are the mother of invention, and I think that we should learn from that in the midst of our communities.
This has been a wonderful opportunity, not much longer than two years since making my maiden speech, to bring these great examples of community resilience to the Floor of the House of Commons. I intend to keep working as hard as I can to help my constituents in the face of adversity, such as the closure of the Caley, and to promote the excellent ideas that are carried out within the community. Hopefully we can do a little bit, as MPs, to improve lives and improve our country one step at a time.
I am pleased to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney), and I commend the work that he has described, not least his campaign to save the Springburn works.
Years ago, as a Minister in the Treasury and the then Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, I played my part in encouraging universities to commercialise their superb research outcomes. I think that was the right thing to do, but there is growing evidence that in some very prestigious institutions that approach can go badly wrong.
My constituent Sunil Purushothaman qualified as a doctor at Guy’s Hospital in 1998 and worked as a doctor for two years. Fascinated since childhood by electronics, he was very interested in its medical applications, so in 2000 he started a PhD at Imperial College, supervised by Professor Christofer Toumazou, who is now regius professor of engineering at Imperial. My constituent came up with the idea of using a common electronic device for DNA testing. Professor Toumazou thought it was a good idea but told my constituent that in order to obtain a PhD under his supervision, under the terms of what he called a “pipeline agreement” that he had with Imperial College, my constituent would have to write a patent for the new idea and to vest it in Professor Toumazou’s company.
My constituent has since discovered that there was no such pipeline agreement and that obtaining a PhD did not require him to write a patent application, still less to vest it in Professor Toumazou’s company. However, he felt that he had to do as he had been told, and so he did. Initially his idea was just a vague idea, but it proved to be a very good one and in 2004 he demonstrated it successfully. The demands of delivering it were immense, and it took Mr Purushothaman six very stressful and demanding years. He obtained his PhD in 2006.
In August 2003, Professor Toumazou arranged the establishment of a company, Suniseq Ltd, subsequently DNA Electronics, to commercialise my constituent’s idea. Professor Toumazou instructed him to raise investment of £50,000 to buy the rights to his patent from Toumaz Technology. A third of the shares in DNA Electronics were vested in Mr Purushothaman.
On completing his PhD, Mr Purushothaman finally left Imperial in March 2006. He was due to start GP training a few months later, but instead, tragically, he suffered a nervous breakdown brought on by the strain at Imperial. He was unable to work at all for over 10 years. He continued to receive demands from DNA Electronics, addressed to him as shareholder, adding to the pressure he was under. So in 2010 he handed all his shares over to the company, receiving no payment at all for them, and he agreed to have his name taken off a European patent of his work, leaving Professor Toumazou as apparently the main author. My constituent was in fact the sole author of that work.
Mr Purushothaman’s invention achieved immense commercial success, which continues, for DNA Electronics, and great wealth and numerous awards and honours for Professor Toumazou. My constituent has had no benefit from his invention at all. Robbed of a promising career, he has endured over a decade of hardship.
The central problem was that Imperial College’s intellectual property policy specifies, rightly, that any IP created by its students should be vested in the first instance in the college. In the case of Mr Purushothaman’s invention, that never happened; it was vested instead in Professor Toumazou’s company. That should never have happened.
I have been writing to the provost of Imperial about this for over four years, but he has never been willing to meet to discuss it. Professor Toumazou’s behaviour has been a disgrace, but has led to him being showered with wealth and honours. And I am sorry to say that Imperial has facilitated a shameful cover-up.
Anyone planning pioneering scientific work, even at an institution as reputable as Imperial, needs to be aware of what can go wrong. Students’ IP should be protected. A change in the law, in my view, is going to be needed.
I rise today to talk about the academisation of two schools in my constituency: Moulsecoomb primary school and Peacehaven community school. They are at opposite ends of my constituency and in different local authorities, one Labour-controlled, one Conservative-controlled.
Moulsecoomb primary school has had a total funding cut of £388,000, equivalent to £595 per pupil, since 2015, and in the last 12 months it has lost 11 staff, predominantly support staff. Moulsecoomb primary school is in an area of multiple deprivation and has risen to many challenges, including having great expertise in special educational needs provision, but unfortunately it does not fit into the Ofsted checkboxes.
Two years ago, the Ofsted inspectors came and rated the school “requires improvement”, so with the Labour-led local authority, the local community and the fantastic new head we went to work implementing all the Ofsted recommendations. I can say that, its performance in terms of almost all the indicators and results has improved, and all the recommendations of that previous Ofsted report have been implemented. But when Ofsted inspectors returned a few months ago, they rated it “inadequate” because for some reason it did not fulfil their new box-ticking exercise; the goalposts had been moved and the school now has an enforced academisation order. I have a message to those Ofsted inspectors that went to Moulsecoomb: “Frankly, I think you were inadequate and I think you should go back and reinspect—not you individuals; we should get a new bunch to come instead.”
This academisation is opposed by all groups on the council in Brighton and Hove— the Labour administration, supported by the Greens, and the Conservative opposition —so this is not a party political issue; this is an issue of justice and fairness, of which Moulsecoomb school has been robbed.
Peacehaven community school has had an even greater crippling cut: £1.2 million, equating to £627 per student. This is a school that we opened up in 2001 after a long campaign by my predecessor—my Labour predecessor, I might add—and the community. When I went to school, we were shipped over 10 miles up the road to the local secondary school, Priory School. Now, having a local secondary school in the community is so important. This school’s Ofsted rating is still “good”, but the county has used a devious device. Because the results dipped for one year, it has put forward an interim executive board. It abolished the governing body without consulting the parents or the co-operative trust that owned the school. The co-operative trust is opposing the academisation that is now being forced upon it by the county.
Since the executive board has taken control, we have had five headteachers in five years and results have worsened, rather than improved. Swale Academy Trust, which has of course supported the executive board, has set the framework to enable it to take over the trust. It has bullied the trust board to a stage at which it is threatening legal action against a legitimate trust that is holding out because it wants to consult the parents. This kind of academisation is totally wrong, and it is happening because East Sussex County Council is running a bare-bones statutory budget. The Conservative-led council is now doing only the minimum under the law, and it is unable to support the schools in that local area that it needs to support. We have garnered support from other local secondary schools that will support Peacehaven in its improvement and transition, but nothing has happened and we are not listened to. The staff have resorted to balloting on a strike, and I am supporting the National Education Union and the GMB in those actions.
I beg Ofsted to come back and re-evaluate Moulsecoomb Primary School and I beg the Secretary of State to rescind the order or at least allow a parent ballot on the issue. In regard to Peacehaven Community School, I beg East Sussex County Council to stop its love-in with Swale, which has failed the school, and to allow the school to be returned to the community where it belongs. The reality is that the academy programme is a failed programme set up by a previous Government, and we now need to reverse them all.
Our new Prime Minister urges us to embrace a spirit of optimism, so I am going to meet him in that challenge as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on taxis. I have good news for the Government, who lack a majority and find it difficult to legislate: this is one area where they would find cross-party support if only they would bring forward the Bill we have been waiting for. When I was first elected as the Member for Ilford North in 2015, we set up the all-party parliamentary group on taxis because it was clear to those of us who represent significant numbers of London taxi drivers and licensed private hire drivers that there is a wild west in the regulation of the taxi and private hire industry. It allows unfair and anti-competitive practices, and also puts passenger safety at risk.
We embarked on a programme of consultation and engagement with stakeholders right across the industry in order to come up with our report on the future of the taxi and private hire industry, which made a compelling case for reform. It was so compelling that, although the Department for Transport itself did not quite embrace the report, it was at least persuaded to commission its own report. An independent committee led by Mohammed Abdel-Haq, a great guy, produced a thorough and comprehensive report that said pretty much exactly what our report had said. So a cross-party report has made the case for reform and the Department for Transport is also making the case for reform—a case that was accepted by the now former Secretary of State for Transport and two successive Ministers, the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes) and the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Wealden (Ms Ghani)—yet we still have no legislation.
So, in the spirit of this debate and in the spirit of optimism our Prime Minister tells us to embrace, I am optimistic that my speech will be heard by those on the Treasury Bench and that we will see legislation in the autumn. More than 1,000 of my constituents and their families are looking to the Government to act and I will be relentlessly on their case after the summer. I am afraid, though, that that is where my optimism about our new Prime Minister ends.
Let no one imagine that the heat has gone to my head and I am now persuaded that our new Prime Minister is ready to take our country forward in the way that he suggests. He urges us to judge him on his record. Well, that is what my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley (John Spellar) might describe as a target-rich environment.
I am afraid that the record of the Prime Minister as Mayor of London is not one to be proud of: millions of pounds wasted on a garden bridge that was never built; millions of pounds wasted on a cable car with no passengers; huge amounts of taxpayer money wasted on a vanity project, Boris island airport, which never even made it past the artistic licensing phase; the water cannon that he purchased but was never able to use; the fact that crime, including violent crime, rose before he left office; the ticket office closures; the bluff, bluster and bombast, which we saw so heartily represented at the Dispatch Box today; and a carelessness and lack of attention to detail, which have left a British citizen languishing in an Iranian prison, not because—let us not make excuses for the Iranians—the actions of the previous Prime Minister’s Foreign Secretary led to her detention, but because this Prime Minister, through his careless disregard for briefing and his careless use of language, aided and abetted the Iranian Government in making her suffering and the injustice she is experiencing last that much longer. It is totally appalling.
I am afraid that optimism is no substitute for a plan. In the unlikely event that the Prime Minister were minded to keep his pledge to lay in front of the bulldozer at Heathrow airport, I would be the first to volunteer to drive it. I am afraid that in the Prime Minister and in what we heard from the Dispatch Box today there is no plan for our country. In fact, the spending commitments he made on schools, health and so many other areas of public policy were not about a vision for the future; they were an admission of nine years of failure—school cuts, NHS cuts, police cuts, and every single one imposed by the party he leads and most of which he voted for once he was elected to this place.
We will judge this Prime Minister on his record. It is not a record to be proud of. It does not inspire confidence in his ability to lead our country. It is not a change of Prime Minister that we need; it is a change of Government.
I am delighted to hear the hon. Gentleman speak so well for the all-party parliamentary group on taxis.
I am delighted to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting), for whom I have so much respect.
I want to raise several issues briefly. The first is electric scooters. There is a Transport for London/Greater London Authority consultation on these illegal items. The Paris Mayor recently tightened regulations, not only because these scooters have been littering the streets of that great European city, as well as others which have licensed them—we see the same happening in London now, with more cycle hires available—but because in Paris they have killed five people and seriously injured more than 300, according to reports. We saw our own tragic first casualty recently in London.
The police, unsurprisingly, are not making this a priority. We need more clarity, and extending a licence to such scooters would be regrettable. The penalty for using e-scooters on land other than private land is a £300 fine and six points on a licence. For drivers who have recently passed their test, a six-point penalty means a driving ban, which means they have to pass their test again. That needs more publicity.
On leasehold, the hon. Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley), co-chair of the all-party group on leasehold reform, got a positive answer from the new Prime Minister earlier. We have a full programme of Government promises on ground rents, the right to manage, the ban on leasehold houses being sold, service charge and refurbishment cost protection, banning events fees and introducing commonhold. The previous Secretary of State engaged the Law Commission and the Competition and Markets Authority, and we await the Best report, which is due out at the end of this month. Hopefully, we will see the first legislation soon.
On connected matters, the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess), who opened the debate, covered cladding and sprinklers. On the Government’s £200 million, which they have made available to the private sector, questions are still being asked about how to apply for the money, when it will be available and who will be able to access it. An update on progress with that, as well as on the failed non-ACM cladding which is being tested this summer by the Government, would be very welcome.
On ombudsman issues, recently I had an Adjournment debate on the accountability of housing associations. I raised the lack of clarity about the role of the local government and social care ombudsman and the housing ombudsman in holding housing associations to account. This week, I had a very good meeting with Mr Michael King, the chair and ombudsman at the local government and social care ombudsman organisation. I am grateful to him for clarifying the position for me.
Mr King advised me that the Government had introduced an ombudsman Bill in 2016, which would have merged some of the ombudsman services, but that it was a casualty of the 2016 referendum and the 2017 general election. Since then, Wales and Northern Ireland have gone down that route. Indeed, they have gone further and included the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman in the same service. I would be grateful if the Leader of the House’s office could advise me whether the Bill might reappear at some point to streamline and strengthen ombudsman services, which hold to account so many public services and servants in England on the public’s behalf.
In the past two weeks, we have seen the refreshed road safety statement, which is very welcome. However, it has initiated another two-year study on a graduated licensing scheme and targets to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads, which inevitably means more delays in making progress on those issues.
On deaf issues, news on the British Sign Language GCSE has gone quiet, which I hope means that work is being undertaken. We are still awaiting an outcome on deaf access to NHS services, bursaries for teachers of the deaf and other issues.
We also await an outcome on better support from the Department for International Development for small charities in the UK that are doing such great work across the world.
Following the Prime Minister’s statement, I look forward to more support for my local authority, Tower Hamlets, and our local schools, which are both suffering from years of severe cuts, and to the extra police officers to address antisocial behaviour, although I am not hugely optimistic that we will get all that.
As a Labour MP, I want to say that I am embarrassed and ashamed at my party’s response to the antisemitism allegations against us. I do not think we will get past this until the Equality and Human Rights Commission inquiry reports.
Finally, we know that we are not going on holiday for six weeks—it is the summer recess. One colleague in this debate last year finished her speech by saying “Happy holidays,” which was not entirely helpful. I wish everybody associated with the Palace, including all colleagues, a decent break during the summer recess.
I usually use this debate to talk about very local issues. Today I want to deviate a little, because many of my constituents have written to me about their concerns for people who live elsewhere in the world and their fear that our voice might be silenced or muted because of Brexit and our pursuit of trade deals.
My constituents have pointed out Trump’s obsession with walls and putting children in cages, and his insidious support for the damaging and highly dangerous great replacement conspiracy theory. They asked, “What did we do in response?” Well, we gave him a state visit.
There are concerns about other powerful countries too, like China. As we know, more than a million men, women and children are in detention camps, based on their ethnicity and their Muslim faith. Families have been torn apart by the state, children from their parents. Credible reports say that detainees are forced to swear oaths of allegiance, renounce their religion and learn Mandarin in place of their mother tongue. Some reports even talk of summary execution and the harvesting of organs.
Our Government have recognised that human rights abuses are happening today on a huge, almost unimaginable scale. Uyghur Muslims fear a genocide. Why have we not taken targeted steps? Frankly, we do not need more words. It is clearly a business. We could identify those who develop racist software to identify the targets. We could identify those who are building the camps. We could refuse them contracts with the UK, couldn’t we? We could speak up much more strongly about Hong Kong as well, couldn’t we? We could address the increasing fear of Hong Kongers that their free society is just slipping away. We could help—but we have not, and I fear that we will not because China might move away from freer trade, and we need that free trade now as a substitute for what we are losing.
I fear that it is the same with Modi’s Government. On 17 June, when the new Indian Parliament was being sworn in, members of the ruling party chanted the Hindu nationalist slogan “Jai Sri Ram” whenever a Muslim representative stood up to take their oath. It was an attempt to intimidate and delegitimise those elected representatives based on their religion. Those words could simply be an expression of faith, but they have been twisted into something horrifying.
Since then, there have been repeated Islamophobic attacks, accompanied by that same chant. On 22 June, Tabrez Ansari was tied to a pole, beaten and abused by a crowd in the open. He cried and begged for mercy. After the crowd were done with Tabrez—after they had forced him to repeat their slogan and taken yet another step to erase his difference—the police took him into custody. Reportedly, he was refused medical help. His family members were threatened with similar beatings and not permitted even to see him until, four days later, he died of his injuries. There have been many further attacks. A Hindu video is being shared, with the lyric:
“Whoever doesn’t say Jai Sri Ram, send him to the graveyard.”
Frankly, that is the language of genocide.
As hon. Members will know, I could go on. I wanted to talk about Bolsonaro’s Brazil, Saudi Arabia and our arms deals as well. To be entirely honest, it seems to me that FCO Ministers, many of whom I deeply respect, have raised human rights issues in terms just vague enough not to cause trouble. What is our role in this new world if we swallow our words and turn away when we see persecution escalating, risk to lives and liberty, and possible genocide on the horizon? How will this new Government show us that they are not cowards, they are not distracted and they are not restricted because of Brexit?
It is always a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown). I was very disturbed to hear about the testimony that she mentioned, but equally I am pleased that she has voiced it in this House. I am sure that everyone heard it and was appalled by the details.
I rise to speak today because the House declared a climate emergency on 1 May. If anything, that emergency has become ever more evident over recent days. While we have been in this House, outside in our country the temperatures reached a record-breaking 39°. I pay tribute to all those emergency services who have been helping people to deal with the heatwave. They have been active in Paris as well, which has just itself reached a new record of 41°. In the Netherlands and Belgium, national records for temperature have already been broken this year.
In fact, over the last 19 years, five new records have been broken for summer temperature in Europe, going back to 1500. Think about that: the five hottest summers in Europe since 1500 have occurred just in the past 19 years. But my constituents tell me that what we have experienced here in Europe is as nothing compared with the experience of many of their families in the global south. Two years ago, people living in the Punjab had to put up with temperatures of 52°. Farmers in Jamaica have been experiencing drought after drought after drought, and children living in Bangladesh are becoming more malnourished as extreme weather event follows extreme weather event.
Just yesterday, three scientific studies were published that showed that the temperature changes we are currently experiencing are happening faster and more intensively than at any point over the past 2,000 years. What has been our response? Well, Parliament is about to adjourn. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) that we will still be working, but Parliament will not be sitting. In any case, since 1 May it has felt like business as usual.
I have talked to lots of children and young people in my constituency about the climate crisis. In fact, many of them have come to speak to me during mass lobbies on the topic in this place. I know how concerned many of them are about the crisis; in fact, many of them at local schools have been producing posters with their views about the environmental crisis. I find it heartbreaking to see their images of the climate breakdown—of what they think it will be like if we do not act—but I am inspired by their passion and determination to do something about it.
Those children and young people, and their parents, have been asking me to ask questions in this place on their behalf. Those questions include things like: why are we still building homes in this country that are not zero carbon? Why we are spending only 2% of our transport budget on cycling and walking? Why is part of our aid budget still going towards supporting fossil fuel-based technologies in the global south? Why have we seen feed-in tariffs abolished and a block on onshore wind? Why are we denying our country the benefits of the 400,000 extra jobs that would come from a green new deal?
When we return to Parliament, I hope it will not be to the chaos of an impending no-deal Brexit, but even more fundamentally it must not be a return to business as usual. When we come back at the beginning of September, it must be to a legislative programme that meets the aspirations of those children and young people and their parents, that faces up to the climate crisis, and that actually embodies the meaning of the term emergency: a situation that demands an immediate response.
It is an honour to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) on the issue of the climate emergency. A climate emergency is not a headline to hide behind; it is a call for action. After the hyperbole we heard earlier today, I fear the lack of detail and strategy to address the really important issues that face us as a nation at this time. In fact, I found the whole experience this morning chilling in respect of the direction our country is going in.
It not about a performance, as Government Members highlighted, but about solving the real crises that we face in our country at this time. That is why I turn to the issue of jobs in my constituency. We are at a crossroads in York. Unless we get things right, the future generation in my constituency will not have the opportunities that past generations have had. We have been so fortunate that, throughout the decades and the centuries, York has been a place of good employment. We know from the evidence in Jorvik that back in the Viking days York was a centre of trade. Throughout the Anglo-Saxon years York was a real nucleus for the people who came to our city. We are about to do the biggest excavation in the country, that of Roman Eboracum, to look into the history of our city, knowing its importance back in those days. In the medieval period, York was, after London and Norwich, the third largest city, with trade again at its heart. The railway industry brought high-quality jobs to York. The chocolate industry employed 18,000 people at its peak and served the world.
Today, York is marked by so many insecure, low-paid jobs, particularly for women and for the women who work part time in our city. York has one of the lowest-waged employment offers for people, including in the hospitality and retail sector that dominates our city. I stand here today because I want to see good inward investment in our city. Shamefully, the local council and the Government are not calling in the decision on the York Central partnership, with the opportunity having been put on hold.
In the HS2 debate the other day, I heard of the opportunities that the project is bringing to my colleagues in Birmingham: 33,000 jobs at Curzon Street station alone; and 77,000 jobs at the Birmingham Interchange. York Central sits on the route of HS2, the east coast main line, the trans-Pennine route and cross-country routes. It will be a major transport infrastructure interchange in the north, and yet the planning is for only 6,500 jobs, most of which will be consolidating jobs that already exist in our city.
We have the biggest brownfield site development opportunity in the whole of Europe. It covers 400,000 square metres, only a fifth of which will be dedicated to an enterprise zone. This is about shutting off the opportunities for inward investment in the growth areas of our city, such as the biotech industry, the railway industry and digital railway for the future. There is also the digital, media and creative sectors, of which York University is a lead player. It is vital that we lift the aspirations of young people in our city so that they can see the opportunities that are there for them, instead of shutting off the inward investment that our city urgently and desperately needs.
Some 2,500 homes will be built on that brownfield site. To buy one of those homes will cost between 11 and 19 times somebody’s wage. For the people in my city, that is completely unaffordable, so we know that those homes will be bought by outside investors and by people who will use them as second homes because York is such a lovely place in which to live—I have already described its history. But York must be about the local people and about giving them the very opportunities that their predecessors have had in our city.
There is so much to attract people to our city, but unless we get the infrastructure right, make the right decisions on the economy and create jobs for local people, our city will remain out of kilter and one of the most inequitable cities in the United Kingdom. My plea to Government is to pause planning decisions and put the economic opportunities of our local communities at the heart of every planning decision, so that we can rebuild our country for the people that it is there to serve.
It is a true pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell), who spoke so passionately and knowledgeably about her constituency. In my contribution, I wish to highlight two incredibly important services both for my constituency and for the wider area.
The National School Breakfast Programme provides free breakfasts to 1,775 schools in our country, feeding 280,000 children each school day. I am lucky enough to have 10 schools in my constituency in the scheme: Bond; Lonesome; Liberty; St Marks; William Morris; St Peter and Paul’s; Cricket Green: St Thomas of Canterbury; Melrose and the SMART Centre. Some 1,530 children benefit from this scheme each day in Mitcham and Morden, but thousands of others also benefit. An independent study suggests that every child in a school on the scheme gets two months’ extra learning in reading and maths. Not only are the children fed, which helps them to concentrate, but their behaviour, their punctuality and their attendance improves. Mrs Kennedy, headteacher at St Marks Primary School says:
“We cannot imagine being without this initiative, having seen the impact it has on our pupils, their energy levels and consequently their ability to access morning lessons. We often have a number of pupils in our school who have no recourse to public funds as well as those who qualify for pupil premium and having something to eat in the morning has really made a difference. We’ve also seen a significant improvement in punctuality as well as overall attendance.”
This scheme is paid for from the sugar tax. There is currently £123 million of sugar tax money at the Treasury waiting to be spent. This scheme ends in March 2020. Would it not make so much sense to allocate some of the money that is already there to extend this brilliant scheme?
Shooting Star Chase children’s hospice is a hospice for babies, children and young adults with life-limiting conditions that works throughout the county of Surrey and 15 London boroughs. A few weeks ago I received a letter suggesting that the hospice would have to halve the number of families in my constituency who received respite care. I put the letter away and woke up in the middle of the night thinking, “How? Surely this is an easy thing to raise money for.” There are brilliant local people and businesses in my constituency who raise money for this hospice, including Paul and Irene Strank at Paul Strank Roofing. Even Simon Cowell raises money for Shooting Star. However, it will still have to halve the number of families who get respite support. That is because demand has increased by 38% this year alone. Costs are also up due to good things such as Agenda for Change, so more money has to be spent on staff.
The hospice is having a problem fundraising. Businesses do not want to commit to funding due to Brexit, and personal giving is down. The hospice needs £11 million a year, with only £690,000—or 5%—coming from the NHS. Adult hospices get around 30% of their funding from the NHS. Shooting Star has been spending its reserves year on year, and this is crunch year. It has had to deny 250 families access to respite care from November, and it has had to limit the children it can care for to those with a prognosis of 12 to 18 months; and that is happening right now.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for making an excellent speech. I had a meeting with the chief executive officer of Shooting Star within the last few days. The situation is urgent and important. If the Government cannot give the money, surely all the clinical commissioning groups in the area could give £100,000 or a couple of hundred thousand pounds to put this charity back where it belongs, serving the young children of our counties.
As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, although I am highlighting and he has met with Shooting Star, funding is an issue for all children’s hospices. The only way in which those 250 families can get the respite care they need from the hospice is by receiving £400,000 from the £14 million that the NHS has identified for children’s hospices in 2023-24. I regret to say that these children will be long passed by that date.
This is not money that is going to be saved by the Government or the taxpayer if we do not give it to the hospice, because the next port of call for these 250 families will be the CCGs or our hard-pressed local authorities’ social services departments. These families need respite in order to care for their children, and they will get it from somewhere. The Government’s choice and our choice can be to use Shooting Star Chase to get great care at a subsidised cost, or it can be to put more pressure on more public services and spend more taxpayers’ money on poorer quality care.
It is always a pleasure to speak in this debate before the forthcoming adjournment or in any Adjournment debate, but that is just by the way. I thank Mr Speaker for setting time aside for this debate, which means that I can discuss an issue that is very close to my heart: the worth of the land and its value to society.
I live on a farm, and rent out acreage to neighbours and working farmers. I am proud of the land that I inherited from my father and will pass on to my sons and grandchildren. I am also an Ulster Scot and I am very fond of the Ulster Scots language, culture and history, so I want to quote four lines of an Ulster Scots poem entitled “On Slaimish”:
“Whar nicht-wantherin Orr dreamed yit, for a’
The bitter wakkenin o ninety-echt:
This lan that cried the dreamers bak, for
This is hame.”
No matter how far in the world we may go, or wherever our talents and abilities may take us, for those of us who hail from Ulster one thing will always remain: our hame—our home—is the land.
I have been a member of the Ulster Farmers’ Union for approximately 35 years, and I agree with its assessment of agriculture in Northern Ireland. It has said:
“Agriculture is one of Northern Ireland’s most important industries. As a whole, the agri-food industry turns over more than £4.5 billion every year and supports one in eight jobs in the UK, making it a cornerstone of Northern Ireland’s economy and farmers play a key role in this. Currently, there are over 25,000 farm businesses in Northern Ireland producing the wide variety of raw materials needed by processors and retailers to meet the demands of consumers. Farming in Northern Ireland is not just a job but it is a way of life and we are extremely proud of our family farming structure. Rural communities here are extremely close knit and farmers and farming families are at the heart of these communities. When you compare Northern Ireland to the other UK regions, and in fact the rest Europe, we are definitely a region that punches above its weight when it comes to farming.”
For young farmers, farming is in their blood. While I greatly admire this, I have concern for their future, because the research is very clear. The Farm Safety Foundation suggests that 81% of young farmers believe that mental health issues are the biggest hidden problem facing farmers today. The foundation’s research also shows that a farmer takes his or her life every week across the United Kingdom. A 2012 UK study of psychological morbidity of farmers and their partners and spouses based on 784 face-to-face interviews at agricultural shows found a higher risk of psychiatric disorder compared with non-farmers. There have been other reports across the world. There were interviews with dairy farmers in New Zealand, and in 2015 a national survey of mental health in Canada told us that it is not just a Northern Ireland or a United Kingdom issue and problem but a global one. It is a lonely life, and it is certainly a calling, to be a farmer.
We should appreciate the industry that is the foundation of agrifood, with a turnover of some £4.5 billion in Northern Ireland alone, and the impact that farming has on the wider economy. For every £1 that a farmer puts into the economy, £7.40 is gained, so farming is clearly the engine room of the economy. About 75%, or 1 million hectares, of Northern Ireland’s countryside is farmed in some way. This industry is vital for the Northern Ireland economy, employing more than 3.5% of the total workforce—well above the UK average of 1.2%.
It is my belief that we must—please excuse the pun, Madam Deputy Speaker—plant our support firmly behind the farmers and the farming community. This truly is the lifeblood that runs through my constituency and, further, through the Province as a whole. It is also what helps to sustain the UK. We must be proud of our land, provide support for those who tend our land, and ensure that we are good stewards of our land through sensible farming. I love seeing the patchwork of fields as I drive into work daily, and I see the fallow fields as a nod to the fact that there must be sensible farming as well. I love seeing the nests in the farmers’ hedges flourishing as they encourage biodiversity and plant life. I stand as a proud Ulsterman in this Chamber—proud of my culture and heritage, proud of my belief system, and proud of the land that I so gratefully call “hame”. It is ours in trust for the next generations, and we must be good stewards of it. The decisions in this place must impact on that stewardship. I trust that it will be wise stewardship from here right down to the very soil in my constituency.
I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and your fellow Deputy Speakers, for your kindness, patience and understanding for me in this House—
I think the hon. Gentleman will find that it might buy him an extra minute. He is a great spokesman for the farmers of Northern Ireland and his constituency. We have enjoyed Westminster Hall debates together, including on this topic. Would he like to take this opportunity to thank the outgoing Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for all his fantastic work over the past couple of years and to wish our new Secretary of State well in that very important role for all our farming communities?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention and for giving me that wee bit of extra time, but I am very conscious that I want to be fair to everybody else as well. Yes, I would endorse that. I thank the outgoing Minister for all his work and commitment and wish the new one coming in every success and happiness.
I thank the security staff, those in the Tea Room, and all those who are committed to making our jobs and lives here just that wee bit better. I greatly appreciate the opportunity as a Back Bencher to be active in this place. I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I give a big thank you to the people of Strangford for the privilege of being their MP and serving them energetically and consistently in this wonderful seat of democracy, the House of Commons.
It is always a pleasure to lead from the Front Bench for the SNP on what some people call the debate on the summer Adjournment but others call the whinge-fest. It was led superbly by the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess). I was pleased that his campaign to make sure that this debate took place was a success. However, it is the first time I have heard him make a speech that did not mention his complaints about the rail service in Southend. Perhaps his campaigning over the years has been a success, because that was notably absent from his address to the House.
I see the Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Treasury, the hon. Member for Horsham (Jeremy Quin) in his place. As he may recall, he responded to my maiden speech with his maiden speech four years ago. As he has the responsibility of ending this debate, perhaps he could do so Alice Cooper-style, by declaring that school’s out for summer. If he does not, that responsibility should lie with you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
I want to make a serious point. As a number of Members have said, for too many of our citizens across these islands, the summer period is not one of joy; it is one of poverty. The Work and Pensions Committee and the Education Committee are conducting a joint inquiry into some of the issues around that. It troubles me to hear that there are supermarkets and stores in the UK that bin school uniforms. This is a one-off cost for many people in our society, and it can be very expensive, because some schools are very selective about where school uniforms can be purchased. It is a concern that some stores are doing that. I will meet some stores in the next few weeks, to ensure that they provide a service to those who are very much in need. I hope that all Members will take that up in our recess.
I want to mention other issues that are the responsibility of the Department for Work and Pensions, the most alarming of which is the figures published by the Independent Age charity on the lack of take-up of pension credit. In Glasgow South West, £9.6 million a year is being lost by people who are entitled to and should claim pension credit. I will be organising some events in my constituency, but I ask those on the Front Bench to engage with the Department for Work and Pensions to see what they can do to ensure that those entitled to pension credit take it up.
A number of Members have raised their concerns about universal credit. I ask the new Government to look positively at the Universal Credit Sanctions (Zero Hours Contracts) Bill. It is incredible that someone on universal credit who gives up a zero-hours contract or decides that it is not for them can be sanctioned, whereas those on legacy benefits would not be. Zero-hours contract work does not suit a lot of people, and it is ridiculous that people can be sanctioned as a result of giving up a zero-hours contract job.
It is time that the Government address the major injustice that affects 1950s-born women in accessing their pensions. I hope that the new Government will look positively at this issue, which has been going on for far too long. I pay tribute to all the campaigners who are looking for pensions justice.
I recall that in last year’s summer Adjournment debate I referred to the blond hero who walked out on his female leader. It looks like he has been successful. However, I do not believe he will be too successful if he carries on the way he has in the last 24 hours. We had the “red wedding 2”, or the Cabinet reshuffle. We had the Trumpesque performance this afternoon. There were a lot of questions—129, I think—and no answers.
There are a lot of things that the new Prime Minister needs to sort out, and one of the first is the Home Office’s visitor visa situation, which, as the hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) pointed out, is ludicrous and unjust. The fact that religious workers and clergymen who are trying to come to the UK are being denied a visitor visa is an absolute disgrace.
What is also a disgrace is Home Office contractor Serco in Glasgow trying to evict 300 asylum seekers. Why? Because it is losing the contract at the end of September. Serco thinks it is perfectly reasonable to make 300 asylum seekers homeless and leave the local authority to pick that up. It is a concern of mine that some Members of this House had dinner in this building with those from Serco at a time when 300 asylum seekers could be thrown out on to the streets. I hope the Government will look positively at the Asylum Seekers (Accommodation Eviction Procedures) Bill, which was launched this week, and I hope hon. Members will look positively at signing early-day motion 2636 in that regard.
There has been an absence in the Prime Minister’s statements in the last 24 hours about workers’ rights and employment rights. That was perhaps no surprise given the industrial action taking place in various Departments at the moment. I hope that he will instruct the new Secretaries of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, as well as Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, to address these industrial disputes, which have been going on too long. It is quite clear that the outsourcing companies really need to be hauled in and told to behave themselves. We have a dispute in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, where it is clear that people have to wait six weeks to be paid their wages—if they were on universal credit, they would be paid quicker. Why is the Department that is responsible for enforcing employment law allowing an agency to try to bust an industrial dispute? I hope the Lord Commissioner will take that up with those Departments.
I want to thank the hon. Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr), who is no longer in his place, for raising the issue of drugs deaths in Scotland. It really is a shame that no urgent question was taken on this and that there was no Government statement. This is a very serious issue, and one that needs to be debated calmly and maturely. It is a pity that hon. Members have been denied such an opportunity.
I want to thank all the staff, who on many occasions take impertinent questions from me, and I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and the other Deputy Speakers. I also want to pay tribute to a group that has not yet been mentioned, which is our constituency office staff. In my experience the constituency office staff right across these islands are excellent and professional, and they help each other out. I want to pay tribute to the Glasgow South West constituency office staff: Roza Salih, Dominique Ucbas, Anthony McCue, Scott McFarlane, Mary Jane Douglas and Keith Gibb, and I wish a happy retirement to Dr Joe Murray. They have all done a fantastic job in the last year for Glasgow South West constituents.
Will the hon. Gentleman join me in thanking our citizens advice bureaux for the work they do? I visited Citizens Advice Woking on Monday, and the staff and volunteers there do an absolutely amazing job, which is obviously supplemented by our own office and constituency office staff. As we go off on recess, most of our constituency staff and our citizens advice bureaux will carry on working hard on behalf of our constituents, and we owe them our thanks and support.
Yes, and in closing, I thank them too. I do joint surgeries with Citizens Advice, Money Matters and other organisations, and the hon. Gentleman is correct. Over the coming weeks, they have a very important job and responsibility. I want to wish all right hon. and hon. Members a happy recess.
It is always a pleasure to speak in the debate on matters to be raised before the summer Adjournment. I welcome the Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury, the hon. Member for Horsham (Jeremy Quin) to his new post and to his debut at the Dispatch Box. This is probably one of the nicest debates in which to have the pleasure of making his debut appearance at the Dispatch Box.
Madam Deputy Speaker, you were very clear that I certainly should not go above 10 minutes in my contribution. Given that there have been 25 speakers in this debate, I will not have enough time to do justice to the diversity of the issues that have been raised, so hon. Members will please forgive me for not taking interventions to allow time for the Minister to have his time at the Dispatch Box.
I thank the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) for his efforts in securing this debate and for being such a regular attender at such debates. I thoroughly enjoy his contributions in them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Sir Mark Hendrick) was the first Member to rise to speak on my side of the House, and it was a pleasure to have a fellow Lancashire Member speaking in this debate. At the time, there was also a fellow Lancashire Member in the Chair—the right hon. Member for Chorley (Sir Lindsay Hoyle). I would like to take up the issues my hon. Friend the Member for Preston raised about crime in Lancashire. I know his local councillors are out—day in, day out—especially the newly elected Councillor Pav Akhtar, who is committed to campaigning every day. In reality, Lancashire has lost 754 police officers since 2010—the seventh biggest loss in the country—and I hope that the recent announcement will mean that Lancashire gets a fair deal when we learn where the 20,000 new police officers will go.
The hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) spoke about the emergency department in his constituency. He might be interested to know that I texted a family member who is one of his constituents, and they completely agreed with his comments on the matter, which have gone down well in his constituency. The hon. Gentleman also spoke about electric vehicle charging points, and I pay tribute to Lancaster City Council for its work on that issue. In the past two months it has opened five new electric vehicle charge points in its car parks, helping people to make that transition.
My hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Nick Smith) spoke about pensions mis-selling, and called on the Government to do more to protect our constituents. The hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) spoke about the criminalisation of people for being homeless, and I agree that no one should be criminalised for that. My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (John Grogan) rattled through a lot of different issues in his short allocation of time, including the three early-day motions that he has tabled. I agree with his analysis of early-day motion 2649, because if we are to declare a climate emergency, we must at very least review whether Heathrow expansion is compatible with that. I share my hon. Friend’s concerns about the domination of the commercial radio market by Global and Bauer, and the loss of local radio, and I pay tribute to those who work for Beyond Radio and Radio Wave in my constituency. They keep my constituents informed about local issues, and ensure that not all our news is dominated by Liverpool, Manchester or London.
The hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), who is no longer in her place, raised the important issue of abused women and the need to protect them from exploitation. She described some interesting proposals concerning important issues, and I know she has much support among Labour Members on such matters. My hon. Friend the Member for North Tyneside (Mary Glindon) noted that every day 80 people die from alcohol abuse, and I support her call for minimum unit pricing. The hon. Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) raised various issues, including the baby bank in his constituency, and I wondered whether he saw the powerful Channel 4 documentary last autumn, which brought that issue to my attention. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney) also mentioned baby banks, and it is a dire state of affairs if this country needs baby banks as well as food banks.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon) mentioned child trust funds and dormant accounts that hold money for young people in this country. I call on the Government to do more to help young people to access money that is rightfully theirs and could be truly life-changing. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury South (Mr Lewis) mentioned avoidable deaths due to epilepsy, although he did not mention an issue that I know he cares passionately about: sodium valproate and the effect it has on pregnancies. I pay tribute to his constituent, Emma Murphy, and my constituent, Janet Williams, who are tireless campaigners on that issue. I know that justice for them is not far away.
The hon. Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr) spoke about the need for more Changing Places facilities, and I pay tribute to Lancashire County Councillor, Lizzi Collinge, who champions that issue in the red rose county. I know she will continue to campaign on that and many other issues in our local area.
My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd South (Susan Elan Jones) mentioned the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, and I hope that her raising that in the House will help other veterans to find that source of support, as well as inform hon. Members so that we can signpost our constituents towards that help.
The hon. Member for Glasgow South (Stewart Malcolm McDonald) agreed with the hon. Member for Stirling about drugs deaths, and I support their call for a statement on that in the autumn. Indeed, it is in the spirit of these debates to find agreement across the House on many issues.
The hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock) mentioned the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, and the book published today by Peter Duffy, a whistleblower who was unfairly dismissed by the trust. I pay tribute to Peter’s work, and hope that the Health Secretary will take an interest in his case. I have previously written to the Secretary of State to ask him to meet Peter Duffy. So far that request has been declined, but I will continue to put on pressure, and perhaps those on the Treasury Bench will pass on that message to the Secretary of State.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North East is a tireless campaigner. He will not be dropping the issue of the Cally, which must be saved. These are vital skills and jobs that should be at the heart of the future of railway engineering in Scotland. I know he will be raising that issue continuously.
My right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) takes up injustices in his constituency and raises them in this place. I certainly agree that student intellectual property should be protected.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Lloyd Russell-Moyle) is not just a champion of youth work, which he raised in this House yesterday, but, as he proved today, of schools in his constituency.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting) has campaigned since 2015 on the issue of taxis. As chair of the all-party group on taxis, he produced an excellent piece of work. I hope that legislation will be forthcoming from the Government.
My hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) raised genuine concerns about e-scooters, exploitative leaseholds and cladding on high-rise buildings. I hope they have been heard by those on the Treasury Bench.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) usually raises local issues in this debate, but her passion for social justice and human rights went far beyond the boundaries of West Ham today. I hope Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers heard her words.
My hon. Friends the Members for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) and for York Central (Rachael Maskell) raised the climate emergency. As temperatures have hit 39 degrees, knowing that we have caused great damage to the planet we live on is unavoidable. I call on the Government to take decisive action to meet the climate emergency—ban fracking and invest in renewables by supporting the solar industry and reinvigorating onshore wind, so that we play our role. My hon. Friend the Member for York Central also talked about communities being at the heart of planning decisions.
I think my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) touched all our hearts when she told us about the situation with her local children’s hospice. I would like to put on the record my admiration for the staff at both Brian House children’s hospice in Blackpool and Derian House in Chorley and for the work they do. We know that children’s hospices need far more support and this is not an isolated incident.
As for the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), I do not think any Adjournment debate in this place would feel truly complete without his contribution. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] I thank him for it.
I take this opportunity to thank all Members for taking part in this debate. I wish everyone a very good summer, including you, Madam Deputy Speaker. Please pass on my best wishes for the summer to your fellow Deputy Speakers and to Mr Speaker.
Our staff work very hard behind the scenes. I pay tribute to John Percival and Liam Budd, who work in my Westminster office. They are the unsung heroes of this place and they are aptly represented by the Unite parliamentary staff branch, which is doing its best to ensure that they get a better deal. Constituency office staff are at the frontline of the work we do as Members of Parliament. I am sure the whole House will join me in paying tribute to the work they do to support our constituents. I would like to thank Darren Mason, Alison Tarpey-Black, Sam Harrison and Adam Slater in my constituency office.
I thank the Doorkeepers and the security staff. I wish them a very happy summer. I am sure they will be delighted—once we’ve gone, I am sure their jobs get much easier. I wish everyone a happy, healthy and peaceful summer. I know we will continue to work hard on behalf of all our constituents.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith) and to reply from the Treasury Bench.
This afternoon’s debate took place at a time when the Westminster hothouse was even hotter than normal—over 39° C. Hon. Members will I am sure be keen to return to their communities to serve their constituents in cooler climes and, I hope, with cooler temperatures. Not all of us, however, can boast the sun, the sea and the splendid ice cream of which the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon) is so justly proud.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) reminded us in her speech yesterday that our primary role in this place is to do the best to look after our constituents. I thought that point was encapsulated very well by the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney), but it was apparent in all the passionate contributions made this afternoon by all the Members present. I am just sorry, Madam Deputy Speaker, that my winding up cannot possibly do them all the justice they deserve.
I found out to my surprise the other day that some Members in our sister Parliament in Canberra sit for constituencies named after people rather than geography. If the same principle applied to our parliamentary procedures my vote would be—the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood alluded to this—for the evening Adjournment debate to be referred to as “the Strangford”, whereas my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) has made this particular debate his very own. We always await his contribution with interest and he never fails to disappoint either this House or the many constituents whose problems he brings before us. I recall being taught at school that without cities, civilisation could not rise. It is similarly axiomatic that without hearing of Southend’s claim to be a city, this House could not rise either.
In opening the debate, my hon. Friend raised many points that will be best answered, I fear, by the Departments concerned, but I was glad to hear him talk about school funding, which is a very active issue in my Horsham constituency as well. I hope that like me, he was encouraged by the positive and robust comments made by our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in his statement this morning.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) is a dashing Member of the House and it is no surprise to hear that he joined the police in a successful raid on drugs perpetrators. He also raised the importance of housing regulations, particularly in the context of environmental standards. That passion is shared by the Government. I remind him of the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond) in the last Budget and I am sure that my hon. Friend will continue to push on this issue.
My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) raised the dreadful issue of trafficking and prostitution—an issue that was brought home to me by the charity Streetlight in my constituency. I understand that her report on this was launched at 4 o’clock this afternoon. I admire her for being in her place; it is a fine example of multi-tasking in this Chamber.
My hon. Friends the Members for Stirling (Stephen Kerr) and for Moray (Douglas Ross) always speak with such passion and effectiveness on behalf of their constituencies and of Scotland as a whole. I visited my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling in his constituency—it was a great pleasure—and I look forward to visiting Moray in due course and hearing more about the benefits of the city deal.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge) spoke with great passion about an issue in his constituency on which he is hugely engaged. He has put his developers firmly on notice.
Turning to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman), on 3 April this year, we celebrated the first anniversary of his Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 coming into force. He spoke again on homelessness, among other issues, and we all value the contribution that he has made on homelessness. He said that the House will rise with a zing in its step this afternoon after the tremendous performance of the Prime Minister—a statement with which I wholeheartedly agree—but not every Opposition Member might.
Turning to Opposition Members, there were many great speeches on the other side of the House this afternoon. The hon. Member for Clwyd South (Susan Elan Jones), the chairman of the all-party group on charities and volunteering, said in a brilliant speech that she would be satisfied if, as a result of her contribution, just one person started helping the RAF Benevolent Fund. I am certain, having listened to her speech, that it will have been far more effective than that.
Turning to my Sussex colleague, the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Lloyd Russell-Moyle), one of the highlights of the parliamentary year for me was listening to his Adjournment debate back in November, on World AIDS Day, when he spoke with such passion. He raised a point of great passion again today—his schools—and I would love to debate it with him. Now is not the moment, but I am certain that he will pursue that in his normal, assiduous way.
The hon. Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting) made a speech of two halves. I preferred the first half—the optimistic half—but he spoke with great passion throughout. I know—because I know him—that whatever his views on my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, he will bear no ill will or ill harm to any Member of this place, but the hon. Gentleman made his point in his customary manner.
I had the privilege of briefly serving under the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) when he was a Minister in the Treasury. He had a reputation then as being a courteous, detailed and effective Minister. He is clearly deploying the same skills in this place on behalf of his constituent—a case that seems very strange and which I am sure he will continue to pursue.
The hon. Member for North Tyneside (Mary Glindon) spoke movingly of those facing alcohol dependency issues and the importance of the alcohol charter.
The hon. Members for Keighley (John Grogan) and for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) expressed the passion of many—of all our constituents—on the issue of climate change. The hon. Lady, in particular, referred to the challenges being faced by those in the developing world because of climate change, which affects us all.
The hon. Members for Bridgend (Mrs Moon), and for Preston (Sir Mark Hendrick), and indeed the hon. Member for Glasgow South West (Chris Stephens), in his summing up on behalf of the Scottish National party—I remember vividly replying to his maiden speech all those years ago—all spoke about or touched on universal credit. I am familiar with many of the issues that they raise, not least through the Horsham District food bank and Citizens Advice in my constituency. Universal credit is a better system than that which preceded it, but that does not mean that it cannot be improved. I urge all hon. Members to continue to raise, as I know they do, individual cases with the Department concerned.
The hon. Member for Bury South (Mr Lewis) forcefully called on the Government to look again at avoidable deaths from epilepsy, in the context of a constituent who had suffered a personal loss. I hope, as does he, that real good can come out of her campaign, and out of the tragedy to which he referred.
The hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Nick Smith) spoke with great knowledge—and pith, which was very welcome in this debate—on pension mis-selling. I am sorry that the knowledge is the result of a dreadful scam having been inflicted, it appears, on his constituents and members of the British Steel pension scheme. We all utterly condemn the scammers. I am sure that we will hear much more from him on this subject.
The hon. Member for Glasgow South (Stewart Malcolm McDonald) made a compelling speech on Ukraine and Russia, and was supported in that by the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock), who followed him, and who also raised concerns about the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust that I am sure will have been heard by the relevant Department.
The hon. Member for Glasgow North East spoke with passion about the imminent closure of the Caley railway works in his constituency. I wish him well in his discussions with the Scottish Minister with responsibility for transport, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will remain in close contact with my hon. Friends in Government.
The hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick), with whom it is a pleasure to serve on the all-party parliamentary group on credit unions, spoke effectively, as ever, on a range of issues regarding housing in Tower Hamlets—a subject that he always speaks on with great authority, and will continue to do so. The hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) speaks well on behalf of her constituents; today she chose a broader theme and a global outlook, but spoke with equal passion, determination and force.
We heard a little bit of history from the hon. Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell). She put her hopes for the future of the beautiful city that she represents in the context of its deep historical roots as Eboracum and Yorvik. She spoke passionately of York as a living, breathing, vibrant city, where planning works on behalf of all York’s citizens.
Many hon. Members will be very aware of the benefits to school students of a proper diet and breakfast. The hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) spoke convincingly and with great knowledge of what sounds like a tremendous scheme in her constituency, and with huge passion on the Shooting Star children’s hospice. As she pointed out, no Adjournment debate would be complete without a contribution from the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). Just for fun, and for our benefit, he contributed in both English and Ulster Scots, and we were grateful for it. He revelled in his passion for the land, and raised the acute issues faced by many of his constituents who work on it. We were grateful for his contribution.
Many hon. Members raised the dreadful plight of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Even while we are not sitting, she and her family will firmly remain in our thoughts, as the Foreign Office continues to work on their behalf. There were many valuable points raised that I regret I have not had time to address; I am sure that they will be spotted and picked up by the Department concerned. It remains for me to thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, your fellow Deputy Speakers, the Clerks, and all the officers of this House for all their work—all the officers who keep us informed, briefed, fed and watered, and, above all, safe.
The hon. Member for Southend West referred to the importance of education. We will all have had teachers who helped guide us here. I think of one of my English teachers as I wish all hon. Members a brief
“time for frighted peace to pant”,
as we prepare for fresh-winded “accents of new broils” when this House resumes. Have a good summer.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind words. I thank everyone who has taken part in this debate. May I, on behalf of all the occupants of the Chair, wish all hon. Members a busy but peaceful recess—not a holiday. I also want, on behalf of us all, to thank everyone who works here in the Palace of Westminster. You work so hard to make our work easier, and we really appreciate everything that you do to support us. We hope that you all have peaceful and happy holidays.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered matters to be raised before the forthcoming adjournment.