Debates between Alok Sharma and John Bercow

There have been 19 exchanges between Alok Sharma and John Bercow

1 Tue 15th October 2019 Speaker’s Statement 1 interactions (335 words)
2 Tue 15th October 2019 Britain’s Place in the World
Department for International Development
4 interactions (217 words)
3 Wed 2nd October 2019 Oral Answers to Questions
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
5 interactions (193 words)
4 Thu 5th September 2019 Girls’ Education
Department for International Development
8 interactions (1,050 words)
5 Mon 11th February 2019 Oral Answers to Questions
Department for Work and Pensions
5 interactions (224 words)
6 Mon 14th January 2019 Universal Credit
Department for Work and Pensions
2 interactions (415 words)
7 Mon 19th November 2018 Oral Answers to Questions
Department for Work and Pensions
2 interactions (90 words)
8 Tue 16th October 2018 Universal Credit
Department for Work and Pensions
14 interactions (623 words)
9 Mon 15th October 2018 Oral Answers to Questions
Department for Work and Pensions
2 interactions (47 words)
10 Mon 2nd July 2018 Oral Answers to Questions
Department for Work and Pensions
5 interactions (255 words)
11 Mon 21st May 2018 Oral Answers to Questions
Department for Work and Pensions
2 interactions (98 words)
12 Mon 5th February 2018 Oral Answers to Questions
Department for Work and Pensions
5 interactions (139 words)
13 Mon 4th December 2017 Oral Answers to Questions 11 interactions (419 words)
14 Mon 30th October 2017 Oral Answers to Questions 2 interactions (72 words)
15 Wed 18th October 2017 Regulation of Property Agents 2 interactions (65 words)
16 Mon 17th July 2017 Oral Answers to Questions 2 interactions (115 words)
17 Wed 12th July 2017 Grenfell Tower Fire Inquiry
Cabinet Office
2 interactions (1,029 words)
18 Wed 5th July 2017 Grenfell Rehousing 4 interactions (1,646 words)
19 Wed 5th July 2017 Public Sector Pay Cap
HM Treasury
1 interactions (16 words)

Speaker’s Statement

Debate between Alok Sharma and John Bercow
Tuesday 15th October 2019

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mr Speaker Hansard

Before I call the shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, I have a very short statement to make. Having secured the necessary formal royal approval, I am very pleased to announce to the House the appointment of our new Serjeant at Arms, Ugbana Oyet. Ugbana is well known already to many Members of the House because of his role as Parliament’s principal electrical engineer and as programme director for the £143 million estate-wide engineering, infrastructure and resilience programme, which aims to make the parliamentary estate carbon-neutral by 2050. A chartered engineer and fellow of the Institute of Engineering and Technology, Ugbana has a strong track record of delivering multi-billion-pound projects, from a £1.8 billion village complex and gated community in Abu Dhabi—in time for the first grand prix there in 2009—to a new city in Saudi Arabia, including a power station and desalination plant, worth tens of billions of pounds.

Born in Nigeria, Ugbana moved to the UK with his family in 1991 and was at school in Chichester when he met Claire, his childhood sweetheart, who later became his wife. The couple have four children, three sons and a daughter, aged between 14 and 23. Ugbana is extremely personable and is well known across the parliamentary estate for helping people. His efforts were recognised recently when he won a diversity and inclusion award for being “an inspiring role model”. In his spare time, Ugbana plays basketball with his sons in their local team and sings with the St Mary Undercroft choir at one of the staff carol services in Speaker’s House.

The intention is that Ugbana will take up his role and duties as Serjeant at Arms next week—I very much expect and anticipate on Monday next week. I am sure colleagues and those who work in the service of the House will join me in warmly welcoming him to his role, congratulating him on all that he has achieved and wishing him well in the important and challenging period that lies ahead.

Britain’s Place in the World

Debate between Alok Sharma and John Bercow
Tuesday 15th October 2019

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for International Development
Mr Speaker Hansard
15 Oct 2019, 3:06 p.m.

Order. I did not hear the word, but if the word used was that which has just been put to me, it was tasteless. [Interruption.] I know that the right hon. Member for East Devon (Sir Hugo Swire) means well, but I am not sure that I regard him as a great arbiter on these important matters, although he may be starting to negotiate the learning curve. I am sure he is well intentioned and trying his best.

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard
15 Oct 2019, 3:07 p.m.

Irrespective of whether or not that comment was offensive, may I just enlighten the right hon. Lady on what her leader said at a Solidarity with Venezuela event in 2015? This is what the Leader of the Opposition said:

“When we celebrate, and it is a cause—”

Break in Debate

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard
15 Oct 2019, 3:10 p.m.

I will not, because I am now going to wind up. I spent a year as a Foreign Office Minister, and I have now spent around three months in my current role. As I have gone around the world, I have seen and heard for myself how highly regarded our country is. We are respected for our values, for our support for democracy and the rules-based international system and for championing economic empowerment across the world. When the United Kingdom speaks, the world listens. I commend the Gracious Speech to the House.

Debate interrupted.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Alok Sharma and John Bercow
Wednesday 2nd October 2019

(12 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Inflation is running at over 1 million per cent. in Venezuela and poverty has doubled. That is the economic model and regime that the Leader of the Opposition has been defending over a long period. People will know that Venezuela serves as a grim reminder of what might happen to the economy of our country and, indeed, the aid budget should the Opposition ever get their hands near government.

Mr Speaker Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Oct 2019, 11:43 a.m.

I welcome the invocation of the United Kingdom Youth Parliament, which, for the benefit of observers, customarily sits annually in the Chamber on a non-sitting Friday. A sitting is due to take place next month. It is a magnificent organisation that deserves the support of every one of us.

Break in Debate

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Oct 2019, 11:59 a.m.

We have a long-standing position on Kashmir, which has been reiterated and followed by successive Governments, but where there are matters related to humanitarian issues we of course always look at those.

Mr Speaker Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Oct 2019, 11:59 a.m.

The hon. Member for Slough (Mr Dhesi) had a question on the Order Paper but it was not reached, so I will call him, on the strict understanding that he will be exemplary in his brevity.

Girls’ Education

Debate between Alok Sharma and John Bercow
Thursday 5th September 2019

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for International Development
Alok Sharma Portrait The Secretary of State for International Development (Alok Sharma) - Parliament Live - Hansard
5 Sep 2019, 12:18 p.m.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to update the House on the UK’s work to support girls’ education around the world—in particular, our work to help provide 12 years of quality education for all girls by 2030, and to leave no girl behind.

Educating girls is the tool that can address a whole host of the world’s economic and social problems. It is one of the five foundations of DFID’s wider work on gender equality, which tackles the barriers that hold women and girls back. Educating girls prevents child marriage and early pregnancy, helps women into the workforce and boosts household incomes and economic growth. Supporting education for girls and women gives them a greater voice. That voice helps them to shape their own future and advocate for changes in their own lives and, very importantly, the lives of other girls and women.

On a recent trip to Ethiopia, I met a group of teenage girls learning to code. One of them told me: “Education is a weapon that can change the world”—and she was absolutely right. Educating girls is central to achieving women’s rights and empowerment and to achieving the sustainable development goals. Nothing could be more important than giving every child the chance to make the most of their talents, ensuring that every child can reach their full potential.

We know that many girls become mothers before they finish school. The vital sexual and reproductive health services that they need are simply not available. In the Sahel, for example, child marriage and early pregnancy are endemic, stopping girls entering and staying in education. Three quarters of girls in Niger are married before their 18th birthday; more than one in four is married before the age of 15.

This situation is not acceptable. We in the UK are leading the action globally to address this injustice. Today I can update the House on the UK’s continued global leadership on girls’ education. The UK is a world leader on girls’ education. I am immensely proud to spearhead the British Government’s girls’ education campaign. That campaign—Leave No Girl Behind—was launched by our Prime Minister in 2018 when he was Foreign Secretary. The campaign leads by example. It gets girls learning, builds international political commitment and boosts global investment so that all girls have access to 12 years of quality education by 2030. The girls education campaign is an essential part of this Government’s broader endeavours to promote global Britain’s core values overseas.

Through our strong political leadership and the UK’s global diplomatic network, we have achieved many notable successes since the launch of the campaign in 2018. At the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 2018, all 53 Commonwealth members agreed to work to ensure 12 years of quality education for all girls by 2030. At the G7 in 2018, over £2.3 billion was raised for girls’ education. At the United Nations General Assembly in 2018, the leaders of the UK, Canada and France came together with key partners from the global south—Jordan, Niger and Kenya—to endorse a joint statement that focused global political attention on girls’ education. This year we have led and launched the Safe to Learn campaign, which addresses violence that prevents girls from attending and learning in school.

I hope that this demonstrates that the UK is leading across a range of programmes to build commitment and boost investment globally in our mission to ensure all girls access 12 years of quality education by 2030. Only last month, at the G7 leaders summit in Biarritz, our Prime Minister announced £90 million of new funding to provide education for children caught up in crises and conflict. Girls, who are more than twice as likely to be out of school in conflict areas, stand to benefit the most from this support. The Prime Minister also announced £30 million for affirmative finance action for Women in Africa. This will help to break down barriers to women’s economic empowerment by providing up to 10,000 women with essential business training and thousands more with better access to business loans. Unleashing the economic potential of women will boost African economies, trade and investment opportunities, and increase global prosperity. This is in the interests of the UK and African countries and will provide girls with strong female role models.

At the UN General Assembly later this month, which I will attend, girls’ education will be at the heart of the UK’s activities and interventions. All UK-funded education programmes have a focus on girls and young women. Between 2015 and 2019, the UK supported 5.8 million girls to gain a decent education. Our Girls Education Challenge is the world’s largest fund dedicated to girls’ education. It is now supporting up to 1.5 million marginalised girls in 17 countries around the world.

I am absolutely clear that girls’ education remains a key priority for this Government. We must send a strong signal that we will not give up on half of the world’s population. I strongly believe that educating a girl ultimately helps to educate a nation. I commend this statement to the House.

Mr Speaker Parliament Live - Hansard

I call the shadow Secretary of State, who should take approximately three minutes.

Break in Debate

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard

May I first pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who did so much work in this area during her time in government? I remember having conversations with her about this issue, which she is passionate about. We spend around £1 billion a year on education, in official development assistance, and it will fluctuate over the years. It is important that we also focus on outcomes, but I will take on board what she said about our trying to do even more in this area.

Mr Speaker Parliament Live - Hansard
5 Sep 2019, 10:59 a.m.

Order. Extreme brevity is required.

Break in Debate

Mr Speaker Parliament Live - Hansard
5 Sep 2019, 12:32 p.m.

Have it framed and put it up in the loo.

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard
5 Sep 2019, 12:33 p.m.

My right hon. Friend raises a very important point. Of course, studying STEM subjects is really important in the UK, but also abroad. He showered me with a quote. May I give him one back from a young lady I met who is learning to code as a result of funding provided by DFID? This was when I met a group of young people in Nigeria. She said:

“Education is a weapon that can change the world.”

That is what young women in developing countries believe, and we are providing such support to help them to build better futures.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Alok Sharma and John Bercow
Monday 11th February 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Work and Pensions
Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard

I completely understand why colleagues are asking these questions and why they want answers, but I have to repeat myself at this stage and say that the Department is considering the High Court’s judgment. I hope therefore that the hon. Lady will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment further.

Mr Speaker Hansard
11 Feb 2019, 2:46 p.m.

Very good of the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) to join us. He will be pleased to know that he is just in time.

Break in Debate

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard

I thank my hon. Friend for the work she does on behalf of her constituents. I can confirm that we will continue to work with community-based partner organisations, including Saffron Walden Town Council, to ensure support and the delivery of outreach. Also, for vulnerable claimants and those in remote areas, alternative attendance arrangements can be introduced.

Mr Speaker Hansard
11 Feb 2019, 3:20 p.m.

Just before I call the hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes), I can tell her that this morning I conducted my usual weekly Skype session with school students, and today it was with students at the outstanding Elm Wood Primary School in her constituency. I engaged with those quite superb, articulate and personable students, and with their class teacher, Stephanie Kamara, and the headteacher, Ms Myrtle Charles, who made a guest appearance. What a credit those students are to their teachers and parents.

Universal Credit

Debate between Alok Sharma and John Bercow
Monday 14th January 2019

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Work and Pensions
Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard

I thank the hon. Lady for her comments. Very many people outside the House—many stakeholders —have welcomed the statements made in the House on Friday and what the Secretary of State said in her speech. I am sorry that the hon. Lady did not welcome the positive changes that have been made and are being proposed.

The hon. Lady talked about a number of issues, and I shall go through them. She mentioned the legal judgment on Friday; as she acknowledged, that judgment came out literally a few days ago. As a Department, we will consider it very carefully and then respond. On the two-child policy, we have of course made that change; as she will be aware, the regulations were laid on Friday. She talked about the overall two-child policy, and we do believe that the overall policy is fair. Ultimately, those receiving support in the welfare system should face the same sort of choices as those who support themselves solely through work. It is worth pointing out that if a family who supported themselves solely through work decided to have another child, they would not automatically expect their wages to go up. This is about sustainability.

The hon. Lady mentioned the pilot. We have made it clear that that will start in July 2019, and we are working with a wide range of stakeholders on it. She talked about the severe disability premium: those regulations have been laid. She also mentioned the benefits freeze. May I ask her to reflect on the reason why we had to make various policy choices in the past? It was the awful financial mess left us by the last Labour Government. [Interruption.] I am sorry, but she cannot get away from that point.

I have one final thing to say to the hon. Lady. She talks about changes to the five-week period. I have said this in the House before: if she is so keen on supporting claimants, particularly the vulnerable, as we on the Government Benches are, why did she not vote for the £1.5 billion of support that came in under Budget 2017 and the £4.5 billion of support announced in the 2018 Budget?

Mr Speaker Hansard

Order. On account of the fact that a prime ministerial statement is to follow and that we then have eight hours of protected time for the debate on the withdrawal agreement, I will seek to conclude these exchanges by 4.15 pm. I am sure that colleagues will want to factor that into their calculations.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Alok Sharma and John Bercow
Monday 19th November 2018

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Work and Pensions
Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard

If the hon. Lady would like to have a discussion about this case, I will of course look into it. Quite a lot of the time, I find that when Opposition colleagues raise issues, they do not always follow up with the individual cases. I hope that on this occasion, she will do so.

Mr Speaker Hansard

Order. I am sorry to disappoint remaining colleagues, not for the first time and assuredly, I predict, not for the last. Demand massively outstrips supply, but time is our enemy and we must now move on.

Universal Credit

Debate between Alok Sharma and John Bercow
Tuesday 16th October 2018

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Work and Pensions
Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his comments, and perhaps I may go through them in turn. He raised the overall issue of managed migration. As he knows, we have made our draft proposals available to the Social Security Advisory Committee; they have been public and people can see them. We have received recommendations from the SSAC and in due course we will publish our feedback on those. As for ensuring the position of anyone currently on benefits when they are transferred across, we have made it very clear that transitional protection is in place for those individuals. We have also said that the 500,000 people on severe disability premium will be protected. As he knows, earlier this year we also implemented £1.5 billion of extra support. I say not in anger but in sorrow that Opposition Members did not support those proposals, and I hope that when it comes to managed migration, they will. On debt recovery, he talked about a “rumour” and I am not going to comment on rumours, but, as he knows, maximum deductions are currently 40% of the standard allowance. On self-employment, we are indeed helping people; as he knows, from 2017 we introduced a new enterprise allowance, and we are making sure that we are giving support to people to help them to develop their business plans and to grow their businesses—as a party that is the champion of entrepreneurs, that is absolutely the right thing for us to do. He will of course know that up to 85% of childcare costs are recoverable under universal credit, and that is an important improvement that has been made. I am sure that he will find his meeting with the Secretary of State extremely useful.

Mr Speaker Hansard
16 Oct 2018, 12:47 p.m.

There is heavy pressure on time, with two further urgent questions to follow. There will of course also be a debate on this important matter tomorrow. It may not be possible to accommodate everybody, but the chances of doing so will be better if we have pithy questions, to be exemplified by the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg).

Break in Debate

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Oct 2018, 12:51 p.m.

I was in the House in 2010 when the Conservatives had to come in to sort out the mess left by the previous Government. Labour Members told us that as a result of our policies, there would be a million fewer jobs, but there are more than 3 million more jobs. They should welcome today’s jobs figures. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that unemployment is at its lowest level since 1975, youth unemployment is at a record low—it has more than halved since 2010—and wages are outpacing inflation for the seventh month in a row.

Mr Speaker Hansard
16 Oct 2018, 12:51 p.m.

Order. The House is in quite an excitable state. This is a matter of the utmost seriousness and there is passion, which I respect, but I am keen to accommodate as many people as possible. I call Mr Philip Hollobone.

Break in Debate

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Oct 2018, 1:05 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman can write to me, or I am happy to discuss that particular case.

Mr Speaker Hansard

A sentence from Bexhill and Battle.

Break in Debate

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard
16 Oct 2018, 1:05 p.m.

My hon. Friend is right. Work coaches across the country work incredibly hard, and I wish that Opposition Members would sometimes praise them, rather than denigrating the system.

Mr Speaker Hansard
16 Oct 2018, 1:05 p.m.

Ooh, this is difficult. Blaenau Gwent or Darlington? I call Jenny Chapman.

Break in Debate

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard

People’s individual circumstances determine what they get under any benefit system. The point of the urgent question was to talk about the whole process of roll-out and managed migration. As I said, when people migrate across under managed migration, they will receive transitional protection.

Mr Speaker Hansard
16 Oct 2018, 11:30 a.m.

Order. I am happy to call all remaining colleagues wishing to pose a question, as long as their standing up signifies their acceptance that they will ask a single-sentence question.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Alok Sharma and John Bercow
Monday 15th October 2018

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Work and Pensions
Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard

Let me be clear. Local authorities will continue to provide that support until the end of the current financial year, and will work in parallel with Citizens Advice, which is starting its work in the autumn.

Mr Speaker Hansard

We now come to topical questions. Brevity is of the essence.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Alok Sharma and John Bercow
Monday 2nd July 2018

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Work and Pensions
Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2018, 3 p.m.

The hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands) talks about sanctions, but he will know that the regime is different. For example, under JSA if somebody who was due to come in for an interview does not contact us after five days, they fall out of the system and are not sanctioned. Under universal credit, however, we continue to pay all the elements—the child element and the housing element—but the sanction that they would face applies only to the standard allowance. The hon. Gentleman talks about wanting to help people, but the Scottish National party voted against £1.5 billion of support. If he wants to support people, he should try to support the Government from time to time.

Mr Speaker Hansard
2 Jul 2018, 3 p.m.

Order. The hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), from a sedentary position and rather gratuitously, offered advice and exhortation to the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands). I simply say to the hon. Member for Lichfield that we can always hear him with crystal clarity. He is in no danger of not being noticed.

Break in Debate

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard

As the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse), made clear, since 2010 there are 300,000 fewer children living in absolute poverty. As we have heard, the route out of poverty is work. We have record levels of employment, and that is something we should all welcome across the House.

Mr Speaker Hansard
2 Jul 2018, midnight

Order. I am sorry, but we must now move on. Demand has exceeded supply, as is common.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Alok Sharma and John Bercow
Monday 21st May 2018

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Work and Pensions
Alok Sharma Portrait The Minister for Employment (Alok Sharma) - Hansard
21 May 2018, 3:14 p.m.

We always aim to work constructively with the Scottish Government. Fair Start Scotland is a recent scheme that we are supporting proactively. My hon. Friend makes a point about changes. Introducing changes such as automatic split payments is a complex policy area, and we are having a detailed dialogue with the Scottish Government. There are currently many issues for the Scottish Government to resolve.

Mr Speaker Hansard
21 May 2018, 3:18 p.m.

Of course, balls in court are always preferable to balls out of court. I am sure that that is a point with which the hon. Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr) will be well familiar.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Alok Sharma and John Bercow
Monday 5th February 2018

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Work and Pensions
Alok Sharma Portrait The Minister for Employment (Alok Sharma) - Hansard

Through universal credit, we are providing personal budgeting support, which is available through conversations with work coaches. That is making a great difference to those who need such help.

Mr Speaker Hansard

Front Benchers will have to be very brief, because we are running short of time on account of the length of questions and answers. A pithy sentence, or whatever, will suffice.

Break in Debate

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard

A consultation is taking place, and the Department for Education will respond to it. Everyone who is currently on universal credit will have that benefit protected as long as the children remain in that education setting.

Mr Speaker Hansard

Order. I am advised that we have had 23 topical questions, and we must now move on. I am sorry to disappoint colleagues who have waited. I try to extend the envelope a bit, but the time comes when we must move on.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Alok Sharma and John Bercow
Monday 4th December 2017

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mr Speaker Hansard

Order. That was far too long; absolutely hopeless. The hon. Lady’s questions will have to be much shorter in future. I am always keen to encourage her—she is a new Member, and a prodigious attender—but she needs to apply the blue pencil.

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard
4 Dec 2017, 3:05 p.m.

Since 2010, nearly 128,000 homes for social rent have been built in England, and 118,000 have been built for affordable rent. The hon. Lady talks about the money available for housing. I can confirm that, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor said in his Budget statement, we are making at least £44 billion available over the next five years.

Break in Debate

Mr Speaker Hansard
4 Dec 2017, 3:06 p.m.

Splendid. Circulate the text book.

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard
4 Dec 2017, 3:06 p.m.

My hon. and learned Friend makes a very important point. I commend her for the work that she is doing in encouraging the development of community land trusts, for which I announced additional funds only last week.

Break in Debate

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard

Absolutely; I can confirm that, as a result of the Budget, there is £5 billion in the housing infrastructure fund, which is precisely what many colleagues want to see in terms of spending on infrastructure.

Mr Speaker Hansard
4 Dec 2017, 3:37 p.m.

Before we move on, I have been notified of a number of intended points of order springing directly out of Question Time. I say for the record that, on this occasion, I will take Members on trust and take those points of order now. However, if it becomes apparent to me that they are really just a way of trying to continue Question Time or if they are too long, when I have specifically said that they must be short, I will cut them off and the process of taking any—[Interruption.] Order. If that happens, the process of taking points of order at this time will be discontinued and those Members will be responsible.

I look to the shadow Secretary of State to set a good example, with a proper point of order done briefly—for which read “a sentence”.

Break in Debate

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard

indicated assent.

Mr Speaker Hansard
4 Dec 2017, 3:38 p.m.

The simple nod—in fact, two nods of the head in unison by the Secretary of State and the Housing Minister—suggest that that is the gravamen of the matter. I am bound to say that it would be preferable, if such announcements are intended, for them to be worked into Question Time in some way, not by elongated replies, but by responding at topicals. What has happened is arguably irritating to colleagues, but it is not demonstrably disorderly. We will leave it there for now, but the shadow Secretary of State has made his point with his customary force and alacrity.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Alok Sharma and John Bercow
Monday 30th October 2017

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard

I thought I had already clarified it, but let me make it clear again. We believe in protecting the green belt. There will be exceptional circumstances that local authorities can consider, but they will need to take their local communities with them.

Mr Speaker Hansard
30 Oct 2017, 3:16 p.m.

I am sure that colleagues on both sides of the House will join me in warmly welcoming back to his place the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles).

Regulation of Property Agents

(1st reading: House of Commons)
(1st reading: House of Commons)
Debate between Alok Sharma and John Bercow
Wednesday 18th October 2017

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard

I am happy to write to my hon. Friend to set out the details on that. More broadly, she should put forward whatever thoughts she has in the call for evidence and we will of course take them very seriously.

Mr Speaker Hansard
18 Oct 2017, 1:09 p.m.

I encourage the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mary Robinson) to circulate her text book on succinct questions. It would be of great benefit to colleagues.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Alok Sharma and John Bercow
Monday 17th July 2017

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard

As the Secretary of State reiterated, we made a commitment in the housing White Paper to protect the green belt. I cannot comment specifically on the plans my hon. Friend talks about, but I emphasise that plan makers need to consult their communities, especially in neighbourhood forums. Once a neighbourhood plan has been brought into force, it is part of the strategic development plan of an area.

Mr Speaker Hansard
17 Jul 2017, 3:34 p.m.

I will come to the points of order because there are a number today relating to one matter that seems to me to contain a degree of urgency, so I will treat of it very soon. Just before I do, I have a short statement to make myself.

Grenfell Tower Fire Inquiry

Debate between Alok Sharma and John Bercow
Wednesday 12th July 2017

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Cabinet Office
Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard
12 Jul 2017, 6:52 p.m.

No, I will not give way as I really must get on.

A range of views have been expressed about the cause of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. What is vital is that we have a full independent public inquiry with a remit that goes way beyond the design, construction and modification of the building itself. An effective and prompt inquiry will necessarily have to follow defined terms of reference, and setting those is obviously crucial. The terms will be set formally by the Prime Minister, but she will do so following recommendations from the chair of the public inquiry, Sir Martin Moore-Bick. Sir Martin was appointed to head up the inquiry on 29 June and on that very day he visited the site and spoke with some of those who had been affected by the tragedy. Sir Martin has been absolutely clear in his desire to consult the affected residents about what the terms of the reference should be. I know that he has been meeting them to hear their views. He has also said that he welcomes the views from the wider community. Those are the actions of a person who wants proactively to engage with those directly affected right from the start. I urge hon. Members who have concerns or ideas about the terms of the inquiry to raise them with the team. The details are available on the inquiry website: grenfelltowerinquiry.org.uk.

During today’s debate, some concern has been expressed about Sir Martin’s suitability for the role, but as the First Secretary of State has said, he is independently appointed, extremely well qualified and totally impartial. Sir Martin is a hugely experienced former Court of Appeal judge. Judges decide cases solely on the evidence presented in court and in accordance with the law. As a senior judge, Sir Martin has worked across a range of cases. There have been cases where Sir Martin has been praised by civil liberties lawyers and cases where he has found in favour of housing association tenants, but in each case he will have made decisions based on the law and the evidence—nothing more, and nothing less.

Opposition Members may be aware that from December 2005 to December 2009, Sir Martin was chair of the legal services consultative panel, which advises successive Lord Chancellors on the regulation and training of lawyers, legal services and other related matters. The Lord Chancellors whom he served were Lord Falconer and Jack Straw. I have previously noted in this House that it is vital for Government, central and local, to work hard to win the trust of those people directly affected by this tragedy. I have no doubt that Sir Martin is similarly aware that he needs to foster that trust. I am sure that, as his dialogue with the local community continues, they will note that his only motivation is to get to the bottom of what happened.

I assure hon. Members that the Government will co-operate fully with the inquiry, and I hope that the same will be true of the local authority and any other individual or body whose work falls within the inquiry’s remit. It is absolutely vital that no stone is left unturned and that anyone who has done wrong has nowhere to hide. To help get to the truth, survivors of the fire and the families of the victims will receive funding for legal representation at the inquiry. Details of how they access that legal funding will follow once the inquiry is up and running.

Some concern has been raised about the lack of a coroner’s inquest into the deaths at Grenfell. Let me assure colleagues that there will be an inquest. The coroner is already investigating the deaths; that is a statutory duty. The police-led investigation is already under way in conjunction with the London Fire Brigade and the Health and Safety Executive. The police investigation will consider potential criminal liability. The police have been very clear: arrests will follow if any evidence of criminal wrongdoing is found. Unlike a coroner’s inquest, a full, judge-led public inquiry will allow us to look at the broader circumstances leading up to and surrounding the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower. It will also allow us to take any action necessary as quickly as possible to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.

A number of colleagues have expressed concerns about timing. Of course, we want the inquiry to be completed as quickly as possible and the main priority will be to establish the facts of what action is needed to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. It will be for Sir Martin to determine the timescale for the inquiry, but I am certain that he will be aware of the universal desire for an interim report to be published at the earliest opportunity.

In cases of some past disasters, such as Hillsborough and the sinking of the Marchioness, it took far too long for the whole story of what happened to emerge. We do not want that to be the case with Grenfell Tower. That was why the Prime Minister ordered a full public inquiry as soon as the scale of the tragedy became apparent. Regardless of politics or ideology and of what we think is the best course of action, all of us here want one thing: the truth. It might prove uncomfortable for some and it might not fit the preconception of others, but the truth must come out. I am confident that Sir Martin Moore-Bick will see that the truth does come out. The survivors of the Grenfell fire and the families of those who were lost deserve no less.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered the Grenfell Tower fire inquiry.

Mr Speaker Hansard

We will soon come to the matter for which a good many Members are probably waiting—I rather imagine they are; if they are not, they should be. They could be awaiting the Adjournment debate with eager anticipation, bated breath and beads of sweat upon their brows, but quite a lot are probably waiting for the announcement of the results of the elections for Chairs of Select Committees. Before we come to those, I will take a point of order from Jenny Chapman.

Grenfell Rehousing

Debate between Alok Sharma and John Bercow
Wednesday 5th July 2017

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alok Sharma Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Alok Sharma) - Hansard
5 Jul 2017, 1:53 p.m.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I will update the House on the ongoing work that is being done to rehouse the victims of the tragedy at Grenfell Tower.

Three weeks have now passed since the fire. As we all know, it soon became clear that the delivery of the initial response on the ground was simply not good enough. Since then, much has been done to support victims, to see that justice is done, and to ensure that other buildings around the country are safe. Throughout that process, however, our first priority has been helping victims who have suffered such an unspeakable trauma. We have been working hard to ensure that they have all the support that they need, securing emergency accommodation and making financial and emotional support available as quickly as possible.

The response efforts have been co-ordinated by the Grenfell response team, led by John Barradell. He is being supported by colleagues drawn from London councils, the wider local government sector, the voluntary sector, and police, health and fire services, as well as central Government. I want to express my heartfelt thanks to them all for their immense efforts over the last few weeks. The new leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Elizabeth Campbell, has given a fulsome apology for the inadequate initial response. She has also asked for help from central Government to put things right. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has said in a written ministerial statement today, we will be establishing an independent taskforce to help the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to build its capability so that it can deal with the longer term challenge of recovery.

The Prime Minister promised that we would offer temporary housing to all those who have lost their homes as a result of the fire, within three weeks. These are good-quality, fully furnished homes. Families will be able to move on from emergency accommodation and live, rent-free, in proper homes while permanent accommodation, on equal terms, is found; 158 families from Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk have been identified as being in need of such housing.

I can confirm that every family that is ready to talk to the housing team has been offered a temporary home, and that 139 families have received offers of accommodation. However, 19 families have not yet been ready to engage in the process, and we need to respect that. Some are still in hospital as a result of their injuries. In some cases, the people on the ground offering those families support have made clear that it would be inappropriate at this time to ask them to make a decision about where they will live. They have been through unimaginable trauma, and we need to go at the pace at which they want to go. What matters above all else is what the families individually want.

The Grenfell response team have been working with the 139 families currently engaged with the process to match them with appropriate temporary accommodation, and to start to talk to them about their long-term needs. The housing team have identified and secured more than 200 good-quality properties so that residents can have a choice of where to live. I know that some have raised concerns about the quality of the accommodation offered. All the properties have been inspected by the housing team to ensure that they are in good condition. My right hon. Friend the Communities Secretary has personally seen an example of the kind of property that is on offer, and representatives of local residents groups have also seen and been assured of the quality. If the shadow Minister would find it helpful, I would be happy to visit some of the properties with him so that he can assure himself of their quality.

All the properties are local, and are either in Kensington and Chelsea or in a neighbouring borough. That will mean that families can continue to be near their friends and relatives, go to the same GP, and send their children to the same school. Fourteen offers of temporary accommodation have been accepted, and three families have already moved in. I expect the number to increase, but we must respect the pace at which the families want to move. I have personally met more than 30 of the families who have been directly affected, and from talking to them, I understand that there are many reasons why they are reluctant to take up these offers. Some may choose to remain in hotels until they have an offer of a permanent tenancy.

We also understand that one of the big issues holding people back is the lack of trust. Some families were told that they were moving into Grenfell Tower on a temporary basis, and then, years later, they were still there. Their concerns are entirely understandable, and this is a trust that we need to work hard to earn. We must also respect their decision if they do not wish to move out of temporary accommodation before permanent housing is available. We will continue to make offers to families of local homes that we think would be suitable for them, but no one will be forced into a home to which they do not want to move.

I want to respond directly to a number of reports that have been made, claiming that people are being told to move far from London, or that they may be deemed homeless if they do not accept an offer. I want to be absolutely clear to the House: if that is ever suggested to a victim, it is completely unacceptable. I have already stated that if anyone is aware of an individual family that is not receiving the offer we have promised, please tell me, and we will fix this. I repeat that call to the House now.

Let me set out again what the Government have committed to do. Every household that is ready to talk has been offered temporary accommodation. The housing team will continue to work with families to ensure that their individual needs are met. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, everyone whose home was destroyed by the fire will be guaranteed a new home on the same terms as the one they lost. That means paying the same rent, with the same level of security, and in the same area.

When it comes to permanent housing, we have already announced a new block of social housing that will provide 68 new homes in Kensington Row. We are urgently working with a number of developers to secure similar properties, either in Kensington and Chelsea or very close to North Kensington, so that families can stay in the same area. These negotiations have not yet concluded, and we need to work closely with the residents to make sure that the sort of properties we are able to make available will match what they want.

There are also 17 leaseholders who lost their homes, and we are working with them to make sure that they do not lose out financially because of the fire. I met a group of leaseholders recently, and we are working with them individually to find the right solution for them.

My visits to the Westway, hearing the harrowing accounts of survivors, have been the most humbling and moving experience of my life. The families I have met have been through unimaginable pain. This is a tragedy that should never have happened, and we are determined to do all that we can to make sure something like this never happens again.

Break in Debate

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard
5 Jul 2017, 2:15 p.m.

I thank the hon. Lady for her acknowledgement that Ministers have been updating the House regularly. That is exactly what we should be doing, particularly at this time. She asked about hotel rooms. I appreciate that in the initial stages there were concerns that some people were being asked to move at very short notice. I believe that that has been rectified, and that people will be given much more notice. We will try to keep people in the hotels that they have become familiar with, so long as they are happy to be there. I have had individual conversations relating to hotel accommodation with some of the families, and I think that we have managed to fix this.

The hon. Lady asked about money. When people have lost absolutely everything, we need to ensure that funds are readily available so that they can replace things. We have the discretionary fund: 249 payments of £500 have been made so far to those in Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk, and 112 grants of £5,000 have been made to households. Another 840 discretionary payments have been made to others in the wider area who have been affected. The total spend from the discretionary fund is £2.5 million, but we will ensure that funding is made available where it is required.

The hon. Lady also asked about the public inquiry. Sir Martin Moore-Bick has been appointed, and he has already met victims, survivors and members of the local community. Although the House already knows this, I want to make it clear again that legal support for victims will be provided so that they can play a full part in the inquiry. Clearly it is up to the judge to determine the scope of the inquiry, but I am sure that he will have heard that people want as full an inquiry as possible.

Mr Speaker Hansard
5 Jul 2017, 2:17 p.m.

Order. I am keen to accommodate the level of interest in this extremely serious matter, about which there will, I suspect, be many statements in the weeks to come, but I must advise the House that both subsequent debates are well subscribed, especially the debate on Israel and Palestine, which is very heavily subscribed. I must leave time for that, so what is now required in each case is a short, preferably single-sentence question.

Public Sector Pay Cap

Debate between Alok Sharma and John Bercow
Wednesday 5th July 2017

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Mr Speaker Hansard

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman—as will be the House—for putting that on the record.