There have been 41 exchanges between David Hanson and Cabinet Office
|Tue 22nd October 2019||European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill||3 interactions (40 words)|
|Sat 19th October 2019||Prime Minister’s Statement||3 interactions (89 words)|
|Mon 14th October 2019||Debate on the Address||7 interactions (2,636 words)|
|Tue 8th October 2019||Preparations for Leaving the EU||3 interactions (48 words)|
|Thu 3rd October 2019||Brexit Negotiations||3 interactions (111 words)|
|Wed 25th September 2019||Brexit Readiness: Operation Yellowhammer||3 interactions (46 words)|
|Mon 9th September 2019||Prorogation (Disclosure of Communications)||7 interactions (65 words)|
|Wed 4th September 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (20 words)|
|Wed 4th September 2019||Early Parliamentary General Election||3 interactions (53 words)|
|Thu 25th July 2019||Priorities for Government||3 interactions (38 words)|
|Wed 17th July 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (53 words)|
|Wed 3rd July 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (56 words)|
|Mon 24th June 2019||European Council||3 interactions (68 words)|
|Wed 19th June 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (55 words)|
|Mon 18th March 2019||Interserve||3 interactions (65 words)|
|Tue 12th February 2019||Leaving the EU||3 interactions (69 words)|
|Mon 10th December 2018||Exiting the European Union||3 interactions (35 words)|
|Wed 5th December 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (51 words)|
|Mon 26th November 2018||Leaving the EU||3 interactions (57 words)|
|Mon 22nd October 2018||October EU Council||3 interactions (36 words)|
|Wed 12th September 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||5 interactions (61 words)|
|Mon 9th July 2018||Leaving the EU||3 interactions (40 words)|
|Mon 2nd July 2018||June European Council||3 interactions (20 words)|
|Wed 27th June 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (40 words)|
|Mon 11th June 2018||G7||3 interactions (36 words)|
|Wed 25th April 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||5 interactions (49 words)|
|Thu 29th March 2018||Infected Blood Inquiry||3 interactions (49 words)|
|Wed 28th March 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||5 interactions (93 words)|
|Mon 26th March 2018||European Council||3 interactions (54 words)|
|Wed 14th March 2018||Salisbury Incident||3 interactions (66 words)|
|Mon 5th March 2018||UK/EU Future Economic Partnership||3 interactions (69 words)|
|Mon 29th January 2018||Contaminated Blood Inquiry||3 interactions (44 words)|
|Wed 20th December 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (33 words)|
|Wed 13th December 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (35 words)|
|Wed 29th November 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (42 words)|
|Wed 15th November 2017||House of Lords Reform: Lord Speaker’s Committee (Westminster Hall)||19 interactions (1,580 words)|
|Wed 1st November 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (47 words)|
|Wed 18th October 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||6 interactions (71 words)|
|Wed 12th July 2017||UK Elections: Abuse and Intimidation (Westminster Hall)||20 interactions (156 words)|
|Mon 26th June 2017||European Council||3 interactions (49 words)|
|Mon 26th June 2017||Northern Ireland||3 interactions (61 words)|
Yes, it will. The only way forward for the Prime Minister would be to go on to WTO rules and then to seek a special trade deal with the United States. I do not know whether the Prime Minister has noticed, but Donald Trump adopts an “America first” policy. Donald Trump’s attitude towards trade is, to put it most generously, one sided towards the USA. There will be no equitable deal with the USA, and those companies in the USA that want to get control of our health service will come knocking on the door to take over our national health service.
This is a Bill of huge significance and complexity, and it will decide the future of our country, of our economy and of the economic model we follow. Accepting the programme motion will mean that all 40 clauses have to be considered and voted on within 48 hours, starting this evening. That would be an abuse of Parliament and a disgraceful attempt to dodge accountability, scrutiny and any kind of proper debate.
My right hon. Friend makes a strong case that Parliament should have the opportunity to properly scrutinise what the Executive want to do. I do not think the Prime Minister has really taken that into account in his botched and speedy procedure and in his obsession with getting all this stuff through in a few days.
What the officials once said would take four weeks to properly scrutinise is now being done in one day. Colleagues on both sides of the House should simply ask themselves why. So much for Parliament taking back control. Parliament is being treated as an inconvenience that can be bypassed by this Government.
There is a crucial element to this. When we in this House deal with major issues for the country, we need the information and we need—
I can indeed give that assurance, and I can tell my hon. Friend, who campaigned to leave the EU for those reasons among others, we will indeed have higher standards of protection for animal welfare, the environment and other matters.
It is an absolute pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for North East Derbyshire (Lee Rowley), who made an outstanding speech and demonstrated yet again what a champion he is for his constituents.
When I was asked to second the Humble Address, I felt honoured, but I also felt some consternation. Of course, it is always an honour to represent my constituents in this place. Although the House may very much tire of my talking about Cornwall, I will never tire of speaking up for the Duchy and its great people. I imagine there are many people watching this debate at home, and I think they might prefer to be casting their eyes over that dark-haired and handsome Member of Parliament for the 18th century—of course, I am referring to Ross Poldark, my fictional predecessor who represented Truro. I have to confess that even when I was in the Whips Office, I was not any use with a scythe. As my ancestors were Cornish tin miners, I think of myself more as a Demelza than a Ross, but we can all occasionally indulge in a bit of wishful thinking. I felt a degree of consternation —probably along with my hon. Friend the Member for North East Derbyshire—because I was asked to give a speech that I felt was reserved for those people the Whips had found to have reached the high watermark of their career in this place. I do not know about you, Mr Speaker, but I still very much feel like I am 35 and that the best years are ahead of me.
It is nearly 10 years since I first spoke in the Chamber, when I described beautiful Cornwall and highlighted my creative, inventive, enterprising and determined constituents. Those qualities are as evident today as they were then. Thanks to the steps taken by Governments since 2010 and the work done with the many can-do people in my constituency, we are making real progress in improving the quality of people’s lives. Along with the recently announced increased investment in our public services, the Bills announced today will mean that we will be able to move further and faster in ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to reach their potential—from improving education opportunities and access to high-quality health and care services, to better paid and high-quality jobs. The increase in the number of detectives who painstakingly research and gather evidence to solve crime in our streets is most welcome. The funding attached is enough for 20,000 officers—or one Coleen Rooney.
Most important of all is that we will be leaving our natural environment in a better condition than we found it in. Our excellent local enterprise partnership has rightly identified Cornwall’s abundance of natural resources, which, when harnessed, will make a massive contribution to the Government’s clean growth strategy. In my maiden speech, I singled out the potential for deep geothermal energy as a significant renewable energy technology. I am delighted to report to the House that we now have the hottest, deepest hole in the UK, and the trials to generate electricity are well under way. It has been a long journey and the determination of all involved in the project clearly illustrates the UK’s global leadership on tackling climate change. We are now working on floating wind in the Celtic sea, which has even greater potential.
The UK has decarbonised faster than any major economy, reducing our emissions by 38% since 1990. We know that we need to go further and faster, which is why I am proud that it was a Conservative Government who supported the world leading net zero target and who have today set out measures that will enable us to do that. The landmark environment Bill is a huge step in ensuring that we leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it in. The Bill will enable a comprehensive framework for legally binding targets, including a target for air quality and the establishment of a new office for environmental protection. Together with the threat to our natural environment, climate change is the most serious challenge that we face today. Our response must be comprehensive, with action taken across the whole economy. I am confident that we can do it. Why? Because there is now widespread concern and support for action, and because we have what it takes to rise to the challenge. It is a real opportunity to grow our economy more sustainably, but also an opportunity to grow our economy more successfully.
Like Members across this House, I have meetings every week with a wide range of people who are fully invested in wanting us to succeed in meeting our net zero target. If we are to harness that enthusiasm and expertise, it cannot just be about distant international summits with acronyms that few people understand.
When the UK hosts the international UN climate summit in Glasgow next year, it must ensure that every sector of society is involved in the conversation. With an issue as big as climate change, we need everyone’s collective brainpower to find the right solutions, and we must have everyone on board if we are to implement them. Post Brexit, the country needs to unite around a shared national purpose, and I believe that this is it.
By enabling comprehensive action on climate change across the whole of society, with everyone involved and no one left behind, we can start rebuilding a truly United Kingdom—one of which we can all be proud. But that is the thing, Mr Speaker, to have that unity of purpose, we now have to agree on the one thing on which we have not been able to agree—the one thing that is holding the nation back—and that is our future relationship with Europe. It has been tough going, and we have debated the subject thoroughly for years, but it is this week—this week above all others—when we must redouble our efforts, compromise and find a consensus on our way forward.
I have been thinking about what we could do in this place to create the right atmosphere and the right mood—one that will promote trust, generate harmony and result in consensus and that unity of purpose. I was thinking about what we do when we are under pressure, when we are anxious, when success seems so far away. What do we do in our personal lives with our families, in good times and bad, and in our communities when we get together—whether in collective acts of worship or when our beloved football or rugby teams are playing? What we all do on those occasions is sing. We sing because it makes us all feel good. Gareth Malone has inspired the nation’s workplaces and has proved that singing together increases feelings of trust and common purpose between people. So I thought about what songs we could sing to help us on our way this week. I thought that, perhaps, we should begin with Queen’s “Under Pressure, which would be apt as the ticking of the Brexit deadline approaches at the end of October. “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” by Fleetwood Mac could focus our minds on our future relationship with Europe—
It could also focus our minds on the need to respond to the threats of climate change. To encourage greater co-operation between all Members in this House, we could be singing, “We’re All In This Together” from “High School Musical”, or “Meet Me Halfway” by “The Black Eyed Peas”. I hope that, as we work our way through this songbook, we would eventually unite in a rousing rendition of Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now”, leading us ultimately, I hope, to Gloria Gaynor’s “Let’s Make A Deal”. Returning to our own shores, the Beatles can point us in the right direction with their song, “We Can Work It Out”. After all, that is what the nation expects us to do.
Break in Debate
The argument the hon. Lady puts is the one that led me to vote to remain. I did not feel that the architecture of the EU was enormously compelling, but I did think that most of the problems, some of which I listed, were best handled by a more international approach. That is something where we are on the back foot. Nevertheless, it would be wrong not to conclude that, even outside the EU, working closely with our allies and partners in NATO, the United Nations, Europe and the Commonwealth, we can still have an immense footprint in tackling these important issues.
I wish to mention one way in which, under climate change funding, we can do more of this. We have seen Britain leading in the vital, world-changing area of educating girls. That was certainly done in the Blair and Brown years, and it was given a strong boost during the coalition years through the girls education challenge fund, which was designed to get 1 million girls into school in areas where they have been denied any form of education. Of course the Prime Minister, both in his current role and as Foreign Secretary, has made a staunch stand in favour of that.
I want to see, as a result of the Queen’s Speech and of policy development, Britain doing much more to clean up the oceans of the planet. That is a good use of the development budget; millions of very poor people earn their living from the seas. Plastic has now reached almost the remotest places on earth. It has been found 11 km deep in the ocean and even on the island of St Helena, which is thousands of miles from the nearest landform and where, incidentally, the airport is proving to be such a success. By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans of our planet. The Government’s policy domestically has been very successful in terms of curtailing the use of plastic bags and microbeads, and from April next year we will ban plastic straws. The Government have also been very successful in using the market to achieve these desirable results wherever they can. This is an area where British leadership could have a big impact. So I urge the Government to put not only the money from the international development budget—or a proportion of it—but the considerable intellectual weight of British thinking and activity in the international forums behind that initiative.
The next point I wish to make about the Queen’s Speech certainly complements a one nation Queen’s Speech and, I hope, a one nation Budget in due course. I wish to stand up for capitalism and free markets, which are under great pressure, not least from the Leader of the Opposition, as was said earlier. We need to do more to stand up for capitalism and free markets and to explain why free enterprise has been such a powerful engine of advancement and social elevation, particularly for those who are among the least well off. It has always been the case that Governments have hedged around the free market system with rules, taxes and laws to stem excesses and excessive greed.
We recently watched the sad demise of Thomas Cook—now mercifully in the hands of Hays Travel—with a consequent loss of livelihoods and jobs and the inconvenience caused to hundreds of thousands of people who were coming back from their holiday. Is it right in Britain today that the chief executive officer of that company has been paid £8.3 million since 2014, with a £2.9 million bonus in 2015? The two chief financial officers have been paid £7 million since 2014, and the non-executive directors have been paid £4 million, including £1.6 million for the non-executive chairman. Effectively, these were the directors of the UK’s oldest travel agency, and they appear to have presided over the destruction of the business while awarding themselves collectively £47 million in pay and bonuses in the past 10 years. I submit that that brings the free enterprise system and the laws that this House should make into disrepute.
Sixty-one FTSE 100 companies do not pay the living wage to their employees. The living wage was championed effectively by the Prime Minister when he was Mayor of London and by the former Chancellor, George Osborne. For those 61 companies, the average chief executive pay is just under £4 million per year. The arguments for capitalism and free enterprise are under attack, as we shall see in the forthcoming general election. They need to be explained, defended and propagated. One of the ways in which we do that is by demonstrating fairness in the way that the system works.
Let me conclude on another point relating to one nation fairness. It has to do with homelessness. Led by our West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, we are doing our best to eradicate this problem. Last Friday, our mayor was at Aston Villa with 130 people who slept out voluntarily to raise money to help to tackle the curse of rough sleeping. Throughout the west midlands, good progress has been made in offering rough sleepers accommodation: via Housing First we have got 94 people into accommodation—far more than the other two pilot areas have achieved. Housing First also provides the support that individuals need, including drug and alcohol programmes and mental health support. We all understand and know of the complexities involved. Progress is being made, but it is not just about money. The Government have been pretty generous, with £100 million going towards the rough sleeping strategy. In Sutton Coldfield, we currently have four rough sleepers. We have two extremely well-run food banks that operate and help in a wider area than just the royal town. One man has been sleeping rough in our park for more than 20 years.
The reason I mention that is that I do not think any of us can sleep easy knowing about the extent of rough sleeping throughout Britain and in our cities. In November 2018, the count of rough sleepers in Birmingham stood at 91. That was an increase from the previous year and a big increase indeed since 2010. The number of new homeless is showing no signs of slowing. It is a complex and difficult problem and it is not just about finance and funding, but I hope that this good, one nation Queen’s Speech, which I strongly support, will not neglect this vulnerable cohort in our communities and will regard reversing this most unfortunate trend as a very high priority indeed.
The hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson), the leader of the Liberal Democrat party, talked about Paddy Ashdown, our former colleague. He was one of the people who, in part, worked for my father in Geneva in the 1970s, and he is an example of why it is wrong to say that people who come into Parliament cannot do anything else.
There are many people who did many things before they came into Parliament, whether with domestic responsibilities or in professional or voluntary work, and there are many who do the same thing again when they leave. We ought to look on our debates in this place as a way of recruiting many others to stand for election and make contributions here.
Our contributions in this place are often about justice as much as law, and those two come together in the Queen’s Speech in leasehold reform. The Government have said that they want to enshrine it in law that ground rents should be zero and that houses should not be sold unnecessarily as leasehold. That is a start, but a great deal more needs to be done.
Leasehold reform was accepted as a key element in the findings of the Government White Paper “Fixing our broken housing market”. That White Paper produced a number of consultations, all of which accept the urgent need for reform. We have been seeing leaseholders abused over the last 10 to 20 years, partly by mistake, partly by crooks and— too often, in the last 10 years—by ordinary commercial organisations that realise they can stuff their own pockets and those of their shareholders by exploiting the weakness of individuals, whether under Help to Buy or in other ways. I am grateful for the commitments made by Government on that.
The Government have accepted Lord Best’s report recommending statutory regulation of managing agents. They have asked and funded the Law Commission to undertake a major review of leasehold and commonhold law. The Government have tasked officials in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government with supervising that work and asked them to carry out their own work on leasehold reform. Earlier this year, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, led by the hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts), produced an amazing report—as I have said before, it is one of the best Select Committee reports I have read in my time here—urging the Government to do even more.
The Competition and Markets Authority is, with a bit of encouragement, currently considering a potential investigation of major mis-selling activities by developers. I ask the Government to assure us that the reforms that have been considered over a number of years will now come forward. We have the chance to make big progress. It is in a bipartisan area, and it will make a difference to many of the people who live in the 5 million to 6 million leasehold homes—that might be 10 million people, which is a very high proportion of our electorate, to whom we are responsible.
I declare, as a matter of form, that I am a leaseholder in my constituency. We and five others bought the freehold. We had a good freeholder and a good managing agent. Separately, in about three years’ time, I expect to buy a leasehold flat somewhere near here. I say that to avoid people thinking that I am serving my own interest.
I want to turn to two other issues, both relating to justice. The first is the case of Krishna Maharaj, who is in his 80s and who was convicted more than 20 years ago of two murders in Florida that he did not commit. I will then turn to the case of Gurpal Virdi, a Sikh former Metropolitan police sergeant who is still seeking justice for the way in which he was treated and prosecuted—unsuccessfully, obviously—for indecent assault.
Before that, I do not think one should totally ignore the contribution of the leader of the Scottish National party, the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford), who keeps saying interesting things, often very loudly, and then drops his voice and says we should all be very calm in this place. I say calmly to the SNP that, if we are talking about elections, let us remember what happened in the 2017 election compared with that in 2015. The Scottish National party’s share of the vote went down from 50% to about 37%, while the Conservatives’ national share went up from about 37% to about 42%. The SNP always floats the idea that it has a majority, but that did not happen last time and I hope it does not happen next time.
The Scottish Government have this afternoon published their own no-deal preparations. I have scanned them in detail and I cannot see that money has gone to the local authorities most in need. A miserly £50,000 has gone to each local authority in Scotland. That is not enough to ensure that local authorities such as Aberdeenshire have the capacity to issue the export health certificates that the fishing industry needs. I am deeply worried that the Scottish Government, despite containing many good Ministers, are not passing on the money that we are giving to them for Scotland’s citizens.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The preparations that we have made for that outcome, a no-deal exit—I thank my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster for everything that he is doing—have unquestionably, notwithstanding the surrender Act, concentrated the minds of our friends in the EU and are helping us to get a deal.
I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that in so far as such checks were necessary, they would be done electronically. They would be done by UK officials, and they would be instituted only with the consent of Northern Ireland. That is the important point, but I am more than happy, if he would like, to discuss this more with him in person if that would be useful.
We are doing everything we can to ensure that, through the provision of information and additional personnel and resources, we can have that smooth flow.
The right hon. Gentleman was a very distinguished Minister, with great experience of criminal justice. He is right—those law enforcement and national security tools are definitely assets—but, having talked to national security and law enforcement professionals, I know that there are steps that we can take, and have taken, to safeguard UK citizens.
If I may say to my right hon. Friend, last week, at Prime Minister’s questions, my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Hertfordshire (Mr Gauke) and I asked questions of the Prime Minister seeking to elicit an answer about his motive and state of knowledge, and I was rather struck by the fact that he avoided answering both questions completely. He made not a single attempt—my right hon. Friend should look at Hansard—to answer the question. I am afraid I do not have much confidence that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has the capacity—frankly—to answer questions of this kind, because he does not appear to understand how serious they are and appears to treat them with a high level of flippancy.
Yes, indeed, and of course that might have provided another opportunity to ask questions.
I appreciate that this House can sometimes be difficult and irksome to Prime Ministers and Governments, but that is our job. We are here precisely to provide scrutiny and to hold to account. For those reasons, I do not think it would be unreasonable of us to proceed to ask for these documents. I believe and hope that this has been drafted in a way that is sufficiently focused that we can come swiftly to a conclusion by Wednesday as to whether there is anything that should be causing the public disquiet.
Break in Debate
Yes, I have seen that. Why we are being closed down is blindingly obvious. As I said earlier, if anybody believes it is genuinely for the orderliness of the House and the convenience of a Queen’s Speech, they will believe anything. We are being closed down to stop scrutiny and to prevent this House from expressing a view on no deal. The only positive is that it galvanised the House last week to take the necessary action to prevent no deal, and Opposition Members were pulled together and spoke strongly on the Bill that has just received Royal Assent.
My hon. Friend has made many points. I pay tribute to the research and report that the Welsh Affairs Committee, which he chairs, has published. It has recently received a response from the Government. It highlighted that this is one aviation market. Therefore, we cannot act in a way that would benefit one part and destroy another. I fear that the Welsh Government would increase air passenger duty in Cardiff and make the airport even more uncompetitive.
I met the Farmers Union of Wales yesterday to discuss the challenges and opportunities that Brexit will bring. I plan to meet NFU Cymru shortly. We recognise that there are new markets that we need to be exploring. I have already highlighted Japan as one of those markets, but there are many more.
I will give way in a moment, but I wish to finish this point. We have seen people clasp straws in the wind such as, “The people need another vote” and, “We need to support this motion.” The Opposition’s motion was ridiculous; anybody who has negotiated will understand that if one signals to those on the other side of the table that one is not prepared to walk away, it makes for a worse deal. That is a fact, but not to the many Members who will clasp at any straw to try to frustrate Brexit.
I will give one other example of how Brexit is being frustrated in this place. There is a near hysteria about no deal, despite the fact that the UK trades with the majority of the world’s GDP—with many countries outside the EU—on no-deal World Trade Organisation terms. Five of the EU’s top 10 trading partners trade on the basis of no-deal WTO terms. Since “Project Fear” in 2016 failed, we have had record low unemployment, record manufacturing output and record investment—in fact, last year we had more inward investment than France and Germany—all in the full knowledge that we could leave on no-deal WTO terms. Despite all that, Members in this place—too many remain MPs—have clasped at straws to frustrate Brexit and disregard the EU referendum result. That must now end. People have lost their patience with this place. The time has come to put forward actions instead of words.
That is not a fair point, for the simple reason that in that general election both the Labour manifesto and the Conservative manifesto promised to deliver Brexit. All we have seen since is utter delay and confusion, caused largely by remain MPs who will not honour the referendum result.
As far as I can remember, in 2014 the people of Scotland had a referendum, and the hon. Lady’s side did not prevail; the people of Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom, from which there are many benefits—economic, political and geo-strategic. That is a great future for the people of Scotland, and one that I think will prevail.
What needs to be heard is not my cerebral power, but the issue of Ebola in the Congo. The House needs to be serious about that. There is an Ebola outbreak now in the Congo, which has already crossed the border into Uganda. On Sunday, we had an outbreak in Goma, a city of 2 million people. If we do not get this under control, this Ebola outbreak, which is already the second biggest in history, will cause devastating problems for the region. We must invest much more in the World Health Organisation, in developing the public health services in the neighbouring countries. Above all, we must step up to the challenge and be serious as a nation about this deadly disease.
The provision of water and sanitation is central. It is vital for health. It is also vital in schools, for ensuring that girls remain in school, and it is vital for tackling any kind of water-borne disease. So good investment in water, which DFID prioritises, needs to be one of the three fundamental pillars of development, along with education and health.
May I start by congratulating my hon. Friend on his appointment to the role of Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee? I have not had an opportunity to do so in the Chamber before now. I am sure he will make an excellent Chair, following his predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison), who is now a Minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
I want to reassure my hon. Friend that I am doing everything in my power to ensure that the parties continue to talk. They are all still in the room. I will be returning to Northern Ireland straight after questions, to continue talks over the rest of the week. I want the talks to succeed and will do whatever I can to ensure that they do.
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, he was the last direct rule Minister in Northern Ireland, and I very much hope that he continues to be. He will understand the constitutional implications of the independence of the civil service in Northern Ireland and the fact that it reports to the Executive Office, not to this House. I am determined to get the institutions restored because then the question that he asked will become irrelevant.
The deal is the issue that is on the table at the moment: the question is how we leave the European Union, whether we do so with a deal, and whether we do so with the deal that was previously negotiated. Any of those options actually delivers on what people voted for in 2016, and we should be doing just that.
It is not the case that the only way in which we can ensure internet safety and work on it is through the institutions of the European Union. The global forum to which I referred earlier was largely set up as a result of an initiative by the United Kingdom. It does not come under a European Union banner; it has other EU member states in it, but it is something that we look to do worldwide and we will continue to work on internet safety worldwide.
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. That is why this Government are committed to respecting the outcome of both the referendums that have taken place in Scotland: the 2014 independence referendum, in which people voted to remain in the United Kingdom; and the 2016 EU referendum, in which people across the UK voted to leave the EU.
This is not just about the five leadership candidates. Both in this House and elsewhere, I have been clear that a no-deal Brexit would be bad for Scotland, and we want to avoid that. We want to leave with a deal and, as I understand it, the leadership candidates are all setting out how we could leave with a deal.
I am acutely conscious of the jobs that are at stake, which is why I welcome this refinancing. It means that there is £100 million extra cash in the company and there are lower debts. I can reassure every one of the employees that their jobs and pensions are not at risk as a result of the restructuring, and neither is the service delivery.
We will be consulting on the nature of the shared prosperity fund and the criteria under which it will operate, so I will ask the relevant Minister to meet the hon. Gentleman in the way he has requested.
The deal we have negotiated on security does provide. There are, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, two areas where it does not specify the particular instruments that will be used in relation to access, for example, to criminal records, but it does specify that that access will be enabled and the discussions will be on the form that that access takes. The deal we have agreed ensures that we are able to continue the security co-operation with the European Union that has helped to keep us safe.
My hon. Friend speaks with passion on behalf of his constituents and he is right to do so. It is frankly unacceptable for Members in this House to try to suggest to people that they simply did not understand what they were voting for. The people of this country understood what they were voting for; they knew what they wanted in terms of leaving the European Union, and we should listen to that and deliver on it.
I say to the right hon. Gentleman that this is a theme that has been raised by a number of Members on the Opposition Benches, but it is not the case. What we have said on Northern Ireland is that we remain committed to the Belfast Good Friday agreement, and that we remain committed to no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and that we refuse to accept the European Union’s approach of carving Northern Ireland out as a separate customs territory from the rest of the United Kingdom.
My hon. Friend raises an important issue and points to some of the policies that we are developing to tackle the root cause. Universal credit is making a significant difference, and I would highlight the growth deals that we are promoting across the whole of Wales. Wales is the only nation of the United Kingdom that will have a growth or a city deal in every part.
The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point. He is well aware that there are myriad complex reasons why people turn to food banks. That was one of the conclusions of the all-party parliamentary group. Food banks have a key role to play in bringing back into the state welfare system people who, for a range of reasons, have fallen out of it. I am a strong supporter of my food bank and food banks across the whole of the UK because of the part that they can play.
I thank my hon. Friend for his comments, and I can give him that reassurance. The development of PESCO does have the potential to improve Europe’s defence capabilities in a way that should be coherent with NATO, but this does not require us to participate or sign us up to participating in the PESCO framework. What it does say is that we may participate in PESCO projects as a third country, but that, of course, would be a decision for us to take—as to whether we wish to apply to do that—and we would not be part of that PESCO framework. As I said in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Dr Johnson) in the statement last week, we are certainly not signing up to a European army, and we would not sign up to a European army.
The right hon. Gentleman will know that the political declaration states that we
“will…work together to identify the terms for the United Kingdom’s cooperation via Europol and Eurojust.”
We have always said that we recognise, for example, that payment may be needed for us to act as a member of, or have some participation in, Europol and Eurojust, but the important point is that the concept of our being part of that, despite being a third country, is in there.
I believe it is important that we have had this exchange before in the House, and I believe it is important that we have within this the terms for ensuring that we have surrender arrangements like the European arrest warrant. Of course, the issue of the determination of courts in relation to the surrender matters is one that we will be considering, but we are clear that jurisdiction in these matters is for the UK courts.
I fully recognise that we are continuing to see investment decisions being made and jobs created by businesses in this country, as we saw in the excellent employment figures last week. We want to bring about that certainty as quickly as we can, which is why we are working to ensure that we can end the negotiations and present the deal so that businesses know where they stand for the future.
I am well aware of the impact that the European arrest warrant had on the ability to extradite between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which is one of the reasons—there are others—why we have been working with the European Union, and made good progress, on that and other aspects of internal security.
I am happy to update the hon. Gentleman on that point. I have consulted the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Richard Harrington). He has written to Departments over the summer reminding them of that duty. We are reiterating our commitment to produce that information before the end of the year.
The Government are clear that comprehensive reform of the House of Lords that requires legislation is not a priority for this Government. We would welcome working with peers on measures that could command consensus, so we welcome the work of the Lord Speaker’s Committee, chaired by Lord Burns.
I am not sure there was a question there that I can answer. I say with great respect to the right hon. Gentleman that he assiduously raises this issue at oral questions time after time. I understand his arguments, but the Government’s position is as I put it.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This will be a good deal for Scotland. Crucially, it does deliver on what I believe Scotland wants, which is to come out of the common fisheries policy, and of course it maintains the UK’s internal market, which is of significant benefit to Scotland and is indeed of more consequence to Scotland than its trade with the European Union.
We are clear that as we go forward in these negotiations we will look at how we could operate the various operational capabilities in the security arrangement to the benefit of citizens in both the UK and the EU. Our position on the European Court of Justice remains, however, and of course changes were made to the operation of the EAW when I was Home Secretary, not under the jurisdiction of the ECJ but under the laws of this country as determined by this House.
It is entirely right and proper that, like every organisation, the NHS considers what future contingencies should be. The NHS is no different from any other organisation.
As I have said in today’s statement and previously, we are looking to negotiate a security partnership that enables us to maintain operational capabilities. I have previously cited Europol as one of the agencies of which we may wish to be a member. We are a significant contributor to Europol, and I think it is in the interest of the EU27 that we are able to continue to have a relationship with Europol in the future.
I echo what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said about the role we see for the House of Lords: it should continue as a scrutinising Chamber but respect the primacy of the Commons, which certainly is the democratically elected Chamber.
The right hon. Gentleman is an experienced Labour Member of Parliament, so he might recall that Labour had a hand in the legislation that guides this process. He will also recall that the Conservative party won the general election on a manifesto that said it would not prioritise reform of the House of Lords.
I agree with my hon. Friend. It is important to ensure that girls are not sidelined in terms of education and opportunities, which is why the funding for girls’ education—for 12 years of safe and quality education, as we have expressed it—is important. We do also need, however, to increase opportunities for all in developing countries, which is why things such as the jobs compact we have entered into with Ethiopia are important. Such action can help countries to develop their economies and make those jobs available for both men and women.
I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady. She has made a very important point. The Welsh Government have accepted that this is a sensible way forward, and it is time that Scotland did exactly the same.
Universal credit is transforming lives across the country. Research shows that universal credit claimants spend more time searching and applying for work than those on previous benefits. There are now more than 100,000 fewer workless households in Scotland than there were seven years ago.
I think it is widely accepted that there are many reasons why people use food banks, and many different issues. Even the all-party parliamentary group on hunger and food poverty has accepted that. We have rolled out universal credit slowly and made changes when we have considered them to be necessary, and we continue to do so.
I think the hon. Gentleman would have heard me do so earlier, but I am happy to say again that I am sorry for the concern caused by that letter. In case he missed it, I shall repeat the explanation that I gave a little while ago. My officials in the Cabinet Office were carrying out what is actually the normal legal position for inquiries, which is that Minister would decide by exception whether to provide funding for legal assistance in this preliminary period. I refer to section 40 of the Inquiries Act 2005. I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s reminder that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North has done so much work here. I am happy to meet her at any time to discuss the issues at hand in a way that is appropriate around the work of the inquiry.
What I have said to the House today is that it will be for the solicitor to the inquiry to determine those expenses, so I am not in a position directly to answer the right hon. Gentleman’s question today. As I have said, my colleagues and I have decided that reasonable expenses, which are properly incurred in respect of legal representation for the purpose of responding to the consultation of the inquiry on the terms of reference, will be awarded.
As I said in answer to a previous question, all donations are registered in accordance with the law. I appreciate that in recent days some points have been raised; indeed, some were raised in the Chamber yesterday, after your decision to grant an emergency debate, Mr Speaker. There are a lot of allegations in the air at the moment, but what the Government have to do is deal with the law as it stands and allow the correct bodies to carry out their investigations.
As our manifesto made clear, we will continue to ensure that the House of Lords remains relevant and effective by addressing issues such as its size and where there is consensus across both Houses for action. We acknowledge the ongoing work of the Burns Committee, which will consider the next steps on reducing the size of the House of Lords.
I know that my hon. Friend has a particular constituency interest in this issue, and I can reassure him that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will be consulting the fishing industry, and working with fishermen and fish processors, to ensure that we have the best possibilities for enhancing and building on our fishing industry in the future.
I thank my right hon. Friend for letting me know about the tweets put out by the First Ministers in Scotland and Wales. I am pleased to say I will be meeting both of them later this afternoon in both the bilaterals and the Joint Ministerial Committee plenary meeting. We have been keeping the devolved Administrations aware of what we have been doing, and I certainly undertake to continue to do that.
That is an important point and it has been raised. We will be looking at the movement of materials and indeed, as I indicated in my statement, at any further action we can take on the movement not only of materials, but of people. We will of course be discussing that with our allies.
Yes. I am well aware of the concern in many fishing communities about the common fisheries policy, and as I said in my speech and repeated in my statement, we will make absolutely sure that we see fairer allocations for the UK fishing industry in the future.
It is precisely because the movement is not just between Northern Ireland and Ireland, but between Ireland and other parts of the United Kingdom, that we believe the right way to approach this is to find a solution in our relationship with the European Union overall. That is precisely why it was right for me to say that we did not accept the European Commission’s proposal, which would have meant a border down the Irish sea.
We are talking about this happening very shortly—it certainly will not be months—and I look forward to being able to make an announcement to the House.
There have been various discussions with the US and Canadian authorities, and with Bombardier itself, in relation to the continuing dispute. Obviously, we see this as unjustified and unwarranted. We await the latest determination, but we will continue to challenge this and to underline our key focus and endeavour on seeing that those important jobs in Belfast are protected.
The right hon. Gentleman, with his experience, will know about the cross-border work. I commend the work of the PSNI and the Garda Siochana in delivering security on the island of Ireland. Their very close co-operation points to a number of EU-related structures, which is why, knowing the significance and importance of deepening that relationship into the future, we want to see a new treaty established that is able to respond and address that co-operation.
The hon. Gentleman is the chair of the all-party group and I would be delighted to meet it. I am well aware of the work it has done. This is a deal for north Wales, which means we will have to work with all stakeholders and all partners, including the hon. Gentleman.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question, and I am aware of his support for this growth deal. It is fair to say, however, that the unemployment situation in Wales has dramatically improved since 2010, with 54,000 more jobs in Wales and unemployment falling in most constituencies in Wales. My constituency has the lowest unemployment it has recorded for a long time. But I assure him that if a cross-border deal will help his constituency, we will help to deliver it.
We will be announcing the refresh of our education policy early next year. The key thing, on which we agree absolutely with the Select Committee, is to drive up the quality of education. Attendance is right up, but far too many children are coming out entirely illiterate.
Ninety five per cent. of all our education spending goes to public education. However, there is a place, particularly in some of the poorest and most remote parts of the world, for recognising that the private sector is filling with low-cost education a hole that the public sector sometimes cannot fill.
I do indeed, although the way I would put it is that I wish the reforms to be so extensive that they are tantamount to abolition. Starting with a clean sheet of paper would probably be the best way to go forward. I will come to arguments for the alternative later.
As I read the report and read between the lines, I can almost sense the authors’ exasperation at the situation they are in: their remit has been necessarily constrained to a very narrow one about the size of the House of Lords. They are not able to take into account other matters, looking at the wider context of the institution. I also sense—it is mentioned several times—their frustration at having to search for ways other than legislative and statutory reform to try to achieve some sort of change. I applaud their ingenuity in finding ways within existing statutes and by using procedures such as the code of conduct to set out how they may be able to achieve some of their suggested changes without reference to primary legislation. None of that removes the need for us as an elected Chamber to look at legislative reform. It is an abrogation of political responsibility by the Government, as well as a kick in the teeth for public opinion, that they refuse to countenance bringing forward legislative reform.
The report is necessarily limited, but I would describe it as extremely small baby steps on the road to reform. To give an idea of just how limited they are, one of the key suggestions is to bring in a fixed term of 15 years for Members to serve in the upper House. The suggestion is to phase that in, and it would not be fully implemented until 2042. That’s right—2042. I doubt whether I will be around to see what happens in 2042. To understand just how modest the suggestion is, NASA intends to put a human being on Mars by 2042. We seem to be incapable of suggesting that we can bring in fixed-term appointments for the House of Lords before, as a species, we are capable of colonising other planets. That puts it somewhat in perspective.
Given that the Committee found ways, without reference to legislation, to suggest reform, we should embrace its suggestions and perhaps be a little more ambitious about their application. In considering the report, I suggest to its authors and the upper House that, if they have found ways to bring in fixed-term appointments, why 15 years? On what possible grounds is it okay for someone first to be appointed rather than elected and secondly to serve without sanction or accountability for one and a half decades? Why not cut that in half and make it seven years? Then we could accelerate the process of moving to fixed-term appointments much more quickly.
The Committee suggested through various procedures to reduce steadily the size of the Chamber by appointing one new peer for every two who die, resign or otherwise leave the upper House. If we can have two out, one in, why not have one out, none in? Why not have a moratorium on appointments until the House begins to shrink to a more acceptable level?
We should also be concerned about the things that the report, by its own admission, does not say, and the problems that it does not address—indeed, it recognises that its limited suggestions will exacerbate some of the other problems. Consider, for example, the hereditary peers. Not only are 92 people who are appointed to make the laws of our land not elected by anybody, but the only basis for their appointment is accident of birth. They are not even the aristocracy—they are the progeny of aristocracy from centuries past. That is such an anachronism that it is an affront to every democratic ideal that we must surely espouse. A rather sordid deal was done between the Blair Government and the then Tory Leader of the House of Lords—against, by the way, the wishes of the then leader of the Conservative party—to protect the 92 hereditary peers. That was seen as an interim step, yet every attempt to follow through and complete the abolition of hereditary peers has been blocked by the institution itself and those who support it.
Indeed, and it is regrettable that an individual Member has to use the procedures of the House to pursue such an objective when it is so glaringly obvious that the Government should act on this issue to improve our democratic system. When he responds to the debate, perhaps the Minister will explain why the Government see fit to take no action whatever on Lords reform.
Hereditary peers are an anachronism and an affront to democracy, but under proposals in the report, which would reduce the size of the House of Lords from more than 800 Members to below 600, they are untouched. That means that their influence will increase as a proportion of the upper Chamber. Rather than tackle the problem, this tinkering will make it worse and give hereditary peers even more influence over the rest of us. We must do something urgently to tackle that democratic affront.
The report also acknowledges the situation of the Lords Spiritual, which is not to be reformed in any way, shape or form. I have many colleagues and friends who are active in the Church of England and I mean them no disrespect, but it is ridiculous in our multicultural, multi-faith society that, if any spiritual leaders are to be appointed anywhere in our legislature, that should be the preserve of just one faith and one Church in this country. That is an affront to people of other faiths and of none, and it is urgently in need of reform. I say that knowing that many people in the Church of England would agree with me and seek such reform themselves, yet the report says nothing about the issue. Indeed, it admits that the influence of the Lords Spiritual in the upper Chamber will increase under the proposals, rather than be reduced, because their number as a proportion of the upper House will increase.
The most glaringly obvious omission in the report, which its authors acknowledge, is the fact that we have not even begun to debate the method of constitution and selection of the upper Chamber. I believe in a bicameral system. I think there is a need for an upper revising Chamber, although the arguments for it need to be made. One argument most often made is not an argument for an upper House; it is an argument about the inadequacy of the primary Chamber. It suggests that we need the House of Lords because the way the House of Commons operates means that it is often capable of getting things wrong and making bad draft legislation, so everybody needs a second look and it must all be revised. That is an argument for improving our procedures in the House of Commons and considering how we originate, deliberate on and make legislation; it is not in itself a justification for a second Chamber.
I believe that there should be a revising Chamber as that has some merit in a democratic system and our parliamentary institutions. However, a fundamental tenet of my belief is that those who make laws over others should be accountable to those who serve under those laws. The governors must be appointed by the governed, otherwise they lose respect, credibility and legitimacy. If we are to consider a new upper Chamber by 2042, surely we must advance the argument that it should be an elected Chamber that is representative of the citizenry of the country. When devising a new Chamber we should take the opportunity to build in procedures that will overcome the current inadequacies and democratic deficits. We must ensure proper representation of women in the Chamber, and of the age range and ethnic mix in the country. We also need a proper geographic spread to represent the regions and nations of the United Kingdom. That is an argument whose time has come. It is something that we need to advance, and if we do so I think that many Members of the upper Chamber will be willing to join that cause.
In conclusion, I ask the Minister ever so gently whether he will reconsider his position, take off the blinkers, realise the degree of public concern about this issue, and commit the Government—not next week or month, perhaps not even next year, but before the end of this parliamentary term—to bringing forward the reforms that are so urgent and necessary. We are now at a crisis point. A report published by the Electoral Reform Society last week contained an extensive survey of public opinion in this country. It showed that only 10% of those polled agree with the House of Lords remaining unchanged as it is today. Fully 62% now believe that the upper Chamber should be elected. That number is increasing, and if we do not act it will increase further, and the political crisis in our institutions will continue. It is time to act.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Edinburgh East (Tommy Sheppard) on securing this debate. I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about this issue.
In my opinion, House of Lords reform is simple: I believe that it should be reformed, but the exact nature of how that reform should be enacted is up for debate. I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman that the House of Lords should be abolished. It has proven itself to be effective in its capacity to scrutinise legislation and hold the Government to account, and for that reason alone we should maintain a second Chamber.
The House of Lords also contains many experts in their fields, from Lord Winston in the sciences, and Lord Coe, who delivered the fantastic Olympic games in 2012, to Baroness Lane-Fox in business, technology and education. Those peers bring a wide range of backgrounds and expertise to these Houses of Parliament, and it would be remiss to do away with such expertise by simply abolishing the House of Lords.
The House of Lords Act 1999 retained many hereditary peers but restricted their numbers to 92, in order to ensure that any loss of knowledge and expertise caused by the removal of hundreds of experienced Members was limited. After 18 years, however, I am confident that the knowledge gap has been adequately bridged by subsequent appointments and, of course, the intervening years, and that we now have sufficient knowledge in the House of Lords.
I will be addressing that point shortly in my speech.
There are, therefore, reasons why a second Chamber should be retained. To have experts as part of the parliamentary process, able to sit outside some of the pressure of regular elections and to stay constant and think of the country’s good rather than the next election, is a benefit and a strength to the nation that should be retained. However, that does not mean the House of Lords is above reform, as I have said. All in, as the hon. Member for Edinburgh East said, there are about 825 Members in the House of Lords, with a working number of 800. That is far too large a number to be practical in terms of work, or democratically justifiable for an unelected second Chamber. The Lords must therefore be reduced in size.
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Yes, I would. I am coming to my point about that. House of Lords reform is always another decade away, but when we complete our current constitutional obligations through Brexit—which I think the hon. Gentleman will agree is challenge enough—I hope we can turn our attention to the House of Lords. Then people will not have to wait another decade before reform is allowed in that most respected other place.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
Having lived and worked in China, that is not the case, but on the right hon. Gentleman’s point about supremacy and democracy, does he not accept that under the Parliament Act 1911, the people of the United Kingdom are still sovereign and the Commons can still overrule the Lords? Although I agree that there should be reform in the Lords, let us not take the argument to the extreme. Democracy still rules in this country and it lies with the Commons.
I believe the right hon. Gentleman was about to conclude his speech.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth, and to add my voice to over 100 years of debate on the subject of reforming the House of Lords. The unresolved discussion on Lords reform has been going on for so long that an annual debate on the subject must surely now be considered a parliamentary tradition. In 1908, the Queen’s great-grandfather was the reigning monarch, while New Zealand had just become an independent country. It was also the year in which the Rosebery report made recommendations on how peers should be selected for the Lords. Such is the pace of change at Westminster that here we are, 110 years later, still tinkering around the edges of our bloated and unelected upper Chamber. After all that time, the proposed reforms before us today hardly seem worth the wait.
That is especially the case when we consider that it could take up to 15 years to reduce the size of the Lords to 600 Members. Why 600? I have read the report and nowhere does it explain why the Committee decided on 600. Did they consider how many Lords contribute to debates, Committees or groups? Some do. As was eloquently explained in the opening remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh East (Tommy Sheppard), some make very valuable contributions, but do 600? When the Lords debated the issue, 61 Members took part—that is 61 out of the 799 currently eligible peers. When the Lord Speaker’s Committee launched a consultation, 62 Members contributed.
The reduction from 826 peers is undoubtedly progress, but we are merely reducing the size of the problem, not solving it. To underscore the timid nature of these proposals, new Members of the Lords would still have a guaranteed position for 15 years. We would retain 92 hereditary peers. We would retain the Lords Spiritual, 26 archbishops and bishops. We would retain the royal office-holders, Earl Marshal and the Lord Great Chamberlain. Of course, reducing the peers to 600 but protecting the hereditary and spiritual peers would also mean they made up a greater proportion of the unelected House.
I ask hon. Members whether they are happy to go out into their constituencies and argue in favour of an upper House of unelected appointees with 15-year terms—a House that has no mechanism for the public to hold its Members to account, in which the ability or suitability of its Members is completely outwith the control of the electorate. Would they be happy to speak with constituents face to face and tell them that our modern Parliament should include unelected bishops and hereditary peers, the heirs of long-forgotten generals, admirals and landowning aristocracy? Where is the progress towards a balanced House, by gender, geography or religion? How do we know that minorities are represented? We do not, and we will not, because the Committee’s remit was to address only the size of the House. I acknowledge the good work done by the Committee, but its hands were tied before it even started to write.
Here we are, skirting around the issue and ignoring the core question of whether we should even have an unelected Chamber. What does that say about the nature of Westminster? The “mother of Parliaments” has spawned many legislatures around the world, many of which have long overtaken us in their ability to reform and adapt to the changed needs of their political systems. Westminster, on the other hand, limply staggers on without any of the energy or imagination that characterises other Parliaments.
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I am grateful to you for chairing this debate so efficiently, Mr Howarth. I am also grateful that so many Members have taken part and given such passionate contributions to this debate. I am delighted that the spirits moved certain Members and that they decided to make last-minute contributions, which were all the more welcome. I thank the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Laura Smith) for standing in at the last moment on the shadow Front Bench. Please do give my best wishes to the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith); I hope she gets better soon. This debate has obviously given the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich the opportunity to showcase her talents. I am sure that any forthcoming reshuffle will see her rapidly promoted through the ranks.
I also thank the hon. Member for Edinburgh East (Tommy Sheppard), whom I have sparred with on several occasions already since my appointment as Minister for the constitution. His dedication to matters constitutional cannot be doubted. He has called several debates before, on several different issues. Today’s debate on the publication of the Burns report is particularly timely, coming so soon after its publication on 31 October. This debate has given Members of the Commons the opportunity to reflect upon its recommendations and to put their views, however different and passionate, on record. I am sure this will provide an invaluable record for the other place when it discusses these matters—I will discuss that later—recognising the individual views of Members here today.
The Government believe that the House of Lords plays a vital role in scrutinising, checking and challenging the work of the elected House of Commons, and in doing so it brings a wealth of expertise and experience to bear on that work. We will ensure that the Lords continues to fulfil this vital constitutional role, at the same time as respecting the vital privacy of the elected House of Commons.
Hon. Members have already touched on this, but I am sure they will not be surprised to hear that the Government do not consider comprehensive reform—it is important to stress “comprehensive”—of the House of Lords to be a priority. It has been mentioned, but I will quote in full the statement in the Conservative party manifesto in 2017:
“Although comprehensive reform is not a priority we will ensure that the House of Lords continues to fulfil its constitutional role as a revising and scrutinising chamber which respects the primacy of the House of Commons. We have already undertaken reform to allow the retirement of peers and the expulsion of members for poor conduct and will continue to ensure the work of the House of Lords remains relevant and effective by addressing issues such as its size.”
While the Government have stated that their priority is not comprehensive reform, we still believe it is important—this is a crucial point—that where there is consensus, we have been able to undertake incremental reforms of the other place. We have worked with both Houses to introduce some focused and important reforms.
I had hoped to touch on hereditary peers later, but I will come to that point now. We had a debate in Westminster Hall in July. I recognise that Lord Grocott’s Bill had its Second Reading in September. The Government still hold their position that it must be for the other place to reach a consensus around reform. If the other place reaches consensus, we will work with the House of Lords to look at what incremental changes are taking place. Lord Grocott’s Bill and the issue of hereditary peers will be further debated. We will be looking at that Bill going forwards. Obviously we will be debating the right hon. Gentleman’s private Member’s Bill, which he mentioned, on 27 April, and I hope to be in my place discussing those issues with him.
In order to take reform forwards—I will touch on the historical precedents at a later point—we need to ensure that we have consensus. With Government support, the House of Lords Reform Act 2014 enabled peers to retire permanently for the first time and provided for peers to be disqualified when they do not attend or are convicted of serious offences. We supported the House of Lords (Expulsion and Suspension) Act 2015, which provided this House with the power to expel Members in cases of serious misconduct. The House of Lords Reform Act 2014, which enabled peers to retire for the first time, has resulted in over 70 peers now taking advantage of the retirement provisions. That goes to show that incremental change can have a significant and dramatic effect on the House of Lords—its reform and it size. As a result of the 2014 Act, retirement is becoming part of the culture of the Lords. We have had other Bills, such as the Lords Spiritual (Women) Act 2015, which has allowed female bishops to sit in the Lords for the first time.
The Government are clear that we want to work constructively with Members and peers to look at pragmatic ideas for reducing the size of the Lords. It is by making those incremental reforms, which command consensus, rather than comprehensive reforms, that real progress can be made.
Again, I agree with my hon. Friend. The importance of hub airports is understood by businesses across the United Kingdom. It is therefore imperative to have regular flights into Heathrow, which is one of the reasons why we need the expansion of Heathrow. That expansion will be good not only for the United Kingdom, but for regional economies, as connectivity into a major hub airport such as Heathrow will be beneficial to our local economies.
The right hon. Gentleman makes a really important point. I hope that the decision on Heathrow will be forthcoming very soon. I agree entirely with him about the Crewe hub. A development in Crewe that links HS2 services into the north Wales main line represents a real opportunity for north Wales. We in the Wales Office have been involved in that with our colleagues in the Department for Transport.
The hon. Lady is absolutely right. The House may have noticed that the secretary-general of the OECD was in town yesterday, and I met both him and the chair of the Development Assistance Committee to discuss this issue. They are the first to recognise that such small island states need resilience to the impact of climate change and that we need greater agility in applying the rules to many of those countries. We will have that discussion at the DAC in 10 days’ time.
5. What steps her Department is taking to help Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. 
The UK is the largest bilateral donor to the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh. DFID has worked in Cox’s Bazar for many, many years, and it has recently stepped up efforts with an additional £30 million in the light of the refugee crisis. We are working with many partners, and I am sure all colleagues in the House, including those who spoke in yesterday’s debate, recognise the difficulties we face in providing aid because of the scale of the refugee crisis. Britain is leading, and we are working with our international aid partners.
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I have already called for violence to stop and, importantly, for aid access to be granted. The point about the UN efforts is that we have to have a co-ordinated approach and response to the aid effort, aid delivery and aid access. It is also important that we ensure our voices are heard by the Burmese military, so that they stop the violence and introduce protections for the Rohingya people, rather than the persecution we have seen so far.
I could not have put it better myself. In fact, I would expand it to outside election times, too. As we have heard today, this problem is not limited to that four or five-week period every three or four years.
My second question to the Minister is about reviewing existing laws and seeing which work and which should work but are not being enforced. Where there are gaps, we should recommend how to fill them. Then, as the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) said, we should ensure that there is cross-party support for legislation to achieve that aim.
We need to look at the responsibilities of the social media platforms, which, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) and I discovered not long ago, all too often wring their hands and say, “It’s all too difficult.” Actually, it is not all too difficult. It is all too important that they now adopt the same responsible attitude to what they publish in their name— although they deny they are publishers—which is, on occasion, the sort of material that is completely unacceptable. Earlier I raised the example of Byron Davies and the Gower, who asked a social media platform—I think it was Twitter—to remove an outright lie that was possibly going to affect the outcome of the election. It refused and said that what was going on was within the guidelines. It cannot be with the guidelines simply to sit back and allow people to publish utter nonsense with the aim of artificially disrupting the outcome of an election. I suspect that everybody in this Chamber is of that view.
When the then Minister responded to a debate on online bullying last year, he said:
“There needs to be partnership, and I do not rule out regulation…We need to work with the companies, and we need clear guidelines on, and definitions of, online abuse. Even more importantly, we need very quick reactions, so that all of us as constituency MPs do not have to sit in surgeries with people who are clearly utterly distressed because of online material”.—[Official Report, 7 July 2016; Vol. 612, c. 1107.]
That applies just as much to electoral behaviour as to behaviour outside that time.
Finally—thank you for your patience, Mr Hanson—we need a political lead, as other colleagues have said. That means that the leaders of all parties and groups need to stand up and not just send out warmly worded tweets about bad behaviour or transmit mealy-mouthed messages of condemnation, but take a “not in my name” approach. All of the groups we have talked about overtly and by insinuation need to say, “Not in my name. Nobody who is a member of this party or this group should engage in online or offline abuse, either during an election or at any other time.” The leadership of those organisations have the opportunity today to stand up and say that they will deal with this robustly. If they do not, they are complicit in the problem. That is why there have been rumours and this whole thing has gathered momentum—with a small “m”—over the past few months and years.
Thirteen months ago our colleague Jo Cox paid the ultimate price for this kind of stuff. It shook the nation and sent a message that I hoped people would listen to, whether they are in a position of political leadership or just able to vote at elections. One year on, the problem seems every bit as bad as it was back then. Unless we have joined-up, co-operative leadership from the Government—I hope we will hear about that now—and from all the Opposition parties and the groups that support them, all of the extraordinary work that has been done in Jo Cox’s memory will have been wasted.
This is a very important debate, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart) on securing it. We have to be clear that we are talking not about robust debate, however robust it is, but about mindless abuse. In my case, the mindless abuse has been characteristically racist and sexist. I have had death threats, and people tweeting that I should be hanged
“if they could find a tree big enough to take the fat bitch’s weight”.
There was an English Defence League-affiliated Twitter account—#burnDianeAbbot. I have had rape threats, and been described as a
“Pathetic useless fat black piece of shit”,
an “ugly, fat black bitch”, and a “nigger”—over and over again. One of my members of staff said that the most surprising thing about coming to work for me is how often she has to read the word “nigger”. It comes in through emails, Twitter and Facebook.
Where I disagree with the hon. Gentleman is that he seems to suggest that this is all a relatively recent occurrence in this election. That is not my experience. It is certainly true that the online abuse that I and others experience has got worse in recent years, and that it gets worse at election time, but I do not put it down to a particular election. I think the rise in the use of online media has turbocharged abuse. Thirty years ago, when I first became an MP, if someone wanted to attack an MP, they had to write a letter—usually in green ink—put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it and walk to the post box. Now, they press a button and we read vile abuse that, 30 years ago, people would have been frightened even to write down.
I accept that male politicians get abuse, too, but I hope the one thing we can agree on in this Chamber is that it is much worse for women. As well as the rise of online media, it is helped by anonymity. People would not come up to me and attack me for being a nigger in public, but they do it online. It is not once a week or during an election; it is every day. My staff switch on the computer and go on to Facebook and Twitter, and they see this stuff.
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I am afraid I cannot give way, because I am mindful of the time.
The type of racist and sexist abuse I get is not tied to any events in this particular election campaign. This is not about just politicians or even women politicians. Any woman who goes into the public space can expect that type of abuse. People will remember how Mary Beard, the historian, received horrible abuse online because she was on “Question Time”.
In closing, I want to make a couple of points, the first of which is that there is a relationship between online abuse and mainstream media commentary; in my office, we always see, at the very least, a spike in abuse after there has been a lot of negative stuff in the media. Online abuse and abuse generally are not the preserve of any one party or any one party faction, and to pretend that is to devalue a very important argument. I am glad we have had the debate—it gives me no pleasure to talk about my experience not only in the last election, but for years—but let us get this debate straight: it is not about a particular party or a particular faction, but about the degradation of public discourse online.
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I will try to be brief, and I have already made a couple of interventions.
I am a Tory in Humberside, which is not an easy place to be a Tory. I was a councillor for 10 years—one of two Tories on Hull City Council—and have been through four council elections and four general elections. I am not afraid of abuse and insults, something I am pretty used to, but what is happening now is on a different scale.
I have been called “Tory scum” for years and had insults in the streets, and I am pretty used to that. It is part of the process, and although we might say that it should not happen, it does. What happened at this election, however, was different. I never thought that in my own constituency someone would come up to me and shout the name of the Leader of the Opposition, then describe me as, “Israeli and Zionist scum.” I never thought that my posters would be ripped down and posted on social media under the phrase, “Fuck the Tories #CorbynIn”. I never thought that my staff would be spat at in the street by activists, by people naming the Leader of the Opposition as their motivation for calling my staff “Tory fucking scum.” That is what is happening in our democracy.
It is true that there is abuse on all sides, on the left and on the right. I condemn it absolutely. What is different about what is happening now is that there is an assault on our democracy and on one particular political party. This dehumanisation of my side of politics is being motivated and encouraged by the language of some of the leaders of the Labour party. There are very decent Labour members—the vast mass of them—and Members of Parliament, but the abuse has been happening to some of them as well.
To have leaders addressing rallies where there were images of the severed head of the Prime Minister, but that not being called out, and to have leaders accusing people of murder or saying, “Ditch the bitch!”, but that not being called out, is an assault on our democratic values and our processes. It has to stop. It is the worst I have encountered in any election and it is not acceptable. In this particular regard, it is coming from one particular faction. We should be honest about that.
Abuse aimed at candidates and volunteers is not endured by only one party; it is endured by all parties. There are people right across our political spectrum, from left to right and in the middle, who suffer needless abuse for trying to make the world a better place. Politics is our way of doing that. It is a difficult and contested environment, and at elections we want our debates to be robust but, speaking as a gay man and as a proud Janner from Plymouth, I want to speak up not only for Members of Parliament, but for the volunteers and for those cautious about getting involved in politics for the first time.
During the election, I spoke to a young LGBT person who said, “I get abuse online; I am scared to go online. If Members of Parliament aren’t getting justice for the abuse they get, what chance do I have?” The message that this House and the Government must send to young people from the LGBT community and every community who want to make the world a better place is that abuse will be taken seriously, wherever it comes from, whoever says it and whatever form it is done in, whether that is in the mainstream print media, slipped into broadcast, on social media or as abuse on posters, or—this happened to Jemima, one of the people I represent in Plymouth—in an anonymous note put through her door simply because she had put up a Labour poster. We have to send the message that abuse, wherever it comes from, is not acceptable.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hanson. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart) on securing the debate.
I have colleagues in all parts of the House. In my seven years here, I have built some wonderful friendships with them and gone on some wonderful trips abroad on delegations and on work we have carried out together. However, I will never accept something that is unacceptable to happen to any Member of Parliament from any political party. Let me give two examples.
When I stood up to make my acceptance speech and to thank all the electorate after a very difficult election—the culture in the election campaign was one of the most difficult that I have experienced—I had an activist say in public, “Fuck off back to country X”. The matter has been referred to the Kent police. They are investigating it under public order and racism, so let them do their job. But a Labour party activist, who happens to be a former assistant to the Medway Labour group, said that in public as I made my acceptance speech. I ask each and every Member here: if you experienced that, how would you feel?
Two days before the election, a video went online of a conversation between a third party and a Labour councillor, who happens to be the former chairman of the Gillingham and Rainham association. Malicious, grossly offensive remarks and a threat to me were made—
I appreciate that we are short of time and I know that we will discuss this issue again in the main Chamber next week, so I will try to keep my remarks brief. I congratulate the hon. Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart) on securing this important debate, and I associate my party with the sentiments that he expressed.
I and many of my colleagues have been subjected to exactly the type of activity that the hon. Gentleman described. Indeed, someone was recently convicted for making a threat against me. Like others, I am extremely concerned that it seems that the majority of the perpetrators of such abuse are male and the majority of the targets are female Members—or at least the greatest intensity of threats is directed towards them. That should be a cause for extreme concern for everyone.
We should be absolutely clear that we are not talking about a bit of political banter. We are not talking about the rough and tumble of political debate, or even about satirising or caricaturing another person’s point of view; we are talking about vile abuse—dehumanising people and sometimes inciting violence against them. That sort of activity should not be deemed acceptable in any democratic society.
We are also, I hope, not suggesting that there is anything special that needs to be protected about Members of Parliament; we are arguing about abuse that should be tackled no matter who in society suffers from it. In that sense, I agree with the right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott). This issue cannot be taken in isolation from general debates in society, or from the general portrayals in the media of certain people in society. I will not say exactly what the link is, but to say that there is not an association or a link would be extremely problematic.
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I therefore urge the Minister to work on a cross-party basis. We would like to see a code of conduct by way of which we can work together to ensure that this abuse is not accepted.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart) on securing this important debate. I welcome the opportunity to address some of the issues that he and other hon. Members from both sides of the House have raised. My hon. Friend put his points across in powerful terms, as have others today, and this is clearly an extremely serious matter that Members feel strongly about. As he said in his opening remarks, this is not just about ourselves as Members as Parliament; it is about all those close to us—our family, our friends and our supporters.
The Prime Minister has been very clear that there is no place in our democracy for the harassment of parliamentary candidates and that abuse will not be tolerated. That is why today she has asked the non-partisan Committee on Standards in Public Life to carry out a review of the intimidation experienced by parliamentary candidates, including those who stood to become Members of Parliament at the 2017 general election. The review will gather evidence of harassment and consider what action needs to be taken to ensure the integrity of the future of our democratic process.
This is clearly an issue that has the potential to impact on people’s wish to stand for office and therefore has a negative impact on standards in public life more broadly. It is also about protecting the integrity of public service itself and that of the offices that we hold. The independent, non-partisan Committee on Standards in Public Life is well respected and, I believe, well placed to lead that work. It has conducted many detailed reviews on conduct and ethics and operates independently from Government, regulators and politicians.
I call Darren Jones. [Interruption.] He was here a moment ago. I call Mr David Hanson.
As regards Eurojust, Europol and the European arrest warrant, those will be matters for the negotiations, but I have made it very clear that we want to retain our security co-operation, not just on counter-terrorism matters but on matters relating to crime.