Business of the House

Debate between David Johnston and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 3rd February 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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Yes; I am delighted. As I have said before, there is more joy in heaven over the one sinner who repenteth than the 99 who are not repenting. The hon. Gentleman is always right to seek redress from over-zealous regulators who do not do their job properly. I will pass on what he has said to the relevant Department.

David Johnston Portrait David Johnston (Wantage) (Con)
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My constituent David Bosley contacted me last month about his son Alex, who is one of a number of my constituents to have had their Instagram account hacked and used by fraudsters to trick their contacts into giving them money. The fraudsters often walk away with tens of thousands of pounds. May we have a debate on clamping down both on the perpetrators of the frauds and on the lax processes of the social media platforms that inadvertently facilitate fraud?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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My hon. Friend is so right to raise this important and concerning issue, which will be of importance to Members across the House. The Online Safety Bill will ensure that big platforms, including Instagram, will have to do a great deal more to take scams seriously and keep people safe. If firms fail to keep people safe, Ofcom will be able to give huge fines of up to multi-billions of pounds for the largest companies, or even block sites. We are carefully considering the recommendations of the Joint Committee on the draft Online Safety Bill at the moment and will incorporate them where we feel that the Bill can be strengthened further. I can assure my hon. Friend that work is under way.

Business of the House

Debate between David Johnston and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 16th December 2021

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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First, I congratulate the right hon. Lady on her election yesterday as Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, which shows how widely respected she is on all sides of the House.

I agree with the right hon. Lady about the importance of local high streets, and may I pay tribute to those at Steve’s Cycles and Macs Tools? I obviously do not know them individually, but I know what she means because, across our constituencies and across our high streets, we all have businesses like those that are doing their extra bit for their communities, and they deserve thanks and praise. There was an urgent question earlier today about the support that is being made available. There are funds available to help high streets and to help regenerate high streets, which councils have been bidding for, so there is a great deal of activity in this area. However, if the right hon. Lady wants an Adjournment debate on the specifics of her own high street, I suggest she refer that to Mr Speaker.

David Johnston Portrait David Johnston (Wantage) (Con)
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Merry Christmas to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to all the staff here.

Friends of mine in business are saying that the ability of the Information Commissioner to levy large fines is having some unintended consequences, in that cyber-gangs are stealing businesses’ data and threatening to publish it if a ransom is not paid. That ransom is almost always less than the potential fine they might get from the Information Commissioner, so to save both money and embarrassment, they are quietly paying it. I appreciate that there is no easy answer, because data breaches are serious, but can we have a debate on the regulation in this area, because none of us wants to see more money going to criminal gangs?

Business of the House

Debate between David Johnston and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 25th November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The reality is that what matters is what we do domestically. It is much more important that we get on with the work I have already set out to the shadow Leader of the House. Under the violence against women and girls strategy, £100 million has been spent on tackling this since 2016. There is a national police lead, the £30 million safer streets fund and the communications campaign to target the perpetrators and to get the message across that violence against women and girls is wrong, full stop. What we do domestically has an effect. Just signing up to things internationally may sound very nice, but it does not necessarily help people here in the United Kingdom.

David Johnston Portrait David Johnston (Wantage) (Con)
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My constituency has been subjected to one of the highest rates of house building in the country. One problem that has brought with it is so-called “management companies” charging higher fees. Sometimes they are doing nothing for those fees. Sometimes they are increasing them—sometimes doubling them—year after year, with no justification for what they are doing for this money. May we have a debate on the role of these management companies, because our constituents are being subjected to some truly bad practices?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I visited my hon. Friend’s constituency recently and noticed that there had indeed been a considerable amount of building going on there. The Government are bringing forward a programme to reform and end unfair practices in the leasehold market. I announced that on Monday we will have the Second Reading of the Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill; there was a particular problem there, with ground rents doubling quite rapidly and affecting people who had bought newly built properties. Other things have been done, with regard to 990-year leases, removing the retirement sector exemption from zero ground rent measures, and commonhold. However, it is obviously important that consumers are protected from abuse and poor service, and are treated fairly, and I am grateful to him for campaigning on this issue.

Business of the House

Debate between David Johnston and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 22nd July 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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Yes, I agree with the hon. Gentleman that Mr Speaker has been the pilot who weathered the storm, and we should raise a toast to him in that capacity. I am delighted to see that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) has started his holiday early, and clearly seems to be enjoying it already from his fastness in Perthshire. I thought he might be in mourning today, because it is of course the anniversary of the battle of Falkirk in 1298, which was not one of the most glorious events in Scottish history. The victory of Edward I on that occasion is one of which we are all aware.

On the hon. Gentleman’s points on this House, let me say that this House works better when people are here; we do a better job of representing our constituents and of holding Ministers to account. Speaking as a Minister from the Dispatch Box, I can honestly say that remote participation is a doddle. It is so much easier than having that immediacy and spontaneity that we get from someone in the Chamber coming up and aiming to catch us out. Having the call lists makes life much easier for Ministers. We are here—I say this as a Minister, from the Dispatch Box—to make Ministers’ lives testing, so that we hold them to account to seek redress of grievance for our constituents, and to check that Government policy is as well thought through as it should be. That leads to better government, because policy is then better thought through, better known and better argued for. We have a duty to be back for the good of democracy. I am sorry to tease the hon. Gentleman for going on holiday a day early, but actually that is the effect of virtual participation.

David Johnston Portrait David Johnston (Wantage) (Con)
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Cash is used by many people to buy essentials, and constituents of mine such as Joseph from Drayton are very concerned that with the expectation now that people will pay with contactless cards, both their access to cash and their ability to pay with it will be restricted. My right hon. Friend will have seen the Telegraph Money “Keep Cash” campaign, which I warmly welcome. May we have a statement from the Government that makes it clear that people who want to be able to access and use cash will always be able to do so?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I thank my hon. Friend, whose constituency I much enjoyed visiting last week. He has a fine and beautiful constituency, with some of the greatest technological innovation in the country going on in it. I am also grateful for his question and for his support for the campaign by Telegraph Money. I reiterate what I said last week to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight): the Government indeed recognise that access to cash remains important to millions across the UK, and we are committed to legislating to protect access to cash and ensuring that the UK’s cash infrastructure is sustainable in the longer term. So there is a one-word answer to give my hon. Friend: yes.

Business of the House

Debate between David Johnston and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 8th July 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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My hon. Friend makes a really important point about the need to involve residents in the creation of local development plans. I assure him that that principle is at the heart of what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government is achieving. The national policy is clear:

“The planning system should be genuinely plan-led. Succinct and up-to-date plans should provide a positive vision for the future of each area”.

The planning Bill will create a simpler, faster and more modern planning system, ensuring that homes and infrastructure can be delivered more quickly across England.

I would say that not updating a plan since 1997 seems to me an example of bureaucratic treacle—and the treacle should be baked away.

David Johnston Portrait David Johnston (Wantage) (Con)
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My right hon. Friend will be aware of the huge increase in scammers and fraudsters targeting our constituents. Our constituents are advised by the police to contact Action Fraud; Action Fraud cannot investigate, so it goes back to the police anyway. The end result is too often that constituents do not hear any more. I appreciate that there is a volume problem, but can we have a debate about how we can better protect our constituents from these fraudsters?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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This is an issue that every Member of this House will be concerned about and that will have been raised in all our constituency surgeries. Reports submitted to Action Fraud are considered by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau and evaluated to assess the information available that could assist an investigation. Data matching allows reports from different parts of the country to be linked through analysis. The hope is that that can lead to trends being identified and to action being taken to address these threats. However, I agree that more needs to be done; one often finds that constituents’ cases are not investigated in the way that they would like.

Business of the House

Debate between David Johnston and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 24th June 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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It is a pity that the hon. Gentleman has just missed Transport questions, where he might have got a more comprehensive answer from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. [Interruption.] He was there, so he could have asked the Secretary of State.

Obviously it is important that we have the right training in place and that we have efficiency in driving tests. There is a backlog with driving tests for all motorists, and it is important that that is made up as soon as is practical.

David Johnston Portrait David Johnston (Wantage) (Con)
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When my constituent Bas Breeze visited the National Memorial Arboretum, he was very disappointed that among the many monuments there was none to the territorial soldier. He rightly makes the point that these volunteers have made a huge contribution to the British Army’s efforts, particularly in the world wars. Will my right hon. Friend please secure a statement on whether that might be rectified so that their contribution can be recognised?

Business of the House

Debate between David Johnston and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 27th May 2021

(2 years, 12 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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David Johnston Portrait David Johnston (Wantage) (Con)
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Last week was, of course, Dementia Action Week, and when I met with the Alzheimer’s Society, it presented several worrying statistics, one of which showed the rise in the use of anti-psychotic drugs. Based on the stats in Oxfordshire, fewer than one in five of the people who had been prescribed anti-psychotic drugs actually had a diagnosis of psychosis. Will the Leader of the House please get a statement from the Department for Health and Social Care about what lies behind that rise in the use of anti-psychotic drugs in people who do not actually have psychosis?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that deeply concerning issue. NHS England and NHS Improvement continue to monitor the monthly data published by NHS Digital on the prescribing of anti-psychotic medication for people diagnosed with dementia. However, the issue he raises needs a fuller answer, and I will take it up with the Department on his behalf.

Business of the House

Debate between David Johnston and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 15th April 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I note that of the tests carried out in Wales, 64% have been provided by Her Majesty’s Government. Had we left it to the Welsh Government and the public sector in Wales, only 36% of tests would have been carried out. I think that shows the effectiveness of Her Majesty’s Government—the United Kingdom Government—at getting things done. What the hon. Gentleman is proposing is that things do not get done. I, for one, am in favour of action, not of dither and delay.

David Johnston Portrait David Johnston (Wantage) (Con)
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Despite the hard work of postmen and women, my constituents have had months of problems with Royal Mail deliveries, their letters, cards, magazines and appointments arriving late or not at all. Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate about how Royal Mail should give the service that our constituents deserve and are paying for?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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Yes. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this issue, which has been raised with me before. I passed on the comments to the Royal Mail and had a full response from the Royal Mail sent to the Member who raised the issue previously.

It is worth pointing out that the Government are not involved in the day-to-day operations of the company and do not play a role in handling or resolving complaints regarding Royal Mail. However, the Royal Mail has contingency plans to mitigate disruption to postal services, which are overseen by Ofcom. Ofcom has recognised that the covid-19 pandemic is an emergency under its regulatory framework. It continues to monitor Royal Mail’s performance carefully. I will pass on my hon. Friend’s comments, in the hope that I receive as good a reply on his behalf as I received last time.

Business of the House

Debate between David Johnston and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 28th January 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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It is always a delight to debate the virtues of the Acts of Union and what they did to create such a strong United Kingdom, to the benefit of everybody throughout the whole United Kingdom. I remind the hon. Gentleman of the £8.6 billion that the United Kingdom taxpayer has provided to help Scotland.

The Turing scheme will be backed by £100 million and will look at a broader horizon, rather than a narrow European horizon—we will turn our eyes to the whole of the world and it will provide UK students with the opportunity to study all over the world. It will potentially help 35,000 students in universities, colleges and schools to go on study and work placements overseas, starting in September 2021. The continuation of Erasmus would have cost the taxpayer £2 billion and we would have got less out of it than we put in. That would not have been fair on our taxpayers.

David Johnston Portrait David Johnston (Wantage) (Con) [V]
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The eviction ban has been a positive policy overall, but my constituent Andy has experienced the negative side of it. His tenants have used it as an excuse not to pay their rent, even though they have remained in full-time employment and have even abused him for requesting it. They are now in serious arrears and, as it is his main income, he is seriously out of pocket. May we have a debate on supporting our constituents in respect of the unintended consequences of policies designed to support people, not to allow others to take advantage of them?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The Government continue, in all our guidance and communications, to urge tenants to pay their rent wherever possible and to speak to their landlord at the earliest opportunity if they have any difficulties in doing so. We have put in place a significant financial package to help tenants to pay their rent, including through support for businesses to pay salaries and the boosting of the welfare safety net. Our package of measures strikes a fair balance. Landlords can now action possession claims through the courts, although currently bailiffs cannot enforce evictions. There are exemptions for the most serious cases, such as antisocial behaviour and arrears equivalent to six months’ rent. It is important to strike a balance between the interests of tenants and of landlords, many of whom, as with my hon. Friend’s constituent, own only one property and are dependent on the income from it.

Business of the House

Debate between David Johnston and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 5th November 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The hon. Gentleman makes such an important point when he says that education is of the greatest importance to those from the most deprived backgrounds. That is why it is so fundamental that schools remain open. The figures on transmission by children seem to be extraordinarily good. There was a report in the newspaper only yesterday. I am not in a position to promise him constituency-level data—I do not know that they exist—but I will certainly look into that, because it is important to reassure parents that is not only important for their children to go to school, but safe, and I am very grateful to him for his question.

David Johnston Portrait David Johnston (Wantage) (Con)
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In recent months, I have had a number of constituents contact me because they have been waiting significant periods of time for responses from agencies such as the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and in particular the probate office. Those delays are attributed to covid, and we understand the challenges that provides, but emails and calls are going unanswered for weeks and months, and that is very distressing for my constituents. Can we have a debate on how those agencies can maintain an acceptable standard of service in this time?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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Yes. It is of fundamental importance that our constituents can access the Government services they need, particularly during a pandemic. Government agencies, as I mentioned earlier, are covered by the “work from home if possible” instruction and ought to be continuing with their routine work. If they cannot do it from home, they ought to be going into work to do it. There are some areas where that is not possible because of social distancing—for example, driving tests are problematic—but the service delivery by Government agencies ought to be continuing in most cases. I cannot promise him a debate in Government time, but he has raised the issue and if there are any specific agencies he wants me to follow up with, I will be more than happy to do so.

Business of the House

Debate between David Johnston and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 22nd October 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The right hon. Lady kindly translated not only for the benefit of Hansard but for me. I believe the Prime Minister has also congratulated the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

I absolutely align myself with the right hon. Lady’s remarks on the anniversary of Aberfan. I am sure it will be remembered. It was a great tragedy, and it was acted on, with most coal tips removed for safety reasons. I also very much join her in sending best wishes to the hon. Members for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) and for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi). The hon. Lady is an assiduous campaigner, and the work she has done on Primodos is of fundamental importance. I supported her strongly from the Back Benches, and I hope that she will soon be back to resume her effective campaigning and holding Government to account.

On the union learning fund—£1.4 billion on £12 million? That sounds a little bit exaggerated. One can always find experts to come up with some figures if they are asked. With that sort of return, they ought to be in my former profession of investment management rather than in a union learning fund.

As regards the Manchester issue, the Government have provided £60 million of taxpayers’ money, not £22 million. In Lancashire, Liverpool and South Yorkshire, agreement was reached with the Mayors, whereas in Manchester we had this ridiculous fandango with the Mayor pretending he did not know when he had been told by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government hours earlier. It was as if he was trying to go on the stage. It was the most ridiculous prancing performance that one could imagine when he should have been seriously trying to help the people of Manchester, which is what Her Majesty’s Government were doing. I am afraid he was playing party politics of the cheapest and most disagreeable kind, whereas people such as the Mayor of the Liverpool city region, who was clear in his political opinions when he was in this House, were able to work with the Government and put aside party political differences. He has shown himself to be a model of how to behave.

As regards Test and Trace in care homes, 120,000 test kits are made available to care homes on a daily basis, so the Government are doing everything they can to ensure testing in care homes. Of course, it is expensive to set up a system from scratch—that is not something people should be surprised about—but the system is now testing up to 300,000 people a day from zero earlier in the year, because nobody knew that Test and Trace would be needed. One should recognise that significant achievements have been made. Of course, I accept that it is expensive.

I will, once again, take up the issue of Nazanin, Anousheh and Luke Symons with the Foreign Secretary. I do so every week on the right hon. Lady’s behalf. She is right to carry on raising it. The Government are doing what they can, but obviously there are limits to what the Government can do when dealing with foreign regimes that are undemocratic.

As regards remote voting—we have discussed this on a number of occasions—it is important that MPs are here. MPs have a right to be here. They are essential workers, and all the advice that the Government have given, whether it be in tier 1, 2 or 3, states that people who have essential work to do must carry on doing it. We are in that category. We expect people to teach schoolchildren, and we expect other people in other categories to go to work, so we should do the same. We have, as yet, received no formal response from PHE on Divisions, but they seem to me to be working well and efficiently. We are getting through them in about 15 minutes, which is in line with the time that a Division takes ordinarily. The system is one that I think you came up with, Mr Speaker, and it is working extremely well.

David Johnston Portrait David Johnston (Wantage) (Con)
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In recent months, a number of constituents have written to me about completing processes online, and how it is assumed that they have a mobile phone that can receive a code, a smartphone on which they can download an app or, indeed, a good enough internet connection that will hold through multiple stages of a process. Given that more and more processes are going that way, may we have a debate about how we can ensure that our constituents are not indirectly excluded from being able to perform everyday tasks?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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My hon. Friend raises a really important point, and I am sure that many Members across the House understand the challenges facing some of our constituents in today’s digital age, especially in the covid-19 era, which is replete with essential smartphone apps and fast-moving data. I assure him that the Government are driving forward access to the digital world, with £5 billion of spending to ensure that the whole UK benefits from world-class broadband infrastructure. Mobile coverage is improving, and 91% of the UK is covered by a 4G signal from at least one operator. Although 91% sounds quite good, I must confess that when I am at home in Somerset and I have no mobile signal, 91% is not good enough, so it needs to get better. As we become more digital, this becomes more pressing.

Business of the House

Debate between David Johnston and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 9th July 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I am glad to say that the Barnett consequentials so far are £4.6 billion, so there is a substantial amount of money, thanks to the strength of the United Kingdom, going to the Scottish Government. The Barnett consequentials relate to a well-established formula. The former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Joel Barnett, a very distinguished Labour figure, established the formula, I think in the prime ministership of Harold Wilson—it was either Harold Wilson or Jim Callaghan—and it has been the way in which money has been distributed ever since. That money flows, and that is the important thing.

David Johnston Portrait David Johnston (Wantage) (Con)
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Last month at Great Western Park and in the Ladygrove area of my constituency, we had unauthorised Traveller encampments descend. Local residents were subjected to noise, mess, vandalism and other antisocial behaviour for close to a week. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government are developing proposals to actively tackle that, so that our constituents do not have to deal with it for so long, and that those proposals will be brought to this House as soon as possible?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question and commend him for the work he is doing to champion the concerns of the people of Wantage, which is the birthplace, of course, of Alfred the Great. Although the majority of Travellers obey the law, we recognise that unauthorised encampments can cause significant distress to local residents with antisocial or criminal behaviour. The Government consulted on measures to enable the police to tackle unauthorised encampments more effectively and will publish a response to the consultation in due course. As the then Housing Minister, now the Foreign Secretary, said when launching the consultation:

“We must promote a tolerant society and make sure there are legal sites available for Travellers, but equally the rule of law must be applied to everyone.”

Business of the House

Debate between David Johnston and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Thursday 13th February 2020

(4 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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That is an important point. There will be questions to Housing, Communities and Local Government Ministers on our first day back on 24 February. People should not be subject to unfair and unexpected fees; the fees should be set out clearly. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will raise this on the 24th.

David Johnston Portrait David Johnston (Wantage) (Con)
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Grove station in my constituency was one of those closed in the Beeching cuts, and for over 40 years now my constituents have campaigned to have it reopened because it would connect them better, get people off congested and often unsafe roads and support our efforts to tackle climate change. May we have a debate on the importance of reopening stations such as Grove to our local economy, community and environment?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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May I congratulate my hon. Friend on the campaign that he is waging on behalf of his constituents? I believe that his constituency is the birthplace of King Alfred, and he is dealing with this in a way that King Alfred would, I think, be proud of. The Government agree with the value of reopening stations and lines closed following the Beeching report and will spend £500 million to start reconnecting smaller towns. The Government will listen carefully to proposals, prioritising projects of the greatest potential, viability and economic benefit. As we assess and develop schemes, there is an ambition to expand the funding available. I therefore encourage my hon. Friend to keep making his case, and avoid burning cakes.