Business of the House

Deidre Brock Excerpts
Thursday 16th May 2024

(6 days, 19 hours ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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First, I will take up the Leader of the House on last week’s offer of a deeper briefing with a Minister on what she described as

“some minor issues to resolve”—[Official Report, 9 May 2024; Vol. 749, c. 696.]

in the border operating model. If, as she told me last week, she is paying “great attention” to what is going on and still did not see huge lorries as they wait 20 hours at border posts, perhaps she should take a trip to Barnard Castle. I would like to take the chief executive officer of the Cold Chain Federation, whose members certainly do not agree with her that there are no fundamental issues to sort out, with me to that briefing to deliver a dose of reality.

May we have a debate in Government time on the careful use of words in politics? The Prime Minister has refused to apologise for his offensive outburst on Monday when he quite deliberately associated the Scottish Government with Hamas terrorists, North Korea and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The good folk of Edinburgh North and Leith have elected a dangerous extremist—who knew?—along with the vast majority of MPs from Scotland who also want independence. All along, we thought that we were democratically elected Members of this House, just like the Leader of the House.

Madam Deputy Speaker, you might think that the Conservatives of Brexit Britain would respect a nation’s right to self-determination as a perfectly honourable political position. Is it just Scotland’s that they do not respect? We will always defend our nation’s best interests. Maybe that is what terrifies the PM and the likes of the Scotland Secretary, who wants to force ruinously expensive, untried nuclear reactors on renewables-rich Scotland. Now, he is frightening our bairns with threats of a Unionist regime and Scottish Labour back in power to push through our overlords’ cunning plans—what a Better Together reunion that would be. Would the Leader of the House remind me what happened to that respect agenda?

It would almost be funny if it were not coming from this particular Government: an unknown number of prisoners let loose around England, the Home Office losing thousands of migrants under its watch, and an English courts and justice system on the verge of collapse. But what is on the Prime Minister’s new hate list? What keeps Tories awake at night with fear? People like me, apparently. How laughable. Could the Leader of the House confirm whether she believes that the Prime Minister was right to associate Scottish democrats with Hamas terrorists and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, or will she take the opportunity to distance herself from this laughably desperate baloney?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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Let me first reassure the hon. Lady that, first, there is nothing wrong with my eyesight and, secondly, she does not keep me awake at night. Could I draw her attention to the news this week that the eurozone economy is growing half as fast as Britain? Let me repeat that: the eurozone economy is growing half as fast as Britain. The SNP’s time would be better spent not trying to re-fight past referendums of all types but focusing on the issues today, such as the housing emergency that has just been declared in Scotland due to its rent control policy.

The hon. Lady raised the very serious matter of the Prime Minister’s language. I understand that, thanks to the Scottish Government, people can now fill in a hate report form. If she has any concerns, she can just fill in a report and pile more work on to her hard-pushed police officers.

On the plans to put a nuclear power station in Scotland, it is sensible to plan for a Unionist party to be in government in Scotland. Given the timescales involved in nuclear construction, that is a sensible and pragmatic thing to do. It is clear to everyone, except the SNP, that the party is in its final death throes. I predict that at the tragic finale, when the SNP finally completely implodes and meets its end, there will still be no ferry to carry its members across the Styx.

Risk-based Exclusion

Deidre Brock Excerpts
Monday 13th May 2024

(1 week, 2 days ago)

Commons Chamber
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Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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When the House initially debated the Commission’s proposals last summer, I challenged Members who like to refer to this place as the “mother of all parliaments” to make good on that epithet by ensuring that we lead by example and establish best practice. I repeat that call today. These reforms are, first and foremost, about taking real and tangible steps to protect and support staff and, indeed, other Members through mitigation measures.

In the development of the proposals, as the Leader of the House pointed out, there has been widespread discussion and consultation with a number of organisations and individuals—I pay tribute to all those who have contributed, particularly the House of Commons staff who have worked so carefully and so diligently on the proposals over many months.

My feeling is that this has dragged on for so long, completely inappropriately. At their heart, the reforms are about protecting staff and the wider parliamentary community from harassment and abuse. They have been long called for and very significantly delayed. The motion in January struck the appropriate balance between the rights of staff and the parliamentary community to protection from harm, the right to due process for the individual implicated, and the rights of that individual’s constituents to democratic representation. It seems now though that the balance has been shifted away from the protection of staff by the Government, raising the point at which a risk assessment takes place from arrest to charge.

It is clear that there are a range of views on the correct threshold to begin that risk assessment process. However, leaving to one side for a moment that specific trigger point, it is important to stress that the main responsibility of the panel would be to consider the nature and severity of the alleged misconduct, whether there is a safeguarding concern and to determine the presence of a possible risk factor.

Turning to the contribution of the right hon. Member for Staffordshire Moorlands (Dame Karen Bradley), Chair of the House of Commons Procedure Committee, Parliament’s authority, as I understand it—this is something that we have discussed in the House of Commons Commission a lot—does not stretch to constituency offices. All the members of the Commission are aware that that is something that we were not able to take into account. The latest review of the ICGS process, which was revealed this morning, has some really excellent recommendations that will have some effect in tightening it up.

It is worth noting that a number of mitigations will be open to the panel on a case-by-case basis. These might include, for example, preventing one-to-one contact with the Member, preventing Members from accessing bars on the estate, complete exclusion from the parliamentary estate, or indeed taking no action. The panel would also be informed of any existing voluntary arrangement between the Member and their Whip to stay away from the estate.

Crucially, those undertaking that risk assessment process would not, I believe, take any action that could compromise a police investigation or undermine any prosecution. The panel would not be given the name of the Member being risk-assessed. At no point would it be made public that information had been shared by the police about a Member, that a risk assessment had been undertaken, or that a Member had been excluded.

Ben Spencer Portrait Dr Ben Spencer (Runnymede and Weybridge) (Con)
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For me, a lot of this spins on the formation and the training of the panel. One amendment to the motion said that it is anticipated that an MP and probably two Deputy Speakers would form the panel. What training would they need to be able to navigate such complex legal sensitivities? Does the hon. Lady have concerns, as I do, about the role of the Speaker as an Office in this process? In particular, what would happen if the Speaker were a victim in a case, or indeed if the Speaker or the Deputy Speakers were charged? How would the Speaker recuse himself or herself from conflict of interest in that situation?

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock
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The motion mentions

“the assistance of the Counsel to the Speaker, the Director of Parliamentary Security and such other members of the House administration as it thinks fit.”

I believe that would be the case regardless of what we agree on today. As for the Speaker being involved, I am sure that the Chair of Ways and Means as well as the Deputy Chair of Ways and Means have been suggested as possible members of that committee. An amendment has been tabled on whether that member might be a Cabinet or shadow Cabinet member. That does not concern me. We should all believe that all our Members are fit to serve on such a committee and be prepared to do so.

Let me return now to the proxy voting record, which would not state the reason for a proxy being granted. Information would be shared with the minimum number of officials required to implement an exclusion, under a strict commitment to confidentially.

With those essential protections, the SNP believes the motion should be brought back in line with the January version, which would more closely implement the Commission’s proposals. We will therefore be supporting the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for North East Fife (Wendy Chamberlain). Again, we must not lose sight of the fact that these proposals are about protecting staff or fellow MPs. To raise that threshold further severely limits the ability of these proposals to succeed in doing so.

The length of time that this has taken frankly shames us all. Westminster is often accused of being an institution stuck in its ways and unable or unwilling to change. Please let us ensure that is not the case today.

Business of the House

Deidre Brock Excerpts
Thursday 9th May 2024

(1 week, 6 days ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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First, may I say on behalf of my party and in the spirit of congenial politics, led by our new First Minister and all our independence-minded Ministers, how delighted I am to see the Leader of the House still in her place after her party’s catastrophic results in England? They were not catastrophic enough to mobilise her PM for PM rebels, apparently. With her weekly ill-informed comments about Scotland, she is an extraordinary recruiting sergeant for independence and I am sure she will not disappoint today.

May I warmly welcome the launch by the Leader of the House this week of the guide to recognising conspiracy theories, such as those around 5G masts and 15-minute cities? It will be useful reading for some of the Members on her own Benches, and perhaps those on Labour’s increasingly busy right wing.

Given the Leader of the House’s personal interest, and what is supposed to be a central role of this House in protecting democracy and protecting us, will she be pressing for a wider debate on disinformation and the malign influence of secretive social media groups that perpetuate these damaging myths? I am thinking, for example, of the 36 so-called grassroots Facebook groups that I raised with the Prime Minister last week. They are forums full of vile racism, conspiracy theories and Islamophobic abuse of Sadiq Khan, all with links to Conservative party HQ staff, activists and even politicians. There is reason to suspect similar groups are quietly spreading their poison across the UK, including in Scotland. Does the Leader of the House agree that this needs to be investigated and brought to light, not laughed off as the Prime Minister did?

Last week, I asked the Leader of the House about the chaos of the Tory trade tax—the border checks that Brexit now requires—or, as former Tory Ministers have called it, “that act of self-harm on the UK”.

She swerved that with a boast about Brexit boosting UK financial services. Brexit is doing its damage to Edinburgh’s trade and talent in that sector, too, but services is a sector not affected by the serious issues that I raised of rotting food, crippling import charges, biosecurity risks, and delays and chaos at the ports. The Leader of the House and the shadow Leader of the House might be content to ignore the exporters and importers, the farmers and the fishers, whose businesses have suffered while she pretends that all is well on the Brexit front, but my party and I are not. So I ask again: when can we put the record straight—after last week’s twaddle—and have a debate in Government time on the ruinous impact of Brexit all across the economy?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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First, may I rejoice at the news that the Scottish Government no longer have a Minister for Independence? I was waiting this morning, Mr Speaker, to discover why that would be my fault, but the hon. Lady did not raise it. I wish to place on record my thanks to the former First Minister for his service. I know that there are many who would kick a man when he is down, but I am not one of them; he has done his best. Some say that he has been the worst SNP leader of all time. I say, no. Not only has he managed not to be arrested, but other SNP leaders make his record look pretty stellar —the new First Minister, for example. I also welcome him to his post.

In all seriousness, I welcome the hon. Lady’s support for the education pamphlet on conspiracy theories. That is very important, as such theories are a real threat not just to democracy, but to the wellbeing of our constituents. They are a form of radicalisation, they are spreading and we must do everything we can to combat them.

The hon. Lady returns to the issue of the border operating model. As she would expect, I have paid great attention to what is actually going on. There remains little sign of disruption to border flows as a result of the changes, and volumes of trade appear to be at the levels expected. The IT systems are working as they should, and although, as I said last week, there have been some minor issues to resolve, there is nothing fundamental. I would be very happy to facilitate a deeper briefing for her or any of her colleagues on that matter if it would be of interest.

Our exports are now at record levels. We have become, as I have said, the fourth largest exporter overall, and we are the largest net exporter of financial and insurance services in the world. I am sorry that the hon. Lady still does not seem to recognise the importance of that to her own constituency. I think that is something to celebrate, so I ask her to focus on the realities of what is going on and the opportunities that sit there for her constituents.

Business of the House

Deidre Brock Excerpts
Thursday 2nd May 2024

(2 weeks, 6 days ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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Just when we think the Government can stoop no lower, they release a sickening detention video, using real-life trauma to show their voters how tough they are. Who instructed the civil service to produce such a piece? Can we have an apology from the Home Office for its appalling misjudgment in electioneering with this footage, and a debate on whether the concept of electoral purdah still exists? If it does, who the heck regulates it?

Meanwhile, the disastrously handled Brexit border checks are causing further chaos, as predicted. The Leader of the House may have seen the reports from the Sevington inland border facility about lorries with perishable goods, the prospect of rotting food and flowers being binned, compromised biosecurity and, of course, crashed IT systems. We have confusion, delay and additional crippling costs—otherwise known as Brexit. I was in the House yesterday for the statement that the Business and Trade Secretary hurriedly brought out, and she seemed to brush aside these failures to prepare as mere supply chain issues, preferring to brag about Brexit. The thing is, her figures rely on a growth in service exports—City pals are doing very well.

Meanwhile, the British Chambers of Commerce, which knows a thing or two about the issue, describes the much-warned-of mess at Sevington as

“the straw that breaks the camel’s back”

for many UK businesses. This is terribly serious for our small and medium-sized enterprises, particularly our farmers and fishers. Do the Government care? For the third time, I ask the Leader of the House for an urgent debate specifically on the Tory trade tax so that someone can be held responsible to the House for this cack-handed mess. Will she take it up?

It seems that business questions have become nothing more than a venue for parading opinions. As Madam Deputy Speaker had to remind the Leader of the House and the shadow Leader of the House last week, business questions are about the business of this House, so can we leave the scripted opinions on Scotland and her Government to one side for once and have a debate, in Government time, on the unbelievable mess at Sevington and its impact on the wider supply chain? Or will she, too, just ignore this crisis of her own Government’s making, raise a laugh for her nervous Back Benchers and opine on Scotland instead—a country about which she knows little and cares less?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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The first issue that the hon. Lady raises is a matter of taste about videos that I understand the Home Office has produced, which show, I assume for the reassurance of the British public, that those who do not have the right to remain in the UK will be deported. There are images of people being put into the back of police vehicles. Scotland has produced quite a few similar videos—although the people being put into the back of police cars have been members of the SNP. I will certainly ensure that the Home Secretary has heard the hon. Lady’s concerns, and that they are taken into account.

The hon. Lady asserts various things about the border operating model. Many of the things that she points to are not true. The system has not gone down, and she is incorrect about the other issues that her party has been reporting. Some customers are having issues, but they are being resolved. I really hope that the SNP will one day acknowledge the hard work of Scotland’s business community, including businesses that are providing services and exporting them around the world.

We are the largest net exporter of financial and insurance services, and many of those businesses are in the hon. Lady’s constituency and the surrounding area. Edinburgh is the second largest financial centre in Europe, behind only the City of London, which is something to be immensely proud of. The work that we are doing not just on trade deals, but on our memorandums of understanding—for example, with the United States at state level—means that it is easier for an accountant in her constituency to work on a project in the United States than it is for an accountant in the state next door. That is something to be celebrated, and has led to our being the fourth largest exporter overall. I hope that the hon. Lady might reflect on that and consider it in her exchange with me next week.

Business of the House

Deidre Brock Excerpts
Thursday 25th April 2024

(3 weeks, 6 days ago)

Commons Chamber
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Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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I call Scottish National party spokesman.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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I associate myself with the comments about the dreadful news from Wales, and of course those about Frank Field.

I make no apology for starting this week where I finished last week. The Leader of the House may recall that I asked for a debate on the new Brexit border controls due to come into effect next week. Answer came there none, but things became clear later on, as the Financial Times reported within hours of my question:

“The UK Government has told the country’s port authorities that it will not ‘turn on’ critical health and safety checks for EU imports…because of the risk of ‘significant disruption’… the new border systems will not be fully ready.”

It is being called a phased implementation approach—very “Yes Minister” speak from some hapless civil servant trying to excuse the sixth such delay. More delay, more confusion for business, but no statement from the Minister.

Scotland’s importers, exporters, agricultural and hospitality sectors and businesses large and small are all at their wits’ end because the Tories insist on imposing their Brexit folly on us. Brexit is estimated to be costing salmon producers—the largest food exporters in the UK—up to £100 million a year. Tourism in the highlands and islands has been devastated, with staff shortages affecting 45% of businesses to date. Brexit was named as the main difficulty for 44% of businesses in Scotland trading overseas.

Before the latest delays were announced, the chair of the Chilled Food Association, which represents 30 trade and professional organisations, said that every time there is a proposal from the UK Government, people invest in paperwork and computer systems and then the Government change the rules again. Since 2021, £200 million will have been spent on just one export health certificate. A recent report found that the UK economy had shrunk by £140 billion, with the average citizen around £2,000 worse off—thanks to good old Brexit that Scotland did not vote for.

Yet this place shuts its eyes to the devastating impact that Brexit has had on people’s lives and businesses. Scots are accustomed to being ignored, overruled and treated with disdain by this Government, but being dragged out of the EU against our will has been an economic and social disaster for us. No party can claim to be the party of business and back Brexit, so I urge the Leader of the House to overcome the vow of silence—an omertà between the Tory and Labour parties—and tell us when we can have an urgent debate on the effect of Brexit, starting with this disastrous delayed Tory trade tax.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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Despite what the hon. Lady says, we have now become the fourth largest exporter in the world. I will not annoy the hon. Lady by listing how well the nation is doing on trade, fishing and many of the things that we wanted to see improved to give people new opportunities, because I know it would irritate her. It is no surprise to me that SNP Members do not want to face realities: they do not want to engage with the trader support service that is supporting business very well or with the fact that we are creating an interface directly between the IT systems in businesses and the legacy Government systems such as His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs so that we reduce bureaucracy for those traders and support them in meeting their ambitions. It is no surprise that SNP Members do not want to deal with the reality of the situation given the reality of the situation now for the SNP, a minority Administration with their failings and some very serious issues that we all know are now subject to prosecution as well as investigation. Not even the Greens want anything to do with them.

Business of the House

Deidre Brock Excerpts
Thursday 18th April 2024

(1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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May I associate myself with the remarks about Passover and about Mr Speaker’s late father, and send my sincerest condolences to him and his family?

Since we last met for business questions, the Leader of the House has been keeping busy, and I thought that one of her social media posts on X during the recess was particularly eye-catching. Indeed, it was unique because it asked her constituents to contact her directly, so outraged was she by a burning injustice. It started:

“Damn right. I know many people will have strong feelings on this…email me…and I will make sure your concerns”

are heard. Those are such strong feelings that you may wonder, Madam Deputy Speaker, what caused that righteous anger, which was not just from the Leader of the House but from Members across the Chamber.

Was it children getting sick swimming through human faeces in the rivers of England, or perhaps the endless strikes in the NHS in England? Was it arms sales to Israel, or an economic crisis that was triggered by a former Prime Minister, now saviour of the west? Was it the cruel, immoral, illegal and ruinously expensive Rwanda scheme? Perhaps the angry post was just a response to the Leader of the House’s constituents in Portsmouth, who are now furious—rightly enough—about the likely demolition of the brand new border control post in Portsmouth, which is among a herd of such white elephants around the UK, and a direct result of the right hon. Lady’s ongoing Brexit confusion that will cost a fortune. No—that was not what prompted the outburst. The Leader of the House and many of her colleagues were furious about England’s new football top—“damn right” they were.

So, no, the farce of the doomed border post on the right hon. Lady’s doorstep has not figured in the busy social media output we see from her. Her Government’s disastrous Brexit import charges are none the less coming in on 30 April, causing even more costly confusion and raising very real concerns about food shortages, as well as her own local difficulties. May I ask the Leader of the House for an urgent debate on these new Brexit charges and the ongoing catastrophe of Brexit, which Scots rejected, yet are forced to suffer the ill effects of? Her constituents will be interested to hear an answer—ideally before she wastes more time launching into another anti-Scotland video script.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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First, I should thank the hon. Lady for her concern about Portsmouth port, which is doing very well. We have a brand-new passenger terminal and an enormous number of new ship visits, which are projected to increase our local economy by £300 million over the next few years. That is in addition to massively increasing and diversifying the freight coming into that port. I hope she will welcome the news that the United Kingdom is exporting more and has just become the fourth-largest exporter in the world. We are doing very well.

I am always keen to facilitate my constituents who wish to make complaints to all sorts of organisations in their ability to do that. I just say to the hon. Lady that our nation’s flag is important to the people of Portsmouth. I suggest that she might like to think twice before she mocks that view. These things and these traditions are important. They are not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.

The hon. Lady has been busy, too, during the recess, penning articles about how much my colleagues and I hate Scotland and the Scottish people. She has done it again in her opening remarks and her questions to me. At some point, she will have to say why she thinks that is the case. I know that the Scottish rugby team has being doing well against England, but that is not grounds to justify her accusations against me. The SNP seems hellbent on exposing hate where there is none. I understand that of the 9,000 hate crimes reported under the SNP’s new law, with 3,419 made on 1 April alone, only nine will qualify under this new law, and seven of those nine have now been dismissed. Police Scotland deserves our thanks and our sympathy. I am sure that those police officers joined the force to do something much more helpful for their communities. It is only the Conservatives who have stood against this lunacy, and we will continue to do that. Other parties had the opportunity to repeal this law and chose not to. We on the Government Benches know that laws and movements based on hate and division always try to curtail freedom, and we know that in the end such movements always fail.

Business of the House

Deidre Brock Excerpts
Thursday 21st March 2024

(2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Scottish National party spokes- person.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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May I associate myself with the remarks about the new Welsh First Minister and pass on my best wishes to former First Minister Mark Drakeford?

Of course, we are grateful to the Leader of the House for making time in her hectic schedule to pop along to the House of Commons today; all that leadership plotting and scheming does not just happen by itself—she has been a busy bee. We can only pray that we are nearing the season finale of this endless Tory soap opera, but her leadership campaign has not stopped her coming here today so that she can ignore our questions in person. Every Thursday, she displays some essential qualities to be the next Tory Prime Minister. For a start, she regards questions as a bit of a nuisance, something to be avoided at all costs. They get in the way of her important work recording all those YouTube videos about Willy Wonka, escaped monkeys or whatever. If Members do not take my word for it, they can check Hansard.

The Leader of the House was right to say last week that I had not sent her through details of my many unanswered questions—there are just so many to compile. However, I am happy to offer a few reminders now. We have had no answer on whether Baroness Michelle Mone is a paid-up member of the Tory party, as she herself claims; we have had no answer on the startling increase in child poverty in England—the Leader of the House is far too busy to deal with those distractions; and we still have no idea how much taxpayers’ money was wasted on her Government’s initial “State of the Union” report to the UK Cabinet, which was written at the height of the pandemic and was still kept firmly under wraps until we got some insights at the covid inquiry. The report is still for strictly for Tory eyes only; even now, Scots are not allowed to know the costs or decisions taken to stifle our democracy.

But with the revelation that 80% of young Scots said that they want independence, it is no surprise that the Cabinet panicked and swung into fervent Union-Jackery action. So will the Leader of the House take a moment from her busy campaign diary to answer these questions— I make no apology for asking them again: how much taxpayers’ money was spent on that “State of the Union” paper? What was the strategy the Cabinet was asked to endorse? And when can we see the paper in full? Perhaps we could have a statement from the relevant Minister, if she does not have those answers to hand.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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Before I get to the specifics of what she raises, I have noticed a consistent hostility and unpleasantness in the hon. Lady’s questions to me. This has been going on for some time—weeks, in fact. I am getting the impression that the hon. Lady does not like me, perhaps even hates me; her followers on social media certainly do. There are patronising undertones in what she says. I believe she is saying that I am deficient in my abilities to answer her questions, perhaps because I am a woman. I feel very intimidated, upset and deeply, deeply hurt. As well as noting her questions, I have been sitting on the Front Bench filling in a hate-related report form, which my officials have kindly placed in my folder. I will have one ready for every single SNP colleague who gets to their feet. If I sent the form to the Scottish police they would be obliged to investigate, increasing the growing number of reasons why they are struggling to attend burglaries. I sincerely hope that the SNP’s new hate crime laws do not have a chilling effect on our exchanges.

I am not sure the hon. Lady has understood the purpose of business questions. The questions that she has asked should be directed to Departments, such as the Cabinet Office and the Department for Work and Pensions. She can ask these questions of me and I can write to those Departments for her, but she could also cut out the middleman and write to the Departments herself. I look forward to receiving her list of questions— I think it is now two months overdue. I will farm them out to the relevant Government Departments and ask them to respond to the hon. Lady.

Business of the House

Deidre Brock Excerpts
Thursday 14th March 2024

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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May I, too, wish everyone a happy Ramadan and pay my respects to the family of Tommy McAvoy?

Well, here we are again: trying to get the answers that the Leader of the House does not want to—and indeed never does—supply to our sticky, inconvenient questions. I will begin with the dream that dare not speak its name here: Brexit. The Resolution Foundation tells us that the UK’s goods exports and imports have contracted by far more than those of any other G7 country, largely due to Brexit. Things are now so dire in Brexitland that even news of a GDP uplift of just 0.2% is fallen upon by Brexiteers like starving pigeons on the crust of the stalest bread. The Conservative party aims to shrink suffering public services even further, as evidenced in last week’s Budget, so should there not be some discussion, or even a debate, about the huge uplift in civil service jobs that Brexit seems to have required since the EU referendum in 2016?

Despite all the glorious promises of strength and environmental protections in this freer, fairer and better-off Britian, we are seeing green policies abandoned right, left and centre by both the Tory and Labour parties. A hapless Minister even tried to tell us yesterday that building new gas-powered plants is good for the environment—a suggestion that seems to be supported by shadow Environment Ministers too. Once again, Labour presents one face down here and entirely another up in Scotland. Frustratingly, all the warning signs of Brexit impacts, across a huge range of sectors, come in bits and pieces. Surely what is needed is for the Government to collate all the impacts and present the results to the British people, so that they can properly judge whether Brexit has been a success. Can the Leader of the House help to facilitate that?

There was a little good news this week: hopefully, there will be some proper Government redress for victims of the shocking Post Office Horizon scandal, although there is still no comfort for the infected blood scandal victims. I met the International Consortium of British Pensioners recently, and I fear that another scandal is about to break in the form of frozen pensions. There are now so many scandals that it is hard to keep track. Something does not work in this place if so many can build up under successive Governments of different political hues.

Unfortunately, the Leader of the House’s party distinguished itself again this week by choosing money over morality in its grubby handling of the racist comments allegedly made about one of our colleagues in this House. At the very least, a debate to re-examine how parties are funded is called for.



The “Seven Up!” series was recently deemed to be the most influential television series of the last 50 years. Well, 14 years is well and truly up for this terrible Government, but apparently we cannot be put out of our Tory misery yet because their junior Members have debts and need the extra months to build up some reserves. Does the Leader of the House agree that that is not much of an excuse?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I welcome the hon. Lady’s welcome of the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill, which I hope her party will support. She knows that we will shortly bring forward measures to rectify the situation on infected blood. These scandals did not arise under this Administration, but we have gripped the issues. The infected blood issue had been left for decades, but we have investigated and set up inquiries and are compensating the victims. I hope the House will support us in doing so on both matters.

The hon. Lady insinuates that I dodge questions, but I do not. She said six weeks ago that she would write to me with a list of all the questions I have not answered, but she has not yet done so. The SNP never fails to disappoint.

The hon. Lady asks about sound administration and about money over morality, in a week in which it has been discovered that the Scottish Government have presided over a six-figure sum of Scottish taxpayers’ money being spent on an art installation that promises a

“magical, erotic journey through a distinctly Scottish landscape.”

That is known to the rest of us as a hardcore porn movie.

I am glad that the SNP is interested in good governance and improving administration, particularly with reference to Brexit. Let me see how I can help to improve the Scottish Government’s effectiveness in that regard. There has been criticism this week that the SNP is blowing taxpayers’ cash on copious embassies and lobbying to rejoin the EU. That camper van must be out of the police pound soon, so why not turn it into a mobile embassy that can drive between Brussels and European capitals to lobby for EU membership? If the SNP wants to continue funding innovative film projects, perhaps it could double up and ask Cliff Richard to come along and produce a sequel to “Summer Holiday”, which would have the added bonus of cutting down the SNP’s need to blow more taxpayers’ cash on overseas jollies. I am here to help.

Business of the House

Deidre Brock Excerpts
Thursday 29th February 2024

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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A lot has happened since the Leader of the House and I last faced each other, and I commend her for her intervention in last week’s events. She acted, as she said, to defend the rights of minority parties. That was the right thing to do, but what a dismal reflection on Westminster that the rights of minority party MPs in this place now need protecting and defending. The whole House knows how we got here. At some point we will get to the bottom of what pressure there was, exactly what dealings were done behind Victorian screens, and what “simply urging the Speaker” actually meant. To be fair, some Labour figures were fessing up at the weekend, or perhaps gloating, about their tactics—all because the SNP wanted to debate an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

People might ask why I am not tackling the Leader of the House today on her Government’s economic policies, Brexit or child poverty. We will return to our normal business questions exchanges of course, but at the core of our work as MPs is that all Members and parties must be treated fairly, and seen to be treated fairly. For as long as Scotland sends MPs here, we will expect and demand that. No one party can be allowed to change the rules by bullying. There is not a great deal that the Leader of the House and I agree on, but I know that on this we do. What use can she make of her offices to ensure that we never find ourselves in that sorry procedural mess again, and can she tell us when the replacement SNP Opposition day will be?

Finally, after the giant lobby of Parliament by campaigners yesterday, I must again raise the Government’s repeated delays in delivering full and fair compensation to those infected and affected by the contaminated blood scandal. I know that the Leader of the House recognises the fully justified depth of anger about this. Can she tell us what progress has been made ahead of the Budget to set up the structures of the compensation scheme transparently and in consultation with victims and their families, so that it is ready to start allocating funds at the earliest opportunity?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Lady for her question, and I understand why people will have to wait for normal combat to be resumed between us. I disagree with one thing that she, and other hon. Members, have said: that this Chamber, and Westminster collectively, did not cover itself in glory last week. I think that the issue has been about the actions of particular individuals and what they have done. Many Members of this House did a good thing last week by standing up to protect the rights, the foundation and the rulebook that we operate on. With regard to those who were caught up in something else, many Members have recognised that that was the wrong thing to do, and that we need to address that. The Government will give the SNP more time to have the debates that it ought to have. I understand that you, Mr Speaker, have commissioned the Procedure Committee to look at the particular procedural issues that happened last week. I understand that the scope of that work is narrow, so it should be done swiftly. I hope that it will be concluded before the SNP has its next debate, so that it can have confidence in how that debate will run.

On the hon. Lady’s final, very important point, we have just heard from the Paymaster General, who is leading on the issue of infected blood on behalf of the Government. She is right that I have very strong views about this, but they are shared by the Paymaster General and all those on the Government Benches. That is why we set up the inquiry, and why we set up the compensation study to run concurrently with it, so that we would not have to wait any longer before people got proper redress. I know that the Paymaster General is working on this very swiftly. He updates me on a regular basis, and we will keep the House informed.

Business of the House

Deidre Brock Excerpts
Thursday 8th February 2024

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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May I associate myself with the shadow Leader of the House’s comments about Brianna Ghey and her remarkable parents?

Last week, I asked the Leader of the House about the cost of the Tories’ secret and highly sensitive report to Cabinet on the state of the Union. Hansard records that not one word of her answer reflected my question—not one syllable. Instead, she read out to the Chamber a video script about bingo and made a joke about monkeys. The week before, I asked the Leader of the House about the Electoral Commission’s concerns over Tory voter ID plans. Again, there was not one word in Hansard about Tory voter ID—not a peep. Instead, she read her prepared script attacking the SNP. In fact, Hansard reveals that week after week, not only do my questions go unanswered, but they are completely ignored. Week after week, we get a clickbait video for her personal YouTube channel. Surely that behaviour demeans her office and disrespects this House. She is here to answer questions from Members.

Returning to that state of the Union report to Cabinet in July 2020, it aimed to undermine the Scottish Government and the Scottish independence cause, which were apparently a Tory top priority at the height of the pandemic. It came to light last week, and no wonder the Leader of the House’s Government wanted to keep it under wraps. It contains more grim news for any remaining supporters of the Union. My questions again are: how much did it cost taxpayers, what was its purpose, and what strategy was it asking the Cabinet to endorse? Do the Union strategy and operations committees still exist? While she is at it, I would be pleased to know the details of the “highly professional attack dogs”, as described by one journalist, who were employed around that time in an attempt to counter independence support. Unlike the Prime Minister, I am not a betting woman, but I would wager £1,000 that I will not get answers to those today, either.

I will be writing to the Leader of the House with all the questions she has ignored just this year for starters. My question today, though, just needs a simple yes or no, and I challenge her then to sit back down and resist the video script. Will she at the very least attempt to find answers to my questions when she receives them in writing, as she refuses to do so here? Can we have a debate on the role and function of the Leader of the House?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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The hon. Lady can have a debate on the role and function of the Leader of the House every Thursday at approximately 10.30 am. I hope it is colleagues’ experience that when they ask me questions, I either furnish them with answers if it is about the business of the House or I follow up with Departments and write to them. I am afraid that, as Hansard will show, her questions to me and to various Departments are sometimes hard to fathom.

The hon. Lady asked me about a particular piece of polling. I can certainly write to the Cabinet Office, although she indicated that she may kindly save me the trouble; in that case, I will just send her letter to the Cabinet Office for it to respond to her. But it comes in a week when the Scottish Government’s own costs for polling have been exposed.

I hope that hon. Members disagree with the hon. Lady’s assessment that I demean my office, although that is high praise indeed from the Scottish National party—I think my party has some way to go before we reach 22 live police investigations. While it may be true that those who live in Labour areas are 40% more likely to be a victim of crime, I think SNP politicians are probably 40% more likely to be investigated for one.