Business of the House

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Thursday 9th May 2024

(2 weeks, 4 days ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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First, let me mark the fact that yesterday was VE Day; I know there will be many events going on across our constituencies during the week, giving us a chance to remember the debt we owe our forebears and also to think of those facing conflict today.

May I, too, welcome the hon. Lady’s new colleague, the hon. Member for Blackpool South (Chris Webb), to his place and pay tribute to all candidates who took part in the important elections last week? I also thank her for helping me to launch the publication to which she referred. We commissioned it and I thank all the organisations that worked on it. It is important that we combat the rise of conspiracy theories, as that is part of restoring trust in what we do here and keeping trust in democracy. This publication will be a useful product, not just for Members, but for those who wish to come here too. I shall certainly make sure that the Lord Chancellor has heard what she says about the Sentencing Bill, although he will find her concern odd, given Labour’s voting record on our measures to introduce tougher sentences.

The hon. Lady mentioned her new colleagues, and I do hope the hon. Member for Dover (Mrs Elphicke) is being made to feel very welcome in her new party. I am buoyed at the news that our odds of retaining Dover have slightly improved since yesterday lunch time—[Laughter.] It is true. But I think this is a personal tragedy for the hon. Member for Dover, as was what happened last week for the hon. Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter). It has exposed a pattern of behaviour from the Leader of the Opposition, and it is a shame that we are not due an update to Peter Brookes’ “Nature Notes”, for the decorator crab is a species that covers its surface area with materials to disguise its true form, usually selecting sedentary creatures and seaweed. The Leader of the Opposition is the decorator crab of these Benches, desperate to show that he is not really leading the Labour party at all. He has channelled Margaret Thatcher; his deputy has praised Boris; he has expelled the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) with great fanfare, a man he was campaigning for to be Prime Minister only moments before; and his exterior shell is stuck over with St George’s flags, his Gunners season ticket and several programmes from the “Last Night of the Proms”. What next? Will it be a photo op with a bulldog? Will it be a lecture on how misunderstood Enoch Powell was? Should I ask the Whip on duty on the Front Bench if he has checked in recently with my right hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois)?

This is Operation Radish: the concerted effort to convince the British public that while the Labour party might look red on the outside, at its heart it really is not at all.

Even the defection from the Government Benches of one of Labour’s sternest critics cannot disguise the fact that Operation Radish is not going well. Not everyone has got the memo. The shadow Leader of the House talks about the important election results last week. Has she noticed that the first act of the new Mayor of the West Midlands was to turn his attention not to investment or infrastructure, but to Israel and Gaza? Ditto for the Mayors of West Yorkshire and London, with the latter also stating “equivalence” between the Head of State of Israel and a terrorist organisation.

The anti-nuke shadow Foreign Secretary is currently trying to walk back from calling a candidate for the presidency of the United States a neo-Nazi-sympathising KKK sociopath. The hon. Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting) sought to smear a decent candidate for Mayor of London as a white supremacist. Object to ULEZ and you are a child killer. If you are a woman advocating for your rights and dignity, you are a bigot. Want to strengthen our borders? You are a racist. If you have made money through hard work, you can’t possibly get Britain. That is today’s Labour party—just as it has always been.

The politics of the PLP is more the politics of the PLO and the JCR: more comfortable in university tented encampments and on picket lines than on the international stage; more interested in thought policing than actual policing. Labour has not changed—not its behaviour or its record. It is still high crime rates, high waiting lists, higher taxes, higher levels of poverty, less pay, less opportunity, less money for the NHS and less freedom. The British people can see what is going on. They like their radishes in salads, not in No. 10.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Father of the House.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
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My right hon. Friend indicates in provisional business for the week after next the remaining stages of the Holocaust Memorial Bill. She is familiar with early-day motion 711.

[That this House notes the First Special Report of the Holocaust Memorial Bill Select Committee, HC121, on the problems with the current proposal and the restrictions faced by the Committee considering the hybrid Bill; respects the conclusions and recommendations on page 20; agrees with the list of matters related to the current proposals for a Holocaust Memorial and believes these need updated attention on deliverability from the Infrastructure Commission, from the National Audit Office on likely capital costs and recurrent annual costs, from the Chancellor on future funding control, and from the police and security services on maintaining unfettered public access for use of Victoria Tower Gardens while protecting the Memorial; asks His Majestys Government and the Holocaust Memorial Foundation agency to commission the views of the property consultants on a comparison of the current proposal by Sir David Adjaye in Victoria Tower Gardens with viable alternatives, to commission the full appraisal and to hold a public consultation on the selection of site; and further asks His Majestys Government to commit to having this or an amended proposal considered first by the local planning authority before considering whether to call in the application, noting that an open-minded observer could doubt another minister in the Levelling Up department should be asked to make an independent decision on an application by the Secretary of State.]

Will she arrange, at least seven days before the House returns to the Holocaust Memorial Bill, for there to be answers to the questions on recurrent costs, the total capital costs, the amount of money going to education and how much the cost of the project has risen in the last year?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my hon. Friend for his question. As I always do, I shall ensure that the Ministers in charge of the Bill have heard his specific requests and that the business managers take his asks into account.

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?

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I congratulate my hon. Friend on all the work that he is doing to ensure that his constituents have the provision that they need. We have had a huge uplift in the general teaching staff; there are now 30,000 more teachers than when we came to office. Obviously, we have also been expanding special educational needs provision, but the need is growing and we are determined to keep pace with that. I think that a debate on the subject would be welcomed by many in the House, and I encourage him to apply for it in the usual way.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab)
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I thank the Leader of the House for the business statement and for announcing the Backbench Business debate for Thursday 16 May. If awarded time on 23 May, we would propose debates on UK arms exports to Israel and on potholes and highway maintenance. Those would be the two debates immediately before the Whitsun recess. Although all Chamber slots until the Whitsun recess are now pre-allocated, we would still welcome applications for Thursday debates in Westminster Hall, where the new time seems to be working quite well.

Can we have a debate in Government time on the vexed question of leasehold reform? In my constituency, developers are selling, or proposing to sell, packages of property freeholds to third-party companies and denying leaseholders themselves the chance to buy the freeholds of the properties that they live in. This is a really complex legal question, but an awful lot of leaseholders do not have the wherewithal to fight the property development companies and third-party companies buying such investment portfolios. Taylor Wimpey is a company with an interest in development in my constituency that is currently doing this. Can we have a debate in Government time to try to sort out this vexed question?

Business of the House

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Thursday 2nd May 2024

(3 weeks, 4 days ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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First of all, I would like to join the hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to Lord Stunell of Hazel Grove, who sadly passed away on Monday. He entered the House of Commons in 1997, leaving for the Lords in 2015. He was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in the coalition Government and I know Members on all sides of the House will mourn his loss. On our Benches, we are particularly grateful to him for being an effective and collaborative Minister in the coalition, working alongside colleagues to bring in the Localism Act 2011 and drawing up the national planning policy framework. I hope that the many tributes paid to him in the coming days will be a comfort to his loved ones.

I join with the many remarks made by colleagues regarding the tragic loss of Daniel Anjorin, and also the incident in Sheffield. My thoughts, and I am sure those of the whole House, are with all those affected, especially Daniel’s family. I also pay tribute to the police for their courage. They often get a hard time from us in this place, but we should never forget the risks they take and the service they do us. I know the House will also be glad to see His Majesty the King out and about with the public again. I wish all candidates in today’s elections good luck.

The hon. Gentleman tempts me, but I am going to resist, because there is nothing I could say that would be more detrimental to the hon. Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter)—to his character, his integrity, his standing in his community and his future prospects—than what he has done to himself. I think that is just about dawning on him.

I, too, welcome the progress on the infected blood issue. The hon. Gentleman knows that the Paymaster General has set out the timetable for the body to be established on 20 May. We now have a clear timetable that I hope will give confidence to all those infected and affected by this terrible scandal.

I will certainly make sure that the hon. Gentleman’s comments on Tata Steel are heard by the Secretary of State.

I have to break it to the hon. Gentleman that it is not going to be Pimm’s with Penny. I am more of a pints with Penny person. But yes, I too have read that I am to be installed, rather like a new boiler, into No. 10 next week. I have to say, Mr Speaker, that there is as much truth to those stories as there is to Labour’s assurances to its business community that it is not actually going to do the things that it has been saying it is going to do and has promised its union paymasters.

Let me say again that I support our Prime Minister, and I will continue to support him after this weekend and beyond, because his plan is working. I will do everything I can to ensure that Labour does not get a chance to wreck the nation again. The nation has chosen a new trajectory to protect its border, to enable growth, and to trade more with the world to strengthen its partnerships with allies. Our exports are 2% above 2018 levels, and we are the fourth largest exporter overall and the largest net exporter of financial and insurance services in the world. Trade barriers have led to a £15 billion uplift for UK businesses in the last five years, and since 2010 UK manufacturing growth has been higher than that of any other G7 nation. We are on the right path, and we have to stick to it. I do not want to give Labour the chance to unpick all that we have done, from Brexit to trade union reforms.

The hon. Gentleman asked about a general election, and whether something was going to crop up. I think that something is going to crop up. Whether it is pensions, the NHS, rail, tax or welfare, the Labour party claims that it is going to do one thing but is planning another, and I think that the public will see through that. It is the most audacious deception since the big bad wolf donned a winceyette nightie and asked Little Red Riding Hood to admire his upper dentures, but unlike red Riding Hood the British people have met this wolf before, and they remember that the story does not end well.

The British people remember how disastrously Labour ran our trains, and we have read this week that to improve efficiency, Labour plans to run fewer trains. They remember MRSA-infected hospitals, and they are now seeing the unforgivable state of the NHS in Wales as it struggles with a reduced budget. Labour is responsible for that, as it is Labour that cut the NHS budget. They remember Labour council tax hikes for pensioners and others on fixed incomes, which constituted the largest increase in their outgoings. In government Labour doubled council tax, and in Wales it has tripled it. The British public will look at the council league tables, out today, and notice that the worst services are provided by Labour councils, those charging the highest taxes are Labour local authorities, and the areas with the worst crime rates are Labour-controlled; and where do we see the lowest employment rate, the smallest pay packets and the worst NHS waiting lists in the whole UK? In Labour-run Wales.

Always, every single time Labour is in office, every single time the British people give Labour a chance, they find themselves worse off, poorer and less safe, badly served and with more unemployment, and they see that the nation is weaker. At least those in the Labour party are consistent. So I say to the British people, “Don’t give them the chance to do it again.”

Further business will be announced in the usual way.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Father of the House.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
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The question of local council elections has been raised. Those who want some amusement can read Acts 5:41, quoted in today’s Times and provided by the Bible Society, although I am not suggesting that my right hon. Friend should read it now.

I walked here today through Victoria Tower Gardens, where it is still impossible to walk along the river because of the barricades around the Buxton memorial fountain, which are far too extensive. If people care about memorials in Victoria Tower Gardens, they ought to make sure that the gardens are properly accessible whenever that is possible.

The Select Committee on the Holocaust Memorial Bill reported recently in document HC121, and I have tabled early-day motion 711—I do not expect my right hon. Friend to respond to this today.

[That this House notes the First Special Report of the Holocaust Memorial Bill Select Committee, HC121, on the problems with the current proposal and the restrictions faced by the Committee considering the hybrid Bill; respects the conclusions and recommendations on page 20; agrees with the list of matters related to the current proposals for a Holocaust Memorial and believes these need updated attention on deliverability from the Infrastructure Commission, from the National Audit Office on likely capital costs and recurrent annual costs, from the Chancellor on future funding control, and from the police and security services on maintaining unfettered public access for use of Victoria Tower Gardens while protecting the Memorial; asks His Majesty's Government and the Holocaust Memorial Foundation agency to commission the views of the property consultants on a comparison of the current proposal by Sir David Adjaye in Victoria Tower Gardens with viable alternatives, to commission the full appraisal and to hold a public consultation on the selection of site; and further asks His Majesty's Government to commit to having this or an amended proposal considered first by the local planning authority before considering whether to call in the application, noting that an open-minded observer could doubt another minister in the Levelling Up department should be asked to make an independent decision on an application by the Secretary of State.]

As the Committee has clearly indicated, before the Government think of bringing the Bill back to the Chamber of the House of Commons they need to do a number of things. First, they must review security. We have seen the Holocaust memorial in Hyde Park covered up because of marches going on around London, and everyone knows that a memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens of the kind that is proposed would be a major target. The only way of providing security is to exclude the public from this park, which is the only park for local residents.

Secondly, the National Infrastructure Commission has said that this project is undeliverable. Will the Government please ask the members of the commission whether they have changed their minds? Last year the National Audit Office reported that the costs had risen in one year from £102 million to £137 million. Will the Government please ask its members whether that can be reviewed? How will the Chancellor agree to pay running costs of between £5 million and £10 million?

I think that the Government ought to delay, do what is suggested in my early-day motion, and then report back to the House.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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It might be more helpful if the Father of the House applies for an Adjournment debate.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I am sure that my hon. Friend knows how to apply for a debate and will listen to your encouragement, Mr Speaker. I will certainly ensure, as I do every week, that the Secretary of State has heard the issues that my hon. Friend raises—I will feed them in. On the matter of security, he will know that there is a working group, led by the Houses of Parliament and those in Government, to make sure that all these very important issues are looked at.

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?

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my right hon. Friend for all the work he is doing alongside the all-party parliamentary group on endometriosis to raise awareness of this condition and to ensure that there is improving care. He will know that we have invested £25 million to roll out women’s health hubs across the country, not just to tackle backlogs but to provide information and raise awareness. I will ensure that the Secretary of State for Education has heard what he has said today.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab)
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I apologise to the House for my absence over the last two weeks. I am glad to say that things are improving as we deal with a very difficult family situation.

The Leader of the House was kind enough to mention that the Backbench Business Committee has been allocated Thursday 16 May, and it will be our intention to put on a debate on the parliamentary ombudsman’s report on the state pension age for women.

All Chamber slots up to the Whitsun recess are now allocated, but we still have several Westminster Hall slots to allocate for the new, improved start time of 12.30 pm on Thursdays, which seems to be working quite well. We have three slots to allocate between now and the Whitsun recess, and we would welcome applications.

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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The hon. Gentleman will know that, on any such proposals that the Liberal Democrats wish to put forward, they can question the Chancellor next Tuesday when the House returns. He will also know that the Government have done a huge amount of work with both energy companies and their suppliers to assist in alleviating the cost-of-living issues that households and businesses are facing.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call Jim Shannon. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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Thank you, Mr Speaker. These are the strongest legs in the Chamber, without a doubt.

I thank the Leader of the House for the opportunity to highlight the prevention of violations of freedom of religion or belief. It has been more than a year since the outbreak of the civil war in Sudan, and Sudanese civilians certainly bear the brunt of the atrocities committed due to the fighting, with thousands killed and millions internally displaced. While His Majesty’s Government are working with others to resolve the crisis, the vulnerability of Sudanese Christians has been overlooked. Christians and their churches are being targeted, and there have been reports of rape, kidnap and looting against Christians. Even when the war ends, religious minorities fear future persecution. Will the Leader of the House join me in condemning the atrocities against Christians in Sudan, and what can she do with the Foreign Secretary and the Government to combat these crimes as they work to find a solution to the conflict?

Business of the House

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Thursday 21st March 2024

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I have briefly emerged from under the hairdryer and put down my Take a Break magazine, and not only found my way to the Chamber this morning but remembered on which side I am supposed to sit, to be present and correct for business questions, which is quite a feat if media reports are to be believed.

I am buoyed by what the hon. Lady has said. After all, we have seen inflation fall to 3.4% this week. Real wages are rising, we have positive growth, household energy bills will fall by £250 a year in a couple of weeks’ time, average disposable incomes are growing and we have signed the accession treaty to the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership, which will create a huge number of high-wage jobs. It is confirmation that the plan is working when, on Thursdays, the Opposition focus not on these real-world facts but on the Westminster rumour vortex.

I will address the hon. Lady’s points in turn. First, I join her in congratulating Vaughan Gething. I wish him well in his new post.

I am glad that the Opposition welcome the Tobacco and Vapes Bill and the Football Governance Bill, and I look forward to their support and involvement. I am still in time to respond to the Procedure Committee’s report on the Foreign Secretary’s accountability to this House, on which their lordships will deliberate.

The hon. Lady brought up Rwanda, and I wish to clarify that I have no wish to blame their lordships for the delay to that Bill. I make it clear that I wish to blame Labour Lords for the delay. For all Labour’s talk of being tough on borders, it has voted against our plans 111 times, and it has voted against our measures to stop the boats 98 times. Despite its tough talk on crime, Labour has voted against our plans for tougher sentences and new police powers.

This week we have learned that, despite all the armed forces frottage coming from Labour Front Benchers, they are planning an EU defence pact at a time when all efforts should be with NATO, which has standards and clear and agreed principles about what it will do and under what circumstances, and it has been busy—Ukraine, Kosovo, Iraq, support for the African Union, Baltic air policing, Aegean maritime security, Operation Sea Guardian, a standing naval force and, of course, disaster relief. In contrast, since its creation in 2007, the EU battle group, which has no such agreed threshold for deployment, has never got out the door.

There could be no greater metaphor to illustrate the differing approaches between our two parties: Labour is all talk, including 126 minutes on ferrets last week, whereas we offer practical action. It is virtue signalling over there versus results over here. It is unfunded policies over there versus costed proposals over here. It is no plan versus a plan that is working. To borrow from the Opposition’s new-found heroine, Margaret Thatcher: if you want something saying, wait long enough and Labour will say it. If you want something doing, vote Conservative.

Further business will be announced in the usual way.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the vice-Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
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As the House may be aware, the Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee is not able to be here because his daughter-in-law is seriously ill in hospital, and it is right that he is by her side at this time. I am sure the whole House will wish her a speedy recovery. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.]

On behalf of the Committee, let me say that our debates in the Chamber are now full until 9 May, provided we are allocated the time by the Leader of the House. Equally, we are full in Westminster Hall until 2 May—obviously, we will have control of that time. So all those who wish to get applications in before the summer recess should do so quickly, as the Committee has been working overtime to process these applications.

The shocking rise in antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred has been well publicised, but what has not been is the anti-Hindu hatred occurring on our campuses and across our country. I have the honour of chairing the all-party group on British Hindus and it has recently published a report on that hatred, on which action is clearly required all round. So will my right hon. Friend allow time in the Chamber for a debate on hatred of British Hindus and enable us to celebrate the contribution they make to this country? Given that it is Holi on Tuesday, will she also join me in wishing all Hindus “Holi hai!”?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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First, may I, on behalf of all of us in this place, send our good wishes to the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) and his family at this time? I thank my hon. Friend for stepping in for him and assisting Members with an advert for future business from the Backbench Business Committee.

On the all-party group’s report on anti-Hindu hatred, I will make sure that the relevant Secretary of State has heard what my hon. Friend has said today. I know that he has been campaigning on this matter for some time and that he will have listened to what the Minister for Equalities said about it at Women and Equalities questions yesterday.

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.

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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Father of the House.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
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I wish to raise two brief things. First, the Leader of the House will soon see the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s report on women’s state pension age and its findings on “injustice” and associated issues. The report is about the WASPI women—Women Against State Pension Inequality. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) who campaigned with me on these issues and saw various Secretaries of State. Will the Leader of the House say how the Government intend the House to respond to the reference to Parliament considering the recommended remedy? It is not a massive remedy, but it is an important one.

Secondly, the Leader of the House may have heard me question the Prime Minister yesterday about planning and building over prime agricultural fields. Yesterday afternoon, Arun District Council planning committee considered an application. All the members of the committee looked as though they were going to turn it down, until the planning officer said the costs of an appeal by the developer were more than the Council could afford. All the members of the committee, except for the Conservatives and one Liberal, then voted to leave it to the council planning officers to make the decision.

Can we have a debate on intimidation on costs by developers that make district and borough councils feel they have to approve something or allow something to go through that should be opposed? Will the Leader of the House join me in recommending the council calls in the proposal and, if it does not, the Secretary of State does?

Points of Order

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Monday 18th March 2024

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Dehenna Davison Portrait Dehenna Davison (Bishop Auckland) (Con)
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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Over the weekend, I saw on social media that a number of Labour Members had the good judgment to visit the beautiful Bishop Auckland constituency, and while I am grateful to the one Member who gave me notice of their visit, that was in stark contrast to the four Members—the right hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner), and the hon. Members for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson), for Blaydon (Liz Twist), and for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell)—who did not have the good judgment to follow your advice, Mr Speaker, and notify me as the sitting MP. I have let them know of my intention to raise this issue in the Chamber today. Could you advise the House once again on how we can ensure that Members give notice of a visit to another Member’s constituency?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving me notice of this point of order and informing the Members concerned. The courtesies apply to any visits made in an official capacity. I know that election fever has taken over, but I remind the House once again that, as I said on 29 November and 22 January, when a Member intends to visit another constituency other than in a private capacity, they should make every reasonable effort to inform the Member representing that constituency. Boundary changes do not take effect until the next election, and in the meanwhile we must observe the convention of not involving ourselves with other Members’ constituencies. I have had complaints from Members on both sides of the House. Please do the right thing and stick to the conventions that we expect each other to follow.

Rushanara Ali Portrait Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab)
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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On Thursday 14 March, during business questions, in response to a question from the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Jason McCartney) about council spending, the Leader of the House said that Labour had a “legacy” of “vote-rigging” in Tower Hamlets. That is a false claim. I wonder if the right hon. Lady got her parties confused, as there was a widely reported case in 2015 in which the Election Commission and Richard Mawrey voided the mayoral election of 2014 under the Representation of the People Act 1983 on the grounds of corrupt and illegal practices, but that related to the activities of a party named Tower Hamlets First, and had nothing to do with Tower Hamlets Labour party or the national Labour party. Can you offer advice, Mr Speaker, on whether and when the Leader of the House can come to the House to set the record straight?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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The Leader of the House is here.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I take such matters extremely seriously, and in the past when I have misspoken or got a fact wrong, I have corrected the record. However, if I am guilty of anything in our exchange last Thursday, it is of underplaying the situation. The incident that the hon. Lady refers to did indeed involve an independent politician, although backed by Ken Livingstone. However, in the year 2018 alone, there were 40 new cases of corruption under the then Labour Mayor John Biggs, and the incident I referred to was Labour’s legacy because just a few weeks ago, Government inspectors were called in again to investigate Tower Hamlets. I fully understand it if the hon. Lady does not want to take my word for it, so I direct her to a letter written to her party’s national executive committee in 2016 about a local selection. It was written on behalf of members of the local Labour party. It said:

“on behalf of a number of distressed members the Tower Hamlets Labour Party who have been victims of intimidation, bullying, harassment and blackmailing by members of John Biggs’ campaign team; some of whom are senior and leading figures of the local Labour Party”.

If she looks up the letter and sees who is signatory to it, she may be more persuaded.

Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 56), That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Question agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Question put forthwith, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Question agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),

That the following provisions shall apply to the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill for the purpose of supplementing the Order of 12 December 2023 (Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill: Programme):

Consideration of Lords Amendments

(1) Proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 8.00pm at today’s sitting.

Subsequent stages

(2) Any further Message from the Lords may be considered forthwith without any Question being put.

(3) Proceedings on the first of any further Messages from the Lords shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion two hours after their commencement.

(4) Proceedings on any subsequent Message from the Lords shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement.—(Aaron Bell.)

Question agreed to.

Business of the House

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Thursday 14th March 2024

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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May I start by wishing all who are marking it in the UK and around the world a blessed Ramadan? I join the tribute paid by the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) to Tommy McAvoy. I am sure many Members will pay tribute to him in the coming days and weeks. I also thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) for her service and friendship over many years. This House may be losing her, but I know she has many more years of public service ahead of her.

The hon. Member for Manchester Central focuses first on the legislative programme. She will know that 26 Bills have already been introduced in this Session and that four have reached Royal Assent. She will know that last Session we did 43 Bills, and broke many records in terms of private Members’ Bills and the amount of legislation we were able to get through. She will know the passage of the Bills that are going through both Houses at the moment, and she will also know that we will shortly bring through a Bill on football governance. This is a programme of work that we initiated following a review that was conducted with the help of many clubs around the country. When we bring legislation to the House, it will need to have the confidence of the English Football League, and, having attended many events with the EFL myself, I know that that is clear and understood.

The hon. Lady claimed that the Conservatives had no energy left for legislation, suggesting that we were not bringing measures forward and that we were a zombie Parliament, but I am afraid that it is the Opposition who are the zombies in this Chamber. The House rises early when the Opposition are not opposing. The Committee stage of the Finance Bill was completed in 30 minutes, and in recent times the Opposition have found it hard even to find speakers for their own debates. It is they who are displaying zombie tendencies. It is often tempting to refer to the Leader of the Opposition as the Knight of the Living Dead, and in stark contrast I commend the always energetic and vibrant stance taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Sir Charles Walker); I think the point he was making in that interview was that the plan is working.

Let me now come to the very serious issue that the hon. Lady raised about Mr Hester’s remarks. They were racist and abhorrent, and—I fully appreciate—threatening to the right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), who I understand has referred the matter to the police.

My party is financed by fundraising and donations—notably money raised from raffles—including donations from private individuals. There might be some who would come to this Dispatch Box today and attempt to argue that such a refund was not practically possible or warranted, but I am not going to attempt to do that. The point that the hon. Lady has made is not concerned with the practicalities of a refund, the consequences to the payroll of Conservative Campaign Headquarters, or the ability of my party to fight a general election. No, no; it is a point of principle, and I respect that. She could not have been clearer in what she has said today. She has stated that it is wrong to take funds from people who say horrible things, no matter when they were said, and that when there is an issue, funds should be returned. She has been clear about that today, and she has said that that is the right thing to do.

If, for example, someone said of Hamas that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, as Dale Vince has said, or said that my colleagues and I should be “taken out and shot”, as the RMT union boss Steve Hedley has said, the hon. Lady would presumably think it wrong to hang on to funds donated to Labour by them—or by an organisation branded “institutionally sexist”. I believe that during Tim Roache’s time as GMB general secretary, when he ran what has been described as a “casting couch culture”—menacing young women in the union—the Labour party took 12 million quid from him.

Those three charmers alone have contributed £15 million to the Labour party, and presumably, immediately following this session, the hon. Lady will demand that it is repaid. To be precise, and to assist her in that matter, let me add that those donations were made directly to the central Labour party, Labour MPs, Members of the Scottish Parliament, councillors, the Mayor of Manchester—she might like to mention that this weekend—the deputy leader of the Labour party, and the Leader of the Opposition.

If Labour is sincere and this it is not a political stunt, it will commit itself to repaying those funds, and there would be some additional upsides to doing so. The scurrilous suggestions that Labour’s pro “Stop Oil” policies were anything to do with Mr Vince’s donations could no longer be deployed, and nor could the charge that Labour Members would not support our legislation to protect the public’s access to the services they pay for because their party was in the pockets of militant trade unions—but I am not holding my breath, because I know that Labour Members say one thing and do another. They have dropped their £28 billion decarbonisation spending pledge, yet they keep the policy. They say that they will not tolerate pro-genocide chants, yet they have restored the whip to the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Andy McDonald). They say that they back our tax cuts but they will not vote for them, and as a consequence they now cannot say how they would fund NHS appointments, breakfast clubs, NHS equipment, dentistry appointments, home insulation, their own state-owned energy company, and their wealth fund. No amount of confected drama and virtue signalling can disguise the fact that it is the same old Labour party, the same old hypocrisy and the same old games.

This week, in the real world outside the Westminster bubble, which is where we are focused, cancer deaths among middle-aged people are down by a third, revised forecasts show that the economy is growing and, for the eighth month in a row, real wages are rising. The plan is working, unlike Labour’s line of attack, and my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne is very excited about it.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Father of the House.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
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It is good to hear inclusive politics. May I ask the Leader of the House whether, following consultations, there might be a statement before or after Easter on inclusivity in Parliament? We rightly want to embrace and value difference and diversity, whether of a person’s race, gender, other characteristics, background or experience. The word that is missing is “sex”.

Over the last five years, those who are gender critical have raised all sorts of issues, including the constant use of puberty blockers for children and the attack on the LGB Alliance for not swallowing what Stonewall and Mermaids persuaded many Government Departments and agencies to do, which was to disregard sex completely.

While wanting to support trans people and make sure that they can have a life free from bigotry and fear, would it be possible for the House to examine its own policies on inclusiveness and try to ensure that the word “sex” is included along with the other characteristics for which people should not be discriminated against?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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My hon. Friend raises a very important point, and I know that many members of the House of Commons Commission will have heard what he has said. This is a very important matter. When the Government have put forward measures—for example, to protect single-sex spaces, which are important and valued by many people in this country—we have also been reassuring about what that means for trans people and those living in a different gender. It is perfectly possible to do both, and I think that the House having a further focus on the issue is a very good suggestion.

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?

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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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“Foot in mouth” or “foot and mouth”?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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Thank you, Mr Speaker.

I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Sir Charles Walker) is in the Chamber to set the record straight and to request a debate on foot and mouth disease. Because of his energetic question, I will write to the Secretary of State to ask him to consider what my hon. Friend has said. As for the rest of what my hon. Friend said, we thank him for it.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab)
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I declare an interest, as I am a member of the Tyneside Irish centre, which is handily placed because of its proximity to St James’s Park in Newcastle upon Tyne city centre. With that in mind, I wish all members of the Irish diaspora a very happy St Patrick’s day on Sunday.

The Committee is still open for applications for Westminster Hall debates on Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons after the Easter recess, but we are a little disappointed that we have not been allocated a little more Chamber time before the recess.

The cost of childcare is a significant barrier to work for many parents, and the increase in funded places will be welcome but, with the first phase coming into effect in April, many parents are reporting difficulty in obtaining the promised funded places and very significant cost increases for the non-funded element. Can we have a debate in Government time on the impact of the first phase of the scheme; on the accessibility and affordability of the scheme; and on whether the scheme, as it currently stands, will effectively remove the childcare barrier to work and fulfil its promise to parents?

Business of the House

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Thursday 7th March 2024

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I congratulate my hon. Friend on leading the charge on this matter. There is a legal obligation to comply with emissions in the shortest possible time, but we are reviewing that. He will know that Greater Manchester authorities have changed their tune and are now proposing an entirely different approach, thanks to the campaign that he has run and the support that he has galvanised among his communities. I congratulate him and encourage him to hold them to account.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Scottish National party spokesperson.

Richard Thomson Portrait Richard Thomson (Gordon) (SNP)
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Following the frankly appalling behaviour of the Labour party leadership to disrupt the SNP’s Opposition day debate on 21 February —[Interruption.] Obviously, they do not like the truth. The Leader of the House told the House that she was sympathetic to the idea not only of the SNP getting another Opposition day debate but of taking it from the allocation given to the Labour party. Could she update the House on how her thinking has developed on those points?

Further to that, on the issue of ministerial responsibility, yesterday it was revealed that neither the Conservatives’ branch manager in Holyrood nor their Energy Minister supports the Government’s energy policy. Will the Leader of the House confirm whether the principle of collective responsibility in government applies to junior Ministers? If so, what advice would she give to any Minister who is unable to support such a key plank of Government policy, either publicly or in any Budget votes ahead?

Finally, the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology has cost the taxpayer £15,000 after falsely accusing an academic of supporting Hamas. Could we have a debate on the limits of privilege, specifically whether it is now the Government’s policy that Ministers can say whatever they like outside Parliament and be financially indemnified from the consequences by the taxpayer? Does she consider it the taxpayer’s job to underwrite financially the Conservative party’s culture wars whenever its members overstep the mark?

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my right hon. Friend for raising that important point. It is unacceptable that residents in Newcastle-under-Lyme have, for far too long, had to put up with the appalling smells emanating from that quarry, and she is right to pay tribute to our hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme. He has raised the issue many times in this House and has been fighting for his constituents. I think he secured two Westminster Hall debates on the issue, and it is in very great part down to his efforts that it is being resolved.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab)
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May I thank the Chair of the Procedure Committee for a timely and affirmative response to our request to examine the Westminster Hall Standing Orders? To that end, I have written to the Leader of the House this morning, and I hope she will give a similarly timely and affirmative response. The Backbench Business Committee welcomes applications from Members across the House, particularly for Westminster Hall debates, where they can probably be facilitated after the Easter recess as we are pretty booked up until then.

Business of the House

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Thursday 29th February 2024

(2 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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First, let me add my voice to the many tributes that have been paid both to Lord Cormack and to Ronnie Campbell. They were public servants who were thoughtful and committed, both to Parliament and to many other organisations and institutions. I hope that those many tributes bring comfort to their loved ones. I also join in the tribute the hon. Lady paid to Dave Myers, one half of the Hairy Bikers. He brought so much joy to so many people across our country and elsewhere.

The hon. Lady asks me several questions, first about risk-based exclusion. I do not think she has quite processed the full extent of the consequences of what happened last week. The Government gave time to this debate and we want it debated. I am part of the Commission and I want it debated and resolved in this House. Given the current climate and the concerns that hon. Members have raised since the motion was tabled—there have been some serious questions, in particular from learned colleagues—there will be a better opportunity to debate this in the House, and I hope that will be soon.

I am not expecting the hon. Lady to give us any credit at all, as that is not her job. She did not welcome the figures on irregular migration that are out today, which show that our plan is working. She will know that the Budget, which I announced in the business, will be very soon, and I am sure we can all see the progress that has been made and that the Chancellor will set that out in due course.

As for what the hon. Lady says about intimidation, let me repeat what I said last week: this House will not, has not and must not bow to terrorism or intimidation. We are experiencing a new form of an old story. As well as those colleagues slain since 2016, there are others who were murdered and whose shields are on the walls of this Chamber, above the door. There are Members who sit on these Benches who can recall being issued with mirrors to look under their cars in the morning. We are facing a new form of that old threat. It failed then and it is going to fail now, but while we focus on ending that threat, we must not lose sight of the good in our country and what we can all do to help this situation.

The hon. Lady raises the issue of the hon. Member for Ashfield (Lee Anderson). I know she will want to hear one word from him, but yesterday he provided us with 1,000 words. I read his piece in the Express and it is some distance from the view he expressed in the original interview. I think what he wrote in the Express is his genuine view. We might have to accept that those 1,000 words are the closest we will get to the one-word apology that others seek. The hon. Lady has understandably chosen to scold him; I would rather ask him to consider all the good he could do, whatever political hue he ends up being, in these particular times with the trust and following he has built up. She asks what action the Government have taken to combat these issues; I point her to the work of the defending democracy taskforce, the work I have done in this place on combatting conspiracy theories and the new systems we have set up.

The shadow Leader of the House is right that we also need to reflect on our own behaviour. I would ask her to consider on whose Benches Members sit who have suggested that we lynch a Government Minister, who have called hon. Members “scum” or who have said

“I want to be in a situation where no Tory MP, no Tory MP, no coalition minister, can travel anywhere in the country, or show their face anywhere in public, without being challenged”.

Which party’s actions have made it more likely that an antisemite will be sworn into this House next week? Which party last week trashed the understanding and foundation of trust upon which this place needs to operate? [Interruption.] The hon. Lady rolls her eyes. I would ask her to consider what she could do to rectify that situation. There are many good people in the Labour party; there are many good people who have also been driven from it. Despite best attempts to knock it off the media agenda or pretend it is otherwise, the strong moral compass we want to see from our nation’s political leaders, especially at times like this, is missing from the Labour party. That is sad and it is shameful.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Father of the House.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
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Following the comments made by the shadow Leader of the House about risk-based exclusion, I am glad that motion is not coming forward next week, as there should be more consideration. It is a matter of record that two major newspapers made sex-based accusations against me, but I was not investigated by the police or as a result referred. It is only arrest that makes a difference. It is absurd and naive to think that were someone to be suspended and get a proxy vote, their anonymity could in any sense be guaranteed in this country or not reported in other countries. This is a serious problem. I am not certain we have found exactly the right way of dealing with it.

Will the Government make a statement next week on revisionism and who is the lead designer of the national Holocaust memorial and proposed learning centre? One of the Government’s nominees as chair of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation was quoted in the Jewish News yesterday saying that Ron Arad is the person responsible. Every Government comment, from 2016 onwards, has acknowledged quite rightly that the main designer is Sir David Adjaye OM—a name that cannot normally be mentioned because of problems I do not want to go into on the Floor of the House. Could Ministers refer Lord Pickles to the press notices that went out in the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation’s name in 2016, 2018 and every year since, because we must get the facts right and not change them?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I reassure my hon. Friend that we are listening to the House. Risk-based exclusion and other such schemes are a matter for the House and all Members need to have confidence in those processes. He has successfully put on record his concerns about that aspect of the Holocaust memorial. I will ensure the Secretary of State has heard what he has said, and he can raise it directly with him on 4 March.

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?

Business of the House

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Thursday 22nd February 2024

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that very serious situation. Of course, the Government support the right to protest in safety. I shall ensure the Foreign Office has heard his concerns and ask the relevant Minister to get in touch with his office.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call Ian Liddell-Grainger.

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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My hon. Friend has made her point extremely well. Whether those debates were on storm overflows or free school meals, when Conservative Members faced very unfair slurs and intimidation, we did not ask that the procedures of the House be upended and put pressure on a decent man in the Speaker’s Chair to change those processes. That is because it is at the heart of our party that we put the interests of this country first. One of those interests is that democracy in this place is protected.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP leader.

Stephen Flynn Portrait Stephen Flynn (Aberdeen South) (SNP)
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Last evening, we saw the best of this House in its ability to debate, and we also saw the worst of this House as it descended into farce. I think I speak for everyone in the Chamber now, and yesterday, when I express my deep sorrow that that was able to happen, given the content of what we were debating.

Nevertheless, Mr Speaker, it descended into farce because of a decision that you—and you alone—made to ignore the advice that was given to you by the Clerks. In doing so, on the Opposition day of the Scottish National party, my colleagues and I were denied the ability to vote on a matter which is of grave concern to us, and which, over recent months, we have sought to raise in this Chamber at every available opportunity. It ultimately turned into a Labour Opposition day. That, quite frankly, is not acceptable. As I have expressed to you privately, prior to today’s proceedings, we do not, on these Benches, believe that you can continue in your role as Speaker. We do not have confidence in your ability to do so. I would therefore welcome clarity, either from you or the Leader of the House, about how we can best facilitate the earliest possible vote in this Chamber to that effect.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I hope that he can see, in my actions yesterday, that I am a servant of this House, and that even though it may not be in the Government’s narrow interests to do so, I will protect the rights of all minority parties to be able to air their views in this place and ensure that the parties who are afforded Opposition day debates can have those debates in the fullest sense and have votes on their motions. We create the rules of this House and the Speaker serves at our behest. Given the range of views that have been expressed on the Floor of the House today—many interventions have been supportive of the Speaker, pointing out the pressures that were put on him yesterday—I think that we should take time to reflect. Mr Speaker has said that his door is open to all parties and individual Members, as is mine. But as I said, the Government will listen to this House. I am a servant of this House and I will do its bidding.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I will also come in at this point. I reiterate that I made a judgment call that did not end up in the position where I expected it to. I regret it and I apologise to the SNP—[Interruption.] Just bear with me. I apologise to the House. I made a mistake: we do make mistakes and I own up to mine. We can have an SO24 to get an immediate debate because the debate is so important to the House.

I will defend every Member in this House. Every Member matters to me in this House. As has been said, I never, ever want to go through a situation where I pick up a phone to find a friend, on whatever side, has been murdered by a terrorist. I also do not want another attack on this House—I was in the Chair on that day. I have seen, I have witnessed. I will not share the details, but the details of the things that have been brought to me are absolutely frightening for all Members of the House, on all sides. I have a duty of care and I say that. If my mistake is looking after Members, I am guilty. I am guilty because—[Interruption.]—I have a duty of care that I will carry out to protect people; it is the protection that led me to make a wrong decision. With the risk being put on all Members at the moment, I had serious meetings yesterday with the police on these issues and on threats to politicians as we head towards an election. I do not want anything to happen again.

Yes, I will apologise, as I always will when I make a mistake as I did. I offer an SO24—that is within my gift and power—but I will also do whatever it is to protect anybody in this Chamber or anybody who works in this House. That is my duty of care.

Andrew Percy Portrait Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con)
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I was in Israel last week meeting with hostage families, survivors and friends. I actually felt safer in Israel than I do in this country at this moment in time. I have two reflections on that visit and on what happened yesterday. First, nobody in this House has any business or agency at all in telling the state of Israel where it is able to operate to seek to rescue hostages who are being raped by the Islamic terrorists who hold them. Secondly, if we have a rerun of yesterday’s debate, exactly the same thing will happen again and Members will not vote with their hearts because they are frightened and scared.

What do we expect? For months I have been standing here talking about the people on our streets who are a demanding deaths for Jews, jihad and intifada, as the police stand by and allow that to happen. Last night, a genocidal call, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, was projected on to this building. That message says no Jew is welcome in the state of Israel—in that land. This is going to continue to happen because we are not dealing with it.

Will the Leader of the House explain what will be different if we have a rerun of the debate? How will hon. Members be able to vote with their hearts and consciences? Too many will not do that at the moment because of the threats we are receiving—threats that in some cases are telling us to leave this country and that we or our families should be subjected to pain and death?

Speaker’s Statement

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Wednesday 21st February 2024

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I wish to respond to the point of order raised by the Leader of the House.

Today’s debate was exceptional in the intensity with which all parties wished to secure a vote on their own proposition. It took decisions that were intended to allow the House the widest range of propositions on which to express a view. I wanted to do the best, and it was my wish to do the best, by every Member of this House. I take very seriously—[Interruption.] No, the danger—that is why I wanted everybody to be able to express their views. I am very, very concerned about the security of all Members. [Interruption.] I was very concerned, I am still concerned, and that is why the meetings I have had today were about the security of Members, their families and the people involved.

I have to say that I regret how it has ended up. It was not my intention. I wanted to ensure that all could express their views and all sides of the House could vote. As it was, in particular, the SNP was ultimately unable to vote on its proposition. I regret with sadness that it has ended up in this position. It was never my intention for it to end up like this. I was absolutely convinced that the decision was made with the right intentions. I recognise the strength of feeling of Members on this issue. It is clear that today has not shown the House at its best. I will reflect on my part in that, and of course I recommit myself to ensuring that all Members of this House are treated fairly.

I did not want it to have ended like this. I want to say to the House that I will meet with all the key players of each party. I think it is right that I meet with each one. [Interruption.] To correct that, I have not met with Sue Gray—I did not bump into her today; I am offended by that comment, and I think the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Paul Holmes) would like to withdraw it. That is the danger; the House has ended up with speculation over what is not factual. I am honest to this House, I am true to this House, and I believe in all Members of this House. I have tried to do what I thought was the right thing for all sides of this House. It is regrettable, and I apologise for a decision that did not end up in the place that I wished.

I say now that I will meet all the—[Interruption.] Just be quiet, please. I will meet with the leaders and the Chief Whips. Let us have a discussion on what is the best way forward. I say again that I thought I was doing the right thing and the best thing, and I regret, and I apologise for, how it has ended up. I do take responsibility for my actions, and that is why I want to meet the key players who have been involved.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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On a point of order, Mr Speaker, I thank you for coming to the House, for saying you will reflect on what has happened today, and for offering your apologies and to meet with Members of this House. You are our Speaker and we wish you to defend the rights of all Members of this House. I thank you for recommitting yourself to those responsibilities today and for coming to the Floor of the House.

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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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To respond, that is what I tried to do in the first place. It ended up in the wrong place, and I do apologise to all and in particular to the SNP. That it is not where I wanted to be, but it is where I am. I will leave it at that for the moment, but I want to meet as soon as possible.

Stephen Flynn Portrait Stephen Flynn (Aberdeen South) (SNP)
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Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. May I begin by echoing your sentiments in relation to the debate that was had in this Chamber on the most important of matters with regards to the safety of civilians in Gaza and, indeed, in Israel? There has been a difference of view in the House today, but I think that difference of view has been expressed in a way that we can all agree has been in a positive fashion and the best fitting way of any functioning democracy.

Mr Speaker, while I acknowledge your apology, the reality is that you were warned by the Clerks of the House that your decision could lead to the SNP not having a vote on our very own Opposition day. As a result, we have seen the SNP Opposition day turn into a Labour party Opposition day. I am afraid that that is treating me and my colleagues in the Scottish National party with complete and utter contempt, and I will take significant convincing that your position is not now intolerable.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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To respond to that, quite rightly, I understand the feeling. As I said, I would like to have that conversation in private. I would like to meet with you as soon as possible.

Lucy Powell Portrait Lucy Powell (Manchester Central) (Lab/Co-op)
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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition was this evening passed unanimously, and therefore—[Interruption.] Yes, it was. [Interruption.] And therefore—[Interruption.]

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. I do not think that now is the time. What I want to do is move on and meet with the important players. I am now going to hand over to the Deputy and leave it at that.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Business of the House

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Thursday 8th February 2024

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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May I start by thanking my right hon. Friend and other colleagues for all the work they have done on the programme board? The new governance structure—I hope Mr Speaker would concur—has enabled us to make good progress on getting a proper grip of what needs to happen to this building and the activity and costs associated with that. We will bring forward further news to the House shortly on where we are with the plans and the programme, but that should not get in the way of concurrent activity. He will know there are some early projects that we think we can get on with that are perfectly within the boundaries of the Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Act 2019, and we should get on and do them. I hope that the House will welcome a more pragmatic approach to taking care of this important UNESCO heritage site.

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?

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Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my right hon. Friend for raising that important question. While our legislation and the things that arm’s length bodies use need to be legally accurate, it is important that people can use language and words such as “mother” and “father”. Actually, that is not only the right thing to do but what the guidance they operate under says they should do. May I ask him to let my office have the details of that case? In addition to perhaps having a debate—he will know how to apply for one in the usual way—I could follow that up for him with relevant arm’s length body.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab)
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I thank the Leader of the House for the business statement and for announcing two full weeks’ business. That is welcome.

Last week, we had to pull a debate due to shortage of time. That was understandable, given the importance of the Government business tabled for that day, but the sad point from our perspective is that unless we are allocated time other than on Thursdays for Back-Bench debates, we will probably have no further time to allocate in the Chamber before the Easter recess. Monday 26 February might fit the bill, since a general debate has been announced for that day. We are of course open for applications, particularly for business in Westminster Hall.

I know this has been mentioned, but could the Leader of the House give an indication of the progress made on bringing forward legislation for the appointment of the football regulator? I have a particular interest in that. Television’s impact on travelling football fans is worsening, with Newcastle United fans alone—I am one of them—having had inconvenient and almost unworkable away-game fixtures imposed on them no fewer than eight times this season. We have had away kick-off times of 8 pm on new year’s day, 5.30 pm in Brighton and Bournemouth—this is when travelling from the north-east of England—and Saturday night kick-offs in London at 8 pm on two occasions and 7 pm on one occasion. Those times makes it unworkable for people to get back from those fixtures on public transport, and it is happening on a much more regular basis. The football regulator is much needed, and I am sure that is something that it would like to focus on.