Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons am 11:33 am ar 22 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lucy Powell Lucy Powell Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 11:33, 22 Chwefror 2024

As you say, Madam Deputy Speaker, it really is not a good look.

No one could have foreseen what happened. As it was, with the Scottish National party indicating that it would vote for our amendment, along with many Conservative Members, it was right that it should be put. The Government made an extraordinary decision to withdraw from the debate, raising a number of questions.

However, let us not forget that we were discussing the most serious of matters—those of life and death, war and conflict, and how we as a country, and as a Parliament, can play our part in bringing about a much-longed-for lasting peace, based on a two-state solution. It is to be regretted that at such a time we did not show ourselves at our best and that parliamentary antics were the story, not Parliament coming together with one voice, saying, “We want the fighting to stop, with an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and a meaningful process.” We can all reflect on that. My final reflection is that I hope this place will have more time, not less, to debate and discuss these profound matters. It should not be left to Opposition day debates and urgent questions to get them aired in the first place.

As we debate these important matters, a long shadow is increasingly cast over us: threats, intimidation and security concerns—[Interruption.] I mean, it’s remarkable. I know that this issue is of huge concern to Mr Speaker too; it is something that keeps him awake at night and is his first priority. I join him in praising the security team working to keep us safe. The legitimate lobbying of Members is part and parcel of our job and our democracy. That, at times, can be robust, and we can all disagree strongly, yet increasingly we are seeing a line being crossed.

I know that Members feel uncomfortable discussing their experiences for fear of attracting more unwanted attention, or because we do not want to come across as whingeing when we have such privileged positions, but during recess we saw another line being crossed, with the intimidation of a Member and their family at their family home. Reports that other organisations will be targeting the homes of MPs ahead of and during the election have caused huge anxiety. It is a totally unacceptable development. Oh, there is no noise for that one. It not only causes anxiety for MPs and their families, neighbours and staff; it is antidemocratic and is undoubtedly starting to affect people’s decisions and behaviours. That is wrong, and we must do more to address it. Does the Leader of the House agree that the police should take a much more hard-line approach to so-called protests outside the homes of Members of Parliament? Can she confirm that the police should use the powers they have to stop such protests, and say whether further guidance can be issued?

Does the Leader of the House agree that we need to look at the causes, not just the symptoms, of this sometimes toxic and febrile environment? First, does she agree that we have a duty to be careful with our language and in how we conduct ourselves and challenge one another, and that we should avoid stoking division? Next, does she agree that more should be done, with extra powers given, to regulate social media and elsewhere to tackle the spread of misinformation, disinformation, deepfakes and other dangerous material? With the rise in antisemitism, Islamophobia and hate, can the Leader of the House confirm that the Government will bring forward a hate crime and extremism strategy with urgency? Finally, does she agree that the defending democracy taskforce should have a broader remit to defend democracy from threats within our borders, and that we should take a more cross-party approach as we head towards what is likely to be a very testing general election?