Business of the House

– in the House of Commons am 10:35 am ar 18 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The business for the week commencing 22 April will include:

Monday 22 April—Consideration of a Lords message to the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, followed by debate on a motion on hospice funding. The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Tuesday 23 AprilSecond Reading of the Football Governance Bill, followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords messages to the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill.

Wednesday 24 April—Remaining stages of the Renters (Reform) Bill, followed by motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to terrorism.

Thursday 25 April—Debate on a motion on Lesbian Visibility Week, followed by debate on a motion on the Buckland review of autism employment. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 26 April—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 29 April includes:

Monday 29 April—Consideration in Committee of the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill.

Tuesday 30 April—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill.

Wednesday 1 May—Remaining stages of the Automated Vehicles Bill [Lords].

Thursday 2 May—Business to be determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

The House will rise for the early May bank holiday at the conclusion of business on 2 May and return on Tuesday 7 May.

Photo of Lucy Powell Lucy Powell Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

May I take this opportunity to put on record my deepest sympathies to Mr Speaker on the loss of his dear father, Doug Hoyle? I remember him as a real character and an important figure in the Labour movement over many decades, serving both as an MP and then as a peer. He was a proud northerner and represented the traditions of the Labour movement. I know that he was incredibly proud of Mr Speaker, and I know how much Mr Speaker and Cath cared for him in his later years. My thoughts are with them both.

The attacks by Iran on Israel have rightly been condemned by all sides of the House. Thankfully, its intentions were thwarted, and we join together in calling for restraint and de-escalation in the aftermath. We cannot let those recent events deter or distract from international efforts to bring about a sustainable ceasefire in Gaza and create the conditions for a lasting two-state solution.

As global conflict increases, it is unacceptable that the Government have rejected recommendations from the cross-party Procedure Committee for the Foreign Secretary to be accountable in this House. It is simply not the case that he or the Government have been “forward-leaning” in that regard, as the Leader of the House has said. Statements by his now deputy—the Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Mr Mitchell—have been few and far between, and his appearances at Select Committees have all but dried up.

Many times in these exchanges, the Leader of the House has assured us that Members would have the opportunity to question the Foreign Secretary, saying that

“When the Procedure Committee brings forward measures… I am sure those measures will be put in place”—[Official Report, 30 November 2023;
Vol. 741, c. 1061.], so why has she now blocked that—or did she lose the argument in Government? She seems to struggle to be heard in Government lately. I know that she is keen to talk about defence spending too, although apparently No. 10 blocked her. Does she want to take the opportunity today? I know that she, like me, will be concerned to hear that the UK now spends less on defence as a percentage of GDP than when Labour was last in office.

The Leader of the House is not listened to when it comes to legislative business before the House, either. I was really puzzled that she was unable to support a flagship piece of Government legislation, as she apparently thinks it is unworkable. Forgive me, Madam Deputy Speaker, but is it not the job of the Leader of the House to ensure that any Government legislation tabled is well drafted, thought through, and will achieve its aims? She chairs the Government’s legislation committee, does she not? She has more influence than nearly anybody else on the drafting of a Bill, so what went wrong?

After our Easter break, we have returned to groundhog day. It might be a new term, but it is the same old story: more decent Conservative Members announcing that they are standing down; Treasury Ministers hitting the airwaves and getting the numbers wrong; a weak Prime Minister who cannot face down his own party, running scared from his own legislation and refusing to say how his cuts to national insurance will be funded; the former Prime Minister, Elizabeth Truss, still unable to show any contrition for her actions directly costing mortgage holders hundreds of pounds a month; Cabinet splits and rival factions all on open display, with ever more extreme positions and platforms taken; and yet more Tory sleaze and scandal.

Today’s revelations about Mark Menzies are extraordinary. They raise very serious questions about the misuse of funds and the pressure put on others to facilitate it. Perhaps more importantly, they also raise questions about how these issues are handled by the Conservative party. There is a worrying pattern of cover-up and inaction, so can the Leader of the House shed some light? What did the Chief Whip, the Prime Minister and the party chairman, Mr Holden, know and when? Why did it take the publication of the story today for the Whip to be removed? Has this matter been referred to the police, and if not, why not?

It seems that yet again, like with Mr Wragg and so many other recent cases of sleaze and scandal, the Government are too weak to act decisively, and instead choose to brush things under the carpet. The truth is that they have given up on governing, and given up on winning the next election: it is all about saving their own skin and the inevitable leadership battle. I can tell the Leader of the House that we on the Labour Benches have been there before, and it does not end well. The public do not easily forgive politicians who put party before country and do not focus relentlessly on fixing the problems they face.

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I join the hon. Lady in formally conveying my sympathies to Mr Speaker on the loss of his father; I have spoken to him privately, and written to him as well. I also congratulate 3 Dads Walking on being awarded the petition of the year by the Petitions Committee for their important work on suicide prevention, and wish all colleagues—18 of them in total—and everyone else running the marathon good luck.

On Monday evening, the very special Jewish festival of Passover begins. Like their ancestors before them, Jewish families around the world will gather around their Seder tables to retell the story of the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt. However, this year many of them will be leaving an empty seat open at those tables for those still held captive by Hamas in Gaza. I hope this will be the last Jewish holiday where they are unable to celebrate with their families, and wish chag sameach to all those celebrating. I also thank all hon. Members for their resolve and support with regard to Israel’s security—that is an important message that we send from this House.

The hon. Lady mentions the issue of the Foreign Secretary, and the Government’s work in that regard, being accountable to this House. Since the Foreign Secretary was appointed, we have had eight Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office statements, three prime ministerial statements on foreign affairs, a general debate in Government time on the situation in the Red sea and 17 Westminster Hall debates responded to by FCDO ministers, as well as oral questions in both Houses. We are sticking with the usual precedents of both Houses.

The hon. Lady asks me to comment on defence, and I am very happy to compare this Government’s record with the last Labour Government’s record. We have had the largest uplift to the defence budget since the end of the cold war. When we came into office, we inherited a defence budget and equipment programme with a £71 billion black hole, on Royal United Services Institute figures. I remember from my own constituency that Portsmouth, Faslane and Plymouth were having to state the case to continue to be naval bases in this country. The previous Labour Government knew their record with members of the armed forces was poor, because in 2005 they disenfranchised all of them by changing the rules on voter registration.

The hon. Lady points to the vote on smoking. I think free votes in this place on such matters are good. However, whatever our difference of opinion, in future years I am hopeful there will be fewer fag packets around on which Labour economic teams can do their sums, and I think that is a jolly good thing.

Labour Members seem to be continuing to push their line on national insurance contributions. Good look to them in that respect, but let me just point out some of the reasons why it will not get traction. National insurance contributions receipts do not determine the NHS budget or pensions, it is only the Labour party that has cut the NHS budget and it is actually Labour’s policy—at least, it was when I came into the Chamber—to support our tax cuts. I hope that is helpful information for the hon. Lady.

The hon. Lady mentioned some very serious allegations and other incidents that came to light during the recess. These are very serious matters and some of them are under police investigation, so she would not expect me to comment on them, but we take these matters very seriously. We have taken action again this week to improve online safety and other matters.

The deepfake phenomenon is more widespread than we might think, and the public may well be fooled into thinking that something is the case when it is not, or that a person they know is manifestly different, and we need to expose such scams. The hon. Lady talks about defence, and someone might be tempted to believe a person is committed to this nation’s nuclear deterrent, but note that, in reality, the same person was content to serve in the Cabinet of the last Labour leader and that six of his Front Benchers voted to end our nuclear deterrent. They might think that the Labour party is the party of the NHS, but as we know, it is the only party that has cut the NHS budget. They might be tempted by the sound of “securonomics”, only to discover that that is built on unfunded pledges and unspecified tax increases.

Someone might be tempted by the look of the shadow Chancellor’s commitment to end unpaid internships, only to find that she has used them herself, or of Labour’s campaign against fire and rehire, only to discover that that is exactly what Labour HQ did under the current Labour leader. They might be sucked in by talk about its wanting to protect pensioners and then learn that it will not commit to our triple lock, and that hundreds of thousands more pensioners were living in absolute poverty under the last Labour Government. Businesses might be flattered by email and online ads from Labour, unaware of the 70 new regulatory burdens that would be piled on to them under a Labour Government.

My advice is: “Don’t be tempted!” People should not be fooled by a shadow Foreign Secretary who nominated Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister; a shadow International Development Secretary who wants to turn our armed forces into a hippy hit squad; a party that, until last year, had a shadow Minister for disarmament; a shadow Energy Secretary whose poor judgment on national security and our interests led to disaster and to Op Shader; a shadow Deputy Prime Minister who holds others to standards she does not think should apply to herself; or a party that talks tough on borders, but as of yesterday, has voted 132 times again strengthening them.

The Leader of the Opposition has spent four years in office posting pictures to his profile of Neil Kinnock, Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher. Do not be fooled: behind that profile sits a man with no plan for this country, except the vested interests of militant unions, and support for the arguments of those who would do this nation harm. It is deepfake Labour led by catfish Keir. Do not fall for it.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Standing Orders Committee (Commons), Chair, Standing Orders Committee (Commons), Chair, Parliamentary Works Estimates Commission, Chair, Parliamentary Works Estimates Commission

Order. Before we proceed may I, on behalf of Mr Speaker, thank the Leader of the House and the shadow Leader of the House, and all other Members who have expressed their sympathy to him on the loss of his father? Lord Hoyle, Doug Hoyle, was a dedicated parliamentarian, an inspirational, kind and amusing gentleman, and a very proud father. He will be very greatly missed, and I am sure the whole House will join me in sending our sympathy to Mr Speaker and his family. Our thoughts will be with them as they make arrangements for Lord Hoyle’s funeral.

I call the Father of the House.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Father of the House of Commons

We will remember Doug Hoyle’s smile, we will remember him with a smile, and I remember that he got elected eight months before I did.

Questions on the Cass report in this House were followed yesterday by those in the other place, and the Lords Minister said that he would respond to a number of points in writing. If information is given by the Minister that was not given to this House, could it be put in a written statement or put in the Library? Many of the points, especially those made by Baroness Hayter, were important. We need an inquiry into how things got into the state that had to be exposed by the four-year review by Dr Hilary Cass, for which we all thank her.

One thing that has not yet happened, but may happen in the next week or two, is the publication of the report from the Select Committee on the Holocaust Memorial Bill through its hybrid procedure. It is coming later than we anticipated, and may contain some interesting recommendations or decisions. Will the Government say, as soon as possible, whether they intend to go on trying to ram this proposal through? They have already spent more than £30 million achieving nothing in the last eight and a half years, so will they have a roundtable and consider spending £20 million getting a memorial up in the next two years, during the lifetime of some of the holocaust survivors, and moving the learning centre to the Imperial War Museum?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank my hon. Friend for that question, and I will certainly ensure that his request about the Cass review is undertaken. He knows that a process is being gone through at the moment for the memorial, and I will again ensure that the relevant Secretary of State has heard what he said today. There are also questions to that Secretary of State on Monday, and he may wish to make use of that opportunity.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (COP26), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Commons Business)

May I associate myself with the remarks about Passover and about Mr Speaker’s late father, and send my sincerest condolences to him and his family?

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

“Damn right. I know many people will have strong feelings on this…email me…and I will make sure your concerns” are heard. Those are such strong feelings that you may wonder, Madam Deputy Speaker, what caused that righteous anger, which was not just from the Leader of the House but from Members across the Chamber.

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

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

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

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

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

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

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Ceidwadwyr, Harrow East

I associate myself with your remarks, Madam Deputy Speaker, about the late father of Mr Speaker.

The Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee, Ian Mearns, is with his family right now, because his daughter-in-law is still extremely ill. I am sure the whole House will send our sympathy and best wishes for a speedy recovery. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]

On behalf of the Backbench Business Committee, I thank my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for the allocation of time for the hospice funding debate. I hope that will take place on Monday. It is heavily subscribed, I believe, and a lot of Members will want to take part. We have now filled our Chamber time. On 2 May, there will be a debate on security in the western Balkans and another on pension schemes. On 9 May, if we are given the time, there will be debates on miners and mining communities and on the BBC mid-term charter review, both of which are popular matters for discussion. We have also allocated all the time available to us in Westminster Hall. If the Leader of the House has more time that she needs to allocate to the Backbench Business Committee, we can readily fill up that time if she wishes.

The Mayor of London made a solemn promise before the last mayoral election that he would not expand the ultra low emission zone to outer London. No sooner had he been re-elected than he started a consultation on expanding ULEZ to outer London. The fact that 66% of respondents objected seemed to have no bearing on his decision; he immediately introduced ULEZ to the whole of outer London, and people are suffering as a result. At this election, he is promising not to introduce pay per mile if he is re-elected. Can we trust him? Not a bit of it. The reality is that his adviser—

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Victims and Sentencing)

This is a speech. Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Ceidwadwyr, Harrow East

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. One of the Mayor’s key advisers has let slip that the Mayor is planning to do precisely that if he is re-elected. Can we have a debate in Government time on promises made at elections and promises broken?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

First, I thank my hon. Friend for stepping up in place of the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee. I am sure that all Members will join him in sending our thoughts and love to Ian Mearns and his whole family at this difficult time. I also thank him for the advert for future Backbench Business Committee debates.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to point out the abysmal record and broken promises of Labour’s London Mayor, whose war on motorists will, I am afraid, continue. He is targeting people through the ULEZ and low-traffic neighbourhoods, which disproportionately hit those on low incomes. Meanwhile, Transport for London is not in a financially stable position, and every year, 15,000 fewer homes are being delivered than the Mayor promised in his London plan. Labour has a record of failing not only those in Wales, Birmingham, Nottingham and countless other places, but Londoners, who will be safer with Susan Hall. I urge all hon. Members to support her.

Photo of Rachel Hopkins Rachel Hopkins Llafur, Luton South

The Prime Minister has said that he would hold a general election in June or July if the results of May’s election were not that bad for his party. May I ask the Leader of the House to persuade the Prime Minister to consider the good of the country when considering and deciding on the timing of the general election?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the hon. Lady for that innovative question. Dates of elections are way above my pay grade, but I will again urge everyone to vote Conservative when that opportunity arises.

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick Ceidwadwyr, Newark

Last month, Niyak Ghorbani was wrongly arrested for holding up a placard saying that Hamas are terrorists. He was later de-arrested. Yesterday, just yards from this place, the same man was once again arrested for holding the same sign. He was then de-arrested again. Hamas are terrorists, and we should all say so and defend freedom of speech. Will my right hon. Friend organise a debate in Government time on how we can end two-tier policing and restore public confidence in the Metropolitan police?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. This is an important matter that other hon. Members have raised in the Chamber, particularly when the first incident happened. The policy is clear, and I am pleased that, in both situations, the arrest was reversed, but it goes to show the importance of our having in place not just the right policies, but the operational policing plan, as well as training being undertaken to ensure that officers, who often face difficult and confusing situations, know exactly what they should be doing and when. I shall ensure that both the Home Secretary and the head of the Metropolitan police have heard his remarks.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

It is over a year since Sir Brian Langstaff made his final recommendations on compensation. The Government have accepted the moral case for compensation to be paid. More than 100 people have died in the last 12 months, and still no money has been allocated for compensation. It was a step forward yesterday that amendments were tabled to the Victims and Prisoners Bill in the other place, but the amendment that this House agreed, which included a three-month timeframe for a compensation body to be set up, has been removed by Government amendments in the other place. Could we have a statement from the Minister on why it is taking so long to set up this compensation body, and to get compensation paid? If the Government wanted to, they could expedite matters, as they have done with the Post Office scandal, and could bring a stand-alone Bill to this House. I am sure that the House would get that Bill through to get compensation to these people before they die.

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank again the right hon. Lady for her diligent work on this incredibly important issue. She met the Minister concerned—the Paymaster General—yesterday, and he will have given her an update on his work. We recognise that many victims have waited too long for compensation. This Government established the inquiry, and the Minister established the compensation review that was done. The Government amendment that the right hon. Lady referred to includes a provision for interim payments to be made to the estates of people who were infected by contaminated blood products, have passed away, and were registered with the infected blood scheme or its predecessor schemes, where an interim payment has not already been made. I have regular meetings with the Minister who is overseeing this matter. She will know that he is working at pace. I am glad that we have gripped this issue, but we need to get those interim payments and full compensation to people swiftly, and I am confident that that will happen.

Photo of Tom Randall Tom Randall Ceidwadwyr, Gedling

One of the biggest issues that my constituents raise on the doorstep is the condition of our roads. A lot of work is being done to fix the roads in Gedling and Nottinghamshire, but cash is a big issue. I warmly welcome the fact that, as part of the new East Midlands Combined Authority, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire will have one of the largest devolved transport budgets. Given this change, could we have a debate in Government time on infrastructure and investment in the east midlands? Does my right hon. Friend agree that such a debate would be a good opportunity to highlight the fact that, having done so much work to secure a devolution deal for the east midlands, my hon. Friend Ben Bradley is the person best placed to lead the east midlands into this new future?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend is right that on 2 May, those in the east midlands will have the opportunity to ensure that that happens. My hon. Friend Ben Bradley—that is not how his name will appear on the ballot paper—has helped to secure the biggest single devolved transport budget in the country. He has plans to invest that in road resurfacing and better bus and train routes, and he has a plan for how that will attract jobs and investment. In contrast, the Labour party has wasted £38 million of taxpayers’ money on its failed Robin Hood Energy scheme, and like other Labour local authorities, Nottingham City Council has declared itself bankrupt, which raises council tax and makes the hard-working people of Nottinghamshire pay for Labour’s failures. If my hon. Friend secured a debate on this topic, it would be well attended.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

I add my sincere condolences to Mr Speaker and his family on the loss of his father.

A report from the Jo Cox Foundation called the abuse of MPs a “threat to democracy”. That applies to abuse of not just MPs, but elected members at all levels, particularly local councillors. According to the Local Government Association, 70% of councillors have had similar experiences to MPs. I had a meeting with the Bath and North East Somerset group leaders last week, at which I heard harrowing stories. We MPs now get extra security through Operation Bridger, but local councillors do not get the same protections. Is it not time that the Government put their mind to protecting elected members at all levels? May we have a statement on that, please?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady raises a very important matter. She will know that the defending democracy taskforce, headed by the Minister for Security, is looking at these issues, and is, in some cases, providing support to councillors or councils across the country. The Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology also met Mr Speaker and me earlier this week about online abuse that hon. Members face. There needs to be more focus on what platforms are doing, their stated responsibilities, and whether they are living up to them. I will ensure that that Secretary of State and the Minister for Security have heard what the hon. Lady has said today.

Photo of Alec Shelbrooke Alec Shelbrooke Ceidwadwyr, Elmet and Rothwell

I applaud the Government’s efforts to try to sort out the Gibraltar-Spain border. I am sure that I speak for the whole House when I say how encouraged I was by the agreement announced last Friday. However, the EU Commissioner has been contrary on the issues of airport goods and mobility, and we have been given only some detail on the direction of travel in those areas. The Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, has gone on record to say that Gibraltar will never be Spanish, a sentiment in which I am sure the whole House will share. In the light of the comments by the EU Commissioner, will my right hon. Friend make time for a debate in the House, in which it can be made clear by all parties that the House will never compromise on British sovereignty on the Rock, or its people’s right to self-determination?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank my right hon. Friend for affording the Government the opportunity to state again at the Dispatch Box that we will never compromise on the British sovereignty of the Rock, or the right of its people to self-determination. Gibraltar is incredibly important to us strategically and culturally. Gibraltar enables us to defend its interests and ours, and as a consequence, we will defend Gibraltar from anyone who has other ideas.

Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Minister (Science, Research and Innovation)

May we have a debate in Government time on the role of regional Mayors? Lord Houchen, the Conservative Tees Valley Mayor, seems to believe that his role is to benefit his mates, while distancing himself as far as possible from the Conservative party in whose name he is standing, whereas Chris McEwan, our Labour party candidate, and Kim McGuinness, our fantastic candidate for North East Mayor, believe that their role would be to bring opportunity to every corner of the region, and to be a voice for everyone in the region. Who is right?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The fact that Ben Houchen irritates the Labour party so much is a testament to his good work. He saved Teesside Airport from closure, and it is now delivering new flights for local people. He secured the UK’s first and largest freeport, which is already securing billions of pounds of private investment, with the Teesworks site having secured investment from Thai banks. The demolition and decontamination of land has been delivered ahead of budget and time, ready for reinvestment, and he has done many other things, but the statistic that stands out most is that he has increased the employment rate in the area by 3% above the national average. He is doing a great job. He is a good man, and I hope that he will have the opportunity to continue to do that good job in the wake of the appalling smears by the Labour party.

Photo of Peter Gibson Peter Gibson Ceidwadwyr, Darlington

I thank my right hon. Friend for allocating a slot on Monday for the hospice debate. Does she agree that the Prime Minister’s decision to establish the Darlington economic campus, following relentless campaigning by me, my fantastic Tees Valley colleagues and our marvellous Mayor Ben Houchen, was a game changer for Darlington? Does she further agree that saving our airport, launching Teesworks and restoring Tees pride are further examples of why Ben Houchen should continue to serve Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool? Can she find time for a debate on the modernising revolution that Ben has unleashed, which is benefiting every part of our great region?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank my hon. Friend for asking another question with regard to our Ben Houchen, because his achievements simply could not possibly be crammed into one answer. He is also enabling Net Zero Teesside, the world’s first industrial scale carbon capture, usage and storage facility. He is delivering over £200 million of investment in Darlington, Middlesbrough and Hartlepool’s rail stations to improve rail capacity, and he is using reallocated High Speed 2 money to transform local transport, including the long-overdue Darlington northern link road. Again, I urge anyone who has the opportunity to vote on 2 May to enable him to continue that good work to do so.

Photo of Anum Qaisar Anum Qaisar Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Levelling Up)

One of my constituents recently got in touch after fleeing domestic abuse in his relationship. Owing to societal stigma, male survivors are often overlooked, leaving them without adequate safeguarding services or police support. Given that one third of domestic abuse victims are male, will the Leader of the House find time for a debate, in Government time, about improving support for all victims of domestic abuse?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady raises a very important point. Many of the measures that we have introduced to deal with domestic abuse or with people trying to control others in one way or another, including financially, apply to everyone who is in the unfortunate position of being a victim. Advertising these services to everyone who might be affected is also important, so I shall ensure that the relevant Home Office Minister has heard what she has said.

Photo of Steve Double Steve Double Ceidwadwyr, St Austell and Newquay

I welcome the Government’s work to expand the role of community pharmacies as part of our healthcare system. I particularly welcome the Pharmacy First scheme, which was successfully piloted in Cornwall. However, while we are placing more demand on pharmacies, the number of community pharmacies in Cornwall is falling, with both Boots and Asda announcing closures. I know that my hon. Friend Scott Mann has written to Asda opposing the closure of its pharmacy in Bodmin. Pharmacy owners tell me that the current funding arrangements are not adequate to meet the growing demand. May we have a statement from the Department of Health and Social Care on the Government’s plans to maintain, and hopefully increase, the number of community pharmacies, particularly in rural areas, and ensure that they receive the funding that they need?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank my hon. Friend for welcoming the excellent service Pharmacy First, which is a much appreciated and convenient scheme that enables people to access certain prescription drugs without having to go to their general practitioner. Given that pharmacies are private businesses that receive NHS funding for pharmaceutical services, closure decisions are obviously made by those commercial organisations, but my hon. Friend’s local care board will have a responsibility to ensure good coverage of those services. I shall ensure that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has heard his concerns, and that all his constituents are able to make use of all available services, including Pharmacy First.

Photo of Christian Wakeford Christian Wakeford Opposition Whip (Commons)

I join the Leader of the House in wishing the Jewish community, whom I am proud to represent, chag Pesach sameach.

Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating Bernard, Jonno and the entire team at Radcliffe football club on reaching their highest ever position as champions of the northern premier league? They will be lifting the trophy this Saturday. Will she agree to a debate in Government time about the importance of grassroots football and its benefit to local communities? But more importantly, up the Boro!

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I am sure that the whole House will want to join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating Bernard, Jonno and the whole team on their incredible achievements. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have recently held debates on the importance of community sport to not only helping communities but providing a pipeline of new talent. I shall ensure that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has heard what he has said.

Photo of Virginia Crosbie Virginia Crosbie Ceidwadwyr, Ynys Môn

For years, the town of Amlwch has been forgotten, but not on my watch. Anglesey freeport and the UK Government’s recent purchase of the Wylfa nuclear site mean jobs and investment coming to the north of the island—but I am not stopping there. Along with a local resident, Mandy Jones, I have launched a campaign to get the supermarket Aldi to come to Amlwch to give my constituents the opportunity to shop locally. Will the Leader of the House support my Aldi to Amlwch campaign, and if it is successful, will she join Mandy and me in cutting the ribbon?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I congratulate my hon. Friend on all her achievements: the freeport; the partnership between the county council and Stena Line, which will be a huge boost to the local economy; and of course her championing of energy projects, the prosperity park and the inaugural trade centre of excellence in Wales. She has helped to secure all those things. I will be very happy to do all I can to help her latest campaign, which sounds like a good one. Although I cannot commit to a date until she gives me one, I hope that if I am able to attend, I will be able to help cut the ribbon—perhaps with a sword.

Photo of Christine Jardine Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equalities), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I was recently able to visit California, in the United States, with the Scottish Affairs Committee to look at the opportunities there and the ecosystem that has been created. Everyone we spoke to in the space sector spoke very highly of our universities and the sector in this country. However, we regularly hear of a skills shortage in that industry, which is a massive opportunity not just for Scotland, but for the whole of the UK. It is some time since we had a debate in this place on the opportunities in the space sector. Would the Leader of the House consider setting aside time for such a debate?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the hon. Lady for all she is doing to support this growing and important sector in every part of the United Kingdom. The Government are very aware of the need to ensure that we have skills and a growing workforce that can contribute to it. We are delivering on our commitment to build a whole-UK space ecosystem by working with business, academic institutions and the devolved Administrations, and we have backed that with funding. She will know how to apply for a debate, but I shall make sure that the Secretary of State has heard her keenness to give this very important matter more of an airing.

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Ceidwadwyr, Chipping Barnet

Can we have a debate on the importance of improving NHS services and expanding capacity in Barnet so that I can update the House on the excellent progress made towards the enlargement of Barnet Hospital A&E, with planning permission secured, work under way, more staff arriving, and patients expected to have a significant improvement in facilities by January?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on all the work she has done on this matter, particularly securing the £6.5 million redevelopment of the urgent and emergency care unit in her local hospital. I think that the timeline she outlined is correct, and the work will certainly have a massive impact on improving patient waiting times and reducing ambulance handover times by creating additional capacity. She will know that she can air questions to the Secretary of State on this matter on 23 April, which is next week.

Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs)

I am absolutely delighted to tell the House that 81 students from the Bobby Moore Academy in West Ham will be welcomed to the Royal Opera House today to watch a performance of “Swan Lake”. I hope that they absolutely love it and that it inspires a lifetime of getting joy from the arts. I am sure the Leader of the House will agree with me and my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition that every child should have the opportunity to fall in love with the arts. Can we have a debate in Government time where we can explore ways that we can give working-class communities like mine greater access to the arts?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I hope that all students from the Bobby Moore Academy have a wonderful time watching “Swan Lake” today. The hon. Lady knows that we are absolutely committed to ensuring that every child can experience high-quality performances. The funding that we have distributed has been across the whole of the UK, which is very important. She has just missed the opportunity to raise this issue with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, so I shall make sure that she has heard what the hon. Lady has said today.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Ceidwadwyr, New Forest West

Can we debate whether changes to the Standing Orders are necessary? They are the nearest thing that we have to a written constitution. Yesterday, there were multiple references to guests in the Gallery. A few weeks ago, when an hon. Member made such as reference, the fellow actually got up and took a bow. It may be that the current Standing Orders are no longer fit for purpose and that allowing such references should be in the gift of the Chair, but we ought to make the change, rather than just go on ignoring the Standing Orders.

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank my right hon. Friend for raising a question that is actually in my brief, which is quite a new experience for me. Other Members have raised similar concerns, and I will make sure that Mr Speaker hears that. I think some flexibility is appreciated, as we quite often have particular people that we in the House want to acknowledge and send support to in that manner, but I will make sure that Mr Speaker has heard that point. It will be a matter for him, as well as for the whole of the House. In the meantime, I am sure that we can rely on my right hon. Friend to loudly tut whenever that happens.

Photo of Tonia Antoniazzi Tonia Antoniazzi Opposition Whip (Commons)

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister was able to rely on Labour votes to pass his flagship smoking Bill. Does the Leader of the House agree that, sadly for Government Members, that shows a Prime Minister in office but not actually in power?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

We have free votes on some matters in this place, and after the initial shock, confusion and pressure from having to decide which Lobby to go into, that is appreciated by hon. Members. On that vote, the Prime Minister put forward world-leading legislation, which he had passed by this House. I think that that shows that he is very much in control.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Ceidwadwyr, Cleethorpes

My local newspaper, the Grimsby Telegraph, carried a recent report praising the work of community police officer Dave Cave, highlighting the importance of community policing. I am pleased to say that, in Humberside police, both chief officers and the excellent police commissioner, Jon Evison, also support community policing. Could we have a debate in Government time to explore policing methods and the importance of community policing?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I am sure that everyone in the House would want to send their congratulations to PC Dave Cave for his near 20 years of service. I am sure that all colleagues would join me in doing that and would congratulate him on that well-deserved award. He exemplifies what it means to be a police officer and a fantastic community champion. I am sure that my hon. Friend knows how to apply for a debate, but such an opportunity would also afford us the ability to shine a spotlight on the very good work done by our police forces. We do not note and praise them enough for it.

Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Domestic Violence and Safeguarding)

Constituents of mine in Pontypridd and Glyncoch have got in touch regarding concerns about the operation of Craig-yr-Hesg quarry. Will the Leader of the House support me in securing a debate to ensure that real-time silica dust monitoring is invested in up and down the country, so that my constituents and many others living near quarry sites do not have to live in fear?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I am sorry to hear about the situation in the hon. Lady’s constituency. The next questions to the relevant Secretary of State are not until 9 May, so I will write and make sure that he has heard what she has said.

Photo of Craig Whittaker Craig Whittaker Assistant Whip

As a keen motorcyclist, I welcome the Government setting out an ambitious vision for the moped, motorcycle and entire powered light vehicle sector in their 2021 transport decarbonisation plan. A road map to realising that vision is in their joint action plan with the Motorcycle Industry Association. The key to reducing emissions and alleviating congestion is improving access to the sector through a full-scale licence review. Can we please have a debate in Government time on the Motorcycle Industry Association’s A Licence to Net Zero campaign?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank my right hon. Friend for raising that campaign. He will know that the Department has been meeting with that body—I think that they met at a roundtable on 17 January—and with other parts of industry on the issues that he touches on. Although there are no current plans to reform category L vehicle licences, officials met stakeholders at the end of last year, and I think that they are due to have a follow-up ministerial roundtable with the relevant Minister shortly after the May recess, which that particular trade body will be attending. However, I thank my right hon. Friend for continuing to campaign on its behalf.

Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady Scottish National Party, Glasgow North

I echo the condolences paid to Mr Speaker and note that mass was offered in the crypt chapel last night for the repose of Doug Hoyle’s soul.

We have heard the Leader of the House reinforce the Government’s rejection of the Procedure Committee’s recommendation for the Foreign Secretary to be scrutinised at the Bar of the House. She has also written to encourage the Procedure Committee to investigate the operation of the Standing Orders governing Opposition days. What is the point of the Procedure Committee investigating matters on her recommendation if the Government simply dismiss its recommendations?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

It is important that I raise these matters with the Procedure Committee, but it is up to the Committee what it decides. On the latter point, the Committee had a meeting yesterday to discuss my correspondence. I think it does a very good job, and the Government do not dismiss its findings. More often than not, we agree with its findings. Where we have disagreements—and we disagreed with only part of that particular report—we publish our response. Of course, the other place also has a stake in this matter.

Photo of Luke Evans Luke Evans Ceidwadwyr, Bosworth

Last month I was targeted by a honeytrap plot, which I immediately reported to the police and the authorities. I put on the record my sincere thanks to Leicestershire police, who have been exemplary in taking it on. I also thank the Whips for their support. However, I have significant concerns about how this was handled by parliamentary security. Will the Leader of the House ask Mr Speaker to conduct a full review of the system for reporting and investigating incidents reported by MPs, so that lessons can be learned and no MP has to go through the same experiences?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I was very sorry to learn of what happened to my hon. Friend. I thank him for putting on the record his thanks to his local police force, which has been fantastic in its work. I will of course ensure that not just Mr Speaker but the whole House of Commons Commission has heard his concerns. I know that the head of security here takes these matters very seriously, and I am sure this will be followed up.

Photo of Charlotte Nichols Charlotte Nichols Llafur, Warrington North

I associate myself with the remarks of the Leader of the House and the shadow Leader of the House on the sad passing of Lord Hoyle, who was a much-loved icon of Warrington, and in wishing my fellow Jews chag Pesach sameach.

My constituent Adam Rowland recently met the Prime Minister, who promised live on television, no less, that he would be in touch with him regarding his negative reaction to the covid vaccine and his difficulty accessing the recommended treatment on the NHS. Since then, despite repeated requests, Adam has had no response from anyone in Government and feels like he is being treated as some sort of pariah and anti-vax conspiracy theorist. He is not. He is just a man who did the right thing in taking up the vaccine and was one of the unfortunate minority who became ill, and he needs some support. Will the Leader of the House please help Adam get the response he was promised?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

Of course I will do that. If the hon. Lady gives me the details, I will follow it up straight after this session. Those who are injured by vaccines need access to support, healthcare and answers, and we should ensure that they get them.

Photo of Jerome Mayhew Jerome Mayhew Ceidwadwyr, Broadland

The Government are absolutely right to fund the doubling of dental training places over the next five years, because they understand how important access to NHS dentistry is for our constituents. For a person growing up in Broadland, the nearest dentistry training place is currently in Birmingham or London, because the east of England is the only region that does not have a dental training school. May we have a debate on the importance of having a new dental training school in East Anglia, and preferably at the University of East Anglia?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that increasing the number and making sure that every region has medical schools and dental schools is vital, and not just for growing the workforce but for ensuring that the workforce is located where it is required. I will ensure that the Secretary of State has heard what he has said today. My hon. Friend will know that we have had a huge catch-up job to do since the pandemic. We are doing that with 23% more treatments delivered in the last year alone, with an additional 1.7 million adults and 800,000 children receiving NHS dental care, but more needs to be done to ensure that everyone can remain dentally fit.

Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office), Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

Let me join other Members in sending my sympathy to Mr Speaker and his family on the loss of his father, Lord Hoyle.

I have written to the Health Secretary four times on behalf of a constituent to ask why 65 to 69-year-olds have been excluded from the recent so-called “expansion” of the roll-out of the NHS shingles vaccine. Those who are turning 65 are eligible for it, but those already 65 to 69 are missing out and must wait until they are 70 to become eligible, despite the extra vulnerabilities of their age group. Not a single response out of the four from the Minister gave me a straight answer as to why 65 to 69-year-olds are being excluded from this vaccine roll-out. Will the Leader of the House advise me on any other way I can get a clear response from the Minister that lays out clinical or practical reasoning to back up her Department’s decision to exclude 65 to 69-year-olds from the shingles vaccine?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady raises an important question. If the Department had responded to her— I will certainly ask why it has not—the reply would have talked about the step change in the roll-out and how the Department is going to manage the expansion of access to that vaccine. That is understandable, but I know that it is not acceptable to many Members in this House, because from the logic of that it follows that there will be a vaccine available to people who would benefit from it, and the evidence shows that it is clinically effective and cost-effective for those individuals, but they will not be able to access it now. Members are right to press the policy on that front. Obviously, she can raise this issue at questions, but I know it is a concern for a large number of Members and so will make sure that the Secretary of State has heard this and will ask the committees that look at this policy to sense-check what it is doing.

Photo of Pauline Latham Pauline Latham Ceidwadwyr, Mid Derbyshire

Progress has been made at Alstom in Derby, with a potential order of 10 trains approved for funding. We hope that will secure the site’s future, and I thank my right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary for his hard work on this matter in recent months. However, questions remain about the future of rail in the UK, including, of course, about the future of Great British Rail’s new headquarters in Derby. May we have a debate in Government time on the issue?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

First, let me thank my hon. Friend for all the work she is doing to ensure that this new HQ is established quickly. I know that a lot of close working has been undertaken with Derby-based partners, including the city council, to create a shared plan for that HQ, and that she has been diligent and has been tabling written parliamentary questions on this matter. I shall ensure that the Secretary of State has heard her continuing campaigning on it today. She will know that the next Transport questions will take place on 16 May, which will be after that timetable has been confirmed.

Photo of Kirsten Oswald Kirsten Oswald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Women), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Equalities)

I have been dealing with a long-running case involving constituents who lost their investment in the Paradise Golf and Beach Resort in Morocco. Some 800 investors, the majority of them British, lost investments in the resort after construction abruptly halted in 2016. I have contacted the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office numerous times, as well as writing to the relevant ambassadors. The FCDO confirmed the Moroccan ambassador’s willingness to meet investors, but no meeting has been arranged to date. May we have a debate in Government time on how the FCDO can best support those, such as my constituents, who have been left high and dry in this situation?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I am sorry to hear about that situation and will of course make sure that the FCDO knows that the hon. Lady has asked about it again today. The next questions to the ministerial team will be on 30 April, so I shall make sure that they have heard that she might raise the issue then. If my office can facilitate getting either consular assistance or more long- term assistance for those investors, please do call on us.

Photo of Kieran Mullan Kieran Mullan Ceidwadwyr, Crewe and Nantwich

As someone who grew up in Birmingham, it pains me to see the total financial mismanagement of Birmingham City Council by the Labour party. Its record stands in stark contrast to that of Mayor Andy Street. If growth, regeneration and house building are left to the Labour party alone in the west midlands, it will mean no progress at best, but regression at worst. Does my right hon. Friend agree that voters should support Andy Street in May, to ensure that they keep a Mayor who can at least actually get things done?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

Whatever people’s political persuasions, they recognise that about Andy Street. He is above politics. When it has come down to fighting for the people he represents, he has chosen to side with them, in some cases against the policies of his own party. He delivers for people. He has built more homes for young people and families than in any other region. He has secured new and improved rail services across the region. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent on redeveloping wasteland instead of building on Birmingham’s green belt. Some £10 billion in Government investment has been secured for the region, and 10 times the amount of transport funding than anyone else has ever managed to get in. He has secured some 100,000 new jobs from his covid recovery plan, 4,000 apprenticeships and four metro extensions. And that is all without raising a single penny of additional tax. If people want that record to continue, they need to let Andy Street continue as their Mayor.

Photo of Holly Lynch Holly Lynch Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons)

The Leader of the House will have followed the efforts of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to oppose plans for an incinerator in his constituency. She will also be aware that Ministers have now issued a direction to the Environment Agency

“to temporarily pause the determination of certain environmental permits for new waste incineration facilities”,

saying that will give Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs officials the chance to

“lead a piece of work considering the role of waste incineration in the management of residual wastes”.

She will also be aware that the majority of permits for incinerators are considered and granted by local authorities rather than by the Environment Agency. Much to the annoyance of residents across Calderdale, this pause does not apply to permits applied for from local authorities rather than from the Environment Agency. Does she agree that unless all permits are paused and all applications are considered as part of this piece of work, it looks as if it is one rule for Government Ministers and another rule for everybody else?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

From what I know of the situation, I do not think what the hon. Lady says follows. There will be different considerations in different cases. I suggest that she raises this at the next departmental questions if she is concerned about other projects. I will ensure that the Department has heard what she has said today. If she is going to make such accusations, she needs a bit more evidence than that which she has furnished us with today.

Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Ceidwadwyr, Romford

I know that the Leader of the House will be looking forward to next Tuesday, 23 April, which is St George’s day, as we celebrate with the Royal Society of St George, hosted by Mr Speaker in Speaker’s House. Will she ensure that we have a debate in Government time about English affairs? We often hear about Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh affairs, but how about a debate on England? Also, can we please have a public holiday for St George’s day, perhaps combined with May day, so that we have one great celebration for our country?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank my hon. Friend for affording us all the opportunity to come to the event that he has put together next week and have a jolly good knees-up to celebrate St George’s day. I hope that he has extended the invitation to many Members, although the SNP spokesperson may not wish to attend, given the comments she made earlier about the English flag, or she might need a little encouragement to do so. He is right that we should be celebrating our national, regional and cultural heritage across the counties of England, and I hope that the event next week will give us the opportunity to do so.

Photo of Patricia Gibson Patricia Gibson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment, Farming, Agriculture and Rural Affairs)

In January, the Bank of Scotland branch in Brodick closed. In March, the post office in Brodick closed. In May, the post office in West Kilbride will close. And in October, the Royal Bank of Scotland branch in Largs will close. As banks abandon our towns, especially across North Ayrshire and Arran, and as our postmasters struggle to stay afloat, will the Leader of the House make a statement setting out the importance of access to cash and financial inclusion? Does she share my view that we need minimum service standards for banks and post offices, including physical outlets in our towns?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the hon. Lady for raising that important matter. There is that expectation. She will know that, in particular, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has a programme of work and shares good practice about how these services can be maintained—and physically maintained as well—even if particular branches are closing. I will make sure that that Department knows that the hon. Lady may benefit from some advice in that respect, but I know that colleagues from across the House have had similar situations, but have managed to retain access to banking, which is vital for local businesses in particular, and also those services from the Post Office as well.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Ceidwadwyr, Kettering

Mr Deputy Speaker, I bring good news from Kettering, where Northamptonshire police has been pleased to announce that, after five years of its groundbreaking Operation Crooked, burglaries have now been halved. A key feature of this campaign has been that, since 2019, specialist burglary teams have ensured that every burglary victim gets a visit from the police, while the quality of investigations, forensic analysis and intelligence gathering has been improved. May we have a statement from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to congratulate Northamptonshire police and all its officers on this tremendous work and to encourage other police forces to follow Northamptonshire’s example?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank my hon. Friend for bringing us more good news from Kettering and congratulate him on the work that he is doing there. I will, of course, join him in praising and congratulating Northamptonshire police on this huge achievement, which I know will have taken a great deal of effort and determination on its part. He will know that, since 2010, our communities are safer, with neighbourhood crime such as burglary and robbery down by 48% on roughly the same resource, and a large part of that in recent years has been the additional recruitment of 20,000 more police officers, which means that we are just shy of 150,000 officers in England and Wales, higher than the previous peak before the police uplift. That is a huge achievement and we should praise his local police force for its part in it.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Llafur, Eltham

The Conservatives have cut 21,000 police officers, decimating our local neighbourhood teams. There are now 10,000 fewer police officers and police community support officers in our neighbourhood teams than in 2015. And the percentage of people reporting never seeing a police officer on their street has doubled since 2010. Can we have a debate about the number of police officers and the Conservatives’ claims about what they are doing about it, so that they can explain why they cut 21,000 police officers in the first place? We can also then talk about Labour’s pledge to put a neighbourhood team in every community.

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I think the hon. Gentleman has his facts wrong. We have record numbers of police officers. On roughly the same resource—when we leave aside online fraud—we have halved crime. The outliers across the country are in Labour-controlled areas. They are in London, under the current Labour London Mayor, where knife crime and serious and violent crime have soared. They are also in areas such as the west midlands where there is a Labour police and crime commissioner. The stats speak for themselves. A person is 40% more likely to be a victim of crime if they are in an area that has a Labour police and crime commissioner. Our police have done a tremendous job since 2010: we have halved crime on roughly the same resource. That is what people get with the Conservatives.

Photo of Nickie Aiken Nickie Aiken Ceidwadwyr, Cities of London and Westminster

Hajj begins in mid-June, when thousands of British Muslims will travel to Saudi Arabia for their pilgrimage to Mecca. Last week, I met City of London Commander Khan who highlighted to me the growing issue around Hajj fraud. Thousands of Brits are being targeted by rogue tour operators and when they get to Saudi Arabia they discover that they have no hotel and no tour. Will the Leader of the House consider a debate in Government time highlighting the growing issue around Hajj fraud and economic fraud in general?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend has provided her own answer. I thank her for raising awareness of this important issue, and sending a clear message to anyone who might be targeted with such appalling fraud. These kinds of crimes are terrible in any circumstance, but trying to exploit people undertaking this particular pilgrimage is really unpleasant. I thank her for raising the matter. She will know that the Government take it very seriously, and had a recent campaign to combat this type of fraud. I will certainly ensure that all relevant Departments are aware of her campaign, and assist her in any way they can.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Reclaim, North West Leicestershire

Following the publication of the Cass review and its damning conclusion that children were given unscientific medical advice, does the Leader of the House stand by her statement that

“trans men are men and trans women are women”?—[Official Report, 1 March 2021;
Vol. 690, c. 60.]

Does she still believe that this is the starting point and ending point of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, and will she make a statement on how we are going to protect our children and young people from dangerous indoctrination by gender ideology?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

When I was Minister for Women and Equalities, I set up the first inquiry looking at why so many children were being referred into trans services. There was a 4,000% increase in the number of girls, for example, who were being referred into trans services. The Government have consistently raised such matters. The Cass review is an important review. The gender recognition consultation that looked at whether we needed to reform the 2004 Act was also an important piece of work for Whitehall. It had a record number of responses—more than 100,000—and although I did not read them all, I read the ones from healthcare professionals. They raised concerns that the rules about referring people into such services were too restrictive and looked only at one particular type of condition as opposed to the raft of conditions that they were dealing with. I hope that work informed Whitehall. It certainly led to other reviews, including the Cass review. I think that was important.

These issues need to be gripped, but while we do so, we need to send a clear message to people who are trans that their rights and their ability to lead a good quality of life are also protected. That is the aim of the current Minister for Equalities. I refer the House to her many statements, including on the provision of same-sex spaces. She has always taken care to mention certainty and support for trans people.

Photo of Matt Western Matt Western Shadow Minister (Education)

Last summer, I was a lone voice among the Warwickshire MPs in calling for Warwickshire not to be subsumed into the West Midlands Combined Authority under Andy Street. Thank goodness I did. It is forecast by PricewaterhouseCoopers to be the worst-performing economic region in the country. Andy’s trams are not running. We now understand that in eight years he has built only 46 social rent houses—that is six a year—despite 64,000 people being on the waiting list. Last night at a hustings, he said that he did not realise that it was his responsibility, or that there was a need for that housing.

By comparison, Mayor Khan started 11,000 council homes in 2022-23, and the Labour candidate for the west midlands mayoralty, Richard Parker, has promised 2,000 social rent homes a year. Even in Warwick, my little local district council has built more than Andy Street. As chair of the all-party parliamentary group for council housing, I ask for a debate in Government time on the importance of delivering social rent housing.

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I think there is a pattern to Labour’s questions here. While we talk about the records in office of Conservative Mayors, the Opposition try to smear them. However, it does afford me the opportunity to recap on Andy Street’s record. He has won £10 billion of investment from central Government, has secured and delivered the 2022 Commonwealth games, has recovered the regional economy after covid, has secured the investment zone, has extended the metro, is making Coventry an all-electric bus city, has reduced and retained low bus fares, and has built more homes for young people and families than any other region. Some 15,690 homes were built in the west midlands last year alone, and it is the only region that is on track for its housing targets. In stark contrast, the Labour London Mayor has missed his targets. Andy has delivered 4,000 apprenticeships and has been a champion for community cohesion in some very difficult times. He is standing on his record; he is standing on the fact that he has stood up and fought for his constituents and those he represents. The London Mayor’s much more deficient record sits in stark contrast.

Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development)

Springburn Winter Gardens Trust has submitted a bid to the community ownership fund to stop our winter gardens—once the largest glass house in Scotland—collapsing. Could we have a debate in Government time on the need to protect our built heritage?

Watching and listening from the Public Gallery today was my four-year-old constituent Callie Lang—until she got bored for some reason. I am sure that you care, Mr Deputy Speaker, as do the Leader of the House and I, about girls’ voices being heard. In keeping with that, Callie would like a Bill that guarantees a free annual seaside holiday for all children. She said that she will accept an amendment to apply the legislation just to children at Scaraway Nursery School in Milton in my constituency. Will the Leader of the House advise Callie on how she might make that happen?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the hon. Lady for her question and for raising the important work that her constituent does. I notice that my right hon. Friend Sir Desmond Swayne is not in his place and is therefore unable to tut, but no one else was tutting, and we welcome Callie to the House today. I will certainly ensure that the relevant Department has heard the ambitions that the hon. Lady has outlined, and that it furnishes her with all the advice it can.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Victims and Sentencing)

Can the Leader of the House explain what has happened to some of the Government’s flagship law and order Bills on her watch? The Sentencing Bill is nowhere to be seen; in effect it is now the suspended sentencing Bill. The Criminal Justice Bill is now the criminal justice delayed Bill. The House will be aware of her previous career as a magician’s assistant. Can she explain why we are witnessing these baffling disappearing acts?

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Gentleman knows that I will announce future business in the usual way. I hope to give all Members early sight and warning of when legislation is coming back to the House, and I will continue to do that.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Deputy Speaker

Order. I understand that the hon. Lady wishes to raise a point of order arising directly from matters that have been raised at business questions. For that reason and that reason alone, I am prepared to take it now in order to ensure that the Leader of the House is here.

Photo of Lucy Powell Lucy Powell Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I want to give the Leader of the House the opportunity to clarify something she said in response to me earlier when I asked about the allegations relating to Mark Menzies. She suggested that some allegations had now been referred to the police. Was she referring to these allegations or to allegations regarding other Members? If it was the latter, I think people outside this place have been given the wrong impression.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Deputy Speaker

As the hon. Lady has indicated, although that is a point of order, it is not strictly one for the Chair. Given that the Leader of the House wishes to respond, I am quite prepared to permit that as well.

Photo of Penny Mordaunt Penny Mordaunt Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am very happy to clarify. The hon. Lady was asking about a raft of allegations, starting with those relating to Mr Wragg. My understanding is that that particular issue is being looked into by three police forces. I am not aware of any other police investigations.

Photo of Alec Shelbrooke Alec Shelbrooke Ceidwadwyr, Elmet and Rothwell

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Earlier, I asked a question relating to Gibraltar, and I feel that it would be remiss of me not to bring the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests and mention that I visited Gibraltar on behalf of the Gibraltar Government several years ago.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Deputy Speaker

Again, that is not strictly a matter of order for the Chair, but it is now a matter of record, and I thank the right hon. Gentleman. I also thank the Leader of the House and the Opposition Front Benchers for their attendance.