Business of the House

– in the House of Commons am 12:50 pm ar 23 Mai 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 12:50, 23 Mai 2024

Further to my business statement last night, the business for today is expected to be as follows:

Consideration of a business of the House motion, followed by remaining stages of the Finance (No. 2) Bill, followed by, if necessary, consideration of a Lords message to the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill, followed by, if necessary, consideration of any further Lords messages.

The business for tomorrow, Friday 24 May, will include:

If necessary, consideration of Lords messages, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Victims and Prisoners Bill, followed by debate on a motion to approve the draft Sanctions (EU Exit) (Miscellaneous Amendments and Revocations) Regulations 2024, followed by an opportunity for matters to be raised ahead of the forthcoming Dissolution, to allow for valedictory speeches by Members of Parliament, followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords messages.

The House will prorogue following a message from the Lords Commissioners.

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

I start by expressing to Craig Mackinlay my huge admiration for his return here after his unimaginable and life-changing illness. As he joked, he broke all the rules and we were only too happy to reciprocate, with the whole House giving him a standing ovation. It was a fitting and moving moment.

Cheekily, may I also take this opportunity to congratulate my club—the club I also represent—Manchester City, on winning the premier league for a historic fourth time in a row? Saturday’s FA cup final will be the only day that I support the blues, not the reds, for the next few weeks.

This week also marks the seventh anniversary of the Manchester Arena attack. It is a day that Mancunians will never forget. We remember those who died, who were injured and who are still affected. Yesterday, the Prime Minister promised Figen Murray, the mother of Martyn Hett, who was killed in the attack, that Martyn’s law would be introduced before the summer recess. Regrettably, that now seems unlikely, but I hope whoever is returned after the election can bring in Martyn’s law as soon as possible.

Yesterday’s announcement came as a surprise. Despite being drowned out by “Things Can Only Get Better”, we hear that the real reason the Prime Minister called the election is that he thinks things will only get worse for him. His abrupt Dissolution of Parliament means that he will start the campaign by leaving many Government commitments and Bills up in the air or in the bin. His pledge on a smoke-free generation, plans for a football regulator, promises to renters and leaseholders and protections for our broadcasters are now all at risk. I am pleased that very important commitments to victims of the Post Office and infected blood scandals will be honoured in our final business this week.

This is going to be a change election, but change comes sooner than expected for Members who are standing down. I will not mention them all, because I know we will have an opportunity for valedictory speeches tomorrow, but there are a few I want to mention today.

On this side of the House, my right hon. and learned Friend Ms Harman, the Mother of the House but also the political mum to many of us, has done so much for women and to bring about change. There are also the great Dames, including you, Madam Deputy Speaker—you have been a great friend to me and a wonderful parliamentarian over many years—and my right hon. Friends the Members for Derby South (Dame Margaret Beckett) and for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge): all powerful and highly respected women who have made a big and lasting impact.

My wonderful and popular hon. Friends the Members for Westminster North (Ms Buck), for Halifax (Holly Lynch) and for Caerphilly (Wayne David) will be greatly missed.

Despite a T-shirt I wore recently, I have a number of friends on the Government Benches. Robert Halfon was an outstanding Chair of the Education Committee, on which we served together—we share a mutual enjoyment of “Love Island”. I also have great respect for: the hon. Members for Broxbourne (Sir Charles Walker) and for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken), having worked alongside them on the House of Commons Commission; Dame Tracey Crouch, for all she has done on football regulation; and Stuart Andrew, who needs to be found a seat fairly soon, for his great work on that issue, too.

I also take this opportunity to wish the Leader of the House well. She is perhaps best known for carrying a sword, but she is highly regarded in this place. She has been a formidable opponent and I shall miss our weekly exchanges. I am not sure that Deidre Brock will miss them quite so much. I probably will not miss some of the Leader of the House’s more tortured metaphors, but I hope that she has the chance to install that new boiler and get herself a decorator crab, and has some time to put clothes on her action toy Ken, who of course has no balls—those who were here will remember that one well.

At least the election will give the Leader of the House ample opportunity to stand up and fight. We will be campaigning ferociously for different outcomes but, whatever happens, I thank her for her co-operation and collaboration, for making me raise my game in this place and for reminding me of how important a good blow dry is on these occasions.

Finally, although this place will be quieter in the coming weeks, I know that a lot of work is going on behind the scenes, with the hard-working House staff preparing for the next Parliament. I thank the Clerk and his teams in advance, and I also thank Liam Laurence Smyth for his decades of service to this House.

Until next time.

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

Madam Deputy Speaker, I start by sending you and all Members who are retiring from this place my good wishes and thanks for your service and friendship. I consider many of the hon. and right hon. Members mentioned by Lucy Powell to be hairdresser buddies. I wish everyone good luck for the next chapter.

Although today’s headlines are focused on Westminster and the forthcoming election, I take this opportunity to reassure people that all of us, especially those who hold ministerial office, will remain focused elsewhere, too.

Yesterday, I met some of the families of those still held hostage in Gaza: the families of Eli Sharabi, the late Yossi Sharabi, whose body is still held by Hamas, Naama Levy, Alon Ohel, Yair and Eitan Horn, Evyatar David and Guy Gilboa-Dalal. Our thoughts and focus will continue to be with them and all others who need our attention during this election period.

I also echo the remarks of the hon. Member for Manchester Central on the Manchester Arena bombing. She will know that matters such as Martyn’s law, which is a brilliant initiative, will be part of the wash-up process. I hope to be able to update the House in the coming day.

As this is the last business statement in this Parliament, I place on record my thanks to all those who work for the House, including the legislative, drafting and parliamentary teams, and my officials. Their professionalism throughout two very demanding and record-breaking legislative programmes has been exemplary.

I also thank my fellow cast members at business questions, my opposite numbers and commissioners, and their respective parties, and all those who have shown up each week to do their duty—none more so than Jim Shannon.

I also thank the clerks and staff of the Privy Council. It has been a huge honour to have been able to assist His Majesty the King and the royal household through the loss of the late Queen Elizabeth II, and to support His Majesty during his early time as our sovereign. I am very proud of him and our royal family. They, and the service that surrounds them, are a reflection of the best of us.

That brings me to another group I must thank. We had the good news this week that inflation is down to 2.3%, which means that the cost of fuel, food and housing is beginning to stabilise, and we can all plan ahead with much more confidence. It is the British people we have to thank for that, as it is their achievement. Ours is the first major country to defeat inflation and we have done better than our neighbours. I want to remind us all why we have done so. It is because we are an experienced, determined, dynamic and innovative economy and country. We have made tough decisions and made the changes needed, and we took the consequences and it came good.

I thank everyone who tightened their belt and worked hard for their stoicism in the face of war in Europe, global shocks and the legacy of covid. I thank the public servants who knew that pay rises needed to be sustainable and kept services going. I thank business leaders who put in place efficiencies, did more with less, motivated and retained staff, and continued to grow their ventures. The public had many concerns, but chief among them was the cost of living. That is why the good economic news this week is so welcome. It shows that when we work together, all is possible.

I want to give my assurance to the victims of the infected blood scandal that this Government stand by the commitments made earlier this week. There is a clear desire across the House to ensure that legislation to compensate those who have been infected and affected as a result of this scandal is passed, and that will be done on a cross-party basis. Today, the Lords will consider the Third Reading of the Victims and Prisoners Bill, and tomorrow this House will consider Lords amendments to the Bill which will establish the compensation scheme within three months of the Bill’s receiving Royal Assent.

I want to give those same assurances to the individuals who have been victims of the Horizon Post Office scandal. This House will consider Lords amendments to the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill today, and I want to give this Government’s commitment to those victims that, subject to the agreement of both Houses, which I am sure we will receive, the legislation to quash the convictions of those sentenced will be secured before the House prorogues.

Let me deviate from my script briefly to say that we will not leave this place until we have done our duty by those people. There are ongoing discussions about the remaining business on other Bills, which will be done on a cross-party basis. As is common practice during the wash-up, those negotiations will be ongoing and we will hope to update the House on further business.

The hon. Member for Manchester Central talks about the election, and democracy is an opportunity. It is an opportunity to think about what we want our nation to be in the next decade and the decades to come. The UK has been through tough times, but the choices we have made collectively have given us the freedom to be ambitious, both at home and abroad. The Chancellor’s statement this week is testament to that, and this is why so much is at stake in the next few weeks. We Conservatives are undoubtedly the underdog in this fight, but I go into this election, where I will indeed be standing up and fighting, filled with optimism and hope. I say that because I am proud of our record, from our soaring literacy rates to our halving of crime. I am proud of my colleagues, none more so than my hon. Friend Craig Mackinlay. I am proud of my party and its mission to encourage and reward people who take responsibility, and I have always been proud of our country.

The hon. Member for Manchester Central and her leader are at a disadvantage as they go into this fight, because they are not proud of Labour’s record; they are trying to disown it. The Labour leader has been distancing himself from his own MPs and candidates: the anti-business, anti-Israel, anti-opportunity, anti-responsibility, Britain-bashing brigade that sit on the Benches opposite. It says much about her party that its sole campaign narrative is that the Labour party is not really the Labour party at all. But recognising that it is at odds with the values of this nation is not the same as being supportive of them.

The public have been angry at us because of what we have had to deal with and because we have put the country first. The question is whether that red mist will blind them to what is on offer under the red flag: the burdens on business; Britain being tied back into the EU’s regulatory straitjacket; the undermining of NATO through an EU defence pact; the undermining of our border through an EU migration pact; higher taxes; less disposable income; the wrecking ball that would be taken to our constitution; and the cuts to the NHS budget that Labour has so viciously made in Wales.

The fact is that nothing matters more to the Labour party than the interests of the Labour party and its paymasters. These are ruthless socialists led by a weak and unformed leader. In six weeks’ time, we will know the answer from the British people. We Conservatives may be the underdog, but we are on the right side, and that is on the side of the British people.

Further business will not be announced in the usual way. [Laughter.]

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

I thank the Leader of the House and her Opposition counterparts for agreeing to get through changes to deal with the infected blood compensation and with the convictions of sub-postmasters and others.

I note that we have not heard that the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill can be brought forward. If that could be done, I would greatly welcome it. If it is not done, I hope to be back here in six weeks’ time to campaign for it, because, like many of the MPs who are standing again and many who are not, I can say that most of our national campaigns come from the experience of a constituent, a friend or a member of our family. Translating what is individual and what is local into what is national and important is part of our role here.

May I join both Front-Bench spokespeople—through you, Madam Deputy Speaker—in thanking all the staff who have supported us and all those who, while we are away getting more exercise, will be making this place ready for our return?

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

I thank my hon. Friend for his question and for his consistent appearances at business questions. Although there is a lot of speculation about the legislative programme, he will know that the negotiations with the Opposition parties are ongoing. However, I hope to update the House soon with regard to the Bill he mentions and further Bills.

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

There are so many things I could ask the Leader of the House about today—and I know that tributes will be paid later by my right hon. Friend Owen Thompson to SNP Members who will be standing down—but yesterday I experienced another moment this week, along with the statement by Sir Brian Langstaff, that I will never forget. I was sitting in a room with infected blood survivors and families as the news sank in that just days after making a rightfully repentant statement to Parliament, her Prime Minister had decided to throw a snap election. I know that Dame Diana Johnson will be raising specifics with her, but will the Leader of the House give the House a guarantee now that the concerns that the infected and affected have arising from the Paymaster General’s statement on Tuesday, about issues such as the continuation of support schemes, will be addressed and taken forward?

May I remind the Leader of the House of the offer she made to arrange at least a ministerial meeting with the chief executive officer of the Cold Chain Federation, so that he can discuss the Brexit chaos at our borders? After the week’s National Audit Office report on the £5 billion bill for Brexit border charges, that offer of a meeting between him and an appropriate Minister could not be more timely.

Given the general reluctance to talk about Brexit chaos, perhaps we might ask for a statement tomorrow on the legacy of 14 years of Tory chaos, as this Government stutter to their end. What a list we have to choose from: English rivers so filthy that the chief medical officer warns people not even to paddle in them; endless strikes in the NHS in England, with nurses using food banks to feed their families; national debt standing at more than £2 trillion; the highest personal tax burden since 1948; mortgages doubled or trebled almost overnight thanks to Tory incompetence; the multibillion-pound scandals of HS2, Ajax tanks and, of course, dodgy personal protective equipment covid contracts.

We could debate alternatives, but with Labour meekly accepting £18 billion in public service cuts, junking its £28 billion green spending promise and carrying on with the Brexit chaos, we will not find change on the Labour Benches. If this place ever looked to Scotland for inspiration instead, I would happily discuss the benefits of having a water service owned by the people, where profits do not fly into the hands of shareholders; a Scottish NHS, where there are no strikes; or a Government who protect their citizens and mitigate the cost of living crisis. I have only just scratched the surface, but I am aware that I am time limited, just like this Government.

Lastly, may I pay a genuine tribute to the Leader of the House for the enormous help she has been to the cause of Scottish independence? I wish her very well in her next career, whatever her future brings.

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

It is going to be a fun six weeks. I join the hon. Lady in paying tribute to her colleagues who will be standing down at the election. I also pay tribute to the hon. Lady, whom I admire greatly. Rather like Monty Python’s Black Knight, she returns every week, with no discernible loss of enthusiasm, threatening to bite my legs off. Her resilience in the midst of the implosion of her own party has been impressive; I gently say to her that that is a rather British quality. I do not know what she means about the cause of independence—the polls say that independence is losing considerable support—but our weekly exchanges have certainly gone down well with the Scottish Unionist contingent. What they will do, given that this will be our last exchange, I do not know.

I do not know where to start with the hon. Lady’s list this week, but let me content myself with a two points. First, I say to her again that our economy is growing faster than the eurozone and our exports are at a record high. During the debates that she will have in the next six weeks, I hope she will learn more about the trajectory our nation is on and the new found freedoms businesses have, and congratulate businesses in Scotland, whether they provide goods or service, on how they are capitalising on that.

I gently remind the hon. Lady that when the Scottish NHS was struggling, it was this Government that offered support, which the Scottish Government turned down. They turned down additional help for Scottish citizens to get treated on the NHS for political reasons. That says something not just about her party’s record, but about its political dogma and approach to the single issue that it cares about above all else, including the wellbeing of Scottish citizens. I thank the hon. Lady and I wish her good luck in the following weeks.

Photo of Charles Walker Charles Walker Chair, Administration Committee, Chair, Administration Committee

Thank you for calling me, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is the last time I shall rise to speak in this greatest of all legislative Chambers. You have been a great friend, full of advice and support.

We are here not to build a legacy, but to get stuff done. In that spirit, I ask the Leader of the House to lend me her support. I chair the Country Food Trust, which works with over 1,000 food banks to bring prepacked venison to hungry people. We have been working tirelessly with fantastic officials and Ministers in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to get the deer management strategy launched. We are moments away from doing it, but we find ourselves in the wash-up. Please can I ask the Leader of the House to put her shoulder to the wheel and get this management strategy over the line? It will feed hungry people and save our woodland.

With that, Madam Deputy Speaker, I thank Alison, Huw, Zoe and Martyn, who have been my Principal Clerks over my 12 years as a Select Committee Chair. And that is it. Good afternoon, thank you and goodbye.

Hon. Members::

Hear, hear!

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

I am glad that my hon. Friend attended business questions because we all owe him a huge debt of gratitude. The public may not know this, but my hon. Friend has worked behind the scenes to ensure that MPs are supported and can do their jobs well. He has introduced many new positive initiatives to take this place into the modern world, not least ensuring that when new Members of Parliament arrive in the next Parliament, alongside their parliamentary career they can gain qualifications that will enable them to go on and have careers after being in this place.

On behalf of us all, I thank him for his diligence and care for all of us. Given that stellar record, the least I can do is put my shoulder to the wheel and ensure that the Country Food Trust and the deer management strategy are taken care of. Although I cannot tell him the outcome, I shall certainly ensure his case is made.

Photo of Ian Mearns Ian Mearns Chair, Backbench Business Committee, Chair, Backbench Business Committee, Chair, Backbench Business Committee, Chair, Backbench Business Committee

One consequence of holding a snap general election is that many Backbench debates that we had on the list and that were scheduled for forthcoming weeks will be put to one side. Some 14 debates had already been scheduled for Westminster Hall and the Chamber in the coming weeks. We have written to the successor Chair of the Committee, whoever that may be after the general election, care of the Leader of the House, so that she can act on it, pass on the note or leave it in a drawer for whoever succeeds the right hon. Lady, to suggest these subjects might be taken before the successor Committee is established in the new Parliament.

With that, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will sit down. I thank all the Clerks of the Backbench Business Committee, including Nick Taylor, the most recent Clerk, and Jim Davey, who used to work in the Speaker’s office. Many others have gone on to do great things within the clerking service of the House, having served as the Clerk of the Backbench Business Committee. Like you, Madam Deputy Speaker, I am retiring, so with that, I sit down.

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for all that he has done as a fantastic Chair of the Backbench Business Committee. He has been diligent and brought in new innovations, and he has been a great addition to business questions every single week. I thank him sincerely for all he has done and wish him all the best in the future.

I am sorry that those who had debates scheduled will not be having them. In whatever capacity I can, I will ensure good facilitation between his tenure and the new tenure of the Backbench Business Committee.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Ceidwadwyr, Chingford and Woodford Green

Madam Deputy Speaker, I thank you for your service. We have known each other for a considerable amount of time—perhaps too long. This is not a valedictory speech on my part—I will be standing and I intend to come back here on 5 July—but I wish you very well for a very happy future.

I say to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that I am sad that I was not asked to be a member of the hairdressing club—I simply cannot understand why. None the less, I would like to raise a couple of matters with her. The sudden election means two important matters that were passed into the Criminal Justice Bill by unanimous consent are in danger of falling: the cuckooing amendment, which will make it an offence to threaten people and take their household from them in order to run crime from there; and the dangerous cycling legislation, which will bring cyclists within the criminal justice system and the highway code. There was no opposition to either amendment, so will she take them forward for discussion? I do not know whether it is feasible, but can those two amendments get through the wash-up just as they are?

Finally, a hospital project in my constituency is being signed off this coming week and building is due to start on the scheme, for which my constituents have fought for over 50 years. Considering such projects need to be signed off by officials rather than Ministers, can work that was ready to go start anyway? Will she check that out for us?

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 these important matters. He was right that those two measures had huge—unanimous—support across the House, and I will certainly make sure that all those involved in the wash-up process have heard what he has said today.

I will also send my right hon. Friend’s office some advice about the ongoing work and the status of it and whether it can continue through the next few weeks.

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

May I also pay tribute to you, Madam Deputy Speaker? I think you are a class act.

May I also thank the Leader of the House for all her work in delivering on the infected blood report, the apology and this week’s statement on compensation? I take some comfort from what she said about the Victims and Prisoners Bill. I hope very much that that Bill turned into law in the wash-up, particularly because it establishes the compensation authority, which will start to pay out compensation. It also has a clause in it around interim repayments for those who have never received a penny—the parents who lost children and the children who lost parents.

I noted that the Leader of House said, “We will not leave this place until we have done our duty.” I just ask her whether she would put her shoulder to the wheel on one last thing, which is lobbying her colleagues to ensure that those infected and affected, who are now entering into a period of engagement with Sir Robert Francis to look at the detail of the compensation scheme that has been put forward, have access to lawyers and legal representation. This is a complicated matter. People are rightly concerned about it; they want to get this right and they want to engage, but they also need professional legal advice to be able to do so effectively. I wonder whether the Leader of the House might be able to help in this regard.

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

May I start by thanking the right hon. Lady for the incredible work that she has done on the infected blood issue? As well as helping on a number of occasions to get important things to happen, she has also been in communication with enormous numbers of people infected and affected by this and has given them confidence and comfort in the ordeal that they have gone through, and I know that the whole House thinks that of the right hon. Lady. I hope that my words at the Dispatch Box have given assurances to those people. I am very conscious that, having heard those statements on Monday, people will want to know that this will be delivered this week.

On the matter of interim payments and support schemes, which Deidre Brock mentioned, those things and that work will continue, and the support schemes will, as the Paymaster General said, run into next week. I will make sure that the right hon. Lady gets an update this afternoon on the specific issues that she raises. I also remind her that, when Sir Robert Francis started the compensation study, part of that initial process—even when the terms of reference were being set—was ensuring that those infected and affected had access to legal representation. And I do not think that Sir Robert Francis would want to progress in any other way. I will get an answer for the right hon. Lady with regard to the specifics.

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Ceidwadwyr, Chipping Barnet

Thank you, Madame Deputy Speaker. I wish you well for the future.

Can the Leader of the House find time for a debate in these final days of this Parliament on protecting the green belt? Not only does it protect communities such as Barnet from urban sprawl, but it provides vital space for nature and habitats. Nature recovery and conservation is something that I have championed throughout my time in this Parliament, and I want the opportunity to reiterate my strong commitment to that crucial environmental goal.

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 all the work that she does in this area. We Conservatives will always take care of our rural areas and protect the green belt. Our revised national planning policy framework makes it clear that we have protection for the green belt. We have also provided hundreds of millions to encourage development on brownfield land, instead of green belt, including the £550 million brownfield housing fund and the £180 million brownfield land release fund. May I take this opportunity to thank her for this important work not just in her own constituency, but around the country?

Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson SNP Chief Whip

I join others in wishing you, Madam Deputy Speaker, all the very best for whatever comes next.

As an election has been called and there is little time for Members who are standing down to be able to make arrangements to be here tomorrow, can I ask the Leader of the House to join me in thanking and welcoming the contributions made by my hon. Friends the Members for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Mhairi Black), for Falkirk (John Mc Nally), for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady), for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley), for Glenrothes (Peter Grant), for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) and for Dunfermline and West Fife (Douglas Chapman), and my right hon. Friends the Members for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford) and for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie). They have all contributed so much to this place, but far beyond that, they have contributed to our party and to the independence movement over a significant amount of time. Their efforts have gone to great good, and I have no doubt that they will continue to do so.

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

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for using this Business Statement to get on record his thanks and appreciation to all of his colleague. I wish them all well and I thank them for their service to this House.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament

Thank you for your service to this House, Madam Deputy Speaker. May I place on the record my tribute to the director and staff of the Intelligence and Security Committee for their outstanding dedication and commitment to an area that is particularly important in this difficult and dangerous international environment? May I thank them for the work that they have done on preparing comprehensive annual reports and specialist studies on extreme right-wing terrorism, on the UK’s international intelligence partnerships, and on a very well-received report on China, with a similar one on Iran to follow as soon as the redaction process is complete?

May I just bring to the attention of the Leader of the House the fact that the Committee has resolved that it will no longer be under the aegis of the Cabinet Office? The basic conflict of interest, whereby the careers of the staff of a Committee that oversees bodies that are housed in a Department are in the hands of people in that very same Department, has become unsustainable.

Finally, may I thank the Members of the Committee from all three parties and both Houses, who kept to the tradition of leaving party politics at the door? Despite an unpromising start, when an attempt was made to do away with that important principle, they came together and have shown complete unanimity and dedication to carrying out the work of the Committee, which is necessarily not done in the public view.

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

I am sure the whole House will join my right hon. Friend in thanking all who enable this very important Committee to carry out its work. It is unseen work, but it is vital. I thank him also for the outputs and those important reports that will strengthen our democracy and protect this nation from those who would do us harm. May I also thank him for ensuring that the Committee can remain properly independent, which he has safeguarded with this new innovation?

Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

Although we welcome the forthcoming election, long-awaited Bills on smoking, leasehold, rental reform, which is desperately needed, and football governance will all fall. Is that not somewhat breaking a promise made in 2019?

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

The motion that I will bring forward shortly will give us flexibility to put through all that is required before the end of this Session. The hon. Lady will know that the wash-up negotiations are still going on, so I cannot say at the moment exactly which Bills will or will not be in, but we need cross-party support at this stage of the Parliament to get this legislation through. I will do all I can to make sure that the Bills that are supported are in that final wash-up.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for your service, and for calling me to make my last contribution in this House, after over 40 years. I also thank the staff of the House and of my European Scrutiny Committee, which I have had the honour of chairing since 2010, and all Members of the House, of whatever stripe, for their massive contribution to our democracy in this great Parliament.

My Committee is looking at the question of the UK’s sovereignty in Gibraltar. The UK-EU treaty, which is under negotiation, and on the subject of which the Foreign Secretary appeared before us the other day, deals with vital UK defence and Schengen border issues that cause us great concern. Has the Leader of the House been made aware that the constitution of Gibraltar, including its section 47, per section 38 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, sets out specific UK sovereignty reservations regarding external affairs, defence, internal security and the functions of the Secretary of State for Defence? None of those must be compromised.

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

I thank my hon. Friend for his decades of service to this House and the country. The work that his Committee has done in particular is considerable. I served on it briefly, for about three years, and in our first sitting I needed a trolley to get the papers for the meeting to the relevant Committee Room. It is a huge amount of work, and we have been enormously helped by his attention to detail and huge expertise in this area. On many highly technical issues, he often turns out to be right. I am aware of the issue that he raises, and have expressed my interest in it to the relevant Departments. He leaves a great legacy in this place, and whatever the future holds, I am assured that the issues that he cares deeply about—of course, in large part due to his efforts, we now have opportunities and freedoms to exploit, and can enjoy and protect the interests of this country—will be in good hands, and that is largely down to him.

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

I have been contacted today by Action on Smoking and Health, which does important work on curbing the harms of smoking and vaping. Like me, it is perplexed and very disappointed that the Tobacco and Vapes Bill will apparently not progress because it is not included in the wash-up. I should not be surprised that the Government also appear to have abandoned the commitment that they gave me last week on banning vape advertising in sport. The Prime Minister stood in Downing Street yesterday and trumpeted the Bill as his legacy, but that is absolute nonsense if it has been abandoned. Can the Leader of the House bring pressure to bear regarding the Bill? There is the potential to stop the terrible devastation that tobacco causes, and to curb the damage that vapes are doing to our environment and young people. Will she do what is necessary to add it to the wash-up?

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

I know that the Bill was supported by a large number of people in the House, and clearly the Prime Minister also feels passionately about it. I will ensure that what the hon. Lady and others have said is taken into account during the wash-up. I hope that the House will be updated soon.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Ceidwadwyr, Gainsborough

When my right hon. Friend is promoted to an even bigger job in the Cabinet after the election, will she leave a note on her desk for her successor? Unlike a previous note, it will not say that there is no more money, or anything like that; it will concern restoration and renewal. I am her representative on the programme board. Frankly, for too long we have wasted time on endless sterile debates on whether we should decant. Under her leadership, the programme board and the House of Commons Commission are now promoting the idea of enhanced maintenance around us. Will she confirm that we can get on with that work, and do not need a new Act of Parliament? The real threat to this building is fire. We have a responsibility to future generations. We have to get on with this work now.

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 all his work on the programme board and under previous governance structures to champion a pragmatic approach to restoration and renewal. Obviously a huge amount needs to be done in future years, but we can also get on with things now. One product of the programme board on which he has served is that we have projects that we can do now, while increasing our knowledge about how to approach such projects on the estate. All the options in front of the House are much more pragmatic. They are based on a realistic timeframe, and will give people, not least the British taxpayer, confidence about the future.

Photo of Ian Byrne Ian Byrne Llafur, Liverpool, West Derby

I, too, wish you well in the future, Madam Deputy Speaker. On 6 December last year, the Justice Secretary stood at the Dispatch Box and promised this House a debate on the Government’s response to Bishop James Jones’s report, “‘The patronising disposition of unaccountable power’: A report to ensure the pain and suffering of the Hillsborough families is not repeated”. The House had to wait seven years for the Government to respond, and then failed to hold a debate in the new year, as they promised. Will the Leader of the House convey to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State the deep disappointment of the families and survivors of the Hillsborough disaster? I hope that in the next Parliament, we will finally see a full Hillsborough law put on the statute book.

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for getting that important point on the record. I will ensure that the relevant Departments have heard what he said.

Photo of Sara Britcliffe Sara Britcliffe Ceidwadwyr, Hyndburn

I, too, pay tribute to you, Madam Deputy Speaker; I am sure that you will be missed by many in this House. Back in 2019, it was an honour to come to this place to represent Hyndburn and Haslingden, and really push forward the Government’s levelling-up agenda. Since then, we have seen over £55 million of levelling-up funding, a banking hub coming to Great Harwood, school rebuild programmes in Haslingden, and funding for Haslingden market. Does the Leader of the House agree that investing in northern towns needs to continue to be a priority, so that we truly level up the north of England?

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 hard work and achievements for her constituents. I have visited her constituency and know that her work is appreciated by many people she represents. She is absolutely right, and has fought for the things that will make the biggest difference to her constituents. I congratulate her on it.

Photo of Chris Webb Chris Webb Llafur, Blackpool South

Shocking figures announced yesterday showed a 416% increase in weapon and knife crime in Blackpool—the fourth-largest increase in the country. Violent crime has doubled, and public order offences are up by nearly 500%, with neighbourhood policing cut by a drastic 33% in my area. What will the Government do to rebuild community neighbourhood policing in Blackpool and tackle the huge knife crime issue that we have?

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising this important matter. Knife crime devastates lives, and we now have some of the toughest laws in the world to tackle it, with bans on particular knives, and a huge effort made by our local police. Since 2019, we have taken 138,000 weapons off our streets, and violent crime has fallen by 44% since we took office in 2010, but there are pockets where it is still a huge issue. I commend the work that the voluntary sector is doing, including the Knife Angel and many other groups, many of which are led by victims of knife crime or their families. I will ensure that the Home Office has heard what he said.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Ceidwadwyr, South Holland and The Deepings

I endorse the thanks to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to Mr Speaker and his other Deputies. In the spirit of conviviality and equanimity that has prevailed, and knowing from experience that Members from across the House are here because they want to do the best for their constituents, I urge the Leader of the House in the national interest to arrange, even at this late stage, an urgent statement on how public procurement can serve the common good. My constituency in Lincolnshire is the food basket of Britain, making products that fill shelves and shops across the country. We really need to use public money to buy British and back Britain.

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

I could not agree more with my right hon. Friend. As he knows, there has been a huge focus in our food strategy on ensuring that we do that, and some of our colleagues have provided additional innovation: people can now ensure that they are buying British produce when they shop at a supermarket, or order from a supermarket online. I cannot promise him a statement, but I will ensure that the Department hears what he said. I thank him for being a champion of all things British, including British produce, and for supporting our farmers.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Labour/Co-operative, York Central

May I wish you a happy retirement—from this place, at least, Madam Deputy Speaker? I am sure we will see you in many other guises in times to come.

We are so grateful to our constituents for holding our feet to the fire and raising their greatest concerns. Housing injustice has been the issue at the top of my constituents’ list in York Central. However, the legislation to try to change the environment around housing does not seem to be progressing. Can the Leader of the House say what exactly is happening to the Renters (Reform) Bill, which would have a significant impact on my constituents? Furthermore, after my championing of my Short-term and Holiday-let Accommodation (Licensing) Bill, what is happening to the regulations to put controls on Airbnbs and other short-term holiday lets? Those regulations were promised by this summer, and as we enter the holiday season, 2,000 properties in my city are being used for holiday homes, as opposed to family homes.

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

The hon. Lady mentions some very important legislation, and she knows that it will be partly the subject of the negotiations that are going on. I hope to be able to update her soon. I will ask the Department to provide her office with an update on the regulations, so that she knows where the Department is in that process.

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns Ceidwadwyr, Bournemouth West

May I associate myself with earlier remarks about your pending retirement, Madam Deputy Speaker?

Ever since I first rose to speak from this very spot 14 years ago, I have tried to champion my constituency in this place. The impending Dissolution brings to mind unfinished business. In that light, may I raise with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House again the tragic and brutal murder of young Thomas Roberts on the Old Christchurch Road in my constituency, just over two and a half years ago? The perpetrator of that murder should never have been in the United Kingdom. He is now rightly serving life behind bars. He lied about his age: he said he was 14 when he was in fact 18, and he was placed in a secondary school in my constituency. He was reported to social services and the police, but little action was taken. There was a litany of failures by public institutions, leading to that senseless and needless murder two and a half years ago.

Replying to an Adjournment debate, the then Minister for the Home Office, my right hon. Friend Robert Jenrick, told me he could not go into the detail while a Home Office investigation was proceeding. Twice now the Home Office has refused to publish even the headline findings of the inquiry that it commissioned. I spoke recently to Thomas’s father Philip, who does not understand why internal processes are preventing the Home Office from bringing into the public domain the findings of that report, what lessons have been learned and which individuals will be held to account. Even at 10 minutes to midnight in this Parliament, can my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House think of any mechanism to draw the matter to the attention of the Home Office? I hope that I and other Members will not let it go in the next Parliament.

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 all the work he is doing on behalf of Thomas and his family. It was a tragic situation, with layer on layer of failure leading to an appalling outcome. I will write to the Home Office following this business statement and ask that a Minister or senior official updates my right hon. Friend on the situation. I will do all I can in the remainder of this Parliament to help him make progress on this extremely important matter, as I know is necessary to bring some comfort to Thomas’s family.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Annibynnol, Islington North

I take this opportunity to wish you well for the future, Madam Deputy Speaker.

May I raise with the Leader of the House the issue of the global ocean treaty? The papers to ensure ratification of that treaty, which would bring about the protection of 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030, were laid before Parliament a year ago. The treaty is supported by all parties in the House, obviously including the Government, and the legislation could go through very quickly in the wash-up. That would allow us to join other nations that have ratified the treaty, and help to bring it into international law. It would be a step towards reducing pollution in our oceans, and an opportunity to say thank you to the many environmental groups, including Greenpeace, that have done so much campaigning to make sure that the law comes about, and against pollution going into our oceans from our privatised water companies, which pour far too much sewage into the sea. Can the Leader of the House give us some hope that legislation will be passed quickly during the wash-up, to hasten progress on protecting the world’s oceans?

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

This is a matter close to my heart. My own campaign staff and the Conservative Friends of the Ocean have campaigned particularly on this issue. What is needed to ensure that our rivers and seas are clean is a massive investment in infrastructure—the largest investment in infrastructure and the largest infrastructure project of its kind in the world. That is what is taking place in the United Kingdom because of this Conservative Government, and in short order we will have eradicated storm overflows. The public can follow that work: it is being tracked on the Water UK website and they can see all the projects that are under way and contributing to that goal. I will certainly ensure that the right hon. Gentleman’s concerns have been heard. I do not think it is necessary for the treaty to be part of the wash-up, but it will clearly be an issue for the new Parliament and I shall ensure that people have heard what he has said.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Before I hand over to the Chairman of Ways and Means, may I thank right hon. and hon. Members for the very kind words they have said during this business statement? It will obviously be the last business statement that I will be in the Chair for. It is always a highlight of the week to see colleagues raising a dizzying array of concerns on behalf of their constituents and a great opportunity for them to pursue the causes in which they believe. Thank you very much for everything you have said, and I particularly thank those colleagues who have praised our very hard-working staff members in the House.

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns Ceidwadwyr, Bournemouth West

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Before you took the Chair, numerous Members paid tribute to Dame Rosie Winterton. I have been looking at the Twitter machine—something that would not have been allowed when I was first elected to this place—and I have seen that you, Madam Deputy Speaker, have also announced you are leaving the House of Commons when we dissolve. May I be the first to wish you all happiness and success and thank you for your many years of service to this Parliament?

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

Thank you very much indeed. I will not say too much in reply, lest the tears come back to my eyes again. My fellow Madam Deputy Speaker and I have carried out quite a double act these last few years. I will miss all of you, and her, very much indeed. Thank you.

Photo of Marion Fellows Marion Fellows Scottish National Party, Motherwell and Wishaw

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I feel it is incumbent on me to say, “There’s nothing like a Dame.” I am very grateful to both of you in a personal regard. You have always helped me enormously, mainly through your sense of style, and I hope the House will continue to benefit from your legacy in that regard.

Photo of Nicholas Fletcher Nicholas Fletcher Ceidwadwyr, Don Valley

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. As a fellow Doncaster MP, it is only right that I thank Madam Deputy Speaker, Dame Rosie Winterton, for all her hard work, which is very much appreciated. I know that it must have been difficult for her sometimes to listen to a Conservative Member of Parliament, but throughout my time in this place, she has been nothing but professional and fair in the Chair, so I thank her on my behalf and that of the people of Doncaster.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Ceidwadwyr, South Holland and The Deepings

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Yesterday in the House, every single Member was moved by the account of my hon. Friend Craig Mackinlay about the extraordinary challenges that he has faced and overcome, but many Members of this House face extraordinary challenges, including with their health. Those challenges are often invisible—known to us but not beyond this place. You, Madam Deputy Speaker, have been a model, as someone who has faced such challenges, overcome them and returned to this House to preside with dignity and grace. It has been a great pleasure to be in the House for the whole time that you have been here. I hope to continue, and I hope that I can follow your example as I do.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. May I also add my thanks to you and the other Madam Deputy Speaker? You have always been enormously kind to me. I know that I am often quite eager to make a contribution, and you have always done your best to ensure that that happens. I suspect that, because of my language and the way I speak at 100 miles an hour, it may not always be possible to know exactly what the words are, but I know that you understand, Madam Deputy Speaker, given that we are Gaelic cousins—you are Scottish and I am Northern Irish, so we share that interest. I was very pleased to find out that you are a Rangers supporter. Next year will be our year, and I hope that we will remember it more than most. I will miss you and the other Madam Deputy Speaker. Thank you very much for keeping me right, as well as for telling me off the odd time as well —I probably needed it.

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

The hon. Gentleman speaks in this House more than anyone—possibly more than everyone else put together—but it is always a pleasure to hear what he says, and I thank him very much for his kind comments.

I think that I had better not take any further points of order lest we deflect from the business statement and the work that the Leader of the House has to do. I call Bob Blackman.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Ceidwadwyr, Harrow East

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I pay tribute to you and Dame Rosie for your service to the House, which has been long and very valuable.

Colleagues are asking for items to be dealt with in the wash-up, so may I give a big push to my private Member’s Bill? The Zoological Society of London (Leases) Bill, is currently in the Lords, where it has been given its Second Reading, having passed unopposed and unamended in this place. If we could get it into statute, everyone would be grateful.

As we approach the 4 July election, it is fair to say that the voters of this country have a choice. In exercising that choice, they can look to Wales, where Labour has been in power and a disaster, and to Scotland, where the SNP has been in power and another disaster, but we in London can look even closer at what it has been like to live under the Labour Mayor. I could go through a litany of his disasters, but his latest ruse to improve the air quality in London is to order electric buses from China, even though suitable buses are available in this country and would provide jobs for people here. Will my right hon. Friend set out the choice that people will have come 4 July?

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

I will ensure that all those involved in wash-up have heard what my hon. Friend has said about his private Member’s Bill, which I know is popular and well supported. I thank him for all his work on it.

With regards to the Mayor of London’s choice to purchase buses from China, I think it is consistent with Labour’s policy towards green energy, the main beneficiary of which does appear to be China.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and the other Madam Deputy Speaker, Dame Rosie Winterton. You have both generally dealt with my requests with pragmatism and kindness, unless I deserved otherwise.

The Media Bill was well supported across the House. It is not perfect, but a huge number of people did a huge amount of work to get it through. The Government’s timetable for Committee stage was incredibly tight, and Committee members pooled together and worked incredibly hard on it. Today, we have had a letter from those in charge of Channel 4, BBC, STV and MG Alba, among others, making clear the importance of the Bill. The last media Bill was passed when teletext was still cutting edge, so we really need this Media Bill to go through. In her discussions about wash-up, I urge the Leader of the House to stress the Bill’s importance for media organisations, particularly those in broadcast media. I believe that there is significant cross-party support for the Bill, particularly as it relates to broadcasting and on-demand radio services.

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

It is a very important Bill, and I know that a huge amount of work has been done by Members on both sides of the House. It was awaiting its Third Reading in the House of Lords. I cannot tell the hon. Lady at the moment, but I hope that the House will soon be updated about all the Bills that can be brought forward.

Photo of James Sunderland James Sunderland Chair, Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill

I wish you all the very best in your future life, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I thank the Leader of the House for her weekly feast of “Penny TV” every Thursday, which keeps many colleagues and constituents inspired and enthused. Will she join me in paying tribute to all those who are leaving this place at the end of this Parliament by agreeing that the privilege of serving in Westminster is, in reality, about good people working together by consensus and as a team to make the country a better place, and doing their very best under huge pressure?

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

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words. All the issues raised in these sessions are very important, but so is morale, and I hope that we have all contributed to it in these sessions. He is right that these sessions quite often show the best of this House, not just this week but in previous weeks. I hope that that encourages people to consider whether they might be able to serve in this place.

Photo of Marion Fellows Marion Fellows Scottish National Party, Motherwell and Wishaw

I would be remiss if I did not thank members of the all-party group on post offices for the huge support that they have given me in my time as chair. I thank especially Sammy Wilson, Mr Jones—who I do not think is a member but has been a huge help to me in my time—and Mr Carmichael. The APPG is a prime example of cross-party working in this place.

I cannot go without mentioning Lord Arbuthnot, who has sought to amend the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill during its passage through the other place. He introduced me to Sir Wyn Williams, who chaired the inquiry. All Members—me especially—will follow what is happening closely. Paula Vennells, the former chief executive officer, faced questions yesterday—and will again today and tomorrow—and some of the absolutely awful things coming out should make us all greet.

I lost my fight in this place to have Scotland included in the Horizon Bill, but I am sure that it will go through, as it is included in wash-up, for which I am grateful. I assure Scottish postmasters who were affected and have not yet been exonerated that once the Bill is officially passed in this Parliament, the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences (Scotland) Bill will go through the Scottish Parliament, although they may have to wait a day or two, because that is how Parliaments work. I thank the Leader of the House for the help she has given me personally when I have been at her every week on a certain topic. I just add that what is said in this place is not personal, and from my point of view, it never has been.

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 the work she has done on many issues, but in particular on the matter of the Post Office, and for getting her thanks to her colleagues on record today—chief among them my noble Friend Lord Arbuthnot, who has been a fierce champion for all those who fell victim to the Horizon scandal. She will know that Scotland needs to legislate on this issue, and I am glad that she has been able to get on record some comfort about the timeframe once the Bill receives Royal Assent here and what will follow in Scotland, for the benefit of those who may be watching. I also thank her for the fact that she has never played the man, and always the ball, which is very much appreciated by all Members of this House.

Photo of Dean Russell Dean Russell Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art

May I express my deep sadness at hearing that you are no longer going to be in this place, Madam Deputy Speaker? You have been formidable, yet incredibly kind, and for me personally you have been a mentor and a friend, so thank you. I feel very sad that you are moving on; I will leave further remarks for private, before I get teary myself.

On that note, will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House join me in thanking Rev. Tony Rindl, the current Vicar of Watford, for his many years of service to our town of Watford before he moves to new pastures in the coming months? He has been an incredible force for the town—a force for good, as one might imagine—and over the past year or so, I have been fortunate to spend 48 hours with him, during which we shadowed each other. I spent time in St Mary’s church, seeing the work that he did there, and I brought him to Parliament and we spent time here so that he could see what I was doing in this place. We realised our commonality of purpose in serving the community. He has been an incredible advocate for those who are vulnerable in our town, and has made a very considerable contribution to Watford. He will be sorely missed, so I hope my right hon. Friend will join me in thanking him and wishing him well in his new role.

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

I am sure the whole House joins my hon. Friend in what he has said about Rev. Tony Rindl. We all wish him well.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank the Leader of the House for her very kind comments earlier, which were much appreciated.

As you know, Madam Deputy Speaker, and as the Leader of the House and others in this House know, as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on international freedom of religion or belief, each week I bring to the attention of the Leader of the House human rights issues and persecution across the world. In the APPG, we speak up for those with Christian faith, those with other faiths and those with no faith. It is really important to have that opportunity, and the Leader of the House always makes sure that the relevant Minister is made aware of the issue. I almost always get a letter from the Minister to reassure me and let me know what is happening, so I thank the Leader of the House very much for that.

Today, I will take this last opportunity to ask a question, and speak on the threat to religious diversity and inclusion in Nepal. Amid political unrest in the country, many Hindu nationalists have been actively seeking radical governmental change that would lead to Nepal becoming a Hindu nationalist state, meaning that those with Christian faith and other ethnic minorities will be persecuted, ostracised and discriminated against. Does the Leader of the House agree that it is in His Majesty’s Government’s interest to take a firm stand against institutionalised religious or belief discrimination anywhere in the world, including in states that are privy to the UN’s universal declaration of human rights, which Nepal has ratified? It is for those people that I bring these issues to the attention of the House every week, and every week, the Leader of the House takes them forward to the next stage.

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind words and his very important question. This week will be no exception: I will make sure that the Foreign Office hears what he has said. The relationship we have with Nepal is an important one, and we want to make sure that human rights are being upheld.

Photo of Jonathan Gullis Jonathan Gullis Deputy Chair, Conservative Party

Madam Deputy Speaker, may I join those who have said kind words? You, the other Deputy Speakers, and Mr Speaker have made sure that when I have been overly zealous, I have been put down to the bottom of the list. I have now been called before the very end of questions, so it seems that the penny has finally dropped on that front.

We have had a lot of funding for Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke, but it would be remiss of me not to have one more go—one more bid to make sure we get one more important piece of funding for the great mother town of Burslem, where I have been working with Port Vale football club and Stoke-on-Trent College. We want the levelling-up partnership to be enacted in that great town. We want to see Sproson Park get a new special educational needs and disabilities playground, fenced with multi-sports fields, a café and classrooms for Port Vale’s exciting future England talents, such as Baylee Dipepa, who has just been drafted into the England under-17s team for the Euros championship.

We also want an advanced skills centre at Stoke-on-Trent College’s Burslem campus, equipping the next generation with the skills we need for the jobs and technologies of the future. Sadly, there is not time for another Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Question Time, so I hope the Leader of the House will write to the relevant Minister to lend her support and say that that bid must be approved before we dissolve Parliament, so that the people of Burslem get that long-overdue investment in their great town.

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

I thank my hon. Friend, and congratulate him on all he has achieved for his constituency. He is an absolute champion—although, as we have established, not always a well-behaved one in this Chamber. I will certainly make sure I do all I can to assist him in getting something further, and it is a great credit to him that on the penultimate sitting day of this Parliament, he is still fighting for his constituents.

Photo of Anna Firth Anna Firth Ceidwadwyr, Southend West

Thank you for your service, Madam Deputy Speaker, and for all the support you have given me, as well as—I am sure—all new by- election winners in this Parliament and previous ones.

The Government have stood four-square behind my vision to make the city of Southend safer, healthier and wealthier for all. They have banned nitrous oxide, tackled zombie knives, provided £180 million for south Essex hospitals, and approved the first new clam fishery in the Thames estuary for centuries. However, can I ask the Leader of the House to put her shoulder firmly behind the wheel to get the Pet Abduction Bill through wash-up and on to our statute book? My No. 1 mission is to build on Sir David’s legacy. The Pet Abduction Bill is a big part of that, and I would like to end this Parliament as I began it, by saying that if we get that Bill on to the statute book, Sir David’s light remains.

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

I thank my hon. Friend, and congratulate her on all that she has done for her constituency. I may have dreamt this, but I think my hon. Friend recently abseiled down something very tall dressed as Wonder Woman. I would like to suggest to her that she campaigns over the next six weeks as Wonder Woman, but I have some reluctance about doing so, because she might actually go through with it.

My hon. Friend has done a huge amount for her constituency, taking forward our dear, late colleague David’s legacy on so many things: not just the status of Southend, but the Music Man Project and many other fantastic local organisations. The Pet Abduction Bill will be part of the negotiations that are going on, but we have managed to get many manifesto commitments with regard to animal welfare over the line, and I will do my best to ensure that they all do so.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Ceidwadwyr, Gloucester

Madam Deputy Speaker, I wish you and all colleagues who are either standing down voluntarily, or are advised to do so by our constituents, very happy years outside this House.

As I come towards the statutory end of six years as chairman of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, I thank our patron Mr Speaker for his support, and all fellow cross-party governors over the years for their help in promoting, supporting and shaping the strategy of that great British democracy organisation, which has wonderful staff from, and in, many countries around the world. Whatever our differences, we are all strong believers in democracy, and we should go on sharing our successes and failures around the world for decades to come.

Can I also highlight to the Leader of the House the importance of the Criminal Justice Bill, not least the fact that if it goes through, spiking will be a criminal offence under the law for the first time ever?

Lastly, will my right hon. Friend join me in offering her support—perhaps everyone in the House could do so—to Gloucester Rugby in the final tomorrow of the European Challenge cup against the South African Hollywoodbets Sharks? Will she make sure that officials in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Sport England are working hard to resolve the issue of the covid loans, so that great British rugby clubs such as Gloucester Rugby, which is in its 51st year, can go into next season financially secure?

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

I thank my hon. Friend for all the work he has done over the many years for the Westminster Foundation for Democracy—an organisation with which we are all familiar and with which many Members have worked—to ensure that democracy is strong in many places around the world. Of course, we have an opportunity over the next few weeks to demonstrate how well elections can be done and how well we can conduct ourselves during the course of an election. I assure him that I will ensure that those who need to hear will have heard what he has said about the Criminal Justice Bill, and I will also write to DCMS on his behalf about the loans issue.

Photo of Neil O'Brien Neil O'Brien Ceidwadwyr, Harborough

Madam Deputy Speaker, you have given great service to this House. I alerted the other Madam Deputy Speaker to the fact that I would mention somebody else who has done that. We have just arrived at the point where Shirley Tovell in my team has been working for Members of this House for 55 years. [Hon. Members: “Wow!”] She has been working for the people of Harborough, Oadby and Wigston since 1992. Like you, Madam Deputy Speaker, she is incredibly hard working and has wonderful energy, so I thought I would pay tribute to her in this House.

Will the Leader of the House allow a debate on and talk to the Department for Transport about the crucial issue of bridge closures during rail electrification works? I lobbied for the extension of rail electrification through Harborough up to Wigston at an early stage, and we are now getting the whole of the midland main line electrified, which is a wonderful investment that make trains quieter, greener, cheaper and faster. It is a great thing, but the bridge closures during it have been disruptive. I am chasing Network Rail about sorting out a massive puddle it has created at the end of a bridge at Kibworth. In Newton Lane, a bridge has been shut for too long. I have had endless meetings, and it is finally opening next week.

Most importantly, I organised a meeting about the lessons learned, and the first place we need to learn those lessons relates to Spion Kop bridge, which is a vital artery between Wigston and South Wigston in my constituency. The next stage of the electrification works will take the wires under that bridge, and Network Rail is looking at the different options. There are options that involve the bridge closing, and there are potentially more expensive options that could keep it open. Will the Leader of the House write to the Department for Transport about that? The project is currently ahead of schedule and under budget, so let us use some of that resource to do whatever it takes to stop that bridge closing, as it would be a disaster if it shuts. Will she please write to the Prime Minister and the Department for Transport about this, so that we do not have to shut Spion Kop bridge?

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

I will absolutely do what my hon. Friend asks—I shall do that this afternoon—and I thank him for the diligence with which he is approaching this issue for his constituents, even on the penultimate sitting day of this Parliament.

When my hon. Friend mentioned his colleague Shirley and her incredible decades of service to this House, there was an audible noise of support in acknowledging that huge achievement and the depths of her duty to this place and to his constituency.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Ceidwadwyr, Congleton

I associate myself with the very justifiable compliments that have been paid to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for your work in this place.

Would the Leader of the House be good enough to make representations for my private Member’s Bill, the Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief Bill, to be included in the wash-up business to be considered tomorrow in the other place? The Bill is fortunate to have strong support from Ministers, including the Foreign Secretary, to be a manifesto commitment and to have had very strong cross-party support during the progress on and completion of its stages in this place. I am confident it has support from every party and, in fact, I do not know of a single Member in this place who opposes the Bill. Its aim is to do good for the most disadvantaged and persecuted across the world, so I thank all those who have supported it, not forgetting—how could I?—Jim Shannon, with his enduring and heartfelt support not only for this Bill, but for all those across the world who suffer on account of their religion or belief. He truly is, and I hope will continue to be, a voice for the voiceless in this place.

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

I will certainly make sure that those involved in the wash-up negotiations have heard what my hon. Friend has said. I do understand how well supported the Bill is. I take this opportunity to thank my hon. Friend for all she has done in this Parliament to promote religious freedom. Again, along with many Members from across the House, she has done not just this place but many nations and many people around the world a huge service.

Photo of Nicholas Fletcher Nicholas Fletcher Ceidwadwyr, Don Valley

First, let me put on the record my thanks to you, Madam Deputy Speaker. You were very kind to me when I first entered this place, and it has not been forgotten. I would also like to thank my hon. Friend Sir William Cash for his help over the past few years, and for all the years he has put in here. It has been the greatest honour to represent the people of Doncaster, and I hope they will return me to represent the people of Doncaster East and the Isle of Axholme. I thank my hon. Friend Andrew Percy, because Axholme is part of that seat at the moment, and when I talk to people on the doorstep, they speak very highly of him, so I would like to put on record my thanks to him.

Does the Leader of the House agree that Doncaster has been given huge amounts of money and huge support from this Conservative Government? The two things I have campaigned on most were for a new hospital and for Doncaster airport to open again. Does she agree that the best way of achieving those two goals, and getting people flying from Doncaster airport once more, is to elect a Conservative Member of Parliament for Doncaster East and the Isle of Axholme?

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

I have many diligent colleagues, but I think my hon. Friend is one of the most determined champions for his local community. I know that he has managed to get the airport to reopen, and that a 125-year lease was signed in March. He has a new university technical college—it opened a few years ago—which I know is providing a new route for young people to keep them in education and provide them with an incredible start to very exciting careers. He has new bus routes, he has sorted out fly-tipping and I know personally how hard he has worked to get money into local high streets. He has delivered tens of millions for local towns and levelling-up projects, as well as for many others. I think his constituents are in good hands, and I hope he gets the opportunity to do much more for them. I congratulate him on all that he has done.

Photo of Holly Mumby-Croft Holly Mumby-Croft Ceidwadwyr, Scunthorpe

Madam Deputy Speaker, may I add my voice to those across the House in thanking you for your service?

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House may know that I have an interest in steel. I am pleased to tell her that, after four and a half years of hard work and support from this Government, when I go home tomorrow there will still be a steelworks in my home town of Scunthorpe, and that steelworks will still be making the finest steel in the world. However, she will know that negotiations are ongoing between industry and Government for further support. Can she say anything in general terms about whether such conversations between Departments and the industry will continue over the coming weeks?

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

Our party has long had an iron lady, and it now has a steel lady. I congratulate her on all her achievements, not just those her constituents will benefit from in keeping that vital industry going—it is vital for the economic wellbeing of her constituents—but the service she has done to the nation in retaining this incredibly important sovereign capability and the wider steel industry. I will ensure that she gets an update on progress on the specific point she raised. Of course, no new policy decisions will be taken during the election period or purdah, but the Government are of course still going and we will be looking out for her constituency’s interests.

Photo of Paul Howell Paul Howell Ceidwadwyr, Sedgefield

I will be the last Member of Parliament for Sedgefield, but I hope to be the first Member of Parliament for Newton Aycliffe and Spennymoor. Like many colleagues, I would like thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and your colleagues for welcoming me to this place. He is not in the Chamber at the moment, but Jim Shannon is a perfect example of cross-party working and engaging with people, and I really thank him for that.

Could I encourage any possible progress on the Prison Media Bill, led by my hon. Friend Katherine Fletcher, to restrict social media access in prisons, which would give some comfort to my constituent Zoey McGill, who sadly lost her son to knife crime?

We have had strong decisions and clear direction from the Prime Minister since he came into post, enabling the Leader of the House to manage business particularly well. How does she think business questions would survive in the event of a Labour Government, because with the speed at which Keir Starmer changes his mind, we might need them daily?

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 that he has achieved for his current constituency. I hope that he has the opportunity to continue serving, because he does a fantastic job for his constituents and is one of the hardest working Members in this place. I also thank him for his kind words about cross-party working. A lot of good is done on that basis in this place, although it rarely gets a lot of attention, so I am glad that he has shone a spotlight on it this afternoon. He is right that the prospect of Labour being at the helm during business questions is not something I wish to contemplate, which is why I will do everything I can over the next six weeks to ensure continuity on this side of the Dispatch Box.

Photo of Danny Kruger Danny Kruger Ceidwadwyr, Devizes

My sincere thanks to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to all Members who are stepping down, particularly my great friend Sir William Cash, to whom, more than any other individual, this country owes the restoration of parliamentary sovereignty, and there can be no greater legacy for an MP.

It is very good news that inflation is coming down, particularly because of global energy prices, but business energy costs remain high for many of our constituents. In particular, one agricultural business in my constituency is facing an extraordinary rise in the standing charges it has to pay: it has to pay £32,000 before it even starts to pay for electricity, and the electricity itself will cost only £12,000. The Government, commendably, are asking Ofgem to look at the impact of standing charges on household consumers, but will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero to request that Ofgem also looks at the impact on businesses?

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

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this matter, and I will certainly write to the Department and ask that it makes that request to Ofgem. I remind colleagues that clearly people will want casework and support for constituents and businesses to continue. I know that Ofgem is particularly interested in the practices of individual suppliers, so I would encourage my hon. Friend to do that. For as long as I can, I will be able to assist hon. Members in that.

Photo of Robin Millar Robin Millar Ceidwadwyr, Aberconwy

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and thank you also for your kind and carefully chosen words to me at different times through this Parliament; they have been much appreciated. The contributions in this Chamber over the past day or so have given me cause to reflect that each of us owes our place here not just to desire and effort, but actually to the mercy of God as well.

When I was growing up in north Wales, it was with an unspoken expectation that I would have to leave in order to find a job, build a career and make something of myself. But now, after four years, I can say that the Conservative MPs in north Wales have managed to secure a freeport in Ynys Môn and an investment zone in Wrexham, both of which will bring new business, new technology and new jobs to north Wales. We have also secured £1 billion for investment in the north Wales main line, which will connect families to each other and people to business, and connect to more investment and even to public services across the border. And of course yesterday we heard that there will be a nuclear future in Wylfa, which will bring thousands of jobs and the creation of green energy to north Wales. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, given that record of delivering for the people of north Wales over the past four years, young people there can now look to a future where they can develop the skills they need for the jobs they want, and build the homes and make the place for themselves that they deserve in north Wales?

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

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I congratulate him on the role he has played in securing the investment and opportunities for his constituents and for Wales more widely. I know that he has also brought in a long-term plan for towns, with up to £20 million for his local area, and of course there is £5 million for the agrifood launchpad. In addition to the rail investment he mentioned, we have two new investment zones for Wales, as well as the extension of the existing zone project from five to 10 years and an additional £111 million for round 3 levelling-up projects supporting a further seven projects. Over £1.5 billion of levelling-up funding has been allocated to Wales since the start of the current spending review. He has been involved in all of that. He is a huge champion for Wales and for his constituency, and I wish him good luck in the coming weeks.