One of my key responsibilities as Leader of the Commons is to organise government business in the House and to make a weekly statement announcing the business for the week ahead. Every Thursday, directly after I have given my Business Statement, I take oral questions on a wide range of topics from MPs across the House who seek Government time to debate constituency issues or other matters.
I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to engage with Members on all sides of the House each week, and I am grateful to Mr Speaker for ensuring that everyone who wants to gets the opportunity to ask me a question. You can read a transcript of this week’s debate on Hansard or you can watch the session on parliamentlive.tv.
In addition to responding to a number of points from Valerie Vaz and Pete Wishart, my opposite numbers on the Labour & SNP benches respectively, colleagues also raised issues around:
- housing policy for young people
- illegal traveller encampments
- veteran servicemen in Northern Ireland
- select committees
- drones and aviation
- floods in South Asia
- clinical commissioning groups
- immigration policy
As well as the dozens of other questions I was asked, it was a pleasure to be able to congratulate Huddersfield University for winning the global teaching university of the year award, proving once again that British universities are world-leading. Slightly more mischievously, I did enjoy the opportunity to reminisce with Dennis Skinner over my attempts to help a potential future colleague of mine unseat him!
It is going to be a busy few days next week for parliamentarians, with late sittings on both the Monday and the Tuesday (through to midnight).
Monday will see the conclusion of the Second Reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill; many colleagues had indicated that they wished to speak in this important debate, and I was very pleased to be able to extend the hours that the House will be sitting. I campaigned passionately for Leave last year and I know that we have a fantastic future ahead of us once we complete the Article 50 process and exit the EU; I cannot wait to cast my vote in support of the Bill on Monday night!
As I said in the run-up to the referendum, a free trading, democratic Britain has SO much going for it! We speak the world’s international business language; our contract law is world class; our judicial system is consistently rated as one of the least corrupt in the world. Combined with the fact that the UK straddles the time zones between North America and Asia, and has built up the most successful and innovative financial services centre in the world, there is an overwhelming case for great success once the EU shackles are removed. You can read more in my April 2016 article for the Telegraph and my May 2016 article for City A.M.
Tuesday will see the Second Reading of the Finance Bill, and the House will again be sitting until midnight. The Bill is supplementary to the Finance Bill introduced in the last parliamentary session in March 2017; provisions for a number of changes to tax legislation were withdrawn after the calling of the general election due to there being no time to debate and scrutinise them. This new Bill will legislate for policies that have already been announced and reintroduces the withdrawn provisions. You can read more about the second 2017 Finance Bill on the gov.uk website.
The House will also debate the motions that will enable the Government to pass legislation, and for the opposition to fulfil their vital task of scrutiny. This will minimise any delay or disruption to the committee stage of Brexit bills, and many other pieces of legislation, that the British people voted for.
On Wednesday we will have an Opposition Day debate, as provided for by the Standing Orders of the House. This allows the non-government parties to discuss a subject of their choosing, although this has not yet been announced.
On the 17th July, we were due to have a debate on the horrific abuse and intimidation suffered by candidates during the recent general election, and it was exceptionally disappointing that the Labour Party filibustered that debate by choosing instead to debate parliamentary procedure for three hours. As I said at the time, Members on both sides of the House have been victims of vile abuse from anarchists and hard-left activists, but it seems Labour Members were only interested in a debate about process, not about material things, and certainly not about things that our constituents care about.
I am therefore delighted that, as I indicated to the House in Business Questions on the 20th July, we have rescheduled the debate on this abusive threat to our democracy for next Thursday (14th September). I look forward to hearing from colleagues on all sides of the House, and I know that there are many on our benches who will want to condemn in the strongest language the frightening and intimidating abuse endured by many Conservative candidates.
So, a busy week ahead, but extremely important debates to be had.