A week in review (16th July - 19th July)
The parliamentary review of the week
A session of Oral Questions to the Home Office was the inaugural event of this week. Rose Cooper, for instance, asked the immigration minister (Caroline Nokes) what assessment the Home Office has made on the performance of UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) against its target times for responses to the public. Nokes responded that, “in the vast majority of cases”, the services’ standards are met.
Topical also in this session was the question asked by Colin Clark about what efforts are being made to tackle knife crime. Sajid Javid, in sharing Colin’s concern about the rise in knife crime, repeated the measures outlined in April’s new violence strategy, among which are new legislative initiatives regarding the Offensive Weapons Bill, the launch of a £1 million community fund and continuing police action under ‘Operation Sceptre’.
- Final week before recess
- PM announces strategic objectives after NATO summit
- Jeremy Corbyn attacks PM over tangled Brexit negotiations during PMQs
- Chuka Umunna calls for harsh penalties for Vote Leave campaign
- Dr Liam Fox announces public consultation sessions before reaching new free trade agreements
Helen Whately then asked what steps the Home Office are taking to ensure that the immigration system is conducive to the hiring of sufficiently skilled migrant workers for the UK. Sajid said that, from 6 July, the Home Office will remove doctors’ and nurses’ posts from the yearly immigration cap of 20,700, thereby ensuring the NHS is adequately staffed.
After the NATO summit in Brussels, the prime minister updated on the House on its content and outcome. The focus, she said, was on “strengthening the alliance, including through greater burden sharing, stepping up our collective efforts to meet the threats of today, and enhancing NATO’s capability to meet the threats of tomorrow.” All of which, she added, the UK contributes heavily toward. The focus, quite naturally after the attack on Salisbury, was on the future of our relationship with Russia. Although reminding the House that pressure must be placed on Russia with regard to its international conduct, the end goal is still, as far as she's concerned, a “constructive relationship.”
Another ministerial statement followed, this time by Dr Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, on the topic of trade policy. In essence, he told the House that, regarding the establishment of new free trade agreements, “all stakeholders and members of the public must be able to inform the government’s approach, and that is why we will launch public consultations for each potential new trade agreement.”
The focus of this summit was on strengthening the alliance, including through greater burden-sharing, stepping up our collective efforts to meet the threats of today, and enhancing NATO's capability to meet the threats of tomorrow." - Theresa May
Tuesday began with questions on the topic of business, energy and industrial strategy. In answer to the question of what the government is doing to support the growth of small businesses, Richard Harrington (under-secretary) said: “Corporation tax rates will be cut from 19% to 17% in 2020. We have doubled the annual allowance for people investing in knowledge-intensive companies through the enterprise investment scheme, and we are investing over £26 million through Be the Business.”
Claire Perry, minister of state, said that, although the Conservative government has heavily supported the minimum wage during their time in office, millions remain improperly remunerated, adding, “Any employer who is not paying the national minimum wage and is breaching the law deserves to be found out and taken to task.”
Claire Perry also updated the House on the measures she and her department are taking to improve STEM skills in the UK as part of the government’s industrial strategy. Among these measures are encouraging female participation, initiatives such as T-levels and investing nearly half a billion pounds.
An Urgent Question was posed by Chuka Umunna, asking if a minister from the Home Office will make a statement on the illegal conduct of the Vote Leave. Chloe Smith, the Parliamentary Secretary, responded that this was a matter for the law to deal with and, on that basis, unsuitable for her to comment on.
Gavin Williamson put forward a ministerial statement on the government’s combat air strategy. In it he announced that, to ensure that Britain’s control of the air is maintained, the Ministry of Defence will be investing in Typhoon, key engineering skills and a sustainable industrial base that can produce world-leading aircraft without as much delay. He concluded with: “The strategy demonstrates that Britain will retain its world leadership in this sector, by having the greatest fighter aircraft of any nation in the world.”
The principal event on Wednesday was prime minister’s questions, which is best tracked via our live Twitter feed on the following link: https://twitter.com/theparlreview/status/1019538857619066881
Also featuring on Wednesday were three Urgent Questions, one by Andy McDonald on Govia Thameslink asking for an update on the status of the train line’s performance. Jo Johnson responded that, although the government is still monitoring their performance, “I can inform the House that, on Sunday 15 July, GTR implemented an interim timetable, a planned step that aims to improve the reliability and performance of services for passengers.”
The nest question was on community violence in Northern Ireland, which Karen Bradley, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said was being tackled via, among other things, an extra £25 million to help law enforcement contain paramilitary activity.
The final Urgent Question was that by Alistair Carmichael. To Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House, the following question was put: “[will] she will make a statement on arrangements for Members on maternity, paternity or adoption leave and proxy voting?” Leadsom, after apologising for a pairing mistake earlier in the week, reassured the House that there “remains a guaranteed pair for MPs who are currently pregnant or who have a new baby.” On proxy voting, she added that a debate on the implementation of such a system will take place in September.
Sam Gyimah, a minister of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, then announced Britain’s commitment to expanding the UK’s market share of the global space market from 6.5% to 10% by 2030, to which end the government will commitment to investing many millions of pounds. He also commended Britain’s new ability to launch spacecraft from its own soil for the first time.
The [combat air] strategy demonstrates that Britain will retain its world leadership in this sector, by having the greatest fighter aircraft of any nation in the world." - Gavin Williamson
The two most prominent events of Thursday were, firstly, Oral Questions to the Department for Exiting the European Union. In this session, many topics were probed; for example, what consequences will follow for the agricultural industry. On this matter, Dominic Raab said that maximum continuity between EU membership and non-membership will take place, which will mean equivalent funds being afforded to the farming industry. On trade permeability, Dominic reassured the House that there will exist a common rulebook which will ensure as seamless a trading arrangement as possible. In short, this was an inaugural ministerial statement for Dominic, much of which reiterated what has been stated in the white paper.
Finally, there was a ministerial statement by Damian Hinds (Secretary of State for Education) on the topic of relationships education, relationships and sex education and health education. As part of the general thrust toward helping young people with mental health issues (particularly with respect to online socialising), Damian told the House that, as a mandatory part of the national curriculum, education on relationships and how to form positive ones (both online and offline) would now be taught. Schools will have flexibility with regard to the specific content, but the general themes laid out by his department must comprise a part of the lessons.