A week in review (18th June - 21st June)
The parliamentary review of the week
Once again, no slow start this Monday in the House of Commons. The day began with questions on housing and communities. Among the topics causing most discussion was, firstly, that relating to cladding. Responding to Grahame Morris, James Brokenshire (secretary of state) assured the House that, “as of 22 May, remediation had started on 107 buildings over 18 metres in the social sector that were identified to have combinations of aluminium composite material cladding and insulation that failed fire-performance tests. Work has been completed on 10 buildings”.
The topic of social housing was then raised by Ruth Smeeth: “What assessment [has James Brokenshire] made of trends in the level of new homes available for social rent since 2010”. In short, he responded that since Conservatives took office, 357,000 new affordable homes have been built – 128,000 of which are available for social rent – with a further £9 billion of funding for yet more affordable homes.
Two urgent questions were then raised. The first was by Tonia Antoniazzi, asking whether the Home Office would grant an emergency medicinal license for cannabis-based medicine for Billy Caldwell. Minister of state, Nick Hurd, said an expert panel of clinicians will appraise the issue regarding the safety of its use in other such cases. The second question was by Wera Hobhouse on the topic of upskirting, asking for a governmental update on making upskirting a specific sexual offence. Lucy Frazer, the relevant under-secretary, remarked that she and the government are wholly in alignment with Wera Hobhouse on this issue and want to see upskirting outlawed.
- Sajid Javid says panel of clinical experts consulting government on efficacy of cannabis-based medicine
- Government backs Wera Hobhouse's call for a specific upskirting offence
- Jeremy Hunt announces extra £30.5 billion a year in funding for the NHS by 2023-2024
- Gosport Memorial Hospital report suggests medical malpractice has cost hundreds of lives
- Government dismisses claims that EU Withdrawal Bill contradicts the Sewel agreement
Jeremy Hunt then made a statement on the government’s long-term plan for the NHS. After giving initial praise for the institution of the NHS and its successes, he said that demographic pressures are, and will continue to, pose an existential threat to the NHS, further adding: “I can today announce that the NHS will receive an increase of £20.5 billion a year in real terms by 2023-24—an average of 3.4% per year growth over the next five years”. In tandem with this will come efficiency oversight to ensure that the money is spent wisely.
Finally came an emergency debate (following last week’s tumult at PMQs) on the relevance of the Sewel Convention to the EU Withdrawal Bill. Ian Blackford began the debate by calling Westminster’s dismissal of the Scottish parliament’s collective downvote on the bill as a “power grab”. Fighting against was the general claim that the Sewel Convention did not pertain to such large changes as leaving the European Union, something Lord Sewel himself echoes today.
I can today announce that the NHS will receive an increase of £20.5 billion a year in real terms by 2023-24—an average of 3.4% per year growth over the next five years." - Jeremy Hunt
Tuesday saw a ministerial statement from Sajid Javid on behalf of the Home Office. Before commenting on the potential benefits of cannabis-derived medicine in exceptional cases, Sajid claimed to the House that cannabis per se is not yet a recognised efficacious drug; indeed, he further added the drug in its current form does much physical, psychological and social damage to the country. For this reason, he assured the House that there is absolutely no intention on behalf of the government to legalise cannabis for recreational use. His only announcement was that its therapeutic possibilities will be conferred and deliberated upon by experts, from whom the government will take advice.
Subsequent to this statement were Opposition Day debates. The first to be discussed related to the confidence in which the current transport secretary, Chris Grayling, is held. Speaking on the matter was Andy McDonald, who claimed that the secretary had categorically failed to appropriately remedy the railway crisis of recent times. Secondly came the topic of the newly proposed constituency boundaries, which Valerie Vaz considers to be based on outdated data.
PMQs this week saw Corbyn attack the Conservative government on their proposed Brexit dividend for the NHS. The essential argument here was that this was a play on figures for purposes of public relations. A more comprehensive overview can be followed through our live Twitter feed of the session: https://twitter.com/theparlreview/status/1009391924007096321
Jeremy Hunt then made a ministerial statement concerning the Gosport Memorial Hospital controversy. Essentially, an independent report revealed that, between 1987 and 2001, inappropriately prescribed opioid analgesics had abbreviated the lives of at least 450, and perhaps even 650 if lost medical records are taken into account. Jeremy Hunt assured the House and the affected families that the slow responses responsible for this tragedy over the years will not be replicated, and that at the heart of this remedial effort will be helping the families of the victims.
Setting the tone for Thursday were a series of oral questions on digital, culture, media and sport. In this session, among other things, were further pushes in the way of safe standing areas for upper tier football matches and of heavier regulation for the gambling industry, particularly on the internet (where an underappreciated amount of problem gambling occurs). Questions were similarly put to the Attorney General, principally on the topic of forced marriages and public legal education. Regarding the former, Robert Buckland (the Solicitor-General) reminded the House that the CPS has prosecution of forced marriage offences as a high priority. Regarding the latter, he said: “I have launched a new public legal education panel formed of leading organisations that promote the importance of teaching people about the law and their basic civil and criminal rights.”
Under this agreement, EU citizens living in the UK, along with their family members, will be able to stay and continue their lives here, with the same access to work, study, benefits and public services that they enjoy now. Close family members living overseas will be able to join them here in future." - Caroline Nokes
The final impactful event of the day was when the minister for immigration, Caroline Nokes, made a statement on the status of non-British EU citizens after leaving the European Union – the crux of which went as follows: “Under this agreement, EU citizens living in the UK, along with their family members, will be able to stay and continue their lives here, with the same access to work, study, benefits and public services that they enjoy now. Close family members living overseas will be able to join them here in future.”