Questions of the Week was triggered by Natalie Bennett in the Lords last week asking what assessment had been made of the use of philosophy to improve the development of critical thinking and problem solving skills at all educational levels. Michael Forsyth asked: ‘Should we not have more philosophers in this House, if for no other reason than we would be better at explaining why we exist?” So, as questions are frequently more interesting than the answers, here’s a selection from the past parliamentary week.
LOTO QUESTIONS TO THE PRIME MINISTER
KEIR STARMER (1): The Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Gavin Williamson) told a civil servant to “slit your throat”. How does the Prime Minister think the victim of that bullying felt when he expressed great sadness at his resignation?
KEIR STARMER (2): The Member for South Staffordshire spent years courting the idea that he could intimidate others, blurring the lines to normalise bullying behaviour—it is precisely why the Prime Minister gave him a job. The truth is simple: he is a pathetic bully, but he would never have got away with it if people like the Prime Minister did not hand him power. Does the Prime Minister regret his decision to make him a Government Minister?
KEIR STARMER (3): Everyone in the country knows someone like the Member for South Staffordshire: a sad middle manager getting off on intimidating those beneath him. But everyone in the country also knows someone like the Prime Minister: the boss who is so weak and so worried that the bullies will turn on him that he hides behind them. What message does he think it sends when, rather than take on the bullies, he lines up alongside them and thanks them for their loyalty?
KEIR STARMER (4): The problem is that the Prime Minister could not stand up to a run-of-the-mill bully, so he has no chance of standing up to vested interests on behalf of working people. Take Shell, which made record profits this year of £26 billion. How much has it paid under his so-called windfall tax?
KEIR STARMER (5): There was no answer to the question, because the answer is nothing. Shell has not paid a penny in windfall tax. Why? Because for every £1 it spends on digging for fossil fuels, he hands them a 90p tax break, costing the taxpayer billions. Will he find a backbone and end his absurd oil and gas giveaway?
KEIR STARMER (6): It is a pattern with this Prime Minister: too weak to sack the security threat sitting around the Cabinet table; too weak to take part in a leadership contest after he lost the first one; and too weak to stand up for working people. He spent weeks flirting with the climate change deniers in this party and then scuttled off to COP at the last minute. In the Budget next week, he will be too weak to end his oil and gas giveaway, scrap the non-dom tax breaks and end the farce of taxpayers subsidising private schools—that is what Labour would do: a proper plan for working people. If he cannot even stand up to a cartoon bully with a pet spider, if he is too scared to face the public in an election, what chance has he got of running the country?
A POINT OF ORDER
KEVIN BRENNAN: (Edited) At Prime Minister’s questions earlier today, the Prime Minister told the House that he was not aware, until yesterday, of any specific allegations against Sir Gavin Williamson. However, the former Conservative Party chairman, Sir Jake Berry, publicly said that he informed the Prime Minister of a complaint that had been made regarding allegations of bullying and intimidation of parliamentary colleagues by the Gavin Williamson well in advance of that. Can you, Mr Deputy Speaker, inform us whether the Prime Minister has given any indication that he intends to return to the House to correct the record?
TOP TEN QUESTIONS
MARK FRANCOIS TO BEN WALLACE: Given the defence budget is likely to come under great pressure, why does it take BAE Systems 11 years to build a ship the Japs can build in four?
KARL TURNER (TO THE PM): If the Prime Minister or any member of his many households became unwell, would he start ringing the GP surgery at 8 o’clock each morning to not get an appointment; would he go off to accident and emergency and wait 12 hours to be seen; would he call an ambulance that would not come; or would he use some of his £750 million – unearned wealth – to pay privately and see somebody there and then?
BRIAN PADDICK: The Government estimate that 72 offensive weapon homicides will occur in the 18-month pilot period in the pilot areas, costing £12,354 for each review. I make that £889,488, yet the total cost is estimated at £2.1 million. How much does it cost to recruit and train the oversight board and the secretariat that almost doubles the cost of each individual review?
DAVID LAMMY: Do the Government still plan to publish a China Strategy and, if so, by what date?
BOB BLACKMAN: What more does the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have to do before we proscribe it in its entirety?
NEALE HANVEY: I am sure the Minister would agree with Aristotle that the absence of democracy leads only to oligarchy or tyranny . . . Does the Minister accept that Westminster’s continued denial of Scottish democracy makes a laughing stock of UK foreign policy, and is it oligarchy or tyranny, when an argument for both could easily be mounted?
RICHARD FORD: (Ref Flight ET302, crashed near Addis Ababa). Will the Minister commit to lobbying the Ethiopian Government to release the air accident report so that an inquest in the UK can proceed?
PETER KYLE: In Britain, heating oil bills have risen from £615 to £1,500, but in Northern Ireland they have risen from £820 to a staggering £1,900. Does he think it is fair that both are getting the same £100 payment?
NEIL COYLE: Can this Prime Minister promise today that he will use his power of veto to ensure that no one who received a fixed penalty notice for breaking Covid laws is rewarded with a seat in the House of Lords?
MR SPEAKER: I call Dr Jamie Wallis. Not here. But can the Minister answer as though he was?