On a good day, there may be a million words spoken in the Palace of Westminster. Here are a very few of them, from the floor of the Commons. They are not always verbatim but are reliable. That is, reliably reported.
Robert Halfon (Con): The Education department has appointed 13 Attendance advisers, but we have 1.7 million absent children and 100,000-plus so-called “ghost children”.
Grant Shapps (Con): Professor Jay’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse heard from 7,300 victims. It processed 2 million pages of evidence and cost £184 million. £4.5 million is to be allocated to seven organizations to support victims.
James Murray (Con): The out-of-turn estimates will increase overall spending by £71.4 billion [with £60 billion sought by BEIS to implement the energy price cap].
Christopher Chope (Con): The Paul Ehrlich Institute (the German regulator for vaccine safety) tried to raise the alert that one in 5,000 vaccinated people experienced a serious side effect, such as heart muscle inflammation. It said that, statistically, every tenth person must expect a severe consequence from having a course of three or four vaccines.
Scott Benton (Con): More than 70% of successful deportation appeals are now based solely on Article 8 [the right to respect for private and family life’].
Rachael Maskell (Lab): 7.5 million people are on pre-payment meters.
Graham Stuart (Con): In the Scotwind auction, Scottish fields have been sold off cheap, netting £700 million, while New York garnered £4.3 billion for a quarter of what was on offer in Scotland.
Andy Slaughter (Lab): The briefing from the National Residential Landlords Association says that 70% of landlords could envisage operating without section 21. Kevin Hollinrake (Con): That means in effect somewhere between 20% and 30% of supply (of rented accommodation) might go overnight.
Alison Thewliss (SNP): The gas bill of the Toryglen Community Base has gone from £9,700 a year to £62,273.36.
Richard Fuller (Con): In 2019, almost 243,000 net additional homes were delivered.
Anne McLaughlin (SNP): 40% of those entitled to pension credit do not apply for it.
Damien Hinds (Con): The e-petition for verified ID to be required to open a social media account has almost 700,000 signatures.
Taino Owatemi (Lab): In the last four years in this country, £3 billion has been lost to online fraud and 60,000 offences relating to online sexual abuse and grooming have been committed.
Guy Opperman (Con): Google made $14 billion profit last quarter.
Paulette Hamilton (Lab): (Before Putin’s invasion) Ukraine grew enough food to feed an estimated 400 million people despite having a population of only 44 million.
Matt Vickers (Con): There is a street in Stockton where if someone travels from one end to another just five miles, they pass through two areas where the difference in life expectancy is 20 years. Those living in Yarm in my constituency can be expected to live until the age of 84, whereas those living in Stockton Town Center, and neighboring Stockton North, can expect to live only to the age of 64 – that is equivalent to the life expectancy of those living in Ethiopia.
Drew Hendry (SNP): Scotch whiskey exported to India attracts a tariff of 150%.
Robert Halfon (Con): New Spanish consumer laws will force big companies and utility firms to answer customer service calls within three minutes or face fines of up to £85,000.
Theresa Villiers (Con): [On revoking the retained EU laws] We do not know with certainty how many laws there are within DEFRA’s food, animal welfare and environmental remit because that has not been comprehensively counted on the Government’s dashboard. (Greener UK estimates 570 pieces of legislation in DEFRA. Estimates for the total number of laws to be examined by the end of 2023 fall between 2,500 and 2,700 – around five a day.)
Patricia Gibson (SNP): There have been four secretaries of state for education in the last year and nine out of 10 schools in England say they will run out of money this year. The dogs in the street know that the government is so unstable as to be unfit for purpose. Does today’s Secretary of State for Education agree with me and the hon. member for Christchurch (Christopher Chope) that the new Prime Minister will face an “ungovernable” and “riven” Tory party and that a general election is the only answer, otherwise things will go from very bad to much worse? Mr. Speaker: What does that have to do with education? I do not think it has anything to do with education, so let us go to Elliot Colburn.
Jim Shannon, DUP: Does the minister agree that human rights provisions must be included in the India trade deal and can he guarantee that no blind eye will be turned to human rights abuses for the sake of economic benefit? Greg Hands (Con): I think this government have a fantastic record of promoting religious tolerance and religious diversity abroad. (In English: No.)
Sometimes Labour MPs make it very obvious why their party hasn’t had the political nous to win a general election in 17 years. Yesterday afternoon Labour York MP Rachael Maskell stood up to ask a point of order, after Grant Shapps had spent an hour having fun pointing out all the Labour MPs who stood up to ask questions in defence of the strikes, without declaring their interests after pocketing thousands from the RMT Union. Following the question session Maskell stood up to complain to the deputy speaker that this was very unfair:
“You will know, Madam Deputy Speaker, that many members of the Labour party have a relationship with the trade unions that we are incredibly proud of, including with the RMT. The advice that I received from the Standards Commissioner ahead of that debate, and therefore ahead of today, stated under the requirements for declaration:
“Members are required, subject to the paragraphs below, to declare any financial interests which satisfy the test of relevance, including:
a) past financial interests (normally limited to those active within the last twelve months)”.
It is my recollection that the general election was two and a half years ago, so can you advise, Madam Deputy Speaker, on whether a declaration in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests should keep being raised two and a half years after it has been made?”
To paraphrase Eleanor Laing’s no-nonsense response, she told MPs to present the whole truth when representing their union paymasters, not just try and get away without a declaration because of a small technicality in the members’ rule book. A cracking misjudged intervention from Maskell all round…
Boris’s whopping 99 rebellion last night had only one silver lining – none of the 10 PPSs on resignation watch quit their jobs over the vote. Yesterday afternoon, Guido joked that despite all the speculation, it looked like the person likely to suffer a front bench resignation would be Sir Keir, after York Central MP Rachel Maskell made an impassioned argument against compulsory vaccinations for NHS workers. It didn’t end up being a joke for Labour…
On Newsnight Wes Streeting confirmed she had quit her position over the vote:
“Rachael has resigned from the frontbench because she felt it important to take this stand. I don’t agree with the way she voted, but I respect her”
The only person licking their wounds more than Maskell this morning must surely be Mark Spencer…
Despite all the focus on the inevitable Tory rebellion and potential PPS resignations over tonight’s Plan B vote, it seems Starmer’s also heading for political issues. In the Commons this afternoon York MP Rachael Maskell, Shadow Minister for the Voluntary Sector and Charities, indicated she’ll be defying the Labour whip to vote against the government:
“The people we were clapping and calling our heroes… are now exhausted, traumatised and frightened and this legislation will sack them.”
Guido’s asked Labour to reiterate whether any whip-breakers will lose their front bench jobs. So far no response…
“Eyup! Is tha’ voting Labour?” is t’slogan on’t t-shirt of woman of t’people Rachael Maskell.
Labour’s York Central candidate showed just how local she is at Bootham Crescent last weekend, home to York City FC.
Except Rachael would never say “eyup!”, because she isn’t from York.
Or even the North.
She lived in London until just a few weeks before she was parachuted in as the Unite choice ahead of several local candidates. Indeed, when she tried to get selected back home in Erith and Thamesmead in 2009, she told supporters “I stand very much as a south east London candidate”. Presumably she put on a cockney accent back then…
Multiple Labour sources have accused the party’s NEC of stitching up safe seats for committee members, with Keith Vaz in the frame for fixing selections for his friends. When there is a late retirement in the run up to an election, Labour has a standard procedure where an NEC sub-committee chooses the candidates to go forward for selection. This special selections panel is usually put into place close to the election for last minute selections only, however Guido is told that this time it was implemented in January. The NEC deciding that any constituency where the MP stood down after 10 December last year not have local shortlisting powers and the NEC rather than their local party would handle the selections. One Labour source describes this as “earlier than ever”, another as “way too early”, noting there is “still plenty of time to run proper selections”. Why the change from convention?
Since the special NEC panel was set up, NEC members are mysteriously being selected for safe seats all over the place. NEC member Conor McGinn was put on the shortlist for the uber-safe seat of St. Helen’s North, winning the selection two weeks ago. McGinn represents the same division on the NEC as Vaz.
As Guido reported yesterday, NEC member and Unite agitator Rachael Maskell has just been selected in York Central in acrimonious circumstances.
Meanwhile the selection in Edmonton, where Andy Love has retired, takes place this weekend. At the moment the favourite is Kate Osamor, surprise surprise, yet another NEC member. Three NEC members put forward for safe seats just weeks after the NEC special selections panel was set up – more than a little fishy…