This week in Business Questions, I focused on the ways that the Government are not providing the leadership that the British people deserve.
It was World Aids Day on Wednesday 1st December. It is vital that we continue to tackle this disease, and raise awareness to develop understanding about what it means to live with HIV.
The Global Fund has been an active organisation, making remarkable progress against AIDs, TB and malaria, and saving a huge 44 million lives around the world.
But this year results from their key programmes have declined in the wake of the abolition of the Department for International Development, and the international aid cut. Less people are being helped, more transmissions are going unnoticed, and this shameful lack of global leadership is not going to help us end HIV infections and deaths by 2030.
The Government are also failing to provide leadership domestically. Constituents up and down the country are rightly calling for the Online Safety Bill to be brought forward. The Prime Minister promised that this Bill would be completed by Christmas, but can now only offer us the muttered assurance that it would be debated “soon”.
I asked the Leader of the House when this Bill will be debated. More than five years after it was first promised, children are still not being properly protected online, and senior tech executives still have completely free reign.
What’s more, the Government promised to publish any and all minutes from the meeting between Lord Bethell, Owen Paterson and Randox, during which a COVID testing contract involving hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money was awarded. Two weeks after this promise, these minutes are still nowhere to be found.
We have been told that the minutes would be published, then that they had been misplaced, then that they did not exist at all. I urge the Government to tell the public the truth now if there are no records of this meeting, rather than wasting time and resource pretending to look for them. It is impermissible for the Government to treat public money with such disrespect, and simply insulting to continue with this unacceptable dishonesty.
Yet more empty promises from a Government too short-sighted to see the consequences of their poorly thought out actions.
This week also saw the publication of the Standards Committee’s proposals to strengthen the MPs’ Code of Conduct. Frankly, this could not have happened at a more appropriate time.
This is an important step in recognising that the processes around lobbying need addressing and that conflicts of interest must be stopped before they can progress into further issues- the effect of which we have seen over the past month.
Labour supports a ban on MPs taking directorships and paid consultancy roles in addition to their Parliamentary work. I look forward to carefully examining the detail of the Committee’s final report in the new year, and will continue to push the Leader of the House to provide Government time to debate this. We must ensure that we in the House of Commons are representing our constituents thoroughly and to the highest possible standards. This is not the leadership we need. The Government has lost its’ grip, and working people are paying the price.