Will the Leader of the House please give us the business for the House next week?
The business for next week will be:
Colleagues will wish to be reminded that the House will rise for the November recess on
The business for the week commencing
The provisional business for the following week will include:
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for
I would also like to remind the House that the week commencing
I join the Leader of the House in looking forward to the visit of the Youth Parliament, which it will also be my pleasure to attend. I also thank him for his statement and, ahead of Remembrance day, pay tribute to all those who have died serving this country and those who are now serving. We owe them all a great debt of gratitude.
We welcome the statement by the Home Secretary this week about the inquiry into allegations of sexual abuse in north Wales. The victims of sexual abuse who have come forward have suffered terribly; they should be listened to and supported. There are now, however, 13 separate overlapping inquiries into the various allegations of sexual abuse of children and young people. As I have raised with the Leader of the House before, would it not be more appropriate for a single overarching inquiry to be established that could get at the truth? While we welcome the fact that the Home Secretary did not rule it out in her statement on Monday, surely the victims deserve some clarity, so will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Home Secretary perhaps to look at this again and make a further statement?
Yesterday, my right hon. and learned Friend Ms Harman asked about the Leveson inquiry. The Deputy Prime Minister agreed that we should work on a cross-party basis, but meanwhile Conservative Cabinet Ministers have been publicly undermining the inquiry ahead of its publication. While some Ministers might want to, this report should not be quietly buried by the Government. Ministers must set out before publication the process for consideration of the report, and there is no need to wait until Lord Justice Leveson has reported to let us know about this process. There should be an opportunity for this House to debate the report in Government time, so may we have a statement from the Culture Secretary on the approach that the Government intend to take?
Is the Leader of the House able to update Members on when we are likely to consider the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill? Last week, in a panic, Government business managers in the House of Lords delayed the Bill; this week, they pulled it altogether from the not exactly packed legislative programme. The reason given by the Leader of the House of Lords was that there needed to be “conversations” at a senior level in government before the Bill could proceed. “Conversations” is one way of putting it; I heard it was a stand-up row at the highest level.
It has been suggested that the reason why the Government pulled the Bill is that Labour peers and our Liberal Democrat colleagues tabled an amendment to delay the implementation of new parliamentary boundaries. The Government are wasting millions of pounds on a partisan review of constituency boundaries when there is not a majority for it in this House. Voters, returning officers and all political parties need clarity about the boundaries on which the next election will be fought—and the sooner, the better. So may we have a statement from the Deputy Prime Minister to confirm that the implementation of the new boundaries will not now go ahead before the next election?
While we all enjoyed the Deputy Prime Minister’s contribution yesterday—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear”]—the slot is actually Prime Minister’s Questions. Rather conveniently, the Prime Minister managed to avoid Prime Minister’s Questions again this week; he made it
back in time for dinner with Mrs Merkel, but not for his appointment with this House. It is not just Prime Minister’s Questions that he has taken to avoiding. He has not held his monthly news conference since July—July 1911—
2011. Now he has even banned journalists from flying on foreign trips with him. When the going gets tough, this Prime Minister stages his own version of “I’m the Prime Minister, Get me Out of Here!”
In the Prime Minister’s absence, and rather worryingly for him, the Mayor of London decided to sneak in and give the 1922 committee a pep talk—on loyalty. Whatever next? Perhaps they will invite the Deputy Prime Minister to talk to them about honouring manifesto commitments. Tory Back Benchers are at each other’s throats, the Government are divided and the Prime Minister has gone AWOL. Mr Speaker, the country really deserves better than this.
Let me join the shadow Leader of the House in saying that Members on both sides of the House will be with their constituents on Sunday morning at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this country, including not only those who did so in the two world wars but, sadly, the many who continue to do so in conflicts on behalf of this country. I agree with her that we want to make very clear our remembrance of them.
The hon. Lady asked about an overarching inquiry in relation to the range of inquiries into the Jimmy Savile allegations, the north Wales care scandals and other such issues. The House will of course be able to debate the subject, not least on Tuesday by virtue of the debate nominated by the Backbench Business Committee. I can say on behalf of the Government that, as was made clear by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, we do not rule out such an overarching inquiry, but it must be emphasised that this is not an issue of principle, but an issue of what works best in practice.
That range of inquiries will have the powers and the ability to investigate specifics. If we try to substitute an overarching inquiry, there is a danger that its scope, scale and timetable will impede our progress. Not only must the police investigations be the first priority, but we must consider very carefully how we can make the fastest possible progress on other inquiries.
The hon. Lady asked about Leveson. I must tell her that I will not be asking my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to come and make a statement about Leveson before it reports, because that does not strike me as remotely practical.
It is about process.
Let us put substance before process, shall we? Let us wait to find out what Lord Leveson has to say. There is no prospect of its being quietly buried, as the hon. Lady suggested. The Government will respond, and the House will have a chance to discuss Lord Leveson’s conclusions after they have been reported.
We seem to have adopted the curious new convention that the shadow Leader of the House can ask me about the business of not only this place but the other place. However, I have no intention of responding. How it manages its business is a matter for the other place; let us focus on the business here.
When the hon. Lady returned to the business here, it seemed that her principal preoccupation was trying to protect the deputy leader of the Labour party from the monstering that the Deputy Prime Minister gave her yesterday during Prime Minister’s Question Time. The deputy leader does not want to see that happen again. I think that it was a 6-0 victory for the Deputy Prime Minister.
In the business statement, I was able to announce the choices for the Opposition day debates on Monday. I am disappointed to note that, once again, the Opposition have not opted for a debate on employment at a time when there are so many positive aspects of overall employment to mark, and have instead proposed a debate on the cost of living. I must say, however, that I look forward to the opportunity for us to mark the fact that the cost of fuel would be 10p per litre higher if we had followed in government the plans for fuel duty that were set out by the Labour party; the fact that inflation has halved since September last year; the prospect of a freeze in council tax for a third year, cutting people’s bills; the fact that we have funds for lending that are now being taken up; and the fact that historically low interest rates are now available. A 1% increase in interest rates today would add £10 billion to family mortgage bills—£1,000 a year for a typical family. As far as I can see, a debate on the cost of living will only highlight the fact that the people of this country cannot afford a Labour Government again.
Order. The question from the shadow Leader of the House was about Government legislation, which is why I judged it to be perfectly orderly, but, equally, it was entirely orderly for the Leader of the House to respond as he did.
Many Members wish to contribute. Let us keep it brief, and then perhaps I shall be able to accommodate all of them.
I commend Her Majesty’s Government on making history last week by ensuring that, for the first time ever, the flags of each and every one of our British overseas territories and Crown dependencies were flown in Parliament square. The loyal subjects of those territories will be delighted that that decision has finally been made, but will the Leader of the House request a Minister to look into the possibility that our territories and dependencies could lay a wreath at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday? So far, they have been denied the opportunity of doing so.
Of course I share my hon. Friend’s pleasure at the opportunity for us to show our continuing affection, respect and attachment to the people of the British overseas territories. I will of course ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if she might respond to his question about Remembrance Sunday proceedings.
I was heavily involved with the child abuse cases in north Wales because several of my constituents were abused at that home. I took witness statements from four of them, and I
cannot adequately describe the horror of what they described to me. It upset me greatly. I would welcome an overarching inquiry, because there have been so many small inquiries. There was the Waterhouse inquiry, and before that there was the Jillings inquiry. I ask that the Jillings report be published. I saw it at the time; I was not supposed to see it, but it was shown to me. It was subsequently pulped by the then Clwyd county council because it was afraid of the attitude of the insurers. I ask for the Jillings report to be published because it highlighted buggery, rape, bestiality, violent assaults and torture, and the effects on the young boys at that time cannot be overestimated. May I also say that I welcome next week’s debate?
I share the right hon. Lady’s sense of shock and outrage at what happened, and I know that the whole House does, too. These events took place many years ago, but in a sense that makes the situation even worse; there has not been any recognition of what took place even though so much time has passed. The victims have had to live with the consequences without a satisfactory resolution, and it is therefore all the more important that we take action now.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary set out the action we will be taking, and we continue to consider how best to achieve a proper resolution. There are ongoing police investigations into the abuses in north Wales and, as my right hon. Friend said, judicial investigations into what happened in respect of the Waterhouse inquiry, but I will draw her attention to what the right hon. Lady has just said.
The Hindu festival of Diwali is next week. Will my right hon. Friend join me in wishing Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world, and in particular in this country, a very happy Diwali, and may we have a debate on the wonderful contribution the Ugandan Asians have made to this country, and the wisdom of the Conservative Government in admitting them in 1972, when no one else would?
Yes, I entirely share every sentiment my hon. Friend has expressed, including those about the tremendous contribution made by the Ugandan Asians. I know from my past responsibilities for the health service what a tremendous contribution they have made to medical services in this country, as well as, as we all know, the contribution they have made over many years in enterprise and business creation.
Festivals such as Diwali play an important role in helping us appreciate and celebrate the cultural diversity of this country. Diwali is a vibrant celebration of the victory of light over darkness, of good over evil, of knowledge over ignorance. It is a time for celebration and reflection about what we have achieved and our ambitions for the future, and I know that Members across the House will extend our best wishes to our constituents for the festival of Diwali.
The Government listed that there would be a written ministerial statement today on the future of the Prison Service. They trailed that it would mark the start of the wholesale
privatisation of the Prison Service, which would have enormous consequences for the large number of our constituents who work in prisons and for our communities in general. As of 10.30 am that written statement had not emerged, although it might well have done so by now. Will the Leader of the House explain what criteria were used to determine that that should be a written ministerial statement rather than a statement on the Floor of the House, given its enormous consequences for the administration of justice in this country, and if there is no ministerial statement in the future, may we have a debate on the matter?
I will, of course, check that that written ministerial statement has been laid, and I have no doubt that it will make clear to the hon. Gentleman and the House the nature of what it is announcing. If outstanding issues arise from its contents, the hon. Gentleman will note that he may have an opportunity to raise them with Justice Ministers, not least at their question session next Tuesday.
A supplier can make an informed judgment as to whether it continues to provide goods to a company in difficulty, but most consumers are not similarly aware. May we have a debate on the merits of changing administration law to make those holding gift vouchers or savings preferred creditors?
A very important debate on Scotland and the European Union had to be cancelled because the Member sponsoring it could not be bothered to turn up on time. What reprimand did that Member receive? Should there not at least be an apology given to those who had prepared speeches and bothered to turn up on time?
I must confess that I should have seen that that had happened; it is my fault that I was not aware of it, and I will certainly look into it. Of course, individual Members are responsible for their attendance at debates, particularly those they have sought, but I am sure that Members from across the House will regret it if debates to which they wish to contribute are available and other hon. Members fail to enable them to take place.
Will my right hon. Friend update the House on the situation in Parliament square? Despite the welcome clearing of the square, which made it available for the public and tourists during the Olympics and Paralympics. However, one small demonstration remains, which is trying to expand and is clearly breaking the law in using sleeping equipment at night and causing an obstruction. In addition, what is he proposing to do about the fact that the main gates of the House were closed at the 10 o’clock Division on Monday because of demonstrators who were firing fireworks into the Palace?
As my hon. Friend knows, the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 prohibited the erection of tents and the use of sleeping equipment in Parliament square. The Act also enabled local authorities
to attach the power of seizure and retention of property to byelaws. So the powers in the Act allow the police to remove tents and other sleeping equipment from the square. He also raises operational matters relating to the square and its impact on Parliament, which are of course a matter for the Metropolitan police force and its commissioner. To help my hon. Friend, I will ensure that the points he has made in this House are drawn to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s attention.
I declare my interest as a type 2 diabetic. Has the Leader of the House seen Tuesday’s report from the Public Accounts Committee, which estimates that 4.4 million people in the United Kingdom will have diabetes by 2020? I appreciate what he did as Health Secretary to raise awareness, but may we please have an urgent debate on preventing diabetes?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his comments about what we are continuing to hope to achieve. I have seen the Public Accounts Committee report. It is important that we recognise that the prevalence of diabetes is rising and that it is important to tackle it. Prevention is, as the cliché goes, better than cure. In that respect, we are making more progress on health checks, which can make an enormous difference in ensuring that the proper management is in place. Although we know that there is significant variation across the country, there is a rising overall level of adherence across the country to the nine principal recommendations for the care and treatment of those with diabetes.
Tomorrow marks the international day of action for the Rohingya people in Burma. Will a Minister from the Department for International Development come to the Dispatch Box to make a statement explaining to the House how the UK Government intend to use their overseas aid programme to help these internally displaced people, given that the Government of Burma fail to recognise them as citizens of the country?
My hon. Friend will recall that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development did update the House on the situation in Burma in a written ministerial statement last week. Of course we are deeply concerned at the recent violence in Rakhine state in Burma. October saw an increase in communal violence between the de facto stateless, Muslim Rohingya and the majority, Buddhist, Rakhine communities. The United Kingdom is providing £2 million to enable emergency water, sanitation and health care provision to go to more than 58,000 people affected. We are pledging £3 million, subject to the results it will achieve, for short-term peacebuilding initiatives. We will do all we can to support and strengthen the wider peace process in Burma, but I will ask colleagues at the Foreign Office to ensure, as they have done, that the House is continually updated.
Will there be a statement any time soon from the Police Minister to address the increasing problem of poor police morale? I regularly receive letters from constituents who are serving police officers complaining about the policies of this Government,
the cuts to the police force and the attacks on their pensions and conditions, and morale is the lowest that I have seen it for some time.
With the police and crime commissioner elections coming up next Thursday, there is a great opportunity for us not only to raise the public’s sense of accountability in policing but morale among the police. The police can take pride in what they have achieved in reducing the levels of crime by 10%. That is the measure of what we ask of them and the measure against which they are performing. Additionally, by strengthening the engagement between police services and local communities, the police and crime commissioner elections offer a tremendous opportunity.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. He will recall that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend Alistair Burt, described in a Westminster Hall debate in July how we are approaching the issues relating to the militarisation of diamond finance. We are continuing to work with the non-governmental organisation Global Witness and other partners to consider the evidence prior to discussions with EU partners and, where appropriate, we will seek to retain or add names to the EU targeted measures list if there is a compelling legal justification to do so. I shall ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary further to update my hon. Friend.
I am increasingly being contacted by constituents who are concerned about the impact the bedroom tax will have on their living standards when it comes into effect. That is further compounded by the shortage of one-bedroom accommodation for them to move to. May we have a statement from the appropriate Minister on how the Government intend to increase the supply of one-bedroom accommodation in the rented sector when the bedroom tax comes into effect?
I find it astonishing that the hon. Gentleman makes that point three days after he and his party voted against the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, which, among many other things, will enable more social and affordable housing to be built. For example, we will enable sites that are non-viable because of section 106 agreements to enter into new agreements so that that housing can be built. That is what we need to do, among other things, to create new and additional social housing.
Last month, construction work commenced on the brand new £9 million urgent care centre at Burnley general hospital that the Leader of the House, as Health Secretary, approved back in March. Work has also commenced on demolishing the derelict Kwik Save building in Colne, which will be the site for the new Colne health centre. May we have a debate on NHS funding and the investments made in
the NHS by the Government, as opposed to the Labour party, which downgraded my accident and emergency department when it was in office?
My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point, as ever. I absolutely agree and find it astonishing that the Labour party’s objective yesterday was to have a debate on regional pay in the NHS and completely to ignore all the ways in which the NHS is being supported by the Government and is achieving more as a consequence. As he says, there has been investment in Burnley in facilities for those with urgent care requirements, which were downgraded by the previous Government. That shows the commitment on our part. It is now clear that in the past year, we increased the NHS budget in real terms relative to the year before. Under Labour’s plans, it would have gone down and the shadow Secretary of State for Health told us that it would be totally irresponsible to increase the NHS budget in real terms. It is our responsibility, we are doing it and we will defend and support the NHS.
The West Midlands ambulance service has seen an increase of 210 calls a day for 999 emergencies, and refused to pick up a four-year-old constituent of mine who had suffered a head injury. It is now bringing in St John Ambulance to cover front-line services. May we have an urgent debate on why charities are propping up NHS front-line services?
The hon. Lady will know that St John Ambulance, like some other ambulance services, has always worked with the NHS ambulance services. She should recall that the latest data published in the summer showed that, for the first time, all the ambulance services across England were meeting the recommended standards for responding to category A calls. There are always individual cases where things go wrong. I know that from my constituency and she will know it from hers, but if she would care to provide me or my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health with details, of course we will ensure that any individual case where things went wrong is investigated.
May we find time for a statement from the Home Secretary about visa applications for people from India coming to the United Kingdom, and in particular for religious workers? I am been approached by Tarsem Paul, the chair of the Ravidassia community in Bedford, with concerns that the process has become unduly bureaucratic.
I am sure my hon. Friend the Minister for Immigration will want to respond. We know that we must make sure that we respond sympathetically to religious communities such as the Ravidassia community and their needs to bring people, in this case from India, to this country. My hon. Friend will know that we have not made any changes to the routes for religious workers entering this country. Clearly, I cannot comment on the details of any individual case. Visa applications are considered on a case-by-case basis. We apply firm but fair rules, with the responsibility on the applicant to ensure that they meet the immigration rules. I will be
happy to speak to my hon. Friend the Minister for Immigration about whether he can help in any particular case.
Thousands of babies are still being born every year damaged by alcohol. It is becoming commonplace abroad to see a pregnant woman symbol on all alcoholic drinks containers. Will the Leader of the House intervene with his ministerial colleagues to bring forward legislation as a matter of urgency to provide for a pregnant woman symbol to be displayed on all drinks canisters?
I will ask my hon. Friends about that, as the hon. Gentleman asks. It is also important to improve the quality of the antenatal care, advice and support that is given to women in pregnancy, particularly those who may be more vulnerable and some of the youngest pregnant women. That is where, as I know from my direct experience, the expansion of our health visitor programme across the country is showing tremendous progress, with more health visitors who are devoting more time to providing more antenatal education and guidance.
I am sure many Members of the House will be surprised to learn that one in six of the UK adult population are functionally illiterate. That figure rises to a staggering almost half of the UK prison population. Does the Leader of the House agree that, because this is a cross-departmental issue affecting so many areas of our life, we should have a chance to discuss it in the House?
As my hon. Friend says, some Members may indeed be surprised to hear those figures. Others of us, I know, have been aware of the situation. She is right. It is important and it extends across a number of Departments. She will be aware of the importance that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education attaches to ensuring that literacy standards are met in schools and the necessity of including of additional remedial work for those who are not meeting those standards as they go through school. But we have a legacy of adult illiteracy and we have to tackle it. My hon. Friend, with colleagues across the House, might like to ask the Backbench Business Committee if it will find time to discuss such an important and wide ranging issue.
Following Department for Work and Pensions questions this week, Ministers clearly believe that getting work experience for 20 young people in my constituency is a success, when in fact almost 1,000 are looking for a job. May we have a debate about the shocking levels of youth unemployment in this country, in an attempt to drag the Government into the real world?
The hon. Lady should remember that it was her right hon. Friend David Miliband who said frankly and correctly that youth unemployment in this country was rising from 2004. In the midst of a boom, youth unemployment was still rising. In the latest figures, we have seen some amelioration of those trends. The youth contract is about making sure that there are work experience places,
apprenticeships places and special support for 16 to 19-year-olds who want to get into apprenticeships. As I have said many times, there will be opportunities, and I hope even she might encourage those on her Front Bench to make opportunities available to debate the progress that we are making on employment.
May we have a statement from the Home Secretary offering guidance on the appropriate action to take against a police officer who has been accused of using his position to intimidate and harass, a finding that has been recorded by a judge in a family law case? Are the police correct in taking no action as a result of the family court’s refusal to discuss the matter with them?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that serious issue. As he will know, police officers are expected to maintain the highest standards of professional behaviour. In addition to the criminal and civil law, they are subject to the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2008, which set out the standards of professional behaviour they are expected to maintain. When they fail to meet those standards, they can face disciplinary action. Of course, decisions about disciplinary action are a matter for the chief officer of the police force concerned or its police authority. If someone wants to make a complaint about a police officer, however it arises, they should contact the force concerned or its police authority or, if they fail to secure action that way, the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
The Leader of the House might recall visiting Rowley Regis hospital with me before the general election. Since then, working with the local NHS trust and local commissioners, we have secured considerable new investment for a new in-patient re-ablement ward. May we have a debate on the value of local commissioning as a way of getting valuable services into community hospitals?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Many Members across the House will value the fact that the new clinical commissioning groups, which have been developed to bring together largish groups of GP practices, are rooted in an understanding of how services can best be provided for patients, and often that is through accessible, community-based care, which reduces the demand on hospital services so that patients are admitted to hospital only when they need to be. We understand that in some cases people have to be in hospital, be we do not want them to be there if they do not need to be.
“The cheapest costed option in any of the comparable timescales is for UKNCB staff to remain in Glasgow… A simple comparison between the levels of benefits (Medium) and risks (High) provides the conclusion that the arguments weigh clearly in favour of the UKNCB remaining in Glasgow.”
May we have a statement on this important issue or, at the very least, an agreement that a Minister will meet the workers in Glasgow?
The hon. Gentleman will understand that, having not had notice of that question, I cannot comment specifically on it. I will of course ask my hon. Friends at the Ministry of Defence to respond directly to his questions. I will say, in that context, that over the past two and a half years this Government have resolved for the first time the £38 billion over-commitment––the black hole in the MOD’s future commitments––which we inherited from the previous Government.
Given that 750 teenagers currently travel out of my constituency to secure their post-16 education, will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on free schools to recognise the fantastic opportunity taken by local parents, teachers and community leaders to set up a free school to meet provision in a better way for local children in Salisbury?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He rightly draws attention to how the free schools programme is a major success, with 79 free schools already opened. They are popular with parents and pupils. In my constituency, a free school sponsored by one of the academy schools is extending provision in places where parents and pupils most want it. I understand that a group in my hon. Friend’s constituency will shortly make an application to open Salisbury sixth-form college in September 2014; it will focus on science, technology, engineering and maths and address a shortage of such provision in the area. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Education Secretary will welcome that application and give it very careful consideration.
Regarding the Government’s agenda and legislative programme, the Leader of the House has given us another “spot the business” statement. In large part, this Chamber is again reduced to playing keepy-uppy. In that context, how does he think that we can credibly explain, at the Parliament Week events to which he referred, that this Chamber could not afford the time duly to consider the House of Lords Reform Bill, which won such an overwhelming vote on Second Reading?
It will not surprise the hon. Gentleman to know that in my view his question is better directed towards Labour Members, who voted for the Bill on Second Reading and made it clear that this House was supportive of the principle of reform of the House of Lords, and then failed to vote to give it the time to be debated.
May we have a debate on dementia? There are nearly 700,000 dementia sufferers in England, but sadly only
half of them are diagnosed, and awareness of the condition is shockingly low. The Prime Minister has made this a personal priority and has today announced the dementia friends initiative whereby we will look to recruit 1 million people and train them to spot the signs of dementia early, as well as putting £10 million towards dementia research and £50 million towards making wards more comfortable for dementia sufferers. May we have a debate on this ailment, which is very serious for the nation?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising an issue of concern to all Members across this House. Back in March, when the Prime Minister launched the Prime Minister’s challenge, we set a number of very ambitious objectives for ourselves. It is great to see some of those coming through and further, very important measures being put in place. In the west midlands, some of the best work that I have seen is being done in making hospitals understand dementia, identify where patients have dementia, and then provide more appropriate care to look after them. Today’s initiative relating to 1 million volunteers across the country can be a tremendous boost in providing what are known as dementia-friendly communities that people with dementia find accessible and understanding, enabling them to derive the best possible quality of life from a very sad condition.
May I reinforce the point made by Dr Offord on the Rohingya community in Burma? A few weeks ago, we had a Westminster Hall debate on this to which many Members came along. Horrific sectarian violence has unfolded again in recent days. We would welcome a statement from the International Development Secretary to update us on what her Department is doing to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to that part of the world.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who makes an important point. Many Members across this House are very concerned about the situation in Burma. We care deeply about its people, not least because the visit of Aung San Suu Kyi gave us the opportunity to appreciate the prospects for peace and democracy there, which we do not want to be undermined. I will of course speak to my right hon. Friend to see whether she might find an opportunity to make a statement of some description to the House.
Residents in my constituency and, indeed, throughout the country are plagued with endless nuisance calls from people selling payment protection insurance and the like. The Telephone Preference Service is clearly almost entirely ineffective. Will the Government make a statement on what they intend to do about this and how they will overcome the obstacles to achieving a properly working blocking system?
We are all grateful to my hon. Friend, who has raised this issue before. I appreciate his continuing concern. In the light of the concerns that he and others have raised, the Minister for culture, communications and the creative industries, my hon. Friend the Member
for Wantage (Mr Vaizey), has met representatives from the Information Commissioner’s Office, Ofcom and the Telephone Preference Service to see what can be done to strengthen action in this area. I will, of course, ask him if he could update my hon. Friend Martin Vickers and, if appropriate, the House.
Ten years on from the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002, Members throughout the House continue to be concerned about the exploitation of leaseholders through unfair service charges and forfeiture. Will the Government look again at this area, and may we have a debate on it in Government time, so that they can take positive action on this serious issue?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this matter. I am aware of such issues and will, of course, talk to my hon. Friends at the Department for Communities and Local Government to see whether they can respond to him and perhaps update us more generally.
Over the past two months, 100% of the stroke-care patients using the George Eliot hospital have spent 90% or more of their time on a dedicated stroke-care ward, which, as my right hon. Friend will know, far exceeds the national target. Will he join me in welcoming the progress that the George Eliot hospital is making in this regard, and may we have a debate on the importance of high-quality stroke care?
My hon. Friend is a man after my own heart. I was chairman of the all-party group on stroke for about seven years before the last election. One of the things that we identified that makes a big difference to stroke outcomes is when stroke patients are admitted to a specialist stroke ward. I am happy to congratulate those at the George Eliot hospital on what they are doing. They are part of a general, substantial increase in the latest data on the proportion of patients who are looked after in that multidisciplinary context.
The flawed business model of some private car park operators aims to catch out motorists. Over two years, we have seen an eye-watering 63% surge in requests for drivers’ details from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. May we have a debate on how best to protect the motorist and lift the veil on such predatory practices?
From memory, this is the Government who implemented the ban on wheel-clamping, which has given motorists protection against some of the worst excesses, but I will, of course, talk to my hon. Friends at the Department for Transport about what more we can do to give motorists a sense of proper security, rather than exposure to abuses.
May we have a debate about the procurement of new public buildings? According to the National Audit Office, more than 50% of public buildings are delivered late and cost more than is budgeted. Earlier this week I had the great pleasure of opening a new building at Oakfield primary school in my constituency.
It was built using a new Sunesis design solution and was completed at 30% less cost and delivered many weeks earlier than a conventional building. Does the Leader of the House agree that that approach contrasts with the previous Government’s expensive and wasteful Building Schools for the Future project?
I congratulate my hon. Friend’s constituents on building the Oakfield primary school—that is really good news—and he is absolutely right that it provides a contrast. We are already procuring schools at 28% less cost than that achieved by the previous Government’s Building Schools for the Future project. As a result of the priority school building programme, we are now targeting spending where there is greatest need, and secondary schools built using the new designs are saving up to £6 million per school compared with the BSF equivalents.
The Government have put their proposed legislation for recalling MPs on the back burner. Will they bring it forward so that members of the public can hold to account those MPs who ignore their constituents and go on reality shows in Australia?
The Government have not put the legislation on the back burner. We responded to the Procedure Committee, which made significant and substantial comments that were not supportive of the proposals that were before it. We will continue to consider what progress is appropriate.
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point about the importance of our adhering to our parliamentary responsibilities, not only by being in this House, but by meeting them elsewhere. He will no doubt be considering the position of Mr Brown, given the relatively few occasions on which he attends this House on behalf of his constituents. For our part, my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip and his colleagues have taken the action that they should have taken in relation to Nadine Dorries. I am clear that if a Member wishes to engage people in Parliament and convey to them a sense of its relevance, the place to do it is here, not in Australia.
Has my right hon. Friend seen early-day motion 699?
[ That this House notes newspaper reports on the auction of the 4G spectrum, which suggest that it could raise around 2 billion to 3 billion in 2013; further notes that this would be enough revenue to sc rap the previous administration’ s 3p January petrol tax twice over; and therefore calls on the Government to continue its historic freeze in fuel duty, to continue to be the motorist’ s friend and to stop the planned 3p fuel duty rise in January 2013. ]
Will he find time for a statement on the auction of the 4G spectrum? Newspapers have reported that the spectrum auction could raise £2 billion to £3 billion next year, which is enough revenue to scrap Labour’s petrol tax rise in January twice over.
My hon. Friend rightly draws attention to the action that we are taking to ensure that mobile phone operators can meet the rapidly growing demand for mobile internet access and introduce next generation
mobile services. That is essential for economic growth and will bring an estimated benefit of £2 billion to £3 billion to the UK economy. My colleagues have instructed Ofcom to auction more spectrum to ensure that we meet the growing demand. The Government are working to ensure that we have the digital infrastructure that businesses need.
My hon. Friend will know that any resources raised for the Exchequer by the auction are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He will note that the autumn statement is on
Metal theft has damaged businesses and the theft of manhole covers has put lives at risk in my Stockton North constituency. Does the Leader of the House agree that metal theft is a serious problem across the UK and that the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill, which is due to be debated this Friday, will be an important measure in tackling it? Will he give a commitment that should Government Back Benchers obstruct the Bill, he will provide Government time to allow this important measure to come into law?
Tomorrow is the opportunity for Members to be here to take the Bill forward and I look forward to their doing so. It will be an important step in dealing with a crime that has disturbed many of us in our constituencies, not least—looking towards Remembrance Sunday—through the theft of metal on war memorials.
If I may correct something that I said a moment ago, I talked about the view of the Procedure Committee on recall, but it was the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee that made the recommendations and comments to which the Government responded.
Please may we have a debate about access to health care? Such a debate would allow us to explore the impact of new treatments that are becoming available, such as those for cancer; what is happening to waiting lists; what is happening in community care; and increasing access among black and minority ethnic communities.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Quality and access are at the heart of what patients are looking for from the NHS. Happily, there has been considerable progress on both quality and access under this Government. It is interesting to note the latest figures. The number of patients waiting beyond 18 weeks for treatment was 209,411 at the time of the last election. That has been reduced to 144,650. The number of patients waiting for more than a year for treatment was 18,458 at the time of the last election. That has been reduced to 2,052.
May we have a debate on participation in higher education, which has fallen by up to 30% in parts of my region? The Institute for Fiscal Studies published a report this week which shows that the gap in participation in higher education between the richest and the poorest students narrowed under the previous Government. We are in danger of losing those gains significantly.
The hon. Lady will have to forgive me, but I was not here for the whole of Business, Innovation and Skills questions, when she may have had the
opportunity to raise that issue with Ministers in the Department. In any case, we are looking for participation in higher education to be supported. The changes in higher education are focused on delivering the best quality teaching and the best quality research.
Last week, Lord Heseltine published his long-awaited report, which contained recommendations that could potentially boost our economy. The report was particularly clear that businesses need long-term strategic direction that could, and should, be provided in a cross-party manner. Given the importance of the issue, will the Leader of the House set aside Government time for that important debate?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Lord Heseltine presented a significant, helpful report that we very much welcome. Not only does it say that we are on the right track, but it enables us to make more progress more quickly in stimulating and delivering growth. My hon. Friend will be aware that the Backbench Business Committee has tabled a general debate for
May we have a debate on the indignity of mixed-sex accommodation in hospitals? A report last month from the Department of Health highlighted that instances of mixed-sex accommodation have fallen by 98%, from 12,000 to fewer than 200, following measures taken by the Leader of the House when he was Secretary of State for Health. Such a debate would also allow us to highlight a decade of broken promises on that issue from the Labour party.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who makes an important point very well. Five or six years ago, when I was shadow Health Secretary, Labour Health Ministers regularly claimed to have eliminated mixed-sex wards, although they did no such thing. As my hon. Friend said, when we first measured the situation about 12,000 patients a month were being admitted to mixed-sex accommodation, and that should not have been happening. We have demonstrably changed that situation, and through reducing such cases by 98% have made a great improvement to the care and dignity of patients.
The Liverpool care pathway is a crucial part of palliative care in our country although it has recently received negative media coverage. Will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House arrange an opportunity for hon. Members, either in response to a statement or in a debate, to discuss the importance of maintaining the integrity of the Liverpool care pathway, which is such an important part of end-of-life care?
My hon. Friend expresses his point well. In many thousands of cases, the Liverpool care pathway has enabled the right care for people at the end of life. We must look at the patient experience—as the national end-of-life care programme is doing with Dying Matters and the Association for Palliative Medicine—and where patients are complaining, we must understand what that tells us. In particular, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health made clear, the right treatment is not the only issue and we must ensure that patients and their families understand what treatment has been provided and why, and give it their informed consent.