Engagements

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 11th July 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Shadow Minister (Justice) 11:30 am, 11th July 2007

If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 11 July.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

Before listing my engagements, I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in sending our profound condolences to the families and friends of the three servicemen killed in Iraq at the weekend. They were Private Edward Vakabua of 4th Battalion the Rifles, Lance-Corporal Ryan Francis of 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh, and Corporal Christopher Read of 3rd Regiment Royal Military Police. They died doing vital work for our country. We owe them a deep debt of gratitude.

This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings today.

F

We cannot fight wars but not suffer any casualties. And we cannot avoid wars, because we need a strong military to defend Britain.

We should ALWAYS honour our soldiers, for they are the liberators of the oppressed.

Submitted by Frederick Clark

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Shadow Minister (Justice)

Is the Prime Minister aware that the ringleader of the 21 July terrorist attacks, Mukhtar Ibrahim, was allowed to travel backwards and forwards to Pakistan to a terror camp, despite the fact that he was wanted on extremism charges in the UK? Throughout this time, he was given succour and encouragement by Hizb ut-Tahrir. Does this case not illustrate the overwhelming argument for banning this evil organisation, and for bringing in a dedicated UK border police?

P

With respect to the increasing desire for security controls, I would simply add a word of caution: the technologies have drawbacks that can affect individual liberties. For example, a so-called "biometric" analyzer might be 99% accurate and yet most of the time still return a false positive, misidentifying someone...

Submitted by Paul Conant Continue reading

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

I have looked at the argument put to me last week about the banning of the organisation. This will be kept under continuous review. Equally, I have looked at, and continue to look at, the argument for a national border police force, but it is the combination of an e-border system that operates in airports and ports way outside our country that prevents people from coming in in the first place, and the introduction of identity cards that would do the best to deal with the problem.

On the particular person who has been found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment, there are three instances that we have got to deal with, and I have looked at all of them. First, when he was guilty of crimes in Britain in the early and later 1990s, under the new laws he would have been deported from this country. Secondly, he applied for citizenship of this country and received citizenship because all his offences as a juvenile had been wiped off. That would not happen now, and he would not get citizenship of this country. I am also looking very carefully at the circumstances that surround his visit to Pakistan.

P

I wonder how the unknown number who refuse to enrol in this outrageous id scheme will be dealt with? Lack of consent, suspicion, criminalisation and surveillance of your fellow man appears to be running riot.

Submitted by Phil Smith

Photo of Andy Reed Andy Reed Labour, Loughborough

As the Prime Minister knows, many in the faith community and elsewhere, like me, still have concerns about super-casinos, believing that they will add to the current problem of the 400,000 people who suffer from gambling problems. Given that a majority of the public believes that these super-casinos will add to gambling problems and social breakdown, will he use this period of reflection and change in policy to look again at the policy on super-casinos, and to go back to the original purpose of the Gambling Act 2005, which was to regulate gambling and reduce gambling problems?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

It is true to say that this is an issue on which no consensus is found within the two Houses of Parliament, and it is an issue that is now subject to reflection over the next few months. In September, we will have a report that will look at gambling in our country, and at the incidence and prevalence of it and its social effects. I hope that during these summer months, we can look at whether regeneration in the areas for the super-casinos may be a better way of meeting their economic and social needs than the creation of super-casinos.

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Conservative Party

I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to Corporal Christopher Read, to Lance-Corporal Ryan Francis, and to Rifleman Edward Vakabua, who died serving their country.

Last week, the Government announced a fundamental review of the NHS. Will the Prime Minister confirm that no hospital closures or service reductions will take place until that review is completed?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

What I can confirm is that the seven proposals before the Secretary of State will be referred to the medical panel—an independent medical panel—which will make recommendations on what is the right way forward. I can also confirm that, as the review is taking place throughout the country, all decisions will be based on medical and clinical need. We will report back to the House on the review at the time of the pre-Budget report in October, and that will be the basis on which we will proceed further.

I should also point out to the right hon. Gentleman that there are 108 new hospital developments in this country as a result of what this Government have done, and that the difference between the two sides of the House is that we are prepared to spend more money on the health service. He has never guaranteed an extra penny on the national health service.

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Conservative Party

So the answer is no. The cuts go on, the closures go on and the service reductions go on. What is the point of holding a review if one is not going to stop and wait for its conclusions? Let us take a specific example. Will the Prime Minister confirm that the "Healthcare for London" report, published today, will lead to the closure of accident and emergency departments and maternity wards all over London? A simple yes or no will do.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

This is not correct. Lord Darzi has conducted the review, which is for consultation and then local decision making. I shall quote to the leader of the Conservative party what he said. He said:

"I don't think there will be any" need for hospital closures.

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Conservative Party

The Prime Minister is getting a bit ahead of himself, as the person in question is not even Lord Darzi yet. I asked a simple question. The author of the report says:

"The days of the district general hospital... are over", and that we need

"fewer, more advanced hospitals".

What can that mean if not cuts in departments and closures in existing hospitals?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

It means more money for the national health service this year, next year and the year after—money that the Opposition will not match. It means a proposal for 150 new polyclinics, which will mean that GPs will be able to undertake operations. It means an improvement in specialist care in London. It means this Government are prepared to finance the NHS.

If we are updating ourselves about Conservative party policy, let me remind the House that not only will the Opposition not match us on health service spending, but they have just issued a report on the future of hospitals in which they say that, because of their funding mechanism, hospitals are at risk

"of financial failure" and this will

"entail risks to the assets necessary for the provision of essential national health services."

Who is closing hospitals—the Government or the Opposition? It is the Conservative party.

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Conservative Party

I think that people will start to conclude that this Prime Minister just cannot answer a straight question. He says that he wants to listen to people, so will he confirm that the report says specifically that people do not want these changes?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

The report's author specifically says about closures:

"I don't think there will be any" need for hospital closures.

The Opposition want to run a scare campaign about the future of the NHS. In 1997, 300,000 people had to wait six months or more for operations, but that figure is now in the low hundreds. That is thanks to the investment made by a Labour Government; it would not happen under the Conservatives.

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Conservative Party

Again, the Prime Minister will not answer the question, and again he has not done his homework. I asked him whether Londoners supported the changes. Paragraph 36 of the report states:

"58 per cent. of Londoners would choose existing hospitals as opposed to investing in...fewer, larger hospitals".

So people do not like the Prime Minister's plan. Will he listen to them?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

Lord Darzi is not proposing the closure of existing hospitals. It is hardly surprising that if people are asked, "Do you want your hospital closed?", they might say no, but Lord Darzi is not proposing that. He is proposing 150 new polyclinics, which will mean that doctors can get consultants into their surgeries to perform much needed operations that can be done there. He is proposing the expansion of specialist care, and that the teaching hospitals be able to do more research. I think that the Leader of the Opposition would do better to look at the report before commenting on it.

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Conservative Party

Let me just remind the Prime Minister of what Sir Ara Darzi says. He says:

"the days of the district general hospital...are over" and that we need

"fewer, more advanced hospitals".

That would mean that maternity units, accident and emergency units and specialist services will go. Is not the truth that his health policy— [Interruption.]

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Conservative Party

The truth is, they know that it means cuts in NHS services. Is not the truth that the Prime Minister's health policy is exactly the same as it ever was: more closures, more removal of services and more job losses? Does not the report, out today, show that all we shall get is more of the same from a Government who have failed?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

The right hon. Gentleman says more job cuts, but there are 80,000 more nurses in the national health service. There are 30,000 more doctors and 5 million more A and E attendances every year as a result of investment. As for him and his policy on the national health service, he can spout the slogans, he can hold his press conferences and issue his glossy booklets, but we will get on with running the national health service better. He can go for his PR—I will go for being PM, and we will get on with the job.

Photo of Don Touhig Don Touhig Labour, Islwyn

My right hon. Friend will not need reminding of the momentous event that took place two weeks ago today: on 27 June a grateful nation celebrated—veterans day. Will the Government undertake to ensure that the 35,000 veterans of the Malaysian campaign are allowed to wear the Pingat Jasa Malaysia medal next veterans day?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend who as Minister for Veterans brought in the veterans medal and enabled it to extend to a large number of people who would not otherwise have been able to have it. In all our constituencies, we can see thousands of people who are benefiting from the award of a veterans medal, which is a recognition of their service to our country. I shall certainly look at his proposal and report back to the House.

Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Once again, I join the Prime Minister in his expressions of condolence and sympathy.

What is the Prime Minister's assessment of the sums wasted by fraud, error and overpayment in the tax credit system he set up three years ago?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

It is very interesting that the leader of the Conservative party did not ask anything about the married couples allowance or tax credits and that it has been left to the leader of the Liberal party to pick up the baton. Tax credits are the most successful policy in removing child poverty in this country: 6 million families benefit from tax credits. Yes, there was computer error to start with, but it is being substantially reduced and the right hon. and learned Gentleman should admit that 600,000 children are not in poverty today because they are receiving tax credits.

Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Leader of the Liberal Democrats

But as the Prime Minister said on the radio this morning, there is still a long way to go. The truth is that the money wasted is heading towards £9 billion—£9 billion that could have been better spent. Behind that figure there are 2 million families whose lives have been made miserable by error and overpayment. Is not that the responsibility of the Prime Minister?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

I can tell the Leader of the Opposition he knows what it means, saying a long way to go. Child benefit was £11 when we came into power; it will be £20 in 2010. The child tax credit was £27 and it is rising for the poorest families to more than £70, compared with £28 when the Conservatives were in power. We have done more through these measures to take children out of poverty than any previous Government in the past 30 or 40 years. The right hon. and learned Gentleman should be supporting the tax credit system, not condemning it.

Photo of Alan Simpson Alan Simpson Labour, Nottingham South

The Prime Minister will know that tens of thousands of families around the land fear that their housing future will be plagued by the prospect of regular flooding and ultimate uninsurability. Given the pressure that he is under to approve further development on floodplain land, will he consider making the developers liable for full insurance cover for development on such land for the first 20 years of the life of the developments, rather than leaving the tenants and owners of properties to be both victims financially and victims of flooding?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

I shall certainly look at my hon. Friend's proposal, but we are increasing flood prevention moneys from £600 million to £800 million. I have visited the areas subjected to the worst of the floods over the past few weeks. On Saturday, I visited a number of people who are not insured, and we have to do something to help them in those circumstances. I talked to local authorities and we gave them special help to get over the difficult circumstances now. We also have to help them with reconstruction, but I hope my hon. Friend agrees that to increase the flood prevention budget from £600 million to £800 million, at a time when we have other priorities to meet, is a sign of our determination to deal with the proper defences against floods.

Photo of Peter Tapsell Peter Tapsell Conservative, Louth and Horncastle

Can the right hon. Gentleman think of any ministerial decision in the domestic sphere that has been taken during his time as a Member of this House that has caused more lasting harm to the British people than his withdrawal of £100 billion from the pension funds as a result of his abolition of dividend fair play?

A

You hit the nail on the head.....In the corrupted words of Sir Winston Churchill, "Never have so few done so much damage in such a short time!"

Submitted by Anthony WALKER

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

I think that the hon. Gentleman is referring to dividend tax credit. Despite the stock exchange crash and despite what he says about tax changes, the assets of pension funds in this country have risen from £500 billion in 1997 to more than £1 trillion now. I believe that the pensions of the people of this country are better protected because of the Pensions Bill that we will bring in, and I hope that there will be all-party support for it.

Photo of Joan Humble Joan Humble Labour, Blackpool North and Fleetwood

Further to the Prime Minister's earlier answer on super-casinos, does he recall that in the debate on this issue there was an acknowledgement that locating a super-casino, or indeed any of the casinos, in a resort location would minimise the impact of problem gambling and maximise the regeneration potential? When he looks in the autumn at the report that he referred to on problem gambling, will he take into account the special needs of a town such as Blackpool when it comes to regeneration?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

I thank my hon. Friend for speaking up at all times for the needs of the people of Blackpool. She does so with great eloquence. Of course we will look at the proposal that she is putting forward, but I have to say that there are means to regeneration for our coastal towns—and particularly our great holiday resorts—and those means include investing in local infrastructure, and in hotels and conference centres. At the same time, we know that Blackpool has put forward proposals: first, for a tramline, secondly, for a museum of the theatre, and thirdly, for a better conference centre. I want to look with her at all those proposals and see how Government can help.

Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I am delighted that the Prime Minister has at long last decided to join my campaign to fly the Union flag from every public building throughout the United Kingdom, but when is he going to start treating my constituents in England in the same fair way as he treats his constituents in Scotland and give us English votes for English laws?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

There is one United Kingdom Parliament. We are all part of the United Kingdom—Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England—and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that there are not two classes of citizens in this House.

K

If we are supposed to be one United Kingdom why is there a Scottish Parliament, a Welsh Assembly and a Northern Irish Assembly? You seem to have no...

Submitted by Kevin Wells Continue reading (and 6 more annotations)

Photo of Anne Moffat Anne Moffat Labour, East Lothian

This is from a Scots MP: my brother, Gregor Moffat, left last month to serve in Afghanistan with the British Territorial Army. Does my right hon. Friend have a message for the brave volunteers who leave their families to serve their countries in war?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and I am grateful for the service that is being given by her brother. I was in Afghanistan, and also in Baghdad and then Basra in Iraq, and I have nothing but praise for those people in the Territorial Army who have volunteered—with their skills—to help in Iraq and Afghanistan. I believe the whole House will want to say that we owe a debt of gratitude to them as well.

Photo of David Evennett David Evennett Opposition Whip (Commons)

How can the Prime Minister justify the fact that nurses in his constituency are paid a lot more than nurses in mine, in the London borough of Bexley, for doing exactly the same job? Is he aware that the point that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition raised about potential closures of hospitals in south London is a real issue?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

That is why I read to the Leader of the Opposition what Lord Darzi said this morning about the purpose of his report. The purpose of his report is to improve health services in London. It is to create a system of polyclinics that will mean that people will get access to health care nearer their homes. Those proposals are now out to consultation and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will join that consultation. From 1 November, every nurse will receive the same rate of pay.

K

But for a 6 months nurses In England will be earning less money than those elsewhere in the so called United Kingdom and their yearly pay will be less as well, you can hardly call it a National Health Service any more can you.

You Mr Brown have no mandate in England.

Submitted by Kevin Wells Read 3 more annotations

Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham PPS (Mr Mike O'Brien, Minister of State), Department for Work and Pensions

Is my right hon. Friend aware that two Coventry police officers have been nominated for the police bravery award? Officers Owen and Rudnicki arrested two men, one of whom was armed with a sawn-off shotgun. Does not that say a lot about the bravery of the British police force?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I will be hosting a reception at Downing street for the brave policemen and women who will be receiving those awards this week. Again, I have nothing but praise for what they are doing. They undertake very difficult work with great courage, increasingly in circumstances in which we face a terrorist threat. They deserve the full-hearted support of the public. Everyone who receives those awards for their absolute and tremendous courage should be thanked by all of us.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

Despite the difference in party labels, I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will support Britain holding the Olympic games. All the opinion polls show that in every part of the country, including Wales, people welcome the Olympic games. When I go around the country, I find young people in every part, including Wales, who want to compete in the Olympic games and represent our country.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

The Prime Minister's predecessor was hugely supportive of the Motor Neurone Disease Association's campaign to raise £15 million to find a cure for this dreadful and terminal disease. As a direct result, we have raised almost £4 million so far this year from private donors. Will the new Prime Minister meet representatives of the MND Association to maintain the momentum and help us to achieve a goal that I believe we all share: a world free of MND?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

I understand the hon. Gentleman's interest in this. He has been a long-standing campaigner for support for both the Medical Research Council and others to carry out greater research on motor neurone disease. As someone who has also seen people die of motor neurone disease, I support the research that is being done. I will do my best to support everything that he is doing. I will be happy to meet him and all those associated with this good work in Downing street at the soonest possible opportunity.

Photo of Jamie Reed Jamie Reed PPS (Mr Tony McNulty, Minister of State), Home Office

On behalf of 40,000 British nuclear workers and 17,000 workers in my constituency, may I thank the Prime Minister for his unequivocal support for the industry at the Dispatch Box last week? Will he join me in urging hon. Members on both sides of the House to support the Government's energy Bill when it comes to the Floor of the House?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

My hon. Friend knows that we put our nuclear proposals out to public consultation on 23 May. The Government's preliminary view is that nuclear has a future role in providing our homes and businesses with the low-carbon energy that we need. Let me emphasise that the Government will make their decision in the autumn, after, and in the light of, the consultation.

Photo of Angela Watkinson Angela Watkinson Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Prime Minister claims to treat everyone equally, so why do nurses in his constituency earn more —[ Interruption. ]

Photo of Angela Watkinson Angela Watkinson Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Prime Minister did not answer the question asked by my hon. Friend Mr. Evennett.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

The hon. Lady is referring to a decision in relation to nurses in Scotland that was made by the Scottish Parliament. I have to tell her that from 1 November, all nurses will be paid exactly the same rate.

J

This is a problem with devolution; it's much harder to establish uniform policy throughout the country. And when one does, one may be accused of overriding the...

Submitted by Jesse Holmes Continue reading

Photo of Nick Palmer Nick Palmer PPS (Malcolm Wicks, Minister of State), Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform

My constituent, Dr. Aziz, who is a leading Muslim scholar, has asked me to congratulate the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary on their moderate tone in response to the terrorist attacks. He asks me to ask the Prime Minister to confirm this: does he see this as a struggle not between different civilisations, but between ordinary people of all religions and none, and the people who seek to kill us?

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The number of organisations of different faiths in our country that have come out to condemn the attempted attacks in Britain over the past few days has been encouraging. All mainstream opinion will want to stand up against extremism. In the next few months, I hope that we can set up inter-faith councils in every constituency and community of our country so that we can bring together the faiths and all moderate opinion against those extremists who are trying to disrupt our civilisation and who, at the same time, of course offend every decent value of human dignity.