The business for next week will be as follows:
The provisional business for the week commencing
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I thank the Leader of the House for the business statement that she has just given.
I note that the right hon. and learned Lady has just announced that the business for next Monday has been changed. Last week, in business questions, she announced that next Monday's business would be the remaining stages of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. We first learnt of a change to next Monday's business at 11.25 this morning. On
During Prime Minister's questions yesterday, my right hon. Friend Mr. Hague offered the Leader of the House cross-party support to enable the Government to pass legislation to raise deposit protection levels from £35,000 to £50,000 before the recess. She said that she would consult her colleagues on that matter. Are the Government now willing to introduce that legislation before the recess?
As Leader of the House, the right hon. and learned Lady has a responsibility to ensure that Ministers give correct information in this House. Last month, when desperately trying to defend his changes to vehicle excise duty, the Prime Minister claimed that
Now we know that fewer than 20 per cent. of drivers will benefit, which is hardly a majority, and that 9 million drivers will be worse off. The Prime Minister just refused to accept his mistake, when given an opportunity to do so by my right hon. Friend Mr. Mackay. The right hon. and learned Lady's responsibility is to ensure that Ministers give correct information to this House, so will she ensure that the Prime Minister comes to the House next week, apologises and corrects his statement?
Ann Abraham's much-delayed report on the collapse of Equitable Life is due out next week. It is expected to criticise the Government's failure to regulate the insurer correctly and to recommend that policyholders should be compensated. Many Members have constituents who have been caught up in this matter, so when the report is published, will the Chancellor of the Exchequer make a statement to the House on how he intends to respond to it?
Two weeks ago in business questions, I asked the Leader of the House for a debate on the property market. In response, demonstrating her profound knowledge of the housing market, she said that we had already had a debate on eco-towns. The chief executive of Savills has warned that house prices could plummet by as much as 25 per cent. over the next two years. Barratt Homes reports today that house sales have dropped by 43 per cent. in the first six months of this year, and it is cutting 1,200 jobs. Given the concern of millions of home owners, when will she make Government time available for a debate on the housing market?
On another aspect of the economy, the Prime Minister often boasts about his party's record on getting young people into jobs, but today's OECD report concludes that the proportion of 16 to 24-year-olds without a job is higher than when Labour came into power. Clearly the Government's flagship new deal has failed, and yet again, the Prime Minister has shown that he is out of touch. Can we have a debate on youth employment?
Yesterday, the Prime Minister likened himself to Heathcliff. I imagine that most people would be disturbed by this comparison—as indeed it seems was Andrew McCarthy of the Brontė parsonage museum in Yorkshire, who explained that
"Heathcliff is a man prone to domestic violence, kidnapping, possibly murder and digging up his dead lover. He is moody, and unkind to animals."
Can the Prime Minister make a statement explaining which of those characteristics is most like him?
Finally, we already know that the country has lost confidence in the Prime Minister, but now it seems the Leader of the House has as well. Apparently, she has been meeting Back-Bench MPs to test her popularity should she stand in any forthcoming leadership contest. Can she tell the House what it is about the Prime Minister's performance that has led her to kick-start her leadership—
At least the right hon. Lady was concluding, Madam Deputy Speaker. That is the most important thing.
The right hon. Lady asked about the business for next week, particularly Monday. She will know that last Thursday, I announced the business for this week and the provisional business for the week following. Today, I am announcing the business for next week. I would have thought that she would welcome the Second Reading of the Employment Bill, which is an important measure that toughens up enforcement of the national minimum wage. She asked me whether there could be a debate on youth employment, and on Monday, there can be such a debate as part of the Second Reading of that Bill.
Of course the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill remains a flagship Government Bill, but in the last full week before the House rises for the summer recess, difficult decisions have to be taken about what business is included. All the way through debates on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, hon. Members have sought to protect time for debate, especially as it involves free votes and the tabling of amendments, so as much time as possible needs to be found for it and the other issues that the Government are committed to. It would therefore be good to look for a date in the autumn when there is no other business such as oral statements, which we are committed to make before the House rises.
The right hon. Lady asked about savings protection, which was raised with me at Prime Minister's questions yesterday and could have been raised in questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer this morning. If Conservative Members were so concerned about the subject, they could have chosen it for an Opposition day debate next week.
The right hon. Lady mentioned vehicle excise duty, which was the subject of questions to the Chancellor this morning, and the Opposition have chosen to debate it next Wednesday. I therefore suggest that she raise any questions or concerns about fuel duty then.
The right hon. Lady asked for correct information in answers to parliamentary questions. I agree absolutely: we must be sure that information is correct, and that is our policy. As I understand the matter in question, I believe that it involves an estimate of something that will be in next year's Finance Bill.
The right hon. Lady mentioned the Abraham report on Equitable Life, which has yet to be published. Let us see what it says and then we can consider how to deal with it. She asked about house prices and the housing market. Again, if Conservative Members felt strongly that they needed to discuss the matter in the House, they could have selected it for an Opposition day debate. The subject was also raised in oral questions.
May I ask about nuclear decommissioning? Tomorrow, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority will make a recommendation to Ministers about which company will clean up Sellafield. However, only a few minutes ago, I got a copy of the Public Accounts Committee report, which points to the spiralling costs of decommissioning—up by 41 per cent. between 2005 and 2007. In view of the public money that will be spent on the programme, surely we need an urgent debate on the matter in the House.
There are Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions next week. The Government will respond to the Public Accounts Committee's conclusions and recommendations in due course. As my hon. Friend says, those issues are important.
First, let me revert to Monday's business. From the outside, the removal of consideration of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill looks like the Government losing control of their business management. May we have an assurance that, if a range of amendments is to be tabled—many have already been tabled—we can have two days for the final stages immediately after the break so that we can do justice to the issues and so that it does not appear as though the Government are trying to drive through their agenda? After all, there is a free, unwhipped vote on most aspects of the Bill.
When the Leader of the House announced that there was a space on Monday, I was surprised to hear that it would be filled by Second Reading of the Employment Bill, which had its First Reading only in June. The Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Bill, which came to us from the House of Lords in February, has yet to receive its Second Reading. As the Leader of the House knows, its purpose is to release money to support young people throughout the country. I would have thought that that was a priority, especially at the moment. Will she please explain why the measure has not appeared? Will she seriously consider ways in which to get it back on the Order Paper so that we can debate it and it can make progress? I am sure that colleagues from all parties could suggest many ways in which to use the money, not only next year or the subsequent year, but this summer. We should make some progress on that.
On a related issue, the Leader of the House made a helpful comment last week in response to my concern that we should debate youth opportunity and youth safety before the break. We have had another week in which a youngster in Southwark has died as a result of stabbing. A completely innocent 14-year-old, David Idowu, died on Sunday. His parents were grieving with the community yesterday. The Leader of the House said:
"I shall ensure that the House has the opportunity that it clearly wants to focus on these issues."—[ Hansard, 3 July 2008; Vol. 478, c.1027.]
Out there in our communities, many people are talking about the issue. May we have an opportunity for the Government and colleagues of all parties to share their thinking so that families who are worried, whether justifiably or not, that their streets and their youngsters are less safe can have some assurance that the subject is at the top of the political agenda?
Housing is clearly the other great national worry. The Leader of the House announced that the Housing and Regeneration Bill comes back a week on Monday. May we have an opportunity, if necessary, for the Government to table, with cross-party agreement, amendments that would do more than provide extra money to build only 1,100 extra homes? We are short not of 1,100 but of tens of thousands of homes for people at the bottom end of the income scale. May we have a serious proposal to allow empty housing to begin to be used and the private and public sectors to work together and with housing associations and the voluntary sector?
Last week, the Leader of the House commended the Members Estimate Committee report to hon. Members. So did the Prime Minister, the leader of the Conservative party and the leader of the Liberal Democrats, yet the House voted against it, immediately resulting, unsurprisingly, in external criticism by the Committee on Standards in Public Life. Every Liberal Democrat Member voted for the report. What will the Leader of the House do to try to ensure that she and the House recover from a big own goal last Thursday afternoon?
The hon. Gentleman asked about the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. He is right that the House is even more jealous of the time available to discuss amendments, especially Back-Bench amendments, to a Bill that is subject to a free vote. I cannot guarantee two days of debate on the Floor of the House for the remaining stages, but I will try to ensure that the day is not carved up by one or more oral statements, each taking an hour.
What I do know is the commitments that we have for the coming week and for various oral statements that need to be made before the House rises. I will look to ensure that we have a full day's debate rather than one that oral statements cut into.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Bill. He is right that it is important that money is available from dormant bank accounts for youth activities so that young people are engaged in productive and interesting activities rather than out on the streets becoming vulnerable to gangs or joining them. The Bill is important and I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families has provided for money to start to be spent on youth activities in anticipation of the measure's introduction. Local authorities and voluntary organisations throughout the country can start putting their plans together and bidding for money in anticipation of the Bill, which will receive Second Reading after the summer recess.
The hon. Gentleman raised the tragic case of his constituent, David Idowu. I am sure that the whole House shares the hon. Gentleman's concerns, and we send our condolences to David Idowu's family. It is a great tragedy that that young man lost his life at 14. Before the House rises, we hope to consider the Green Paper on policing, which is germane to many such issues. The hon. Gentleman knows that we had a topical debate in Government time on knife crime last month. We do look for opportunities not only to debate the issue in the House, which we did last month, but to bring forward practical measures that will make a difference.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the Housing and Regeneration Bill; I provisionally announced consideration of Lords amendments for
The hon. Gentleman referred to the business of the House last Thursday. The House did not reject the Members Estimate Committee; rather, amendments were tabled. Both the propositions that were put before the House last Thursday included stronger provision of audit, that 25 per cent. of every—
Yes, the amendment, too. Both propositions included saying that 25 per cent. of Members would be audited every year and that every Member would be audited at least once every Parliament. I had a discussion with the Comptroller and Auditor General yesterday. We can look to ensuring that we build on the implementation of the decision that the House made last Thursday.
The Leader of the House will know that the Modernisation Committee published its report today on regional Select Committees. Highly controversial recommendations were carried by the casting vote of the Chairman, who is a member of the Government. Does she agree that, by convention, changes to Select Committees have been made by agreement among all parts of the House and that it would be quite wrong for the Government to use their majority to force on the House changes in how it holds them to account? Will any votes on that report therefore be on a free vote?
We undertook in "The Governance of Britain" to provide greater accountability for organisations such as strategic health authorities, the Highways Agency and, above all, regional development agencies, which spend a great deal of public money and have an important role to play in the regions of England, but which are not sufficiently accountable. Because of our concern about that lack of accountability, we made it clear in "The Governance of Britain" White Paper that we would bring forward proposals for regional accountability to Committees of the House. That was the Government's position.
We also decided to put the issue through the Modernisation Committee, in order that there could be a thorough and comprehensive evidence-taking session before Members of the House. I should like to thank all those who came and gave evidence to the Modernisation Committee, including those from regional development agencies, strategic health authorities, the Highways Agency and regional arts agencies, as well as regional Ministers and members of the Liaison Committee. We had some very important evidence-gathering sessions.
Then the Modernisation Committee made a decision, as the right hon. Gentleman said. Although the Committee was agreed that— [ Interruption. ] Sorry; I am going on too long on that. It was agreed that there was a problem, but it was not agreed what the solution was. We have decided what the Committee's report should be, and that will come to the House for further debate.
Given the interest in every hon. Member's constituency in who will be awarded the contract for the successor to the Post Office card account, will my right hon. and learned Friend ensure that a statement is made on the issue before the recess? If she wants to send all hon. Members off in good cheer, may I suggest that it need only be a short statement saying that the contract will stay with the Post Office?
This is not something that I can comment on in answers to questions about the business statement. As my hon. Friend will know, the Post Office card account contract is subject to public procurement rules, but the Post Office has put in a strong bid.
Can we please have a topical debate next week on speech, language and communication services for children and young people? Given that the ability to communicate is the key life skill of all our children, but that at present hundreds of thousands of them struggle to do so, does the Leader of the House accept that such a debate would be hugely appreciated by those of us who have worked on an entirely non-partisan basis with professionals and the voluntary sector alike, supported by the Government, to chart a route to improved provision in the future?
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his excellent report, which was published yesterday. The issue is one of concern to hon. Members in all parts of the House, so I will look for an opportunity for possibly a short debate before the House rises.
Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to come to the House next week and explain why, despite no decision having been made on the Post Office card account, as my hon. Friend Mr. Cawsey said, letters are being sent to pensioners and others in receipt in benefits saying that the POCA will no longer exist and asking them to move to a bank account? That happened before, so why is the Secretary of State allowing it to happen again? Will the Leader of the House ensure that a statement is made next week?
I will ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to write to my hon. Friend and place a copy of the letter in the Library.
That fine newspaper of record, The Sunday Telegraph, found plenty of space to attack me last week over the freedom of information matter concerning the publication of Members' home addresses, but curiously found no space at all to record the fact that the House had unanimously passed the resolution that those addresses should not be disclosed. I am sure that that had nothing to do with the fact that one of the paper's reporters initiated the dangerous campaign to publish the addresses. Can the Leader of the House therefore spell out, in words of one syllable, what the significance will be of the statutory instrument that is scheduled for debate on
The hon. Gentleman has done more than anybody to ensure that there can be proper, open debate in this House without Members looking over their shoulders because their addresses have been put on the House of Commons website. We are grateful to him for his work. However, I am sure that he will agree that it is unlikely in the extreme that I could be in a conspiracy with The Sunday Telegraph against him in that respect. Indeed, I would be happy to be in a conspiracy with him against The Sunday Telegraph on the issue. We will bring forward a statutory instrument under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 that will provide that the House authorities are not required to disclose Members' addresses or any information that could lead to the identification of their addresses. That statutory instrument will be restricted to the House authorities. The hon. Gentleman also raised an important point about the publication of addresses in respect of nomination, standing for election and electoral registration, which is a separate issue, but one that we need to look at, too.
Will the Leader of the House start talks on a new kind of Opposition day, on which the House can scrutinise the abuse and misapplication by Tory, Liberal Democrat and nationalist councils throughout the country of Labour Government legislation? That could include, for example, the cynical abuse and misapplication of progressive single status legislation by the Tory-Liberal council in Birmingham in order to cut the pay of low-paid workers and clobber the pensions of low-paid council employees.
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. Perhaps he can speak more about that matter in the Opposition day debate next Wednesday.
Referring to the question put by my right hon. Friend Sir George Young, will the Leader of the House, who also chairs the Modernisation Committee, consult on the recommendations that were passed on the strength of her vote and in spite of the votes of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat members of the Committee? A huge sum of money—more than £2.25 million—is involved in the implementation of that decision. Apparently, we can find that amount quite easily, even though many other desirable projects cannot be resourced. Will she consult other parties in the House prior to our having a debate on the matter? I believe that it needs further consideration, because the majority of the evidence was against the recommendations—which, when all is said and done, are also Government policy.
The hon. Gentleman and I listened to the evidence that was put before the Modernisation Committee. He formed one view after listening to the evidence, and I formed another. If there is no agreement in a Committee, the matter has to be decided on a vote, and we all voted. The Government could simply have brought the proposals straight to the House, without taking them through the Modernisation Committee. However, I believe that it was right to take them through the Committee for proper scrutiny of the evidence. In the end, there was no agreement in the Committee, but the matter will come to the House to be decided on.
Folk in South Yorkshire will never forget that they suffered the loss of a quarter of their local economy, involving hundreds of thousands of jobs, and suffered catastrophic reductions in investment and skills when the Conservatives were last in power. May we have a debate on the importance of the investment in skills? Despite the present economic downturn, such investment will be critical in securing our long-term economic growth.
My hon. Friend will know that, in the draft legislative programme, we have more provision for improving people's skills, for more apprenticeships and for raising the education leaving age to 18. She is right to say that the most important thing, not only for individual opportunity but for the strength of the economy, is investment in the skills of our people. That is why the Conservatives' suggestion that we did not mend the roof while the sun was shining is so ridiculous. Our sustained investment in education and skills is what has put our economy in the best possible position to weather the difficult economic storms that are coming to us internationally.
The Leader of the House will be well aware of the problems that binge drinking causes to local communities, to the police and to the health service. Is she also aware that voluntary measures taken by pubs and clubs to reduce cheap drink offers such as happy hours and two-for-one offers have now hit the buffers because they have run up against competition legislation? Is she equally aware that her own licensing Minister has now cast doubt on whether the Government intend to take action to introduce minimum pricing, so as to reduce the amount of ridiculously cheap booze on offer in our supermarkets and off-licences? May we have a debate on booze Britain, so that we can hear the Government's plans for tackling this serious problem in all our communities?
These are issues not only for licensing but for supermarkets and off-licences, for the Health Department and for the Home Office. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will find an opportunity before the House rises for the recess to raise these important issues, either at Health questions or at Home Office questions, which will be held next week.
The massive hike in domestic electricity prices and mains gas utility bills has caused grave hardship to many families and households. My right hon. and learned Friend might be aware that many of those who are not connected to mains gas have experienced even greater hardship, through the increases in the price of alternative fuels such as oil and liquefied petroleum gas. May we have a debate on extending the gas mains to make it viable for those people to be connected? Many of those properties lie just a few hundred yards from a gas main. This would help to alleviate fuel poverty and give people greater choice. We should also look at the differentials between the price of mains and non-mains electricity and gas.
I will raise my hon. Friend's important point with the Secretary of State for Wales and the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. He might also like to raise the issue in Westminster Hall, because I imagine that a number of other Members are in the same situation.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs recently made a statement in the House on bovine TB. There is now great uncertainty throughout the United Kingdom about where we go from here. The Secretary of State announced that we needed to spend more time and money on researching a vaccine and ways in which a vaccine could be administered. There was not time to question him to the degree required, in order to find out exactly where we were going. May we therefore have a debate in Government time to discuss this important issue? Thousands of badgers, thousands of cattle and hundreds of thousands of people are going to be affected by this decision for years to come, yet we still have no exact guidelines on where we are going.
On Monday, following extensive consultation and scientific evidence, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs set out his decision and the basis for that decision. Hon. Members were able to ask him questions, but if there are further questions on the important issue of vaccination, perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to try to catch the Speaker's eye at DEFRA questions on
Will the Leader of the House find time for us to discuss the implementation and planning of controlled parking zones in our cities? In my constituency, a self-admittedly flawed consultation by the Tory local authority has led to flawed implementation and misery for my constituents, who cannot park anywhere near their homes. May we have a debate on how guidance can be given to local authorities so that this does not happen again?
My hon. Friend makes an important point on behalf of her constituents. Being able to park is important for parents ferrying children around, for people going about their work and, particularly, for disabled people. I will ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to write to my hon. Friend and place a copy of the letter in the House of Commons Library.
Will the Leader of the House please consider finding time for an urgent debate on the latest manifestation of rip-off Britain, particularly the practices of companies, such as BT, which choose to charge their customers a premium if they decide not to use the company's preferred method of payment? Does she agree that that is sharp practice on a grand scale and that it deserves the condemnation of Members on both sides of the House?
That is possibly a matter that I could draw to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and ask him to write to the hon. Gentleman. It might also be a subject for a debate on the Adjournment of the House.
My right hon. and learned Friend might recall that earlier in the year I raised the question of Network Rail track maintenance and the serious problems that occurred over Christmas. Clearly, there are serious ongoing track maintenance problems, in management, in how the work is undertaken and relating to costs. That is exemplified by what has been happening on Thameslink. Last night, there was a track failure and trains were not going through the centre of London. This morning, there was a power failure and trains were delayed. At weekends, the trains do not run through central London; we frequently have a five-day railway rather than a seven-day railway. Could we have a full debate on precisely what we do about track maintenance and the way in which Network Rail undertakes it, and consider in particular what used to happen under British Rail, when it was done infinitely better and much more cheaply?
Perhaps my hon. Friend could put on record during the pre-recess Adjournment debate the concerns that he is championing on behalf of his constituents. There is a great deal of concern about this matter, and those responsible for track maintenance could then take the opportunity to listen to what other hon. Members have to say about it.
May we have a debate on the Lord Chief Justice's politically correct comments on sharia law, particularly in relation to today's comments from the Centre for Islamic Pluralism? It states:
"For non-Muslim authorities to propose the introduction of Sharia as a legal standard for Muslims in any non-Muslim land is not only absurdly patronising and discriminatory, but also violates the canons of traditional Sharia law. Sharia law has always held that Muslims emigrating to non-Muslim lands are obliged to accept the laws of customs of their new homes."
The Lord Chief Justice's comments have done an awful lot of damage to community cohesion and to the principle of integration in this country. May we have a debate so that we can undo the damage that his comments have done?
If the hon. Gentleman wants to raise that matter further, he should look to Ministry of Justice oral questions, which take place next Tuesday.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend find time for a debate on safeguarding the future of commercial vehicle production in the UK, with specific reference to the emergence of option appraisals on downgrading or terminating the production of transit vehicles at the Ford Southampton plant, which is widely acknowledged to be one of the most efficient vehicle production plants in Europe?
Motor manufacturing in Britain, including of transit vehicles, is very important, so I will ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to seek a meeting with my hon. Friend to discuss how best to take the matter forward.
May we have a debate in Government time on the postcode lottery that operates on health care spending? Last year, residents of the East Riding of Yorkshire had nearly £200 less spent on their health care than the residents of neighbouring Hull. Why is it that those who live in remote, sparsely populated rural areas do not get a fair share of funding, whether it be on social care, transport or education as well as health?
We had a debate on health last week, so the hon. Gentleman had an opportunity to raise those points then. There will also be Health questions on
One piece of business that we are all looking forward to is the debate on Lords amendments to the Counter-Terrorism Bill, especially after the monstering that the 42-day proposal received from the former head of MI5, Dame Manningham-Buller. Given the chorus of disapproval of these proposals and the fact that we know that, contrary to what the Government have said, the public are overwhelmingly—by two thirds—opposed to them, is it going to take a Government defeat before these daft and dangerous proposals are withdrawn?
The Government's responsibility is to ensure that everyone is safe from terrorism and that civil liberties are protected. We have set forth our views on how the Counter-Terrorism Bill will do just that. Of course, we also introduced the Human Rights Act 1998, which provides a backstop for guarantees on human rights. We have put our views forward in this House and they are now being considered in the other place. No doubt Ministers, Government Back Benchers and others will make their arguments as the Bill passes through there.
May I congratulate the Leader of the House on her superb performance as acting Prime Minister yesterday and, indeed, on the previous occasion when she did the same? With the Prime Minister under such great pressure and now apparently comparing himself to fictitious characters, will the Leader of the House tell us who would stand in as Prime Minister if he were temporarily incapacitated? Would it be her?
The Prime Minister is not temporarily incapacitated and he is running the country. That is the position.
Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating Bournemouth borough council on securing an air festival from 28 to
"by the sea and completely free!"
It will certainly be a boost to British domestic tourism. On that note, however, is the Leader of the House aware of the report issued today by the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, which is very critical of the Government's involvement in and support for British tourism? Indeed, the press release says that the Government are
"failing to give the necessary support to UK tourism".
I ask for an urgent debate and, indeed, a statement from the Government on what they intend to do to support this important—the fifth largest—industry in Britain.
The tourism industry is indeed important, not just for those who come from abroad but for those who take their holidays in this country. The hon. Gentleman will know of a number of initiatives that the Government have taken on seaside towns and tourism in the rest of the country. We are considering the Select Committee report and we will respond to it in due course.
In these economically challenging times when many families are facing straitened circumstances, may we have a statement from the Department for Children, Schools and Families on why families in receipt of working tax credit are not able to claim free school meals for their children, while many other benefit recipients are able to?
If the hon. Gentleman wants to raise that issue, he could do so when we next consider legislation dealing with benefits or children. We want to make sure that we provide as much support for low-income families as possible, which is why we introduced the tax credit system. Unfortunately, the hon. Gentleman's party is committed to abolishing it. We also introduced the national minimum wage, which again Conservative Members voted against. He can rest assured that we are looking to do all we can to support low-income families. One of the most important considerations is ensuring that the economy remains as stable as possible so that we maintain high levels of employment and people can go out to work and earn their living.