The business for the next week is as follows:
[The details are as follows: The Health Committee, 11th report, 2012-13, Public expenditure on health and care services, HC 651, and the Government response (CM 8624); and the Transport Committee, 7th report, 2012-13, Rail 2020, and the Government response, 9th special report,2012-13, HC 1059.]
The provisional business for the week commencing
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 4 and
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business.
We are approaching the 65th birthday of the NHS, so will the Leader of the House now admit the truth: that in a reversal of their infamous airbrushed election poster, it is clear that this Government have cut the NHS and not the deficit? The Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill is due to return to the House on
“a transparently cynical attempt to combat the rise of UKIP and to try to appease Tory backbenchers”?
I see that the Leader of the House does not, but those are not my words; they are the words of Stockton South Tory Councillor Mark Chatburn. How long does the Leader of the House think that this farcical misuse of the private Member’s Bill procedure by Tory Whips will carry on before the obsessive anti-Europeans realise they have been sold a pup?
This week, we have seen two alternative Queen’s Speeches put down on the Order Paper, one from the self-proclaimed Tory Taliban and one from Labour MPs. They want women to lose their right to protection if they are sexually harassed at work. We want respect for our armed forces. They want to scrap the BBC. We want fair prices on our railways. They want to bring back smoking indoors. We want to tackle the scourge of zero-hours contracts. I am proud of our Labour Back Benchers and the work they are doing, but can the Leader of the House tell us whether he can say the same about his?
This alternative agenda kicks off next week with the plan to hijack the August bank holiday and turn it into Margaret Thatcher day. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] I can see that there is a lot of support for that among those on the Government Benches. Some might think that they are too obsessed with this controversial and divisive figure from the past, but I do not think they are showing nearly enough zeal. Why celebrate her once a year—why not every week? Are they not missing an opportunity? If they were real believers, would they not want Thursday, Friday, Thatcherday? I think she would be very disappointed in them. Perhaps we could name other days after current members of the Cabinet—
Yesterday’s spending review underlined the scale of this Chancellor’s economic failure, with living standards falling, the economy stuttering, borrowing up, long-term unemployment up, prices rising faster than wages and bank lending down. He has not even managed to keep his prized triple A rating. He is presiding over the slowest recovery for more than 100 years, and businesses and families across the UK are paying the price. He can put on a mockney accent and eat as many posh burgers as he likes but, unlike millions of people up and down this country, he will never understand what it really feels like to be paying the price for his economic incompetence.
With a public relations man as Prime Minister, this Government are all too quick to issue press releases but too incompetent to deliver them, so we need a debate in Government time on Government incompetence. In their fourth year in office, only one of the 261 new schools they promised in their “priority” building programme has actually been built; only seven of the 576 infrastructure projects they promised have been completed; and they have delivered a paltry 2,000 of the 100,000 new homes they promised under the NewBuy scheme. They said that they would set up a British investment bank to help businesses grow, but no business has yet had help. They said that they would set up the Youth Contract to get young people back to work, but no one has used it. They promised councils £530 million for superfast broadband, but so far they have paid out only £3 million. They said that they want more infrastructure spending, but yesterday revealed a £1 billion cut in capital spending. They said that they would bring down borrowing, but it is £245 billion higher than they planned. Is not the truth that they are posturing, not governing? They are spinning, not delivering. It is not just the Chancellor’s Byron burger stunt that was a sham—it is the whole Government.
I do so look forward to the shadow Leader of the House’s response to the business statement, but mainly—normally—for the humour. On this occasion, however, it fell short of her normal high standards, which is a pity—I look forward to future weeks.
The hon. Lady asked about NHS spending. The figures demonstrate that the coalition Government have met their commitment to real-terms increases in NHS resources year on year. In addition, the Chancellor’s statement yesterday confirmed that we will make provision for a further real-terms increase in NHS resources in 2015-16. As she must recognise, that contrasts with my predecessor as Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, who regarded real-terms increases for NHS resources as irresponsible—that was the Labour party’s view. We are delivering on our manifesto promises. The NHS could not have afforded Labour’s irresponsible policies.
The hon. Lady asked about time on Report for the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill. I direct her to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor’s response on Tuesday to my hon. Friend Andrea Leadsom. We are clear that we will welcome, and consider positively and carefully, the Parliamentary Commission’s report and that, where necessary, we will legislate to bring its recommendations into force using that Bill. She must realise that the Government have allowed two days on Report more often than did our predecessors, but that that must be an exception rather than the rule. In this instance, as always, we will consider the requirement for debate on Report and make time available accordingly.
I will tell the hon. Lady exactly what the European Union (Referendum) Bill is about: it is about my hon. Friend James Wharton taking the lead and giving the people of this country a choice. There are Opposition Members who do not share her unduly cynical view and recognise that it is a genuine attempt by Parliament to exercise its responsibility and give people confidence that they can decide our future in Europe. I and my hon. Friends support it, and I hope that hon. Members from all parties will do so too next Friday.
Given the Chancellor’s statement yesterday and the Chief Secretary’s excellent statement today, I am not sure why the hon. Lady tried to rerun some of the arguments from the Opposition that were demolished by the Chief Secretary. If she wants to talk about future business, she can use the half day available to the Opposition on
In addition, 24 million basic rate taxpayers will benefit by nearly £700 from the coalition Government’s commitment to increase the personal tax allowance. The consequence of not having to impose the fuel duty escalator will be a saving of £40—13p a litre—for the average motorist. If, on the other hand, the hon. Lady wants to debate the economy on
[Interruption.] It is all very well Opposition Members making gestures to suggest flatlining. The economy did not flatline at the end of the Labour Government; it fell, as new statistics tell us, by 7.2%. There was a 7.2% crash in the gross domestic product of this country. That is the basis of the crisis that we had to resolve when we came into office, and if the hon. Lady wants to have a debate on that, we will be very happy to accommodate her.
Will the Leader of the House consider allowing a debate on the time allocated to Departments for answering oral questions in the House and, therefore, the time that Members have to scrutinise Ministers and hold them to account? During such a debate, we could perhaps examine why the Department for Transport, which has now been given responsibility for some of the largest capital expenditure in any Department in Government, answers questions for only 45 minutes. We could consider extending that to a full hour, which would be the proper amount of time to allow for correct scrutiny.
The total amount of time available is fixed, so if we give more to one Department, we have to take it away from another. We look carefully at the volume of questions to the various Departments—I promise my right hon. Friend that we do this rigorously—and we try to ensure that if a Department answers questions for less than an hour, it is because it has proportionately slightly fewer questions being asked of it.
Will the Leader of the House find time for the House to debate a report prepared in 2008 by senior police officers and said to have been given to Lord Leveson’s inquiry? It alleges sustained and persistent access to information contained on the police computer and other organisations’ databases that is supposed to be confidential but is in fact widely shared via improper methods. We understand that the report exists. Will the Leader of the House confirm that that is so? Will he find time for us to debate it and, before we do so, may we see it?
The right hon. Gentleman will understand that, without prior notice of his question, I have been unable to ask my colleagues about the issue that he has raised, and I do not know the answer to his question about whether such a report exists. However, he will have heard my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary speaking at the Dispatch Box recently, setting out measures to promote the integrity of the police. I will ask her to respond to the right hon. Gentleman, but I think he should take considerable reassurance from the wide range of measures that she announced and that are being taken forward. They involve not only inquiries but proposals relating to the College of Policing and the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
May I reinforce the request from the Opposition Front Bench for two days on Report for the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill? I take it that the Leader of the House rejected that request; at least, that is what I think I heard. Some months ago, the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, which I chaired, recommended that the Report stage be taken in September, but that was rejected too. We have now produced a further report with more than 100 recommendations. Colleagues from all over the House have told me that they would like an opportunity to consider those recommendations and express their views on them before the Bill goes to the other place. Frankly, I simply cannot understand why the Government are dragging their feet on this, bearing in mind that they were the prime movers in the creation of the commission. Nor can I understand their decision, in view of the fact that the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, the Justice and Security Bill and the Crime and Courts Bill all had two days on Report.
The Government, and the House, are grateful to my hon. Friend and his colleagues on the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards for the work that they have done and the excellent report that they have produced. That entirely justifies the decision that the Chancellor and the Prime Minister made to proceed by way of a parliamentary commission rather than a public inquiry. That is what has enabled us to reach this point at this time. I will not repeat all that I said to the shadow Leader of the House, but we should not regard two days on Report as anything other than the exception. We have allowed it more often than our predecessors did, but it must be—[Interruption.] It is not a matter of priority. It is a matter of judging the necessity for debating time on Report in the light of the amendments that have been tabled at that stage. I have announced the provisional business for the week after next. We are making rapid progress with the Bill and it is important that we continue to do so, but I will of course always listen carefully to what my hon. Friend Mr Tyrie has to say.
Can the Leader of the House explain why the Government have still not sent the royal charter on press regulation, which was passed overwhelmingly by this House, to the Privy Council? The motion on which we voted stipulated that it should be sent in May. Can he reassure the House and the victims that it is not because the Government are planning to do some kind of grubby backroom deal with elements of the press and to further water down Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations?
As I understand it, this is simply a matter of the proper processes relating to the approval of a royal charter by the Privy Council being pursued, in circumstances in which other proposals are also being presented. The Privy Council Office has gone through a process of securing the examination of other proposals as well, but these are matters of continuing discussion among my colleagues and I will ensure that the House is updated as soon as we are clear about the timing.
The Leader of the House will not be surprised by my question, because this is the fifth time that I have asked for a debate on the Francis report. In fact, I am now going to insist on one, if I may. I know that the Secretary of State for Health believes that there should be a debate on that issue. It is incredibly important for the national health service and for the people affected by what happened in Mid Staffs and by the Francis report. Will the Leader of the House please provide time for a debate in Government time on the Floor of the House before the recess? Giving excuses about approaching the Backbench Business Committee is simply not good enough. We want a debate, and we insist on it.
My hon. Friend and other Members have discussed this matter with me, and I have written to my hon. Friend Jeremy Lefroy about it this week. I have said before, and I repeat today, that it is our expectation that we will secure a debate on the Francis report. However, after consultation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, I think it makes sense for us to do so at the point at which the Government are in a position to make their full response to the Francis inquiry. My hon. Friend Mr Cash will know that an interim response has been made thus far. I cannot therefore commit to a debate on the Francis report this side of the summer recess, but I will continue to have discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on when it will be the right time to do so.
The Leader of the House will know that it has been a very long time since we had a debate in Government time on Zimbabwe. The situation there is now grave. Mugabe has decided arbitrarily to call an election, without discussion and with very little of the global political agreement having been carried through. It is important that our Government should be involved in putting pressure on South Africa in this regard. Could we at the very least have a statement on this matter from the Foreign Secretary before the recess, as this is an important issue for British people?
I am sure that many Members share the hon. Lady’s concern about the situation in Zimbabwe, as they have done for many years. I will of course talk to my hon. Friends at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office about what form of statement might be made, if appropriate, to update the House. In respect of a debate, I should point out, perhaps not for the first time, that it is clear as a consequence of the Wright Committee reforms that, as significant areas are priorities for the House to debate as Members feel strongly about them, time has been made available to the Backbench Business Committee to accommodate them. It is therefore to the Backbench Business Committee that Members should make their representations. I am happy to stand at the Dispatch Box and be the intermediary to enable that message to be heard by the Committee, but Members should also make the case directly to the members of the Committee that there is a priority for such debates to take place.
Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that money would be put into helping problem families. Plymouth has a significant number of such families, and that number has stubbornly remained high despite the very best work of Plymouth city council and the various agencies. May we have a debate on this matter, so that all of us who represent challenging inner-city areas can have a conversation about it and share best practice?
My hon. Friend raises an important aspect of the positive announcements made by the Chancellor yesterday. There are now many local authorities —Plymouth clearly is one—that are making increasingly effective use of the resources provided to the troubled families programme. Some £448 million over three years was announced in December 2011 by the Prime Minister, and the extension now announced for funding in 2015-16 enables a further expansion. I cannot offer time at the moment, but my hon. Friend makes an interesting point. Many hon. Members may now feel that they are starting to understand the benefit of this programme and the opportunity that the extension might give, and they are probably starting to think that it is time for them to start sharing that knowledge in this House so people can see the progress we are making.
May we have a science-led debate on whether Ministers should be spending more time working out how to keep fossil fuels in the ground and less time squandering taxpayers’ money on tax breaks for shale gas that scientists say we simply cannot afford to burn if the Government are to keep to their commitment to limit global warming to below 2°, a commitment that was reaffirmed at the G8 last week?
I am not sure that I am likely to agree with the hon. Lady on the possible benefits of investment in shale gas exploitation, not least for hard-pressed consumers who want to see the benefits in terms of energy prices, and for the security of energy supply in this country. She has had opportunities during discussions on the Energy Bill to consider these matters and I am sure that there will be further opportunities in the future.
Following on from the previous question, from press reports this morning and from the statement by the
Chief Secretary in reply to my neighbour and good friend Mr Wallace, is it not time that the Chamber had a full debate on the impact of shale gas? As you know, Mr Speaker, we are very generous people in Lancashire, but we want to get to the bottom of the appropriateness of the compensation scheme, whether it will be underpinned by statute and how we will ensure that the communities most affected get the compensation they deserve.
My hon. Friend makes further good points on this. I cannot offer a debate at the moment, but he will be aware that Ministers from the Department of Energy and Climate Change will be answering questions on
At 4.20 pm on
I cannot make any such guarantee; it is not in my gift to do so. The will of the House was expressed very plainly but it has not been possible to comply in terms of timing. I will ensure that if not I then my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport writes to the hon. Gentleman.
Yesterday’s announcement of new funding for joint health and social care was a welcome step towards the integration of health and social care, and I think all of us across the House would welcome that. Yet some short-sighted councils are closing down care home facilities without providing proper alternatives. Labour-run Reading borough council wants to close the Arthur Clarke home in my constituency, which will cause great distress to residents and families, risks breaking up a successful work force and will end up putting greater stress on the local NHS. Will my right hon. Friend support a debate to highlight the issue of care home closures and their impact on the local communities they serve?
The Liaison Committee has timetabled a debate on public expenditure and health care services on Tuesday. Clearly the issues that my hon. Friend raises are relevant to that debate and he may wish to utilise that opportunity. I felt strongly that the Chancellor’s announcement yesterday was extremely important and welcome, and it followed the announcement made in the spending review of 2010. The NHS has used its resources, together with local authorities, in developing health and social care interactions very effectively, which has demonstrated how these additional resources might make a much greater difference in terms of promoting independence and preventive health care.
On shale gas, we learned from BBC news this morning that the Government were likely to announce a streamlined planning process to award drilling permits for shale gas, but we did not hear any more detail. We got one mumbled sentence in the statement from the Chief Secretary. For constituencies such as mine, this is a key issue because we now have the threat of fracking for shale gas close to two housing estates. May we have a debate in Government time on Government plans for shale gas? We need to explore the reality of what the exploration and exploitation of shale gas will mean for communities before we are hurtled into a streamlined process, which apparently will be announced on
I will not reiterate the points I have made, beyond saying that DECC Ministers will be here on
We rely absolutely on the police and the intelligence and security services, who do a great job, but we must have confidence that they are acting within clear and agreed safeguards. This has been hit by a series of revelations over the last few weeks about GCHQ and the activities of undercover policing. Will there be an opportunity for an open debate in this House so that we can set out what we believe are the parameters within which they should do their vital work?
My hon. Friend will recall that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary came to the Dispatch Box when there had been previous press reports to give the assurances in relation to GCHQ that my hon. Friend and others have sought. These matters continue to be carefully considered inside Government. It is very difficult sometimes to have debates about some of these matters, but the House should remember that now, literally, following the Justice and Security Act 2013, we now have the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, part of whose work is to ensure that precisely those sorts of safeguards and scrutiny are in place.
Order. There are still several colleagues trying to contribute and I am keen to accommodate them. I just remind the House that there are two debates to take place today under the auspices of the Back Bench Business Committee, the first of which in particular is extremely heavily subscribed, so there is a premium, both in this session and subsequently, on brevity.
Two weeks ago, the Leader of the House told me that the reason food bank use had trebled in the last year was that the Government were now advertising in job centres that food banks were available. To explore this further, may we have a debate to explain why, in Hull, police and retailers have been reporting a serious increase in food theft? Is it down to shops advertising food better?
Oh well, sarcasm does not always read so well in Hansard. The hon. Lady will find that I said this was one of the reasons—[Interruption.] One of the reasons for the increased take-up of food banks was that the previous Government did not allow relevant information and material to be made available in jobcentres, while this Government did. That is the simple fact of the matter.
The last time I stood here and mentioned the bullying and financial incompetence of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, I opened a veritable Pandora’s box of pain for myself and those close to me. Does my right hon. Friend think we should have a debate on IPSA, as many colleagues on both sides of the House have offered me their support and would no doubt like to discuss reforms to this unfettered regime, which continues to act like the KGB of our civil service, breaks the law, ignores the Data Protection Act and is now—I am personally pleased to report—in trouble with the Information Commissioner’s Office?
My hon. Friend feels strongly about IPSA. I believe that a number of Members feel the same on the basis of their personal interactions, but there are others who have felt that since its establishment, the service it provides has improved. Either way, I would say to my hon. Friend and the House that IPSA may have statutory independence, but that does not mean that it is without scrutiny. IPSA also has an informal relationship with Members, and that should be used to convey messages about IPSA’s operation. The Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is a mechanism that can be used—I know this as a member of it—to send messages to IPSA about how it does its work.
The Secretary of State for Defence is meeting the Colombian Defence Secretary today to discuss our further military support for the Colombians. Given the murder of four innocent protesters by the Colombian army and police over recent days, may we have a debate in Government time about why we are considering giving military support to a Government whose Ministers, including the visiting Defence Secretary, routinely name their political and social opponents as “terrorists”, thereby effectively placing a death sentence on them?
This week, Wiltshire police announced the relocation of Salisbury police officers to a new building shared with Wiltshire council, thereby saving £500,000 and avoiding a 50% under-occupancy. Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate on how to encourage effective collaboration between local public agencies so as to optimise service delivery and allow space in the outgoing building for the new Salisbury and South Wiltshire university technical college?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. I know that work has been done previously both in Wiltshire and in neighbouring authorities to try to secure that sort of collaboration between authorities in order to deliver savings to all through the rationalisation of back offices and sometimes even of front-line services. Clearly, under this Government, local authorities have been taking exceptional measures to try to deliver efficiency savings and maintain front-line services. What my hon. Friend describes provides a very good example of how, with the new police and crime commissioners, we might find a greater impetus, and indeed a political impetus from elected commissioners, to try to make those savings happen.
Given that we have received news of an actual cut in planned capital investment and a virtual strangling at birth of the Heseltine proposals, may we have a debate on the Government’s plans to stimulate jobs and growth in economies such as those in Birmingham and the west midlands?
I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman and I listened to the same statements yesterday and today. What I heard, including today, was an announcement of £2 billion a year going into the single pot to support local enterprise partnerships across the country, and that will accumulate into a substantial sum of money. This is a devolution of resources that never happened under the Government the hon. Gentleman supported. Additionally, if I heard it correctly, £500 million extra is going into the regional growth fund, and we have all seen how that has made a big difference to projects. I am afraid that I do not recognise the hon. Gentleman’s premise; we are supporting manufacturing and growth across the regions.
There has been a huge and resounding welcome throughout Wales of yesterday’s confirmation that the budget for Sianel Pedwar Cymru or S4C is to be protected—demonstrating a commitment to Welsh language and culture by the Prime Minister and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, as well as the Wales Office. May we have a debate on the importance of S4C to demonstrate its significance for Wales, the economy, the language and the culture as well as to the Union?
I cannot offer my hon. Friend the prospect of an immediate debate, but he used his opportunity at business question last week, if I recall correctly, to raise this issue. I am pleased that he has found that his representations have been successful.
Facebook is providing a meeting place for paedophiles by continuing to publish on its pages indecent images of children, and it receives income from advertisements displayed alongside these pages from many household-name companies. The internet summit of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport did not even address the question of child protection on social media. When is she going to come to the House to tell us how she is going to bring this disgusting practice to an end?
The hon. Lady raises an issue of the greatest importance to Members, and indeed to people across the country and especially to parents. I will, of course, talk to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I was not present at the summit meeting with internet companies, but I know that she is working very hard on these issues. I particularly welcome the additional support given to the Internet Watch Foundation, which was previously based in my constituency and continues to operate out of Cambridgeshire. I hope that we will be able to work together across the House to ensure that we take every practical measure we can to reduce child exploitation and abuse.
Sixth-form colleges are a vital and highly successful part of our education system, but they are treated by the Government as orphans of the further education sector. This means that they face issues that school sixth forms do not. May we have a debate on sixth-form colleges, and which Department does the right hon. Gentleman think should respond to such a debate?
I cannot promise an immediate debate, although I must say that in due course such a debate would be useful and would be appreciated not least by myself and my hon. Friend Dr Huppert, in whose constituency are two very successful sixth-form colleges at Hills road and Long road. My hon. Friend Ian Swales makes a very important point, and I hope that we can take it up at some point. If we had a debate specifically about sixth-form college teaching up to A-level, it would be the responsibility of the Department for Education to respond, but if the debate related specifically to apprenticeships and skills-based learning, it would engage the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Given that the Health Secretary, the Work and Pensions Secretary, the Lord Chancellor, the Chancellor and even the Prime Minister seem to have a basic lack of understanding of basic statistics, when will the Leader of the House organise a training course for them, and will it be a back-to-basics training course?
It could be genuinely useful for Members of all parties to have a debate on youth unemployment, including on apprentices, in Rossendale and Darwen. Over the last 12 months, youth unemployment has dropped by 20%, and we have tripled the number of people entering into apprenticeships since the general election. It would useful to explore whether that supports our world-class manufacturing and what it says about the hugely successful 100 in 100 campaign, which we are now running for our second year.
My hon. Friend makes very important points. I cannot offer an immediate debate, but I hope that an opportunity will arise before too long, because the 1 million apprenticeships created under this Government are vital and are making an enormous difference. We have persistent, worrying and continuing levels of youth unemployment, which grew under the last Government at a time when the economy was growing and even before we hit the Labour-induced recession. This programme should, through traineeships alongside apprenticeships, help some of the young people who have found the greatest difficulty getting into work. That will also help us to achieve the Government’s objectives clearly set out in the Queen’s Speech, which is to ensure that all young people gain access to traineeships, apprenticeships or college-based education.
My constituent, 18-year-old Natalie McCusker, has been waiting more than 18 months for a lung transplant. I learned from a written answer on
In this instance, it would be appropriate for the hon. Lady to approach the Backbench Business Committee or to seek an Adjournment debate, but I have great sympathy with her comments. As I have in my constituency Papworth hospital, the largest hospital provider of heart and lung transplants in the country, I am only too aware of the difficulties associated with accessing lung transplants and the availability of suitable organs for donation.
Will the Leader of the House provide a debate on why nine in every 10 people being referred to the Government’s Work programme are being so badly failed by the scheme? Last Friday, a constituent told me she was referred to a scam employer paying her cash in hand, and the police were called in to close the business down. Do we not need to debate in full the growing problems with the Work programme?
I cannot offer the hon. Gentleman a debate immediately, but he would find it helpful to look at the written ministerial statement made this morning by the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend Mr Hoban. It set out the new statistics, such as that the Work programme has enabled 132,000 jobseekers to escape long-term unemployment and find lasting work, up from 9,000 at the end of March 2012. The hon. Gentleman will see the impressive trajectory of improving performance under the Work programme.