The business for next week is as follows:
The provisional business for the week commencing
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority’s proposals for MPs’ pay and pensions in the 2015 Parliament have just been published. Does the Leader of the House agree that any decisions that IPSA makes after the public consultation on this package of measures should reflect wider economic circumstances and what is happening in the public and private sectors?
Last week I asked the Leader of the House to protect the extra time to scrutinise the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill. In response the Leader of the House said he would
“take steps to ensure that the time that is available for that debate is protected”—[Hansard, 4 July 2013; Vol. 565, c. 1061.]
On Monday and Tuesday we had more than four hours of statements, wiping out all the extra time that the right hon. Gentleman had so generously granted. Will he now tell us why his assurances to this House appear to carry such weight in the Government? And will he tell me exactly what was the point of appearing to grant extra time in the first place?
The Conservative party has a blind spot when it comes to women. First, the Mayor of London said that women only go to university to find husbands. Then the Prime Minister completely forgot about British Wimbledon champions Ann Jones and Virginia Wade when complimenting Andy Murray on his fantastic achievement last Sunday. Finally we had the Foreign Secretary exercising his well-known diplomatic skills by using a phrase about my hon. Friend Cathy Jamieson that I cannot repeat in the House. This Tory party is so modern that its members either ignore women completely or casually insult them. It looks like the unconscious bias training that Dr Coffey is meant to be organising for them really is not working.
Indeed. I hear they were discussing Lib Dem theme songs for the next election. How about “You can’t always get what you want”, or “Under my thumb”? Personally, I think that “It’s all over now” might be much more appropriate.
We have all been enjoying the glorious weather. It was lovely to see Tory MPs skipping gleefully around this place last Friday. The barbecues were sizzling, the birds were singing, and the Tory party was banging on about Europe. But even before their prime ministerial burgers were properly digested, they were back to their old ways. After the Home Secretary’s U-turn on the European arrest warrant, another Euro mutiny is brewing. She has been promising the Chairs of the Home Affairs, Justice and European Scrutiny Committees time to scrutinise the Government’s opt-out plan for the last nine months. Why, then, did the Leader of the House come to the Dispatch Box on Monday with an emergency business statement to force a vote, bypassing any kind of Select Committee scrutiny at all?
Not only have the Government shown no respect to those Committees or the House, but they have done so for no reason. The EU treaties, the Commission and even the Government’s own legislation say that they do not need a vote before beginning negotiations, so why is the Leader of the House forcing a vote on Monday? Will he recognise his mistake and put off the vote until the Committees have had time to scrutinise the Government’s plans, as the Home Secretary promised?
While the Leader of the Opposition is taking bold steps to remake our politics, the Prime Minister is failing to answer questions about his dodgy donors. Is not the truth, as Nick Herbert told the BBC yesterday, that in the Conservative party money buys influence. Adrian Beecroft donated half a million pounds and was then allowed to write a report calling for the destruction of workers’ rights. JCB chairman Anthony Bamford donated £2.5 million and was then allowed to write a report on manufacturing. At the recent Tory fundraising ball, the Prime Minister had the temerity to tell his millionaire guests that their donations enabled him to give a tax cut to all their millionaire pals and hedge fund friends. I have calculated that 18 hedge fund bosses donated over £24 million before attending their cosy dinners at No. 10.
The Prime Minister was forced by the scandal to ask Lord Gold to investigate, but it has been more than a year and we have not heard a word. Will the Leader of the House tell us when he expects this important report to be published, and does he know why it has taken so long? A quarter of those on The Sunday Times rich list are donors to the Conservative party. They said that we were all in this together, but is not the truth that this is a Government run by the rich and for the rich?
I am grateful to the shadow Leader of the House for her questions—I think that there were one or two. As she rightly acknowledged, decisions about Members’ pay, pensions and expenses are not made by this House; they are now matters for IPSA, which is an independent body. IPSA has today published its recommendations on the future remuneration package for MPs from 2015. That is for consultation before any final decision is made in the autumn. I urge anyone who has a view on the proposals to use the opportunity to respond to IPSA. The Government, like the Opposition, have set out our views. We have made it clear that we expect IPSA to take the broader fiscal climate into account, in particular the context of the Government’s approach to public service pay and pensions. I expect that we will maintain that position in any further response to the consultation. I should add that my party’s view is that in tough times we should see the cost of politics going down, not up.
On the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill, I was in the Chamber for much of the debate and am confident that in the course of the debate we were able to examine those issues. Indeed, I was pleased by the way in which we were able to respond substantively and positively to the further report from the Parliament Commission on Banking Standards only a short time after its publication.
I am afraid that I do not agree with the shadow Leader of the House at all about her characterisation of the Conservative party’s views in relation to women. As the party of the first woman Prime Minister in this country, we have understood—I have certainly understood since I was but a boy in political terms—the exemplary role that women can play in politics and in other aspects of life. [Interruption.]
Order. May I say to Thomas Docherty that he should not continue to chunter noisily from a sedentary position and to gesticulate as well? It is unseemly and it is not statesmanlike in the way that I aspire him to be. We have a lot of business to get through and we will make speedier progress if we have brief contributions and some order.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
As for tennis, I am of an age where I absolutely remember Ann Jones and Virginia Wade. I know that the Prime Minister merely spoke in a moment of excitement in recognising and congratulating Andy Murray. I do not think for a minute that my right hon. Friend would have forgotten them if he had thought about it for a further second.
May I explain the vote that will occur next Monday to the shadow Leader of the House? It is very straightforward. The Government published their Command Paper. It is not essential—nothing legally requires it—for the Government to have a vote of the House before the opt-out, but back in October the Home Secretary made it clear that we would have such a vote. The vote on Monday is an opportunity for the House to support the opt-out. It is not a vote about the character of the opt-in. Since the negotiation the House is able, in addition, to vote on Monday to take note of the Command Paper. That is the basis on which having opted out in due course, as we are intending to do, the House and the Select Committees of the House will then have an opportunity to consider the opt-in. I am afraid that it is simply not true to say, as the shadow Leader of the House does, that the Select Committees will not have an opportunity to consider the character of the opt-in; they will be able to look at that at the same time as my right hon. Friends are conducting the negotiation with the Commission and with other member states.
May I say a word about Prime Minister’s questions? I listened very carefully, Mr Speaker, when you responded to a point of order from Paul Flynn, and of course I absolutely agree with everything you said. In the context of what happened this week, I think that, as you rightly pointed out, the public expect high standards of us, but they also expect Prime Minister’s questions, in particular, to be pretty robust. When the public out there listen to the House, sometimes they hear something that is a bit different from just the noise level in the Chamber, and that is okay—that is fine.
However, this week, if I may say so in agreement with you, Mr Speaker, the noise was excessive and it will have had an adverse impact on the public because it will have made it impossible to hear in the normal way the character of the answers that were being given and, indeed, sometimes the character of the questions being asked. I knew exactly what was happening; I make no bones about it. In the context of the heat-seeking missile that was aimed at the Leader of the Opposition in the previous week about Unite’s relationship with the Labour party, Labour Members were throwing out noise and chaff. Of course, they knew they were doing it, we knew they were doing it, and it would be helpful if the public knew they were doing it. However, we will not stop making sure that that missile hits its target. The Labour party is bought by the trade unions. We do not permit donations to the Conservative party to have strings attached. We do not allow donors to buy policy, to buy influence or to buy candidates, and they cannot buy the leadership of this party, but the trade unions do all those things for the Labour party.
Order. As right hon. and hon. Members know, it is my normal, almost unfailing, practice to try to call everyone at business questions. I would point out, though, that today we have two Government statements after this, both of which are of course important and of which the House will wish to treat, and then two debates under the auspices of the Backbench Business Committee, both of which, especially the first, are significantly subscribed. It therefore may not be possible for me to accommodate all colleagues today, though I shall strive to do so and will be greatly assisted in the process by brevity from Back Benchers and Front Benchers alike, first to be exemplified by Mr Peter Bone.
Will the Leader of the House adopt a policy on programming whereby he gives a protected number of hours to main debates? As you were saying, Mr Speaker, today we have the problem that Back-Bench business is being squeezed, but if we had agreed a motion providing that it could last for six hours from whenever it commenced, it would have solved the problem entirely. Such a thing has been done before, so does the Leader of the House agree that that would a good tactic to adopt?
Our practice on programming is to be flexible. It is sometimes in the interests of the House for time to be protected, but sometimes that would be an unnecessary constraint. As I made clear last week, in the run-up to the recess, there will inevitably be pressing reasons why the Government make additional announcements and statements, which will have an impact on business, but we will do everything we can to ensure that that does not frustrate us in conducting our business in good time.
May we have a debate or a statement from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport about the serious situation that has developed at Coventry football club? The Football League has said that the club can play in Northampton, which would involve people making a 70-mile round trip at great expense. The Football League should have allowed the dispute between the club and the owners of the Ricoh arena to be resolved before it took that disgraceful decision, so may we have a statement or a review of the regulations?
I know from previous questions, not least from my hon. Friend Mr Jones, that the situation greatly concerns people in Coventry South and neighbouring constituencies. I will raise it once again with my colleagues at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, but I suggest to Mr Cunningham that the matter is precisely the sort of thing that he might wish to raise during next Thursday’s pre-recess debate, should he manage to catch Mr Speaker’s eye.
While I do not share the Leader of the House’s view that Mrs Thatcher was a honky-tonk woman, does he share my view, and sense of surprise, that Sir Bill McKay’s report and recommendations found their way into the public prints this week, apparently before there had been any meaningful discussion in the coalition or across the Floor of the House? This is about proposals on English votes for English-only legislation and on dealing with English and Welsh legislation. Does he have any idea of how the situation came about, and will he tell us the current status of discussions in the coalition and across the Floor? Where does the issue go from here, because many of us who are involved in the Scottish referendum campaign feel that it is better to settle the future of the Union before we get on to deciding how to handle English and Scottish business in a continuing House of Commons?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, but I am slightly surprised by what he says. I saw the press report to which he refers but, as far as I am concerned, it did not represent an announcement of anything. Indeed, it did not bring Sir William McKay’s report into the public domain because I believe that it was published in March. As we have reported to the House before, we continue to discuss the report, which we welcome, and we will make a fuller response to it later in the year.
Last week, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions refused to accept that the reason 500,000 people in our country have to access emergency food aid is social security delays. When I tabled a parliamentary question on the matter, the reply told me that Lord Freud had not even visited a food bank. The Trussell Trust confirms today that the delays are the result of changes that have been made since April, so may we have an urgent debate attended by all Work and Pensions Ministers so that they can acknowledge that we have a problem in this country?
Like the hon. Lady, I heard my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State speaking about precisely that issue during Work and Pensions questions. The situation is not as simple as she characterises it. It is clear, as the Trussell Trust itself rightly says, that the availability of food banks has increased, and they have been advertised through job centres, which was not the case before the election. The number of people accessing food banks increased by many times before the election and it has increased since.
What I think has been a particularly pointed issue is whether benefit processing times and delays were themselves leading to people accessing food banks. I tell the hon. Lady that benefit processing times have improved over the past five years. The number of benefits processed on time—that is, within 16 days—is up 4% since 2009-10.
Following an unannounced inspection of Derriford hospital in Plymouth, the Care Quality Commission said yesterday that the hospital had failed to meet five of the nine nationally required standards in protecting patients undergoing surgery. Although I know that the chief executive of Derriford hospital is doing a very good job in trying to get this right, may we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Health on the progress being made to ensure that we are not producing any more “never events”?
My hon. Friend will be aware that the Health Secretary and his colleagues will answer questions on health matters next Tuesday. Having visited Derriford hospital, I know that it is a big hospital with a lot of dedicated staff who are trying to do an excellent job. When I was Health Secretary, we instituted professionally led, unannounced inspections by the CQC and it is important that they take place. They expose where standards are not what they ought to be and I know that the staff will try to respond.
As Health Secretary I extended the list of “never events” and introduced the open publication of the number and character of them by trust, so that we can see what is happening. I think that that transparency in itself will, as it does in so many other ways, help us drive down the number of such events in the future.
It sounds like there is scope for a debate, if in fact we have not already had it.
May we have a debate on the dangers and evils of imperialism and annexation of another country’s territory, whether it be Saddam Hussein in Kuwait or, at the other end of the spectrum, the Westminster Government who, as the front page of The Guardian reports, are bullying Scotland as part of “project fear”? Free peoples across the world will condemn that and stand with Scotland in the name of freedom.
Given that the hon. Gentleman’s question is occasioned by the front page of today’s Guardian, I hope he will be pleased to hear that the Government have not commissioned contingency plans for Faslane. Ideas of the kind described have not come to the Defence Secretary or the Prime Minister and they would not support them if they did.
The Leader of the House is well aware of the phenomenal success of the cancer drugs fund since it was introduced in 2010, but there is growing concern among charities, clinicians and patients about the lack of clarity about its replacement. In a well-attended meeting in March, the Secretary of State for Health said that he would make a statement about this before the summer recess. Will the Leader of the House update us on progress with regard to that statement?
I repeat that my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary will be here to answer questions next Tuesday. I know that my hon. Friend Mr Baron is assiduous in taking up these issues and I absolutely agree with him: the cancer drugs fund is tremendously important. It was always clear that it would enable us to meet the needs of patients in accessing new and innovative medicines and it has done so in about 27,000 cases, which is tremendous news. It is expected, however, that from January 2014 we will have a system that will enable patients right across the NHS to access the latest innovative medicines at a price that represents value for money for the NHS.
Yesterday the Committee on Climate Change published a report on adaption, which said that by the 2020s the gap between water demand and water supply could be 120 billion litres—the amount that our farmers extract each year. This is an incredible strain on our resources and farmers. May we have a debate on water extraction and the potential effect on the irrigation of crops?
I beg the hon. Gentleman’s pardon. He and others may wish to seek a debate through the Backbench Business Committee. He will be aware of the publication of the national adaptation programme and the importance attached to it in delivering our proactive response to the potential risks and consequences that flow from climate change.
The Leader of the House will be aware of the problems caused by Travellers’ occupying council or private land, as highlighted by a recent incident in my constituency. I recognise that the Government have made it easier for councils and landowners to take action, but recent incidents highlight that problems remain. Will he find time for a debate on this matter?
I am sure that many Members will understand and share the concerns expressed by my hon. Friend. He will know that we have taken many steps to ensure fair play in the planning system—I draw particular attention to the recent written ministerial statement on planning and revoking the equality and diversity in planning guidance—and to enable a sense of fairness across the community. That is not, in any sense, to underplay the needs of Traveller communities in the planning system, but to ensure that there is community cohesion because everyone is seen to be treated fairly.
Unfortunately, Durham and Tees Valley airport’s regional growth fund bid was rejected in the latest round, yet the Government saw fit to give £145 million to national programmes in which HSBC and RBS were winners. Like many others, I was under the impression that the regional growth fund was meant for the regions, so can we have a statement on why £145 million has been given to the banks, rather than this country’s regions?
I cannot comment on the particular reasons for a decision made under the regional growth fund, but today the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, my right hon. Friend Michael Fallon, will be announcing additional allocations of resources to support the regional growth fund, which has had a positive impact and played a significant part in the creation of 1.3 million new private sector jobs since the last election. I think perhaps the hon. Gentleman would be better off applauding that in the first instance.
In view of this week’s ludicrous decision by the European Court of Human Rights on whole life sentences, may we have an urgent debate on the effect of the Court’s decisions on the confidence of the British public in our legal system, particularly our criminal legal system?
I am sure that my hon. Friend knows that the Government are deeply disappointed by this week’s judgment. We believe that whole life tariffs are appropriate for exceptionally serious murders. The judgment does not mean, of course, that any offender who has received a whole life tariff will be released immediately or that they will ever necessarily be released. The Court found a breach because there was no review point in the sentence. The Government will consider the detail of the judgment to determine what action might be necessary or possible, and we will make a further statement in response to the concerns expressed by him and others soon.
“to ensuring enhanced Parliamentary scrutiny of EU justice and home affairs matters, including the 2014 decision.”
It came with a list of 136 opt-ins for justice and home affairs matters in the EU. Why, therefore, are the Government pressing ahead with a motion on Monday that only lists for consultation the 35 issues in the Command Paper? What happened to the promise that consultation would take place on all these items? Is it not time to abandon this divisive motion?
Perhaps I should reiterate what I said to the shadow Leader of the House. It is very straightforward: the Home Secretary has published in the Command Paper the Government’s conclusions on the opt-out—last October, she made it clear that the Government’s policy was to opt out and then decide whether, and to what extent, to opt back in—and policy conclusions. Monday’s debate will enable the House to respond to that and to vote in support of the opt-out, but to note that we are entering negotiations that will lead to a vote in 2014 on the extent of the opt-in.
For a decade or more, many parts of Wales have received European money at the highest intervention rate, with little obvious effect on the economy. In view of the UK Government’s generous settlement for Wales—again—and the latest round of EU funding, may we have a debate on the effectiveness of EU funding in helping the GDP of areas such as Wales and other parts of the United Kingdom?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. There were many happy consequences of the Prime Minister’s negotiating success in the budget negotiations. One was to reduce the overall size of the budget, and another was to give us the flexibility we are looking for, and focus on, improving our international competitiveness, and Wales will receive more than €2.145 billion in European funding from 2014 to 2020. We are focusing those funds on regions with lower GDP per capita, and using the full flexibility available. Among other things, that will provide west Wales and the valleys with an increase of €91 million compared with what the allocation would have been by applying the European Union formula alone.
When can we have a debate on the failure of the Government’s prohibition of mephedrone, which resulted in a 300% increase in its use? The likely effect of the ban on khat will be to drive a wedge between the Somali and Yemeni populations and the police, and also increase use. When can we have intelligent drug policies that decrease use and harm, instead of more populist, prejudice-based policies that increase harm and use?
I believe we have an intelligent policy that focuses not just on harm reduction but on trying to get people off drugs altogether. That is the proper answer and where we need to get to, not just the shift from heroin to methadone with some of the risks and consequences that flow from that, including the risk of reverting to heroin use. I cannot promise a debate, but the hon. Gentleman will have noticed that the Home Secretary and Home Office Ministers will be in the Chamber on Monday and he may like to raise that point with them.
Further to the point from my hon. Friend Mr Nuttall, is it time we had a debate and vote on whether we should withdraw from the European convention on human rights, following the latest bizarre, perverse, and frankly idiotic, ruling on whole life sentences? The British public do not want Ministers to say they are deeply disappointed; they want them to do something about it such as leave that ridiculous organisation that is full of pseudo-judges, many of whom are political placemen rather than properly qualified judges.
As my hon. Friend knows, we agreed in the coalition agreement that obligations under the European convention on human rights will continue to be enshrined in British law, and he will appreciate that we took considerable positive steps forward during our presidency of the Council of Europe and in the Brighton declaration, which will help. He and others across the House will continue to be concerned at the nature of decisions by the European Court of Human Rights and its interpretation of convention rights. There will be an opportunity to consider the implications of that on our future relationship with the convention, although I cannot promise that in the immediate future.
Order. I appeal to colleagues to put single, short, supplementary questions without preamble, and to the Leader of the House for comparable pithy replies, by which route we might be able to include everybody.
An innovative scheme to reduce fuel poverty in the borough of Stockton-on-Tees is being placed in jeopardy because of excessive but legal charges by BT to refix poles to the side of private houses once work is completed. That matter falls between the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills—
Order. I asked colleagues to put a simple question. Please do so.
Business, Innovation and Skills to back my call for an investigation into excessive charges made by BT for repairs following work for a fuel poverty scheme in Stockton-on-Tees?
Youth unemployment is down by 43,000 this quarter and 60,000 since last year, and I am pleased to hear what my hon. Friend says about additional youth employment in Croydon, which is important. I cannot promise a debate immediately, but the Opposition could always take up the issue in the Opposition day debate next Wednesday.
I know the Leader of the House will not want to upset millionaire moonlighters and parliamentary part-timers on the Government Benches, but I think being a Member of Parliament should be a full-time job. Given the brilliant speech made earlier this week by the Leader of the Opposition, may we have an urgent debate on how we can ensure that Members of Parliament spend their time in Parliament serving their constituents, not outside lining their pockets?
The hon. Gentleman might not have had a chance to read IPSA’s report this morning. Although it says that additional employment and outside earnings are not strictly in IPSA’s remit, it does offer views on the subject. One of the crucial things that IPSA says is that relatively few Members of this House have any significant earnings from outside and about only 10% have second jobs. He might remember that the Committee on Standards in Public Life looked at this issue and reached the conclusion that there was no reason to place any bar on outside employment for Members of this House.
Will the Leader of the House comment on the need for compassion to be shown by Somerset county council on the occasion of medical emergencies? My constituent John, who lives in Cheddar, had to empty his colostomy bag because it was leaking. He needed to fix the situation urgently, but he received a parking ticket while he was doing so. In spite of his many appeals to the county council, it has not budged and he is now threatened with forced collection.
I think the hon. Lady wants either a statement or a debate.
I can offer neither, but I know, as other Members will, that if the county council sees my hon. Friend’s reference to the issue in the House, it will, I hope, respond positively. Some councils do, and I hope hers might.
This week the International Monetary Fund upgraded its forecast for economic growth in the UK, at the same time as lowering the forecast for the rest of the world. May we have a debate about the UK economy, which is now moving out of intensive care, following the record bust created by the last Labour Government?
My hon. Friend is right. We do not know what the Opposition’s choice of debate for next Wednesday will be, but they might like to consider the opportunity to debate some of the economic good news. The deficit down by a third and we have close to record low interest rates and 1.3 million more people working in the private sector—these are the kinds of things that it would be good for us to focus on. Our success in winning in the global race depends on sustaining the policy path we are on now.
May we have a debate on Prime Minister’s questions? My 83-year-old mother Beryl loves it, and not just because she gets a chance to see me in the Chamber. As a member of the trade union that helped her when she was injured at work as a dinner lady lifting tables, she would understand the noise that was generated by the remarks of a Prime Minister trying to demonise trade unions, from a party that is funded by millionaires and spivs.
Why is that no surprise?
Youth unemployment has fallen by 8.3% in my constituency in the last year. However, I am not being complacent and my hon. Friend Dan Byles and I are running a jobs fair in my constituency on
It would be great if we could have that debate—perhaps the Opposition will take it up. My hon. Friend is to be congratulated on the work he is doing to support young people to get into jobs. Many of my hon. Friends are doing similar things, organising job fairs locally, and we can see the benefit. We can see new jobs being created and young people going into those jobs. It is right not to be complacent; therefore local action is absolutely the right thing to do.
Why are the Government insisting on Monday on a vote on both the hokey and the cokey? We will have to vote on the opt-out and the opt-in, when there is no requirement to start the negotiations for a vote on the opt-out. The Select Committees will have had no opportunity to look at the evidence on the individual measures, nor will there be any guarantees that we will be able to do simultaneous opting out and opting in.
I have explained to the hon. Gentleman and the House that the vote on Monday will enable the House to take a view in response to the Government’s publication of the Command Paper, at a point when my right hon. Friends are conducting a negotiation. That will strengthen their hand in negotiation. We have been clear about the opt-out. Support for the opt-out is the essence of the debate on Monday. The extent of the opt-in will be the subject of a further vote in 2014.
May we have a debate on how Jobcentre Plus can advertise more jobs locally, for instance in industries such as fruit and vegetable growing and packing, so that local people seeking work are made aware of them?
That is an important point. In fact, I will raise it with my friends in the Department for Work and Pensions and ask them to respond. In many constituencies Jobcentre Plus does a very good job, but we should be tireless in trying to ensure that we match people out of work to the unprecedentedly high number—more than 500,000—of vacancies. It would be really good news if we did that.
I repeat to the hon. Gentleman and the House that just four years ago—not a long time ago—this House passed legislation to create an independent body. Many of the problems emerging from this issue stem from the simple fact that Members are not willing to let go. We no longer have a say on our pay and pensions. We can express our view, but we do not determine them. It would be immensely to the benefit of the House and the public debate if that were recognised by the public and the press. We do not have a say: IPSA has the say. Go and express views to them. We will do so on a personal and party basis.
Unemployment in Tamworth is now at its lowest level since 2008—before Labour’s crash. That has been driven partly by the distribution and logistics sectors. May we have a debate on those sectors so we can explore the job opportunities they provide, particularly to young people?
My hon. Friend understands well from the geography of his constituency—it is in a central position—how distribution and logistics work. We have competitive sectors, but we are in a global race and constantly have to improve our competitiveness. That is why the fact that this country has moved up in the competitiveness league tables is great. What is equally great news is that the UK was regarded in a recent survey as the best place in the world in which to do business.
When the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate visited my constituency recently it found more than 70 separate breaches of the law governing how people are paid, and £100,000 owing to local workers through underpayments. The Government’s consultation on the recruitment sector closed on
I fear I cannot offer an immediate debate; I do not have one immediately in prospect. The hon. Gentleman and colleagues with like interests may care to raise the issue with the Backbench Business Committee, but I will of course raise his point with my colleagues at the Department for Work and Pensions.
Residents in my constituency are becoming increasingly concerned about the local plan being developed by Warwick district council. They feel that their voice is not being respected and I believe that the council needs to rethink its ill-conceived proposals. Will the Leader of the House agree to a debate on planning policy and on how we can give greater democratic control of the planning system to communities?
My hon. Friend makes a specific point relating to his constituency and his local council. I hope his local council will listen to what he says. The Localism Act 2011 sets out to give power to local authorities and neighbourhood plans, and tries to ensure that they take account fully not only of the simplified national planning policy framework, but do so in the context of local decision making by local people. He is right to stress that point.
The independent living fund has transformed the lives of severely disabled people. May we have a debate on the likely impact of the decision to transfer the fund to local authorities? Severely disabled people are greatly concerned about the likelihood of losing their independence.
I will of course talk to my hon. Friends in the Department for Work and Pensions; it seems that I shall need to do that quite a lot today. The hon. Gentleman is describing the transfer of those funds into the hands of local authorities. Those local authorities will have the ability to look at a range of benefits and assess how they will work in the context of the link to people’s own housing responsibilities, and I know that that is proving to be a positive way of enabling people to manage to a budget more effectively. In so many of these circumstances, however, the ability to have discretion at the margin to deal with difficult cases is something that every council will have to look at carefully.
In recent days, two companies in Montgomeryshire—Control Techniques and Invertek Drives—have announced 90 new local high-tech jobs. Will my right hon. Friend ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to make a statement on how we can work with the Welsh Government to build on this success as the UK moves out of recession?
My hon. Friend is a great cheerleader for mid-Wales, and he is absolutely right to suggest that there are some great businesses helping the UK to compete in the global race by investing and expanding their operations. I will draw his comments to the attention of the Secretary of State, but if he is in his place next Thursday when the Secretary of State is responding to questions, he might have a further opportunity to raise the matter then.
The Leader of the House will have noted that IPSA is back in the news. May we have a statement on what IPSA is going to do to improve its cumbersome IT systems, which waste an awful lot of MPs’ staff time, and to address the fact that the organisation remains incommunicado for large parts of the day?
I will not promise a statement at the moment but, if I may, I will draw the hon. Gentleman’s point to the attention of my colleagues on the Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. I know that the Committee has raised a number of issues with IPSA as a consequence of its examination of the organisation’s estimate. We will take the hon. Gentleman’s point on board when we further consider some of these IPSA issues.
In recent months, my visually impaired constituent, Doug Hollingsworth, has been having great difficulty in accessing audio correspondence from the Department for Work and Pensions. May we have a debate on how people with visual impairments can gain better access to that Department?
I am sure that the House will be sorry to hear of the difficulties that my hon. Friend’s constituent is experiencing. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing them to our attention. I will raise the matter with the Department for Work and Pensions, which I know has the facility to offer a range of formats, provided as “reasonable adjustments”, for visually impaired or blind people, including materials in audio format, large print or Braille. I shall bring the case to the Department’s attention, so that it can look into whether it is making the necessary adjustments.
Has my right hon. Friend seen my early-day motion 389, which deals with the sudden closure of the Maypole club in Harlow?
[That this House is shocked and saddened at the closure of the Maypole Club in Harlow; notes the vital contribution that the club made to the community of
Harlow; further notes that many Harlow residents had special occasions booked at the club, and football teams will no longer be able to use their pitches with immediate effect; believes the staff and managers of the club should have received notice before it closed; and therefore urges the new owners to provide an alternative clubhouse and alternative pitches to local football teams.
On Tuesday, I was shocked to hear that, after an overnight sale of its lease, the Maypole club, which makes a huge contribution to our local community, had been boarded up. No notice was given to management, staff, members or the many sports teams that use its facilities. May we have an urgent debate on small community clubs, and will my right hon. Friend contact the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and ask him to look into this matter?
I will draw my hon. Friend’s early-day motion to the attention of the Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friend Hugh Robertson. I know that the people in the constituency of my hon. Friend Robert Halfon will be grateful to him once again for raising their concerns about community services.
When will the Bill to ensure that foreign nationals will be charged for using the NHS come before the House? Will it address the concerns of the constituent who wrote to me this week to say:
“As an NHS nurse of 33 years…I find I am providing care for elderly patients with chronic health needs who have never lived in the UK at any point of their life, who have come to live with their family members who have recently settled in the UK…most recently from Bulgaria, Greece and Slovakia”?
My hon. Friend will recall that, the week before last, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health published a consultation relating to access to NHS services for those coming from abroad. That consultation will enable us to introduce the legislation described in the Queen’s Speech later this year. On my hon. Friend’s point about his constituent, any NHS services provided to older and retired people from other European Union member states can be charged back to the member state, and that is what we do.
Order. Points of order come after statements. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that, and that it had just momentarily slipped his mind. I feel sure that we will see him later today, and perhaps hear from him as well.