I thought I had answered the point on the Immigration Bill. We have a running commentary from the silent one. Sometimes on days when we have remaining stages we lose time as a consequence of urgent questions or statements, but we will endeavour to do whatever we can to avoid any additional statements beyond the business question next Thursday. Of course, there will be opportunity through the usual channels to discuss the timing of debates. As the Opposition will know, we always attempt to ensure that subjects can be debated properly.
I told the shadow Leader of the House last week that last year I announced the date of the Queen’s Speech on
The shadow Leader of the House will understand that I will not comment on her points about the Liberal Democrats. I do not know whether she was commending Thomas Cromwell. Having read “Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up the Bodies”, we have not reached the point yet at which Thomas Cromwell became the Lord Privy Seal and, speaking as the Lord Privy Seal, I am quite looking forward to that moment for a little potential guidance. It might give me some forewarning of the point at which I might be the subject of what we might term my own Henry VIII clause.
The shadow Leader of the House did not tell us anything much about the recent good news. She might have asked me for a debate on some of the forecasting issues. It is quite interesting. We have heard the IMF forecast that Britain will be the fastest- growing major European economy this year. The OECD forecasts likewise. Business confidence, according to a Lloyds TSB survey this month, has reached its strongest level since January 1994. British Chambers of Commerce referred to manufacturing confidence and intentions being at their highest for several years. This week we had the unemployment data: unemployment is down to 7.1%, down 0.8 points since the election. The employment level is above 30 million. It would have been interesting for the shadow Leader of the House at least to have suggested a debate about forecasting since it contrasts with the forecast of the Leader of the Opposition that our economic plan would lead to the disappearance of a million jobs. On the contrary, we can see that it has led to the success of our economic plan and of enterprise in this country.
The shadow Leader of the House asked about crime stats and NHS waiting data. The crime stats this morning show that crime levels are down to the lowest level for 32 years. The shadow Leader knows perfectly well that in addition to those crime statistics, the British crime survey shows a similar substantial reduction in crime, which shows that our police reforms are working and crime is falling. As for NHS waiting times, she will recall that at the time of the last election 18,458 people had waited over a year for their treatment. Now that number has come down to 218. We have dealt with the people who are waiting the longest. We have reduced by 35,000 the number waiting beyond 18 weeks, and the average time that people wait is still low and stable.