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Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 10:31 am on 20th November 2014.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

The business for next week is as follows:

Monday 24 November—Remaining stages of the Recall of MPs Bill.

Tuesday 25 November—Remaining stages of the Pension Schemes Bill, followed by a motion to approve resolutions relating to the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Bill, the Local Government (Review of Decisions) Bill, the Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Bill and the Control of Horses Bill.

Wednesday 26 NovemberOpposition day (10th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject to be announced, followed by a motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to terrorism.

Thursday 27 November—Debate on a motion relating to inequality, followed by a general debate on progress of the historic child sex abuse inquiry. The subjects for both debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 28 November—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 1 December will include:

Monday 1 December—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.

I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 27 November and 4 December will be:

Thursday 27 November—Debate on the second report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee on food security, followed by a debate on the 11th report from the Environmental Audit Committee on plastic bags.

Thursday 4 December—General debate on small business Saturday.

It may assist the House to be made aware that the calendar confirming the dates agreed by this House until the dissolution of Parliament next year is now available from the Vote Office.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business. A week on Monday we will debate the Government’s defeats on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill on their plans to curtail severely the use of judicial review. With their cuts to legal aid and their gag on charities and campaigners, is it not now obvious that this Government started off promising a big society but have ended up stifling civil society? Does the Leader of the House plan to allow the modest amendments from the other place to remain in the Bill?

I am getting a bit worried about the Tory Chief Whip. The first thing he did when he got his job was get stuck in the toilet, and I am afraid to say it has all gone down the pan since then. He has misplaced two MPs, he keeps losing votes, and this week he presided over the first-ever Commons defeat for this Government on their own legislation. This was the fourth time that the House has voted to introduce a statutory code to end unfair beer ties. The Leader of the House has some relationship with beer and he used to tell us about it a lot, so will he confirm that he will now finally accept the clearly expressed will of the House and not try to reverse this decision? Is it not obvious now that the Chief Whip cannot even organise a vote in a brewery?

Light was shed yesterday on the Tory Chief Whip’s mysterious absence from this place every Thursday morning. I note that once again he is not here. Apparently he has written to Tory MPs to tell them that this Government are so out of ideas that they are no longer required to be in Parliament on a Thursday. I am glad to see that so many are disobeying him, but 40 years ago a previous Tory Government introduced the three-day week. Only this nostalgia-obsessed former Education Secretary could possibly think of bringing it back. Will the Leader of the House tell us whether we can now expect to be holding our debates by candlelight? Does he support the reintroduction of the three-day week? It seems that this zombie Government are grinding to a halt. Their legislative programme is threadbare, the House sits for less and less time, they have lost and then ignored a record number of votes, and now the Chief Whip has told Tory MPs that they do not need to show up at all.

Is it not the case that the Government treat this place with contempt? Just look at what happened with the European arrest warrant. The Prime Minister stood at the Dispatch Box and promised the House that we would have a vote on the European arrest warrant before today. The Government botched the drafting so badly that the regulation was rejected by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. They brought a motion to the House which masqueraded as a vote on the European arrest warrant when it was no such thing. This caused outrage on all sides. The Home Secretary was left filibustering while frantic junior Whips rang round Government Back Benchers to bring them back from their lobster dinners, and although the Prime Minister and the Lord Chancellor were forced to rush back from their white tie banquet with their City friends, the Chief Whip was nowhere to be seen.

The following day’s newspapers were full of a vicious blame game between the Home Office and the Tory Whips, and later in the week we learned that the unelected Chamber was going to be granted a say on the European arrest warrant when the Commons had been denied one. It took yesterday’s Labour Opposition day to give this House the debate on the European arrest warrant which the Prime Minister promised us four weeks ago. After witnessing this farce, I have a suggestion for the Leader of the House. He likes outsourcing, so why does he not just give up and let the Opposition handle the rest of the legislative programme in this Parliament? There is no question but that we would make a better job of it.

There are only two other men in the Government who came close to the Chief Whip for having a bad week. One was the Prime Minister, who has been savaged by Dominic Cummings for having “no political priorities whatsoever” and being unable to

“manage his way out of a paper bag”.

Cummings revealed a real truth when he went on to say:

“There is no long-term priority. There is no long-term plan.”

And what about the Chancellor? This week we learned from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury that they have gone from drinking whisky together in those early heady days to the Chancellor putting a padlock on the Treasury fridge filled with treats and milk. What would Mrs Thatcher say if she knew that it was the Liberal Democrats who are now the milk-snatchers?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

She would have believed anything about Liberal Democrats. Unlike me—I am very fond of my Liberal Democrat colleagues.

The hon. Lady asked about judicial review. As we come to the debate on Lords amendments a week on Monday, the Government will set out what we propose to do about the amendments in the other House. On the question of civic society and volunteering, the hon. Lady ought to have mentioned that the number of people now volunteering in the big society in this country has gone up to 74%, from 66% five years ago. That is the change that has taken place over the past few years.

On the vote on pubs—and I yield to no one in my expertise on pubs in Yorkshire in particular—the Business Secretary set out the position just a few moments ago at Business questions, because he congratulated Greg Mulholland and told him he had won, and that can be taken as an official statement of Government policy. Let us hope that some of the feared consequences of that do not come to pass, but we will see.

The hon. Lady asked whether we were now on a three-day week. I have to tell her that if we sit the days that are indicated on the calendar now in the Vote Office, this Parliament will have sat for more days than any of the three Parliaments of the last Government, so we need no lectures on that. On the question of turning up, she asked about the issues of judicial review in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, and I seem to remember that when that was first debated in this House only three Opposition Members took part, and one of those was a Whip who was sent to the Back Benches in order to speak. So we also do not need any lectures about turning up.

On the votes on the European arrest warrant, the result of this week’s vote was remarkably similar to the result of the vote on Monday last week, because the House was voting on essentially the same issue. But it is quite right that the Opposition provided time, because it was their motion to move the previous question that denied the House the opportunity to have a debate a week last Monday. Either way, that has now been resolved.

The hon. Lady said that the Prime Minister had been savaged. It is not a very good week for Opposition Members to talk about leaders of parties being savaged after what happened to the Leader of the Opposition the other night. This is a week where the Prime Minister stood up to President Putin and the Leader of the Opposition could not stand up to the other guests on an evening television show. If we are going to trade comments about leadership styles and behaviour, barely a day goes by without, in this case, a senior Labour MP stating that

“this is not one or two backbenchers—there’s an angst across the Labour party. We are desperate.”

Another senior figure is quoted as saying that

“there are two deficits—the deficit he ignores and the deficit of economic competence.”

That is very true.

Once again, the real gap in the demand for debates from the Opposition is on economic questions. Since our last business questions, newly published figures have shown more people in work than ever before in the history of the country, youth unemployment at its lowest since the 1970s, redundancies at a record low, the UK new car market enjoying its longest period of continuous growth, and the difference—I am surprised the hon. Lady did not raise this—between the average earnings of men and women in the UK narrowing to its smallest gap since records began in 1997. When the gender pay gap widens she wants to ask about it, but when it narrows there is not a mention of it from the Opposition, and that is the result of a long-term economic plan that we will continue to pursue.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee

The European Scrutiny Committee is concerned about the lack of progress in scheduling its recommended debates, one of which relates to the European police college, on which my Committee reports this morning. The Government have failed to schedule a debate on whether to opt in to the measure, despite that being recommended by my Committee at the beginning of September, and the opt-in deadline is next Monday. Will the Leader of the House now take urgent steps to live up to the Government’s rhetoric on the role of national Parliaments and schedule all the debates that we have recommended on such matters as free movement of EU citizens, the ports, and, most importantly and urgently, the European police college?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

Given the number of days between now and the end of this Parliament, and certainly between now and the end of the year, I cannot promise that all these matters will be discussed, but my hon. Friend makes important representations about them, and I will take a look at what can be done.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Labour, Manchester, Gorton

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen early-day motion 499, in my name, regarding Manchester primary care trust?

[That this House condemns Manchester Primary Care Trust for failing over a period of months to reply to correspondence from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton concerning complaints from a constituent with regard to appalling service from his general practitioner; regards it as disgraceful that a publicly-funded organisation should be so slack and negligent; and asks the Secretary of State for Health to investigate and, if appropriate, bring about the dismissal of those responsible.]

My early-day motion sets out the trust’s negligence in totally and utterly failing to respond to repeated letters from me over a period of months on behalf of a constituent who has serious grievances. Will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for Health to look into the situation and, if need be, bring about the dismissal of the officials concerned, who, whatever they are paid, are overpaid?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

The right hon. Gentleman feels strongly about this, as any of us would in this House about our letters not being replied to. It is very important that public authorities reply to letters from Members of Parliament in a thorough and efficient way. He will have a further opportunity to raise this point, if he wishes, because there are questions to the Secretary of State for Health next Tuesday. He may be able to catch your eye again then, Mr Speaker.

Photo of George Young George Young Conservative, North West Hampshire

Later today, the House will debate devolution and the Union. The debate takes place before the report of the Smith commission is published, and before the Cabinet Sub-Committee on English votes for English laws, which my right hon. Friend chairs, has completed its work. Does he agree that we really need a debate once we have both those documents, and will he use his best endeavours to secure one?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

Yes, I do agree with that, absolutely. There is no harm in having debates on the subject even at this stage, and I welcome the Back-Bench business debate on devolution and the Union that will take place later today. However, my right hon. Friend is absolutely right: it will be necessary for us to have further debates. The Smith commission is committed to reporting before the end of this month, the work of our Cabinet Committee continues, and the arguments on these issues develop, so I am sure that the House will need a major debate on them within the next couple of months.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Culture and Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution)

The motion for the debate to which the right hon. Gentleman refers was signed by 80 of his Back-Bench colleagues. Among other things, it calls for a review of the Barnett formula. He, I and everyone else know that the Prime Minister is a signatory to a vow—a solemn promise and guarantee to the Scottish people—that includes a reference to the Barnett formula being maintained. Can we expect the Government to join the Scottish National party in voting down the motion today, and if not, why not?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

The Government’s position is already very clear and will not change, although it may serve the interests of the Scottish National party to keep pretending that it will change. This is a very clear commitment indeed from all three leaders of the main pro-UK political parties. Our position on this is absolutely clear, and I will restate it in the debate this afternoon. The Prime Minister is before the Liaison Committee at this moment, and if he is asked about this, he will restate the position, too, so there is no doubt about it, and the Scottish nationalists should stop pretending that there is.

Photo of Tessa Munt Tessa Munt Liberal Democrat, Wells

A road sign at Tarnock on the main A38, which marks a junction leading to the village of Mark, fell apart some two years ago, and is still lying by the roadside, completely obscured by undergrowth. May we have a debate on why Somerset county council’s highways department feels that it has to consult 14 different statutory authorities and wait nearly two years for their responses before it can fix a road sign? Does the Leader of the House agree with me that it sounds completely barmy?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

It does sound fairly barmy, if they have to consult so many people, but my hon. Friend has used this opportunity to raise the issue in the House. I doubt that we will have a debate in the House on the decisions of Somerset county council, but she is obviously pursuing the matter energetically, and is no doubt encouraging the council to debate the issue itself.

Photo of Liz McInnes Liz McInnes Labour, Heywood and Middleton

In Heywood, 123 people are employed by Capita to handle the distribution and filing of Department for Work and Pensions claimants’ files. Capita has refused to pay those staff a living wage, and even pointed to other examples of employers in the area that pay poverty wages to justify that decision. May we have a statement, or even a debate, on the Government’s attitude to the payment of the living wage to those working in outsourced services?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

Debates on subjects such as the living wage can be held, and the Backbench Business Committee listens carefully to requests for such debates. In addition, the hon. Lady can pursue the matter directly with Work and Pensions Ministers; they do not have questions next week, but she can raise the matter in correspondence and in the House.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

Yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister confirmed that he was in favour of money resolutions for two private Members’ Bills that have had a Second Reading in this House. Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Leader of the House to make an urgent statement next week on how it can be that money resolutions have not been brought forward, even though the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister want them to be? The Executive appears to be blocking the will of Parliament. Can we have the money resolutions urgently?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I can assure my hon. Friend, although this will disappoint him, that there has not been agreement in the Government on those money resolutions, as I explained to the House a few weeks ago. Otherwise, they would have been moved. There has not been agreement in the Government on money resolutions on the Affordable Homes Bill or the European Union (Referendum) Bill, and that remains the position.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour, Huddersfield

As a fellow Yorkshire MP, would the Leader of the House be interested in having an early debate on health trusts in Yorkshire? As he may know, the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust has been one of the most successful for many years, but it has now been plunged into real difficulties as a result of the reforms that his Government have introduced, and the capricious behaviour of clinical commissioning groups means that we are facing ruin in a health area that has been so good at providing excellent health care for so many years.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

The House regularly debates health matters, when issues from across the country can be raised. As I mentioned earlier, we have questions to the Secretary of State for Health next Tuesday, when there will be an opportunity to raise such issues, but I think that it has to be borne in mind that under this Government we have seen the number of nurses go up by 2,500 and the number of doctors go up by almost 8,000, so very important improvements are taking place in our health service.

Photo of Alan Reid Alan Reid Liberal Democrat, Argyll and Bute

The Post Office card account contract between the Department for Work and Pensions and Post Office expires at the end of next March. It was used to pay out pensions and benefits. I hope the card account will be replaced by a Post Office product that has more facilities, but time is clearly running out. May we have an urgent statement from the DWP regarding its intentions for the contract?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

No decision has yet been made on the future of the Post Office card account contract, but discussions are taking place between DWP, Post Office Ltd and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, considering the future needs of customers beyond 2015. Further announcements will be made once a decision has been reached.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn Labour, Newport West

Paddy AshdownLord Ashdown—has said that the Afghan war rewrote the text book on how not to conduct a war. As there is a possibility that we might send troops into battle again in future, is it not right that we decide whether it is the Prime Minister who is correct in saying that the Afghan war is “mission accomplished”, or others who say that it was a series of blunders? When are we having the debate and the inquiry?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

There is a great deal of continuing work to do in Afghanistan. The Prime Minister has not said that it is “mission accomplished” in the sense of everything being perfect in Afghanistan—he has absolutely not argued that. He has of course thanked the troops for the excellent work they have done and for the many things that have been achieved, particularly in southern Afghanistan. I hope that there will be further opportunities for the House to discuss these matters, for example during Defence questions next Monday. I know that the Defence Secretary will want to address these issues. We have been waiting a long time for the report of the Chilcot inquiry on Iraq. Of course, we have to learn from all the conflicts we have been engaged in.

Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Conservative, Tiverton and Honiton

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on oil prices? Crude oil prices have dropped by 30%, but the price of heating oil has not come down by the same degree, and neither has the price of diesel or petrol. Many of my constituents live in hard-to-heat houses and have oil-fired heating, and we really need to get them the benefit of lower prices on oil.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

It is very important that price reductions are passed on to consumers. My hon. Friend is right—there has been a dramatic drop in the price of crude oil. The Government have already made representations to ensure, for example, that price reductions in petrol occur at filling stations. It is also important that oil for domestic heating purposes is reduced in price. I will remind my colleagues in the Treasury of the point that he has made.

Photo of Simon Danczuk Simon Danczuk Labour, Rochdale

A disproportionate number of people claiming asylum are being placed in Rochdale, not least from some London boroughs. Public services have been cut dramatically, and Rochdale’s council tax payers are unhappy with this burden. Will the Government make a statement on the issue or even provide a debate on it?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I can understand why the hon. Gentleman raises that point. There is no immediate debate to be had, but it is the type of subject on which he can apply for an Adjournment debate or put to the Backbench Business Committee. He can also raise the issue directly with Home Office Ministers, and I will certainly alert them to the fact that he is concerned about it.

Photo of Pauline Latham Pauline Latham Conservative, Mid Derbyshire

Labour-run Derby city council is using a message on its answerphone to smear the Government for the necessary savings that we have had to impose on council services. When people phone up, it says, “Sorry we can’t get to the phone—it’s the Government-imposed cuts.” Like my right hon. Friend, I am sure, I am appalled at this politicisation of a public service. May we have a debate on council funding and how it is used for party political purposes?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend makes a good point. Councils ought to be able to answer the telephone to the people who live within their district or county. Perhaps her council should have an answerphone message referring to the £5 billion that the Government have supplied for council tax freezes for five successive years in order to keep down council tax, which doubled under the previous Government. That would be a good message to send out to the whole country.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Education)

It is becoming increasingly clear that we need a debate on the role of the Chief Whip, because he is clearly not up to the job. Surely a better job for him would be Lord Privy Seal, not just because his first act as Chief Whip was to be sealed in the privy, but because it is the fifth highest order of job in the state and yet has absolutely no functions whatsoever attached to it.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I can see that Labour Members have a thing about the Chief Whip—I do not know whether it is an obsession, paranoia, stalking, or what it is. My right hon. Friend will be fascinated to hear these references to him. I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that we already have a very capable Lord Privy Seal in my right hon. and noble Friend—

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

No, it does not say it here; I am saying this off the top of my head. I do not have to have everything written down, I can tell the hon. Gentleman. The Lord Privy Seal is my right hon. and noble Friend Baroness Stowell of Beeston, the Leader of the House of Lords. There are a few functions attached to the job of Lord Privy Seal, and she discharges them with great distinction.

Photo of Chris White Chris White Conservative, Warwick and Leamington

Warwickshire college is one of the many excellent further education institutions in this country. More than 16,000 students are able to study more than 1,000 courses at six different centres, and in excess of 1,200 apprentices are trained there every year. May we have a debate on the important contribution that further education colleges make to the wider economy?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

That would be a good subject for a general debate, and my hon. Friend might wish to put it to the Backbench Business Committee. Such a debate would highlight the many excellent further education institutions and new initiatives in this country and the huge expansion of the number of apprentices that has taken place under this Government, with 1.8 million apprenticeships started over the past four years, and help the House to reflect on the important contribution that further education colleges make to our economy.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

As a fellow Yorkshire MP, the Leader of the House will be aware that a year ago today Hull was announced as the city of culture for 2017. May we now please have a debate about whether there is enough urgency and joined-up thinking across Whitehall to ensure that this national status for Hull is used as an opportunity to get national arts, cultural and sports events to Hull, redress the unfair funding balance between the north and the south and, most importantly, ensure that Hull gets our privately financed rail electrification scheme by 2017?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

It is very important that we all join, as I know everyone in Hull will want to do, in making that a success. The hon. Lady has raised several issues, and has therefore brought them to the attention of the House. Culture, Media and Sport questions on Thursday, a week today, would be another good opportunity to raise these matters. I am not sure that it is necessary to have a national debate, but it is important for the Government and local authorities to work well together on the status, and her point will be taken.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

Will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for Education to make a statement at the earliest opportunity on Ofsted and its ways of marking schools? Middle Rasen primary school was adjudged not to be outstanding, and the reason that Ofsted gave in its report was:

“Pupils’ cultural development is limited by a lack of first-hand experience of the diverse make up of modern British society.”

Is that now how the Government think schools should be judged on whether they are good or outstanding? Will the Secretary of State come to the House and explain herself?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I am sure that my hon. Friend is able to pursue his concerns directly with the Secretary of State for Education. She will be at the Dispatch Box to answer questions on Monday 1 December, at the beginning of the week after next, and he may wish to seek to raise his concerns then, as well as in correspondence with her.

Photo of Julie Hilling Julie Hilling Opposition Whip (Commons)

An increasing number of constituents are contacting me with concerns about how they have been treated after becoming victims of internet crime. With internet fraud taking over as the crime of choice, fraud not appearing as a crime statistic, and a lack of information about prosecutions and the effectiveness of Action Fraud, may we have a debate on internet fraud and the performance of investigators and prosecutors?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady raises an important issue. The development of the internet is bringing immense social and economic benefits, but it is also bringing dangers and more crime is moving on to the web. As a result, people need to know how to deal with such crime. That would be quite a good subject for a debate, but I encourage her to put it forward to the Backbench Business Committee or for an Adjournment debate. I cannot offer her Government time, since a lot of our time has been given to the Backbench Business Committee for such subjects, but I encourage her to put it forward.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Conservative, Harlow

May we have a statement on planning laws and protecting the rights of villagers? Many villagers in Nazeing in my constituency are concerned about a development of 45 houses on green-belt land, and have been urging the local authority to listen to them. Does my right hon. Friend agree that villagers’ rights should be protected, and will he write to the planning Minister about this case?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

It is very important to protect the green belt from development, and I will of course tell Ministers in the Department for Communities and Local Government about my hon. Friend’s question. The Government have already taken much action to protect villages in the situation that he describes, including by abolishing the previous Government’s top-down regional strategies, selling surplus brownfield land for redevelopment and introducing more flexible planning rights so that empty and underused buildings can be brought back into productive use. We have done a lot on this, but I will of course refer what he says to the relevant Ministers.

Photo of Ian Lavery Ian Lavery Labour, Wansbeck

On 9 October 2013, six former British soldiers were arrested in an anti-piracy security vessel off the coast of India. Despite the fact that all charges have been dropped, the six former soldiers are still being detained in India. They include Nick Dunn from my constituency, who has just been badly assaulted by the Indian police. I am sure that the Leader of the House understands this case quite clearly. May we have an urgent debate on getting the soldiers back to this country so that they do not spend a second Christmas away from their families?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Gentleman has been assiduous in pursuing this case, and I fully sympathise with what he is saying because one of my constituents is one of the six. I raised the matter as Foreign Secretary with the Indian Government, as did the Deputy Prime Minister on his recent visit to India at the end of August. Our high commission in India continues to work hard on the matter, and the British Government are doing everything they can to help in what seems to be a lengthy, legal process. We will continue to do that, and I will ask Foreign Office Ministers to keep the hon. Gentleman informed.

Photo of Greg Mulholland Greg Mulholland Liberal Democrat, Leeds North West

I am delighted to hear about my right hon. Friend’s passion for pubs. As he knows, I share that passion, including for pubs in Osmotherley, Northallerton and Stokesley in his constituency. Perhaps we might meet for that pint—for example in the Oddfellows Arms, a former Enterprise Inns pub that is now thriving under local ownership. I thank him for confirming that the Government will accept new clause 2 to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill. May I ask for an urgent debate on the scandal of permitted development rights that continue to allow pubs, including the Kings Head hotel in Bedale, to be turned into Tesco without local people having a say? This will be the most pro-pub Government ever if we change that as well. Can we please do it in the last few months of this Government, and may we have a statement?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I am delighted for the hon. Gentleman to advertise pubs in my constituency, as well as elsewhere, but I will resist the temptation to advertise individual pubs, because as the local Member of Parliament I might get into a lot of trouble with the other pubs. I am aware of the situation in Bedale that he describes, and it is a legitimate subject for debate. Following his success this week, the hon. Gentleman might want to suggest it to the Backbench Business Committee.

Photo of Ian Murray Ian Murray Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting James Gillespie’s high school to speak to modern studies students about Parliament and democracy, and they wanted me to raise with the Leader of the House the issues of votes for 16 and 17-year-olds. During our discussions I was made aware of one student, Sakina Abbas, whose grandfather is Mohammed Asghar, the British national who has been jailed in Pakistan under blasphemy laws, despite being diagnosed with significant mental illness. May we have an urgent statement or debate on how we can get British nationals who have been diagnosed with health concerns back to this country so that they can be treated with their loving families?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

Those are both important issues, and Ministers have raised with the Pakistani Government the way that blasphemy laws in Pakistan are interpreted. The high commission in Islamabad takes up individual cases. I am sure it is aware—I will check that it is—of this case, and will continue to pursue it.

I remind the House that last Friday in this Chamber the UK Youth Parliament took place, consisting largely of 16 and 17-year-olds. It was a tremendously positive example of the engagement and good sense of young people in the affairs of our country.

Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Conservative, The Wrekin

May we have a debate on the Syrian refugee crisis? Last January the Government announced the vulnerable persons relocation scheme. They said that they would allow refuge for 500 refugees from Syria, but to date there have been fewer than 100. Given that there are many orphans, maimed children and widows as a result of that conflict, will the Government do far more, more urgently, to provide a safe refuge for some of those most vulnerable people?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

The vulnerable persons relocation scheme is working, and between March and June 50 people were relocated to the UK. Syrians continue to be brought to the UK on a regular basis under the scheme. As my hon. Friend understands well, our prime focus in Syria is on helping people in the region. The United Kingdom has committed £700 million in total, and we are the second largest bilateral donor in the world to give help to Syrian refugees. The commitment and generosity of this country to those displaced by the fighting in Syria is not in doubt.

Photo of Madeleine Moon Madeleine Moon Labour, Bridgend

At a meeting at the Department of Health this week, kidney charities were stunned to be told that Ministers had decided that kidney dialysis was no longer to be a prescribed service, and that a period of consultation of six weeks would be held by the Department after which a Bill would be introduced in February and changes to clinical commissioning group commissioning would commence on 1 April. May we have an oral statement from a Minister from the Department of Health, so they can hear from Members of all parties what a dangerous decision that would be and how kidney patients would be placed at risk by that decision?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I do not think there is any immediate need for a statement, because there will be Health questions in a few days, which will include Topical questions. The Secretary of State for Health and the ministerial team will be here on Tuesday to answer questions, so there is an early opportunity for the hon. Lady to pursue this issue.

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

The Crawley Town Community Sports Foundation and Autism Sussex are finalists in the south-east People’s Millions for a project called Capers, which helps to encourage young people with autism to get involved in football. Voting takes place next Wednesday. As well as wishing the project well, may we have a debate on local community involvement in such volunteering projects which, as my right hon. Friend mentioned earlier, has increased in recent years?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I hope that at some stage we can have a debate on how to encourage further volunteering. My hon. Friend speaks up very well, as always, for his constituents and for that project helping with autism in his constituency. There is, as he says and as I said earlier, a very clear rise in the number of people volunteering and trying to make a difference in so many ways. I am pleased that he is encouraging that too.

Photo of Ian Austin Ian Austin Labour, Dudley North

Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Home Secretary to come to the House and make an urgent statement on the extent to which police stations should be open to the public? Despite the Prime Minister promising that there would be no cuts to front-line services, spending cuts are forcing West Midlands police to close to the public police stations right across the west midlands, including in my constituency. Dudley would be the biggest town in the country with no open police station. My constituents are furious about that, because they want to be able to speak to police officers face to face.

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

People want to be able to speak to police officers, and the latest prediction is that the proportion of police officers working in operational front-line roles will increase from 89% at the beginning of this Parliament to 92% by early next year. Victim satisfaction with their experience with the police has also gone up, from 82% to 85%. The number of neighbourhood police officers is up by nearly 6,000 under the current Government. These are all important improvements. Of course, when the Home Secretary is here answering questions, the hon. Gentleman will be able to ask about the particular issue he has raised.

Photo of John Stevenson John Stevenson Conservative, Carlisle

The Government rightly believe that investment in infrastructure is vital to the long-term economic success of our country. Cumbria has good north-south connectivity, but transport infrastructure within Cumbria is poor, particularly on roads such as the A595. Will the Leader of the House agree to a debate on the required investment needs for Cumbria in the next few years, particularly as there is a prospect of a new nuclear build in Cumbria?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend always speaks up very effectively for Cumbria. He will know that last year the Government committed to trebling investment in major new road enhancements from today’s levels. The Highways Agency has been consulting all concerned since then. The Chancellor is due to announce the roads investment strategy in the autumn statement in two weeks’ time. That will cover infrastructure requirements for strategic roads in Cumbria.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

Earlier this week, my hon. Friend Mr Hurd and I held a meeting with our local clinical commissioning group and representatives of the patients monitoring group to address the historical underfunding of health services in Harrow. We were pleased that there was a plan to address this issue, but sadly we will be into the third term of this Government before we actually achieve parity in funding compared with our neighbours. May we have an urgent statement on the funding of CCGs across the country so that we can address issues of fairness and equality?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

I am sure there will be many strong feelings in different parts of the country about relative levels of funding for CCGs, including in north Yorkshire in my constituency, and of course it is a legitimate subject to put forward for debate, including through the Backbench Business Committee. My hon. Friend could also pursue it with Ministers during Health questions next Tuesday.

Photo of Andrew Stephenson Andrew Stephenson Conservative, Pendle

In March, a new £9 million urgent care centre opened at Burnley general hospital; in July, a new £4 million health centre opened in Colne; and soon we will see a new £6.3 million accident and emergency department opening at Airedale hospital. May we have a debate on investing in our NHS so that I can highlight these improvements, which were made possible by the decisions taken by this Government?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend has already been extremely effective in highlighting those investments, which are an example of what is happening in many parts of the country. I know from visiting his constituency how strong and effective a champion he has been for additional investment in health care facilities there.

Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Conservative, Harrogate and Knaresborough

Last week, I visited Resimac, an industrial coatings business based in Boroughbridge in my constituency, which is seeing excellent export growth, reaching 40 countries in just four years of operation. It highlighted a Government finance scheme called EUREKA as an indicator of its success. May we have a debate about the support for small businesses and exporting and what more can be done to help companies such as Resimac get out there and sell their products across the world?

Photo of William Hague William Hague First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons

That is an important issue, and although we might not be able to have a debate in the immediate future, I can tell my hon. Friend that last year UK Trade & Investment supported 48,000 companies, versus 27,000 just four years ago, 89% of which were small businesses. In addition, there are new programmes, such as the passport to export and the gateway to global growth services, while UK Export Finance has doubled its number of advisers. As his question highlights, it is important that small businesses know that such services are available.