With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the business for next week.
The provisional business for the week commencing
For the convenience of the House, I advise colleagues that the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill will be considered in a Committee of the whole House on
I also inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 11 and
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business, albeit with last-minute changes. I note the sudden appearance next Thursday of unidentified Government business. Will he tell us what it is, or is he playing partisan games? In the light of the publication of the Smith commission report this morning and the assurance that there will be a draft Bill by the end of January, will he set out in more detail what arrangements the Government will make to enable proper consideration and debate on that report, both inside and outside the House?
Yesterday the Home Secretary published the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, and we will debate its Second Reading next Tuesday. The Bill contains welcome measures to restore relocation powers and give more support to the Prevent programme. Will the Leader of the House ensure that he gives the Bill appropriate time to be properly scrutinised, especially because yesterday the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation said that one of the measures was:
“An announcement waiting for a policy.”
Do the Government need time to explain why they got it so wrong on control orders and put public safety at risk?
Next week we have the autumn statement, which is yet again in December—I am beginning to wonder whether the Chancellor knows something about climate change that he is not letting on. In 2010 he promised two things: that he would balance the books by 2015, and that he would not do that on the backs of the poor. Four years later he has clearly broken both promises. His five-year plan to eliminate the deficit is now running four years late; wages have fallen year on year while food bank use soars. On this Government’s watch the majority of people in poverty in this country are in work, but all the Government can deliver is a £3 billion tax cut every year for the top 1% of earners. While the Chancellor makes complacent boasts about the slowest recovery for more than 100 years, is the truth that only Labour can end this low-wage economy and deliver a recovery for the many not the few?
One thing this Government do well is miss their own targets. We have had the Chancellor’s abject failure on the deficit. The Home Secretary has finally admitted that the Government have no hope of meeting their target to reduce net migration—we all remember “no ifs, no buts”—and today’s net migration figures show the scale of her failure. The Government’s flagship universal credit programme is being delayed again. It was meant to be in place by 2017, but yesterday’s report from the National Audit Office states that it will not be ready until 2020. One million people were meant to be on universal credit by this April, but there were fewer than 10,000. It was supposed to save money, but the Government wasted millions of pounds on a failed IT system and staff costs are set to soar by a massive £2.8 billion. The Secretary of State talks fondly of “landing” the universal credit programme safely, but is it clear from that damning report that it has not yet even taken off?
This Government have managed to be cruel and inefficient at the same time. They have overspent by £25 billion on social security because they have not tackled low-paid and insecure work. They have spent £5 billion more than they planned on tax credits and £6 billion more on housing benefit. People are suffering because of the bedroom tax, and nearly a million of the most vulnerable people in our country have been left waiting for their disability assessment. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate in Government time so that we can start to sort out the rhetoric from the reality on social security?
This week yet again we have watched as the Conservative party’s civil war on Europe widens. After the Chancellor’s humiliating climb down on EU bankers bonuses, and while the Prime Minister keeps us all waiting for yet another speech to end all speeches on Europe, it is no wonder that Conservative MPs are taking matters into their own hands. Philip Davies said:
The former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has made a bid to put himself at the head of the “out” campaign, and six senior Ministers look set to join him. No wonder the Home Secretary has let it be known that she no longer rates the Prime Minister and has “given up” on him.
Appearing on “Desert Island Discs” this week, the Home Secretary revealed that her favourite song is Abba’s “Dancing Queen”, but what she really meant was “Take a chance on me”. She revealed her favourite book to be “Pride and Prejudice.” Well, Mr Speaker, “It is a truth universally acknowledged” that the Conservative party just cannot stop banging on about Europe. I can only imagine what it would be like to be stuck on a desert island cut off, alone, isolated from friends, with no one to talk to and no hope of rescue. It must be a bit like being a Liberal Democrat.
I think the hon. Lady is being a little audacious in talking about “Desert Island Discs” when the Labour party cannot even sing “Stand By Your Man” very well. When she talked about somebody being cut off from all his friends, I thought she must have been referring to the Leader of the Opposition.
The hon. Lady asked about last minute changes to business. Unusually, I have announced business three weeks ahead to
We have just had a statement on the Smith commission report. It is very important for the House to debate these matters further and to debate the consequences for the rest of the United Kingdom, a point made by many of my hon. Friends and Opposition Members. As the Chair of the Cabinet Committee for Devolved Powers, I intend to ensure that the Government publish the options for England in a Command Paper before Christmas, following up the work of the Smith commission. I am sure the House will want to consider that, and I will make a statement at the time.
The hon. Lady asked about appropriate time to be given for the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill. I have announced three days in Committee on the Floor of the House. There will be a clear gap between the Committee stage and Report. The Opposition wanted the Report stage to be after the Christmas recess and it will be. That will give the House time to reflect on all parts of the Bill, so I hope we have accommodated Opposition concerns on that. We have had productive discussions on this issue. The Bill is very important for our national security, but of course it needs to be properly scrutinised and considered in detail.
The hon. Lady asked about the autumn statement and poked fun at its being on
The hon. Lady asked about universal credit. The previous Government were left with a welfare system in which for every extra £10 some people earned, they lost £9 in additional taxes. Universal credit is being designed to ensure that it pays to work and it is likely to deliver benefits to millions of people. Yes, it is always possible to criticise the implementation of IT projects, but it was estimated that the previous Government wasted £26 billion on IT projects that did not succeed. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my right hon. Friend the
Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith), made a statement to the House, so Members have had the opportunity to discuss that.
The hon. Lady asked about relative incomes. Relative poverty in the last year for which we have figures, 2012-13, was at its lowest since the 1980s. We have 600,000 fewer people in relative poverty than there were at the general election. The answer to poverty is to get people into work, and that is what the Government are achieving. She asked about a recovery for the many or the few. The previous Government left office with no recovery for anyone at all—neither many nor few. That is what the Opposition’s policies would bring about again.
The hon. Lady talked about comments within the Conservative party on various issues in the past week. It has not been a great week in the Labour party. She has made an exception of asking about the whereabouts of the Chief Whip this week. As I explained last week, he spent much time in Rochester. Really, the Opposition Chief Whip should have been there to tell members of the shadow Cabinet not to photograph people’s houses. She would have been well deployed—[Interruption.] Oh, she was there! Well, she obviously did not get to all the members of the shadow Cabinet.
After the stealth reshuffle that I think took place in September on the Opposition Front Bench, and the anti-climax reshuffle in October, we have now had the Rochester reshuffle in November. But we are pleased that Ms Eagle is still in place and we are absolutely delighted that the Leader of the Opposition is in place all the way to the general election.
May we have a debate on wildlife crime? Is the Leader of the House aware that the trade in endangered species is being facilitated by some courier firms, which transport animal parts and derivative products without inquiring what it is they are delivering? Should we not impose a greater duty on couriers, and should we not be doing more to stamp out this vile crime?
My right hon. Friend makes a very powerful point. There is a good case for a debate on this matter and I hope he will take it to the Backbench Business Committee. As chair of the ministerial committee on animal health and animal issues, I too feel extremely strongly on this issue. I believe there is more that Governments across the world can do, and I will be doing some work on that in the next few months.
Can I take it from the Leader of the House’s words that whatever the statutory instrument is on, it will not be on English votes for English laws? When he brings forward the White Paper, will it include proposals to take the options he identifies out to the country at large for discussion, debate and amendment, before anything is brought back to this House?
There is no primary legislation that would permit the statutory instrument to be about English votes on English laws; the right hon. Gentleman can be assured of that. One of the reasons why it is important to bring forward a Government paper on the options on decentralisation and on the question that we have come to call “English votes on English laws” is so that there can be a full debate in the country and discussions between parties. Indeed, I regret that those on the Opposition Front Bench have chosen not to take part in cross-party discussions. I will be writing to them today to invite them to contribute ideas to the Command Paper, so there is a chance for them to reconsider their position. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can encourage them to do so.
This weekend, my hon. Friend Mr Hollobone, Tom Pursglove, our excellent candidate in Corby, and I will be delivering our north Northampton EU referendum. We will be stopped by people saying that the most important issue is immigration and the number of people coming here from the EU. Can we have an emergency statement next week from the Prime Minister on stopping EU migration until the position is resolved?
My hon. Friend will know that the Prime Minister will be making a speech on these issues, particularly in relation to the European Union. The immigration figures today show that, while there has been a large reduction in non-EU immigration—in fact, that is at its lowest level since the 1990s—there has been an increase in EU immigration to the United Kingdom. That is an important issue, as I am sure he will find when he is canvassing with our excellent candidate in Corby this weekend. The Prime Minister will address this issue in his forthcoming speech.
I turn to the much more serious matter of serious and organised crime and the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill. The Leader of the House will be aware that two prominent members of Sinn Fein, including an elected representative, were last night arrested in Northern Ireland for serious and organised crimes, including an historic murder case. Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to include such matters in the Second Reading debate next week, so that we can get to the bottom of some of the most serious and obnoxious crimes currently taking place in Northern Ireland?
It is up to hon. Members what they wish to raise in the debate—subject to the scope of the Bill, of course. The Home Secretary will set out on Second Reading the scope of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill and its provisions, so I am sure the hon. Gentleman will have opportunities to ask her about those matters when we begin the debate on the Bill.
We heard earlier the statement from the Secretary of State for Scotland about the historic agreement on greater devolution of power to the Scots, and the Leader of the House said just now that the Government would publish their Command Paper on options for England before Christmas. Will he commit to an urgent debate in the House once it has been published, and does he personally agree that what is good enough for the Scots is good enough for the English?
I will seek to make a statement on behalf of the Government when we publish the Command Paper, and it will then be important to hold debates on these things. Opposition Members have just been calling for public discussion, so I am sure we will want to hold such debates. What has been agreed for Scotland will undoubtedly have consequences for England, and that is something on which all of us, including my hon. Friend, will want to put our views.
When can we debate early-day motion 501, which forecasts that the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill will become a landmark in legislative futility?
[That this House believes that a coalition bill will become a major landmark in legislative futility; further believes that the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill described by the hon. Member for Beaconsfield, a former Conservative Attorney General, as utter tosh is designed to create volunteers and heroes by legislation; salutes the intention of Lord Lloyd to move against all three clauses of the bill so that only the title will remain; is alarmed that responsible bodies warn that the bill could do harm, including the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers who say the bill will put vulnerable people at risk and the leading law firm Slater and Gordon who described the bill as pointless and potentially dangerous; calls on the Government to avoid the derision from judges that a former Conservative Solicitor General said will be provoked and drop this lamentable headline-seeking example of crude populism.]
It was described by a former Attorney-General as “utter tosh”, and a former Solicitor-General has said it will cause cynicism among judges. Will the Leader of the House’s party help the reputation of this Parliament by supporting the intention of Lord Lloyd to move against all three elements of the Bill so that all that is left is the title?
The hon. Gentleman will not be astonished to hear that I will not be supporting that intention. We have had extensive debates in this House, through which the Bill was passed, and it would be an exercise in legislative futility to hold those debates again.
I am very much in favour of testing the opinion of the House. Of course, that would require agreement within the Government about the motion we bring forward and with the Opposition about the framework for such a debate. Like my right hon. Friend, however, I am personally very much in favour of fully testing the opinion of the House, including by having a vote.
I am sure the whole House will want to congratulate Steelite International on its recent “Made in Britain” award from the Growing Business Awards. Given the importance of the product safety regulations, which I understand will be discussed on
I join the hon. Lady in congratulating the business concerned, and I will draw the Business Secretary’s attention to the representation she has made. This country has a good record of supporting regulations within the EU that increase consumer awareness and knowledge of what people are buying, and I know that he will want to keep the House informed. I shall pass on the hon. Lady’s representations to him.
May we have a debate on planning rules, particularly the rights of local residents living on the borders of local authorities? For example, there is a go-carting track in north Warwickshire that has a significant impact on my constituents over the road in Tamworth, yet those residents have no say in the election of North Warwickshire councillors, who of course make the planning decisions. I know there are rules about consultation and feedback, but a debate would allow us to discuss how we can address that continuing question of accountability.
I agree that accountability on these things is important. As always, on these and other matters, my hon. Friend speaks up well for the interests of his constituents. It is open to him to pursue a debate—either an Adjournment debate or a Backbench Business debate—on these issues.
The Royal Society’s report on resilience to extreme weather has just been published. As the Leader of the House will know, it has highlighted that by 2030, 800,000 properties—more than 300,000 more than currently—will be subject to extreme flood risk as a result of climate change, even with the additional spending the Government are trying to make available up to 2020. May we have a debate on this important matter and report?
I agree that it is an important report. The hon. Gentleman referred to increased spending. We have announced a record capital settlement of £2.3 billion over the next six years to tackle flooding, and we are spending £171 million on maintenance alone. However, as he said, such reports forecast that the problem will intensify over the coming decades, so there is a good case for considering these matters in the House. I cannot promise that the Government will provide such a debate immediately, given all the other pressures, but the hon. Gentleman could pursue the matter with the Backbench Business Committee and with Ministers at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs during Question Time.
In the week that saw the publication of the report on the Woolwich atrocity, attention has inevitably focused on the killers and the social media companies that think it was nothing to do with them. May we have a statement from an appropriate Minister, therefore, on the failure so far to recognise the bravery of three people who did not pass by on the other side? Amanda Donnelly, Gemini Donnelly-Martin and Ingrid Loyau-Kennett sought to help Fusilier Rigby and confronted the killers. One of them has since suffered major mental health problems. Why has neither a Queen’s commendation nor a George medal been awarded to these three brave women, who clearly deserve them?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. As he knows, the Prime Minister made a statement on the report by the Intelligence and Security Committee on Tuesday, but he is right to mention the bravery and outstanding behaviour of these individuals and to draw their names to the attention of the House. I will ensure that the Prime Minister is made aware of his remarks.
The privatisation of the NHS met its Waterloo last Friday in a vote on my private Member’s Bill, which seeks to take the market, and the regulatory authorities that introduced it into the NHS, out of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. The will of the House was heard when it voted overwhelmingly in favour of my Bill— 241 to 18—so may I urge the Leader of the House to bring forward a resolution as soon as possible to ensure that it goes into Committee?
While not agreeing with the Bill, I acknowledge the hon. Gentleman’s work in promoting it and the debate that took place last week. He must know, however, that his Bill is some way down the list of private Members’ Bills, although it received its Second Reading last week, and that there are other private Members’ Bills going into Committee. His Bill will have to go into Committee following the normal procedures and at the normal time, in the light of the order of sequence of private Members’ Bills.
On Christmas eve, printing company Polestar will be axing 75 jobs in my constituency and shutting all three of its sites in Colchester. May we therefore have a debate on spare capacity in the printing industry—a situation not helped when British companies such as BT print all their directories overseas?
I think that a whole debate in the House on spare capacity in the printing industry would be a little narrow, but of course the hon. Gentleman could pursue these issues in an Adjournment debate or elsewhere. He has just demonstrated that he is pursuing the matter in the House and standing up for his constituents, and I am sure he will find further opportunities to do so.
I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 39 about the Vienna conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons.
[That this House notes the recent governmental conferences on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons, attended by 127 states in Norway in March 2013 and by 145 states in Mexico in February 2014; welcomes the announcement of a new follow-up conference in Austria in December 2014; further notes the call for UK attendance; and urges the Government to ensure that it is represented at this event in Vienna. ]
The United States has recently announced that it will join the 150 countries attending that conference. Will the right hon. Gentleman clarify whether it is the intention of the UK Government to send a representative to Vienna on
As the hon. Gentleman will know very well, it is Foreign and Commonwealth Office questions next Tuesday on
May I press my right hon. Friend a little more on the question asked by my right hon. Friend Sir George Young? In common with many people, my main priority is the Union and friendship between our two nations. This depends on the absence of resentment on either side. What some of us are worried about is that as we approach the end of this Parliament, it will suddenly be announced that we cannot have a vote because the Deputy Prime Minister has thrown his toys out of the pram, or something like that, and there is no agreement in the quad, and the whole thing will just fade into the long grass. We want an absolute cast-iron, specific assurance from the Conservative side of the Government that we will have this vote.
My hon. Friend need be in no doubt that the Prime Minister and I, and Conservatives in the coalition—and, indeed, across the country—will be very committed to having a vote in this House. The only caveat is this: my hon. Friend will be aware that, since we do not have an overall majority, we are not in total control of Government business or of the business of this House. We have, of course, seen some of our hon. Friends from the Liberal Democrats, including my hon. Friend Mark Hunter, looking for these matters to be considered in detail. Let us make sure that we are able to do that.
If the right hon. Gentleman knows what the business is next Thursday, why cannot we? The Government favour transparency, so they say, but making the business invisible simply turns that into a game of charades. If he is not prepared to tell us what the business is next Thursday, perhaps he could get up at the Dispatch Box and mime it, so that we might at least have a clue what it is that we will be debating next week.
I do not think miming would be very easy for Hansard to record, so that is not the solution! A small part of next Thursday’s business is not invisible; it is more that its full contents are not yet clear. It will become entirely apparent why that is the case in due course.
The new DVLA contract with Specsavers for drivers’ eye tests has meant that constituents in Campbeltown or Islay have to travel 90 miles by road or take a four-hour ferry journey to get their eye tests, which is completely unacceptable. May we have an urgent statement from the Department for Transport to allow my constituents to have an eye test locally, because they certainly do not want to go to Specsavers?
I am advised that Specsavers is currently negotiating contracts with a number of independent opticians to ensure that there is appropriate coverage. I am advised, too, that where it is unable to negotiate a contract locally, the DVLA does not expect individuals to travel excessive distances. Where it is satisfied that a contracted optician or optometrist is not available, the DVLA will approach an independent provider to conduct the vision tests on an ad hoc basis. The hon. Gentleman’s constituents may be able to make use of that.
My constituent Dawn Astle is campaigning for justice for her late father, the former West Bromwich Albion and England footballer, Jeff Astle, who sadly died in 2002 after suffering neurological damage as a result of heading old-style leather footballs. When I recently visited Coalville rugby club, I found it had numerous leaflets advising about the risks and dangers of head injuries, yet in the words of Dr Robert Cantu, a leading neurologist, football is “light years behind” rugby union in appreciating this problem. May we have a debate on what more the football governing bodies can do to address this long-running issue?
My hon. Friend rightly raises an important issue on behalf of the family of Jeff Astle as well as those currently playing the sport. His question is all the more poignant given that we heard this morning the very sad news of the tragic death of the Australian cricketer, Phillip Hughes. I believe that the Football Association published new guidelines in August relating to the problem of head injuries. The FA says, however, that it is aware that the rules around treating head injuries cover only players in the present and the future and cannot cover past injuries. I am sure that a debate would give Members an opportunity to discuss what more could be done—in other sports as well as football. I am sure that this would be a good argument to present to the Backbench Business Committee.
The Secretary of State for Health recently visited Medway Maritime hospital in my constituency, and I would like to thank him for all the support he has given to the hospital to turn it around as soon as possible. May we have an urgent statement from the Health Secretary on hospitals in special measures to highlight the work the Government are doing to improve these hospitals, taking into account the fact that six of them have already been taken out of special measures?
The Secretary of State regularly answers questions about and comments on hospitals in special measures. My hon. Friend will know that the Medway is receiving an additional £5.5 million of support to increase its resilience in the coming winter period. Eighteen trusts have gone into special measures, since that regime was established, with six of them now turned around, as my hon. Friend said, and no longer in special measures, while major progress has been made at nearly all the others. I am sure we all believe that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has taken the right and necessary action with regard to these hospitals.
Yes. If for any reason there were no vote on these matters stemming from a Government initiative, there would be very strong pressure on the Backbench Business Committee. I shall keep hon. Members suitably informed. How all of us vote on a particular motion will, of course, depend on its content. I shall keep my hon. Friend and others informed.
We heard a very positive announcement on the east coast main line from the Transport Secretary this morning, building on the huge investment in rail infrastructure in the north, both of which significantly benefit my Harrogate and Knaresborough constituency. May we have a debate about how the Government are transforming the rail network in the north of England?
There is good case for that. This morning’s announcements will be of great benefit to my hon. Friend’s constituents, and indeed to mine. We saw an extraordinary display from Labour earlier. Despite an announcement bringing the prospect of a better return for the taxpayer, an improved service, more seats and more trains going to more stations across the north of England, Labour Members were against it because they take the trade union line and are still wedded to ideas of nationalisation, so I think a debate on this subject would be very welcome.
Speaking as chairman of the all-party group for fair fuel for motorists and hauliers, we very much welcome the Government’s freezing of fuel duty. However, despite a 30% reduction in the price of crude oil since June, pump prices in the UK have fallen by only 6%. Does my right hon. Friend agree that a full Competition and Markets Authority inquiry into the pricing of petrol and diesel is now long overdue, and may we have a statement?
It is important for these price reductions to be passed on. The Office of Fair Trading has investigated these concerns. In January 2013, it published its analysis, and Government analysis suggests that crude price changes are passed on to pump prices within about six or seven weeks. National average pump prices are now at their lowest levels since December 2010, but it is, of course, quite right to keep up the pressure to ensure such reductions are passed on. My hon. Friend will also be aware that, thanks to the policies of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pump prices are nearly 20p a litre lower than they would have been under the last Government’s fuel duty plans.
May we have a debate on the role of smaller hospitals within the NHS, which was the subject of a recent Monitor report? My constituents in Rugby have consistently made it clear that, wherever possible, they prefer health services to be provided locally at the Hospital of St. Cross. The report states that
“small district general hospitals can thrive”,
which means patients being treated closer to home in Rugby.
This issue is very important to many parts of the country. The Government agree with Monitor’s findings that smaller hospitals must have a future. I believe that the local trust has given an assurance that it has no plans or intention to close the Hospital of St Cross, and that should there be any future plans for service changes—in Rugby or anywhere else in the country—it would be necessary to demonstrate that they had the support of local doctors and patients, and public engagement would be required. However, I know that my hon. Friend rightly places great value on that hospital, and will always defend it very strongly.