Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
The Prime Minister has been asked repeatedly about his plans to exclude Scottish MPs from decisions that will directly and indirectly impact on Scotland’s budget and my constituents in Airdrie and Shotts. Will he finally tell the House and the people of Scotland whether it is right to create a second-class status for Scottish MPs through the back door, or is he content to press ahead with plans that will bring about the break-up of Britain?
I am quite baffled. I thought the whole point of the SNP is that SNP Members want to exclude themselves from the UK Parliament forever. I thought that was the whole point. What we are putting in place is a fair and balanced system that is fair to all parts of our United Kingdom. Long may it stay together.
Over the past five years, increasing numbers of people in the east midlands and the UK have decided to take the courageous and important step to set up their own businesses and become self-employed. What steps will the Prime Minister and the Government take in future further to support those entrepreneurs in my constituency and beyond who represent and personify aspiration and hard work?
Let me welcome my hon. Friend to his place. I agree with him that people taking that step to become self-employed and start their own business has been a very big part of the jobs and enterprise revolution in our country over the past five years. Things such as start-up loans have made a real difference, which is why we are increasing them in this Parliament, but when we look at helping self-employed people, it is important to look at all the aspects of being self-employed—how people interact with pensions, benefits, maternity leave, public authorities and social housing rules. That is why I am asking Julie Deane, the founder of the fantastic Cambridge Satchel Company and a model for how self-employed people can achieve great things, to lead a review for the Government. Let us look at all the ways in which we can help self-employed people to get going.
Those decisions must be made by local authorities in the proper way, under the planning regime we have. Personally, I hope that, over time, unconventional gas sites will go ahead, whether in Lancashire or elsewhere, because I want our country to exploit all the natural resources we have. I want us to keep energy bills down and I want us to be part of that revolution, which can create thousands of jobs. I also want to ensure that we can exploit our own gas reserves rather than ship gas from the other side of the world, which has a higher carbon footprint. We should do that, but if the Labour party wants to paint itself into a background of not wanting any unconventional gas at all, it should say so.
Labour-controlled Reading Borough Council recently received a damning report from Ofsted for not doing enough to help struggling schools under its control. Will the Prime Minister tell us what the Government intend to do to ensure that systemically failing local education authorities such as Reading do not continue to ruin the life chances of our young people?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise that. Frankly, one extra term in a failing school is too long for our children. In the past, Governments and LEAs have been too tolerant in allowing schools to continue to fail year after year, so this Government have set a very testing regime for failing schools and for those that are inadequate. As my right hon. Friend the Education Secretary set out this week, we will do similar things to schools that we would define as coasting and that could be doing better. We can now see the model of academy chains taking over a failing school, changing some of the leadership and putting in place the things that are necessary. We can see radical increases in the results, which is what we want. We will today talk about how we tackle poverty in the long term. Tackling sink schools and educational underachievement is vital to the life chances of our children.
After four opportunities, the Prime Minister still has not answered the question regarding the impact of English votes for English laws. May I strongly urge him to finally reassure the people of my constituency that their elected MP will not be given minority status in matters affecting the Scottish budget and, consequently, the lives of the citizens of Dundee? Moreover, last night 58 out of 59 Scottish MPs—
Order. We are very grateful. We have got the gist of it.
The hon. Gentleman has had a very clear answer. It may be that the Scottish National party does not like the answer, but the proposals we discussed at great length in the last Parliament for solving this issue will now be introduced. The absolutely key point is that if, in some future Parliament, there is disagreement between English MPs who want one thing and the House of Commons as a whole which wants another, there would have to be a way of resolving the deadlock. This is effectively a block for English MPs. It is not the ability to legislate willy-nilly. He would know that if he read the manifesto.
Does the Prime Minister feel comfortable with the fact that the Conservative Government have implemented a spending target for foreign aid, but will not commit to a target of a minimum of 2% of GDP for defence? Does he realise that this is damaging the relationship with our key strategic ally, the United States, and risking our credibility with our NATO allies?
What I would say to my hon. Friend, who I know cares deeply about this issue and has in his constituency some of the most important defence manufacturers in our country, is that we have in every year met that 2% target. Many countries in the European Union do not even meet 1% for defence investment. The commitment we have made already is to invest £160 billion across 10 years into our equipment programme, with real-terms increases every year. That is why we can say the aircraft carriers, the C-17s and the new aeroplanes will all be coming forward. We will obviously make final spending decisions in the spending review this autumn.
For a man who seemingly is never away from Europe, why is it that he has never taken the opportunity, when he has been there, to put in a claim for state aid to save British miners’ jobs? He is the man who, during the election campaign, masqueraded as the workers’ champion but he has not got the guts to help those miners. He took £700 million out of the mineworkers’ pension scheme and he has not given a penny back. No wonder they call him “dodgy Dave”. The man that went to Eton: educated beyond his intelligence. [Interruption.]
It is very good to see the Labour party in full voice cheering on Jurassic Park. I would stick to the movie.
There is a serious point here. The Government have offered £20 million to the owners of Hatfield colliery to keep it going. We have been prepared to put forward money. Unlike the previous Government, we have been prepared to make ministerial directions, because we have some courage when it comes to these things.
There is a very strong sense that the Airports Commission began life three years or so ago with a conclusion and then spent £20 million backing up that conclusion. The Prime Minister is going to have to make a decision on the back of those recommendations shortly, but what assurances can he give the million or so Londoners who stand to be affected by Heathrow expansion that he will engage with the real arguments in a way that Sir Howard Davies has not?
Let me pay tribute to my hon. Friend for how strongly he campaigns on this issue. I know how strongly he cares about it and how strongly his constituents feel about it. The promise I can give him is that this very thorough report, which landed on my desk yesterday afternoon, will be studied properly. This really does matter. If you make some precipitate decision or rule out one particular option, you will actually make the decision you would like to make impossible to achieve because of judicial review. We may not like that in this House, but those are the facts and those are the ones we need to operate on.
Last but not least, I call Clive Lewis.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Mental Health Trust, which serves my constituency, is refusing to publish the so-called Alexander report on its operation. The report, which I have seen, raises serious questions about patient safety and care owing to cuts to services. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that the duty of candour should apply to NHS management as it does to NHS front-line staff? If so, will he join me in the call for the report’s publication?
First, let me welcome the hon. Gentleman to the House. I make no apology for the
Care Quality Commission’s rigorous inspection regime, which is identifying areas that need improvement. I would argue that the two things we need here are to uncover bad practice and turn it round, and then to back it up with the resources the NHS needs, including those recommended by the Stevens plan. As things stand, only this party is backing the extra £8 billion into the NHS—and not the Labour party.
Points of order come after statements, and we have a couple of statements, so I am saving the hon. Gentleman up for later.