Edward Leigh: What steps his Department is taking to prepare for the UK’s departure from the EU.
Edward Leigh: We know that, in several areas, EU rules have prevented us from improving standards of animal welfare. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that he is now doing the detailed preparation so that on day one of our freedom, he will be ready to take action, including to ban the trade in the export of live animals?
Edward Leigh: The National Audit Office’s work programme is a matter for the Comptroller and Auditor General, not the Public Accounts Commission. The NAO does not audit individual police forces, but through its access to the Home Office it published the report “Financial sustainability of police forces in England and Wales” in June 2015.
Edward Leigh: Of course I will pass that request to the Comptroller and Auditor General. The hon. Lady is right: although police forces have successfully reduced costs since 2011, the report that I mentioned has recommended that the Home Office works with other bodies to develop better information on the health of police services and early warnings of when a force might fail. Her question is apposite.
Edward Leigh: The NAO is continually looking at how it can save money. The most recent audited financial accounts show that the NAO has reduced its net resource costs by 21% in real terms against its 2010-11 baseline. That is even while taking on a much greater role in local government at the request of Parliament.
Edward Leigh: The commission constantly urges the NAO to make greater steps to reduce its costs. The NAO has been very successful, and it saves many times its own budget in looking at every other Department to ensure that we get good value for money. My hon. Friend makes a fair point that the NAO must lead the way in reducing its own staffing costs.
Edward Leigh: The hon. Gentleman is very well informed and of course, as we know, very bright, so perhaps he can inform the House of the cumulative net cost of the EU—our net payments over the last 42 years.
Edward Leigh: What assessment he has made of the effect of prisoners participating in sporting activities on improving rehabilitation rates.
Edward Leigh: What is the purpose of prison? Is it punishment or rehabilitation?
Edward Leigh: Before the commission resigned, did they suggest one radical idea for driving social mobility through the education system, and did the Government gainsay it? Namely, why do we not concentrate on the children from the most deprived backgrounds and postcodes, give them an intelligence test at 11 for which they cannot be tutored, and put them in special schools so that they have a rigorous...
Edward Leigh: I wish to follow on from what my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Sir Robert Syms) said. This has been a good week for the Government because we are focusing on the most important thing—the Budget and the economy—rather than on ourselves. When people start to think about what is going on in the economy, they start to wonder whether the Labour party yet has the answers. If I was...
Edward Leigh: Yes, it was increasing by £300,000 a minute. The central point for the Opposition is that they have to be credible, as new Labour found out in the years before it took power in 1997. The central credibility argument is whether, when the national debt is so crippling—as I said earlier, our repayments are equivalent to paying for 10 Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers every...
Edward Leigh: Britain is producing excellent white wine, but there is a real problem with increased alcoholism and liver disease. Does my hon. Friend think that the solution would be to introduce unit pricing, to try to freeze young people out of the market for very high-alcohol drinks?
Edward Leigh: I have already made my point about the armed forces, and in that sense I agree with the right hon. Lady, but does she not realise that the cost of the national debt in interest alone is the equivalent every year of 10 Queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers? I am sure she would agree with me that the way to solve the problems with the MOD budget is to not increase the national debt.