Mark Prisk: Thank you for your guidance, Mr Howarth. I will do my best—the best a politician ever can do—to be brief. First, may I say a huge congratulations to my parliamentary neighbour, my right hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon)? He and I have worked together on a number of projects. I want to make the point to the Minister that this issue is of real concern to many of us,...
Mark Prisk: I congratulate my right hon. Friend and parliamentary neighbour on securing this important debate. Does he agree with me that in my constituency and his, ever since the previous Labour Government scrapped their plans for a new hospital at Hatfield, there has been a sense locally that somehow our area has been ignored for capital investment, and that is why his proposal is so sensible?
Mark Prisk: The White Paper sets out a strong case for free trade: it is good for growth, and it is good for jobs—but occasionally other countries will act in unfair ways, such as through the dumping of goods. Will the Secretary of State therefore confirm that it will always be the Government’s approach to respond to that in a proportionate, carefully targeted and time-limited fashion?
Mark Prisk: I will be brief. I strongly support my hon. Friend’s leadership in this area. Does he agree that many faith-based organisations such as the YMCA, the Salvation Army and Emmaus need to know from the Minister that the system will be flexible enough to accommodate not just the need for shelter but the personal support that those organisations provide?
Mark Prisk: As a taxpayer, I welcome the Secretary of State’s practical and cautious approach to the matter of money. May I therefore urge him to continue to press the EU for detailed and, preferably, independently audited numbers before he comes to any financial settlement?
Mark Prisk: I congratulate the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Hugh Gaffney) on that speech. It was passionate and intense, and he was quite right: it was his moment to enjoy, and so it should be. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen South (Ross Thomson), who was articulate and informed—that city has an excellent representative. It is a great pleasure to...
Mark Prisk: Many people fear that the general election may result in a delay in the implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Bill. Will the Secretary of State tell us what progress has been made so far? Given that the Bill has cross- party support, can the work not continue during the election period?
Mark Prisk: Many countries breach WTO rules by using a whole series of non-tariff barriers such as local content requirements. What discussions have the Government had to get the WTO to enforce those rules, and what can we do to ensure that those countries are persuaded against this practice?
Mark Prisk: One of the difficulties I found when I was Minister with responsibility for construction was that statistics from the Office for National Statistics are often incomplete and based on only partial information. Does my right hon. Friend agree that if forecasts were more infrequent, we might get the numbers right more often?
Mark Prisk: rose—
Mark Prisk: What steps his Department is taking to increase exports from and foreign direct investment in the technology sector.
Mark Prisk: The global market for smart city technologies is now worth something in the region of $400 billion. British firms lead the way in many of the specialisations, but we could win more contracts if there were a UK approach to a complete smart city solution. I encourage Ministers to promote greater collaboration, both between businesses and between businesses and the Government.
Mark Prisk: For many of my constituents the fundamental problem in all too many cases is that we still separate healthcare funding and social care provision. That makes no sense to my constituents and increasingly little sense to me. I therefore urge the Secretary of State to speed up the integration of health and social provision, so that we can actually deal with patients’ needs in the round and...
Mark Prisk: Many countries are using non-tariff barriers to block global trade. However, as the Secretary of State is well aware, in countries such as Brazil we are now seeing real progress in the removal of local content regulations. What more can be done to encourage other countries to follow this example?
Mark Prisk: I congratulate my right hon. Friend on this excellent report, which has cross-party support, as I hope the Minister knows. My right hon. Friend is right to focus on four-tracking. In his view, are the short-term improvements the report recommends supportive of the long-term goal? That is what many of my constituents will want to know.
Mark Prisk: It is a pleasure to follow the Chairman of my Select Committee, the hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts), and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) not just on deciding to tackle what is a very thorny issue, but on the way he has developed the legislation. His open, collaborative approach means the Bill contains proposals that are workable, have...
Mark Prisk: In our town centres there are thousands of empty rooms on upper floors that could easily be converted into homes, yet they do not appear in the now excellent statistics to which the Minister refers. Will he bring together the key stakeholders and agencies to look at what the real barriers are that have meant that Governments of all hues have failed to achieve that conversion?
Mark Prisk: The rapid growth in our elderly population is a key driver of housing demand, so what are the Government doing to ensure that we are building not only enough homes, but enough of the right homes for an ageing society?
Mark Prisk: On 24 November, I am hosting an exporters summit for businesses in the M11 area. I thank officials in the Department for their fantastic support. Given the importance of winning new trade opportunities, does the Secretary of State agree that all Members have the chance to play their part in ensuring that more British firms export to not only Europe, but the whole world?
Mark Prisk: At present, the way in which business rates work imposes rates on empty properties. This is holding back many urban regeneration schemes. Will the new Secretary of State therefore reform the way in which those rules work before the whole scheme is transferred to local authorities? That would make a crucial difference to the modernisation of our housing estates in particular.