Mark Prisk: The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the problems date all the way back to 1995 under three or more Governments. Does he agree with many of my constituents who feel that this issue is as much to do with communication as policy? Many of my constituents who are affected tell me that if they had known the effects of the changes in time, they would have been able to respond to them.
Mark Prisk: The recent National Audit Office report on this issue showed that while councils have increased their spending on tackling homelessness, they have reduced their spending on preventing it in the first place. These priorities seem to make no sense. May I urge the Secretary of State to ensure that all councils reverse this trend so that we can properly tackle the causes, not just the symptoms?
Mark Prisk: Unlike my former Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Twickenham (Sir Vince Cable), may I welcome what the Secretary of State has said, which is both insightful and forward looking? In the light of that former relationship, I encourage him to be willing and patient in dealing with collaboration, which is something that the right hon. Gentleman and I had to deal with. May I ask my...
Mark Prisk: I welcome the Government’s plans to reform the lettings market and the estate agency market. Given, however, that most firms undertake both lettings and sales, will the Government avoid the unnecessary duplication of rules and regulators? After all, separate regulatory regimes could be expensive for business and confusing for consumers.
Mark Prisk: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, alongside that geographical flexibility, it is also important that faith-based organisations, such as Emmaus and the Salvation Army, have flexibility about the model that they provide—very often they work alongside Shelter—so that the new system can accommodate a variety of approaches?
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.