Michael Tomlinson: I warmly welcome the commitment of the Secretary of State and the Prisons Minister to implementing the Farmer review in full. They have acknowledged the important link between family ties and rehabilitation. Now that prison governors are being further empowered, what more can be done to ensure that that is rolled out across the whole prison estate?
Michael Tomlinson: Last year I had the privilege of visiting Israel and the west bank with members of Conservative Friends of Israel. I am bound to say that I was disappointed by the lack of impetus, or of willingness, on the part of both sides to engage and get round the table. Does not the centenary commemoration present an opportunity both for the resumption of direct peace talks, and for the United Kingdom...
Michael Tomlinson: It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to set out my clear support for universal credit and its principal aim of ensuring that work always pays.
Michael Tomlinson: I will give way in a few moments. I support universal credit, which simplifies what was an over-complex and bureaucratic system. Like my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Andrew Bowie), I am disappointed by some of the tone of the debate both today and last week. Today, we have heard accusations of knowingly pushing people into poverty; last week, we heard the...
Michael Tomlinson: I, too, enjoyed working with the hon. Lady in a cross-party spirit on the European Scrutiny Committee in the last Parliament, and I look forward to doing so again. I have been told—I hope the Minister is able to confirm this—that 250,000 additional people will be helped into work as a result of this policy.
Michael Tomlinson: No, I will not. The Government’s response should be to ensure that universal credit succeeds and has the transformative potential to get people into work and to ensure that they stay in work. The Government should continue to test, to learn and to rectify during the gradual roll-out.
Michael Tomlinson: I would encompass those questions in one by saying that better communication is needed. Each of us, as a Member of Parliament, bears a responsibility for that communication, too. Having heard the responses, we should pass them on to our constituents in good faith and in good time.
Michael Tomlinson: No, I will not. The Government should be listening, and they have listened on telephone numbers. It was implied last week that it was a premium-rate number and that all telephone calls cost 55p a minute, which is absolute rubbish, but I am pleased that the Government have listened and, in fact, have gone further by indicating that all telephone calls to the Department for Work and Pensions...
Michael Tomlinson: I warmly welcome the Prime Minister’s statement. By contrast to Scottish National party Members, I also warmly welcome her comments on and commitment to EU citizens, her commitment to putting people first and her open letter last week. I urge her to continue that work, because this issue is important not only to EU citizens but to UK citizens who live and work in the EU.
Michael Tomlinson: I was in Iraqi Kurdistan for the recent referendum and had the privilege of meeting troops from the 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment who are training the peshmerga in the fight against Daesh. I am bound to say that I was very impressed by what I saw, but given the Secretary of State’s positive and welcome assessment of the campaign, what next for our armed forces in the fight against...
Michael Tomlinson: I know my hon. Friend has looked at the issue carefully, and he heard my intervention on the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant). Sentences seem to be the same for summary offences as for indictable offences, so will he consider whether it is necessary to increase sentences for indictable offences?
Michael Tomlinson: On that point, I am trying to understand the hon. Gentleman’s reasoning for the sentence on indictment being exactly the same as the sentence on summary. Will that be teased out in Committee? What was his thinking on that?
Michael Tomlinson: Will my right hon. Friend give way?
Michael Tomlinson: Was my right hon. Friend as surprised and disappointed as I was, during Prime Minister’s questions, to hear this policy described and characterised as “calculated cruelty”? There is nothing cruel about getting more people into work. There is nothing cruel about encouraging more people to work more than a mere 16 hours. There is nothing cruel about simplifying an overly...
Michael Tomlinson: While not ignoring human rights abuses and the abuse of minorities, including Christians—the Minister either has acknowledged or would acknowledge such abuses—does he agree it is important for the international community to continue with dialogue to reach a diplomatic solution, and that this nuclear deal makes the region a safer place?
Michael Tomlinson: What steps the Government are taking to tackle electoral fraud.
Michael Tomlinson: I welcome the fact that the Government are piloting voter ID. I had the privilege of being in Iraqi Kurdistan for the recent independence referendum, when voter ID was used with apparently few difficulties. Which local authority areas are involved in the Government’s pilot, and how can the system be rolled out to further authorities in due course?
Michael Tomlinson: I warmly welcome the Prime Minister’s statement, particularly her comments about EU citizens and, equally importantly, UK citizens living and working in the EU. She is right that the ball is very much in the EU’s court, but will she ensure that the issue remains front and centre and is resolved as quickly as possible?
Michael Tomlinson: I warmly welcome the latest employment figures, particularly the youth employment figures. We are within touching distance of record youth unemployment. On young disabled people, will the Minister comment on Leonard Cheshire Disability and the great work it does, particularly its Can Do scheme? I think she recently met ambassadors of that scheme.
Michael Tomlinson: I congratulate the Secretary of State on delivering yet another manifesto pledge, and I commend both her and the Schools Minister for their hard work in this area. Was she as disappointed as I was with the tone of Labour Front Benchers in response to this statement. Not only does this formula help historically underfunded areas such as mine, but it will help across the whole country,...