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Commons Chamber

Volume 463: debated on Wednesday 25 July 2007

House of Commons

Wednesday 25 July 2007

The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Harmondsworth and Campsfield House Immigration removal centres


That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, That she will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House a Return of the Report dated 25th July 2007 of the Investigation into the disturbances at Harmondsworth and Campsfield House Immigration Removal Centres.—[Mr. Watson.]

Oral Answers to Questions

Northern Ireland

The Secretary of State was asked—


1. What funding was allocated to policing in Northern Ireland in each of the last three years; and what the forecast budget is for 2008-09. (151122)

The total resource funding allocated to policing in Northern Ireland in each of the past three years was £860 million in 2005-06, £889 million in 2006-07 and £960 million in the current year of 2007-08. The allocation for policing in Northern Ireland for 2008-09 will not be determined until the comprehensive spending review has been concluded.

I thank the Minister for his response. He will be aware that the Northern Ireland Policing Board and the Chief Constable are concerned about a possible reduction in the police budget in the forthcoming financial year, and that there are increasing pressures on the budget as a result of policing the past, the ongoing inquiries, and the cost of the legal advice that the police need to secure in order to participate in them. However, does he agree that it is right that the Government provide adequate funding for the ordinary policing in the community that tackles all the matters that concern the people of Northern Ireland? Does he accept that there should not be a reduction in the police budget, given the increasing costs of the inquiries that I have mentioned? Will the Government do something to reduce the cost of the inquiries, and ensure that adequate policing is provided for all the victims of crime in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Speaker, we had the Adjournment debate yesterday, and in it we covered much of the territory in the hon. Gentleman’s question. However, I shall start with the facts. This year’s budget for the Police Service of Northern Ireland is £100 million more than it was two years ago. As for the CSR discussions, I assure him that we want to maintain the same police numbers—that is, 7,500 officers—as we have at the moment. For obvious reasons, that is rather more than one would find in the average police service in the rest of the UK. What matters too is how those resources are deployed. That is very important, and the Chief Constable’s commitment to neighbourhood policing is very welcome.

The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) touches on another important issue that no doubt will be touched on later in our proceedings today. We cannot go on spending on investigations into the past without there being a knock-on effect on both present and future services. The CSR considerations that are going on at the moment will be important in that respect, but I am committed to making sure that we continue to provide the necessary funding for the PSNI, and I am determined that that will happen.

Will the Minister assure the House that budget constraints in the future will not curb or compromise the roll-out and full implementation of the Patten vision for policing? This morning, the Police Service has had to seal off a number of streets in Derry city centre because of hoax devices. Will he join me in condemning the so-called dissident republicans responsible for such attacks? At a time when Derry city centre is seeing the fruits of normalisation and the removal of military installations, the attacks serve only to bring the British Army, in the form of the bomb disposal units, back on to the streets there.

I assure my hon. Friend that the Government are fully signed up to what he describes as the Patten vision, and that we will continue to deliver on it. That will include making sure that the PSNI reflects more fully the composition of Northern Ireland’s population. Over the past three years, we have committed £178 million to fulfilling the Patten vision for policing in Northern Ireland. He has told the House about the events in Derry, and I of course join him and others in condemning dissident republicans who continue to think that violence and conflict are the way forward, when the truth is that politics is the way forward. Equally, however, I condemn those loyalist paramilitaries who were involved in the shooting of a police officer at the weekend. That is just as damnable, and such actions are increasingly marginal in a Northern Ireland society where real politics is taking over and determining the future.

Does not the Minister’s very proper condemnation of the events of yesterday and the weekend underline the necessity for keeping an absolutely first-class police force in Northern Ireland, under the inspired leadership of an admirable Chief Constable? Will he ring-fence expenditure on the past and try to ensure that is totally separate from the running budget for police needs?

The special fund of £34 million that we have provided for the historical inquiries team to look into the unresolved murders of the years of the troubles is, of course, additional money that does not come out of the day-to-day policing budget. It is important that we focus all the resources that we can on day-to-day policing—that is, on neighbourhood policing and dealing with antisocial behaviour, for example—but we must also deal with the remaining threats from dissident republicans, loyalist paramilitaries or those involved in organised crime networks. I know that the hon. Gentleman cares very deeply about such matters, and that he will agree that we must remain very strongly focused on them.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Assets Recovery Agency has an important role to play in deterring crime, as well as potentially obtaining more funds for policing in Northern Ireland? Can he outline the progress the Government have made in obtaining funds through that source?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that issue. He is right: where assets are seized and turned back into cash, it can be put back into front-line police services. I am pleased to say that with some of that money the Police Service of Northern Ireland has just taken on 60 new financial investigators, who will further improve the capacity for that work. The ARA is doing a tremendous job in Northern Ireland and its work will be redoubled and strengthened when it merges with the Serious Organised Crime Agency next year. Of course, partnership with our colleagues in the Republic is also an important element of that work.

I congratulate the Secretary of State and the Minister on their appointments and thank them very much for their kindness this week following the terrible flooding in my constituency. I apologise to you, Mr. Speaker, and the House for having to leave shortly after this question to attend to those problems.

Given that the security situation has improved so much, is it not rather unfortunate that over the past 10 years the level of policing has dropped from 8,500 to 7,500 officers, and also that the full-time reservist force has dropped from 3,000 to fewer than 700 and the part-time reservist force from 1,300 to fewer than 900? Although we hope that the security situation continues to improve, are not those figures of a little concern to the Minister?

On behalf of my right hon. Friend, may I express our sympathies to the hon. Gentleman and his constituents for the difficulties that they face?

At 7,500, the PSNI has greater strength than any other police service in the United Kingdom. Significantly, confidence in the PSNI shows an encouraging story: 75 per cent. of people in Northern Ireland express full confidence in the police service that they receive. We should all take encouragement from that.

Maze Prison Site

The future of the Maze prison site is now the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Executive. To date, they have not sought discussions with me on the matter, but of course I would be happy to meet them to discuss it further if they wish.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on his appointment and thank him for that reply. The estimated cost of building a national stadium at the Long Kesh Maze site is between £43 million and £400 million. Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House a definitive figure, to the extent that he is able to do so, after taking account of all contingency and additional costs?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks.

The matter is now devolved and it is for the Executive in Northern Ireland, so it would be inappropriate for me to comment on it. Suffice it to say that it is under review; the Executive are looking at a business case and I understand that they will bring it back in the autumn.

I thank the Secretary of State for that reply. He will be aware that the people of Northern Ireland are pleased that the question of the future of the Maze is now in the hands of the Northern Ireland Assembly, but will he make sure that every piece of information relating to the stadium is put into the public domain so that people such as Northern Ireland football supporters do not have to go to freedom of information legislation to obtain information about various aspects of the process that seem to have been kept very secret? Will he assure the Minister for Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland that every bit of information will be put into the public domain?

The Secretary of State will be well aware of the almost total opposition of Northern Ireland football supporters to the siting of the stadium at the Maze. He will also be aware of the total opposition of Unionists to the provision of a shrine to hunger strikers at the Maze—something that is already happening, promoted by Sinn Fein. Will he give an assurance that no agreements made in the past by direct rule Ministers or actions taken by direct rule Ministers in the future will limit the ability of the Executive and the Assembly in Northern Ireland to be the final arbiters of what happens to the Maze site and the location of the national stadium?

I reassure the hon. Gentleman that, of course, this is now a matter for the Executive—the final decision will be theirs—but I remind him that when direct rule Ministers looked at the issue, it was the subject of enormous consultation and that the decision was endorsed by all three major sporting bodies—those for soccer, rugby and Gaelic football? However, these are now matters for the Executive.

In respect of the hon. Gentleman’s observations about what some have described as a terrorist shrine, there is no question of its being a terrorist shrine and, frankly, to suggest that it is, as I think that he knows, denigrates the work done by the Maze consultation panel. It came up with proposals and a way forward on all this, and it would be best to remember the words of the Deputy First Minister, who said yesterday:

“I am not arguing for any kind of shrine…If we want a conflict transformation centre, then it has to concentrate on how we resolve conflict.”

Historical Inquiries

3. How much has been spent on ongoing historical inquiries in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. (151124)

6. How much has been spent on ongoing historical inquiries in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. (151127)

7. What estimate he has made of the cost to the public purse of ongoing historical inquiries in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. (151128)

The Bloody Sunday inquiry, the Robert Hamill, Rosemary Nelson and Billy Wright inquiries and the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s historical inquiries team were established to address specific issues arising from Northern Ireland’s past. The total cost of the four public inquiries, as at April 2007, is £211 million. The estimated expenditure of the historical inquiries team at end March 2007 is £9.9 million. I have placed a more detailed breakdown of expenditure in the Library today for the benefit of right hon. and hon. Members.

Has the Secretary of State made any assessment of how many of the 3,268 murders related to the security situation that are being investigated by the historical inquiry team are likely to lead to the establishment of a separate public inquiry?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the historical inquiries team was specifically set up by the Chief Constable to focus on providing resolution, where possible, for the families affected by those deaths in a way that would command the confidence of the wider community. There is no question but that it has been successful, particularly in its specific purpose of engaging with families. As for prosecutions, that is, of course, a matter for the Chief Constable.

Does the Secretary of State accept that those of us who supported setting up the Bloody Sunday inquiry would not have done so if we had known that, by now, it would cost £180 million? It has not yet concluded, and it almost certainly has not brought the closure that we all desired.

Undoubtedly, the costs of the Bloody Sunday inquiry are higher than many people would like. Of course, the Government are committed to ensuring not only that the inquiry has the resources to do the job, but that we can bring about best value for money for the public purse. The fact of the matter is that, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, justice must take its course. The inquiry has had to interview more than 900 witnesses. There have been endless judicial review proceedings. None the less, it is now proceeding towards its end, and we expect and hope that its resolution will come soon.

I apologise for not have heard all the answer, Mr. Speaker.

The Secretary of State has been helpful in what he has said, but will he tell me whether he in the Department or someone in the devolved Administration decides which inquiry will take place and determines the extent of the investigation and the budgetary parameters? Who decides whether it is appropriate to hold an inquiry and on what terms?

The conduct of most of the inquiries that are taking place is already set out, and they are already proceeding along their courses. A number of inquiries are under way. I am not quite sure which inquiry the hon. Gentleman is referring to, but I am happy to discuss that with him or to pursue it by letter. Of course, inquiry matters are for me to set out, but once under way, they are matters for the chairman or the judge involved.

The Secretary of State says that justice must take its course, but does he accept that many of the innocent victims in Northern Ireland see no justice? What they see is hundreds of millions of pounds being spent for political purposes by the Government and others to pursue a vendetta against the security forces and those who work to defeat terrorism. I welcome the Secretary of State to his new position, but will he do something to redress the balance in favour of the victims and against the terrorists and those who would seek to rewrite history?

There is no question in anybody’s mind of inquiries being confused with vendettas. The inquiries are there precisely to establish the truth, and it is absolutely right that they continue to do so. However, the hon. Gentleman makes an important point about the future of inquiries and how we handle the past. That is why my predecessor—I pay tribute to the work that he did not only in this area, but during his entire time as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland over the previous two years—set up the consultative group. Its purpose, under Robin Eames and Denis Bradley, is to see whether, across the entire community of Northern Ireland, we can find a consensus on how to deal with the past. There is no question but that we must continue to discover the truth about the past. That will never be sacrificed. However, we also have to find a way to deal with the past that does not leave us in a divided past, but allows us to use our inquiries as a way of healing for the future.

I welcome the Secretary of State and the Minister of State to their new positions and offer the best wishes of my party to them in doing what remains, potentially, a very difficult job. I share many of the concerns about the price of the inquiries, but we should never lose sight of their value. The Secretary of State just referred to the Bradley and Eames commission on the past. Does he accept that that is an inquiry of a different order? Will he ensure that its deliberations are properly resourced and that any recommendations it makes will be properly implemented?

I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his post and I am sure that he will be extremely successful. I also welcome the co-operation that he has already offered me in my job. I agree with most of what he said, but, on the other hand, I cannot second-guess the outcome of the work of Lord Eames and Denis Bradley. I have every confidence that if a consensus can be found on how to deal with the past for the future, they are the people who will help to find it from within the community. It is my intention to publish the findings of their report, but that will be based on consultation with them.

I welcome the new Secretary of State to his office and wish him well. We were both elected as Conservative MPs in 1997 and it is an interesting reflection on the different ways in which we have spent the past 10 years that we hold our current posts. I intend to build on the sterling work of my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington), who supported the Government through the current process, but did not offer them a blank cheque. On the question of cheques, will the Secretary of State estimate the total cost of all the current and future inquires, and say when he thinks they may be completed?

Since the hon. Gentleman invites me to look at the past, and the time when we were both elected, I will say to him that it took me two years to realise that the Conservatives were the party of the past and that Labour remains and will be the party of the future. Even though he has remained in the Conservative party for eight years longer than I did, if he wants to come across now, I am sure that we can always find a place for him here.

In relation to the hon. Gentleman’s question about the cost of future inquiries, in the case of the four public inquiries currently under way, we anticipate further expenditure of about £60 million. We have set aside for the historical inquiries team £34 million, of which £10 million has already been spent, leaving a further £24 million, which we expect to be spent by the various agencies in Northern Ireland in looking at the past.

That was a helpful reply. The Secretary of State knows that the Chief Constable has stated that retrospective work is absorbing 40 per cent. of police time. Can he confirm whether, in his opinion, the time may come when, in the interests of current police priorities, it will be sensible to draw a line under further historical inquiries?

I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his new post. I believe that he has already taken the opportunity of discussing some of the issues with the Chief Constable. There is no question but that investigations into the past are a considerable burden for the Chief Constable, in terms of resources, manpower and time, but we should recognise that the investigations and inquiries have played a critical role in allowing us to get to where we are with devolution, the Assembly and the Executive in Northern Ireland. Crucially, as was said earlier by my hon. Friend the Minister of State who has responsibility for security, there are unparalleled levels of confidence in policing in Northern Ireland. The way in which the Chief Constable has dealt with the past is exemplary, and that has been crucial to ensuring those levels of police confidence. As for the future, we have asked the consultative group to consider the issues and find a consensus. I will not second-guess what it will find, but I will pay very close attention to the work that it produces.

Prisons (Illegal Drugs)

Positive action has already been taken by the Prison Service, and I have asked the director to review measures to reduce the supply of, and demand for, illegal drugs in prisons—[Interruption.]

Given that so many prisoners are heavily dependent on drugs when convicted, and that so many prisoners suffer from mental illness through drug use, what extra measures will the Minister introduce to encourage the rehabilitation of prisoners while they are in jail, so that they come off drugs?

The hon. Gentleman is right to point out that we need to deal with not just the supply of, but the demand for, illegal drugs in prisons. I was at Hydebank Wood prison earlier this week, and I saw the work of an organisation called Opportunity Youth, which works to support, help and counsel young people there. Its results are very good, in terms of lowering recidivism rates and ensuring a worthwhile future for those young people. When the director brings his recommendations to me, I expect him to include measures that will give people support and help in dealing with their addiction problems.

In the Minister’s opinion, are the sentences handed down by the courts in Northern Ireland for drug-related offences—[Interruption.]

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In the Minister’s opinion, are the sentences a stiff enough punishment, and a great enough deterrent?

Of course, sentencing is a matter for the judiciary, rather than Ministers, but I know that the hon. Gentleman is concerned with the need to make sure that for serious offences, particularly sexual crime and drugs offences, the punishment fits the crime. I can tell him and the rest of the House that later in the year I will bring forward proposals for a reform of the sentencing framework in Northern Ireland, which will include the possibility of tougher sentences for dangerous and violent offenders.

My hon. Friend will know that it is not just in Northern Ireland that drugs coming into prisons are a problem; recently in Scotland, a solicitor was sent to jail for bringing drugs into prison. Will he ensure that there is adequate funding in Northern Ireland, not only for searches—we must make sure that they are much more sophisticated—but to ensure that the consequences for people convicted of bringing drugs into prisons are advertised, so that people know what they are up against when they do it?

Of course my hon. Friend is right: the problem of drugs in prisons, regrettable as it is, is not unique to Northern Ireland. It affects the prison system in Scotland, England and Wales, too, and it requires drug testing to take place. There are also issues of support for those with an addiction problem. I assure him that we will continue to pay attention to the subject, and to invest in it, and we will continue to learn about what works best from prisons in other jurisdictions.

Illegal Drugs (Cross-border Movement)

5. What recent discussions he has had with the Government of the Republic of Ireland on cross-border movement of illegal drugs; and if he will make a statement. (151126)

There is close and effective co-operation between law enforcement agencies north and south of the border. Following the recent election in the Republic of Ireland, I hope shortly to meet the new Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to discuss a range of issues, including the movement of illegal drugs.

Home Office statistics show that since 1998, when the current method of recording crime was introduced, there has been an increase of 35.5 per cent. in recorded drug trafficking offences. What additional help is being given to the police to help them identify the paramilitary groups that are involved in drug trafficking and dealing?

We take drug misuse and drug trafficking very seriously indeed, and I can assure the hon. Lady that there is close co-operation between the Garda Siochana and the Police Service of Northern Ireland to deal with the issue. I give them my full support as the Minister, and also as the chairman of the organised crime taskforce. We must stop drugs poisoning the lives of young people in communities in Northern Ireland, and none of us should rest until that is the case.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—


Before I list my engagements, I am sure the whole House will wish to join me in sending our profound condolences to the families and friends of the four servicemen killed in Iraq over the past week—the three senior aircraftsmen from the RAF killed last Thursday, Chris Dunsmore of 504 Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force, Peter McFerran of 1 Squadron Royal Air Force, and Matthew Caulwell of 1 Squadron Royal Air Force, and at the weekend Lance-Corporal Timothy Flowers from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. They died doing important work in the service of their country and our country, and we owe them and others who have lost their lives a deep debt of gratitude.

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today.

Since the right hon. Gentleman became Prime Minister, he has allowed the release from prison of 951 criminals who had been judged too dangerous to release from prison on a tag. If those people were too dangerous to be out of prison on a tag, why are they now safe to be released from prison without a tag?

I have studied the case that the Opposition have been making. Last week they quoted the National Association of Probation Officers, which says that it is not opposed to the end-of-custody licences. It has no objection in principle to them at all. As for the hon. Gentleman’s point about tagging and home detention curfew, the people who were let out were let out four and a half months early under home detention curfew. The people who were let out in the past few weeks were let out on 6 July, whereas otherwise they would have been let out on 24 July. There was only 18 days’ difference. The major change that we have made as a Government over the past few weeks is to build more prison places, which the Opposition could not afford because they would not have the money to do it.

I thank my right hon. Friend and all the other Ministers for the interest that they have taken in Gloucestershire. I pay due regard to the emergency services for the superb work that they have undertaken, and I pass on my commiserations to my colleagues in the county and all their constituents. However, can it be right that we are told that it will take 14 days to get back our main drinking supplies? There is much misinformation about who is off the mains supply and who is likely to be off. All the businesses, farms and individual households want some certainty. It cannot be the case that we must wait so long in this day and age because of the present crisis. For some time Severn Trent has needed to understand that it must act more quickly. I hope my right hon. Friend will make sure that that happens.

Let me join my hon. Friend in expressing my sympathy to all the people in the Gloucester, Tewkesbury and related areas who have suffered an enormous amount of inconvenience as a result of the storms and then the floods. I also pay tribute to the emergency services—the police, the fire services, the Army and all those who have worked to try to get supplies into the areas and to make sure that the utilities are back serving the people. My hon. Friend is right that Mythe water station failed. He is right that we would like it back in use as quickly as possible. He is also right that all the civil engineering capacity that can be brought to bear is being brought to bear. The water works were polluted. There is, therefore, a danger that the water pouring out from there would contaminate local people. We have made it clear to the Severn water company that it has to provide the bowsers for the area. Nine hundred have already been provided, and 900 will be provided within the next day. Drinking water is being provided through the retail stores. I think that the company has discharged its duty in ensuring that that water is available. Obviously we want Mythe water station back as quickly as possible. I will visit the area later today, and I have invited the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. Robertson) and Gloucestershire Members on both sides of the House to join me on that visit, when we will see at first hand how things are progressing. I think that the House owes a debt of gratitude to all the emergency services, and we will do everything we can to get supplies restored as quickly as possible.

I join the Prime Minister in sending my condolences to the families of Lance-Corporal Timothy Flowers and Senior Aircraftsmen Matthew Caulwell, Christopher Dunsmore and Peter McFerran, all of whom were killed in Iraq. Their deaths are a reminder of the daily sacrifices that our young men and women are making on our behalf, and we honour their memory.

I join the Prime Minister and the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) in praising the emergency services and local councils for the vital work that they are doing in dealing with the floods. The sympathy of the whole House will go out to those who have lost loved ones, those who have been flooded out or evacuated, and those who have had property damaged or lost.

Looking to the future and how we minimise the risk of future flooding, at least five times in the past decade the House has been told that co-ordination between the Environment Agency and local councils needs to improve. I welcome the review that the Prime Minister has set up. Can he confirm that it will look into co-ordination to ensure that this time it really is delivered, and will he ensure that we do everything possible to protect key infrastructure in the future?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I hope that the whole House will agree on our thanks to all the emergency services. I have seen at first hand the superb work they are doing, and I look forward to meeting them later today. I also agree that the sympathies that go out to those who have been disconnected and those who are without vital supplies are shared by the whole House. We will have to consider what is to happen in the future. Of course, the main thing at the moment is to make people secure, to prevent any further incidents, and to do what we can to give people the supplies that they need.

The review was set up as a result of what happened in Yorkshire and Humberside. It is to help us to understand why the flooding has been so extensive and why we are seeing such extreme weather conditions, but also to learn lessons for the future. The siting of infrastructure is one issue that I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree about; the provision of supplies for dealing with floods is another. Drainage is an issue that has become particularly relevant because of what is happening on the roads. All those issues will be investigated in full, and I believe that the report that he will see when it comes out later this year will be extensive in considering both what has happened and what needs to be done. I hope that there will be an all-party consensus that we need to invest more in preventing floods in the future.

I am grateful for that answer. However, there is a specific question that some local councils are asking about the compensation that they will receive—[Interruption.]

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. People in this country are discussing these issues and they want these questions asked and answered.

Local councils are asking a specific question about the compensation that they will receive for the money that they spend on flood relief. They welcome the improvements that have taken place in the funding formula. The Prime Minister has said that there will be 100 per cent. relief, but the formula still requires councils to fund the first part of the bill, which can, in some cases, run into millions of pounds. So does 100 per cent. really mean 100 per cent.?

Under the Bellwin formula, it used to be 85 per cent. of costs recovered; it is now 100 per cent. as a result of an announcement that we made because of what happened in Yorkshire and Humberside, and that is extended to all the areas affected now. In addition, my right hon. Friend the Environment Secretary announced that the fund that was set up for Yorkshire and Humberside will be extended from £10 million to £20 million so that local authorities can make further claims where they face difficulties. I can also say that in addition, along with funding from the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the regional development agencies, the total funding available for Yorkshire and Humberside, and to deal with what is happening in the areas we are visiting today, will be £46 million in total. We have substantially raised the funds available so that local authorities are in a better position to respond.

In addition to that, we shall have to look at the infrastructure needs for the future, which will be a matter for the inquiry set up by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. In the immediate term, £46 million will be made available; in the longer run, we have to look at what we have to do to improve our infrastructure. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, expenditure on flood defences is being increased from £300 million to £600 million, and it will reach £800 million by 2011. I hope, again, that all parties will support that.

The focus in some parts of the country is now shifting from emergency response to clean-up. Can the Prime Minister tell us what steps the Government will take to make sure that the insurance companies pay up rapidly? Many people who do not have insurance will find their homes ruined and be left with little or nothing. Some local hardship funds are being set up, but is the Prime Minister satisfied that they are extensive enough to cover all the affected areas?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman because his question allows me to explain that we have been talking to the insurance companies. They are in a position to act quickly, and we are urging them to do so. As for people who are uninsured, part of the reason why we are funding local authorities with the additional £20 million is to enable them to help people who are in particular difficulties. In addition, there are crisis grants and community care grants, and I know that money has already been paid out in Yorkshire and Humberside. We will do what we can to help people to get their insurance payments as quickly as possible, and to help the uninsured. Again, I hope that all parties want to make sure that people insure for the future and, at the same time, that insurance companies pay up quickly.

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the very serious situation facing broadcasters in this country, with the revelations last week from the BBC, and this morning’s resignation by the head of GMTV. Will he hold urgent talks with Ofcom and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in an attempt to restore public faith in broadcasters?

This is a very serious matter, because it affects people’s confidence in television stations. Those people who are running competitions and telephone lines rely on the general public having confidence in what they are doing. I will certainly have the talks that my hon. Friend suggests, but it is a matter for those authorities to sort out, and they should do it quickly.

Once again, I associate myself with the expressions of condolence and sympathy that we have just heard from the Prime Minister, and like him, I wish to pay tribute to the local authorities, the armed services and the emergency services, some of whose work I have seen for myself.

The Prime Minister acknowledged the importance of infrastructure, particularly water treatment plants and power stations. In the review to which he has referred, set up by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, will there be a detailed assessment of the precautions available to all such infrastructural facilities throughout the country, and not just those in the areas affected during the past few weeks?

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman because that is exactly what we have to do. If we are dealing with extreme weather conditions, as we are, and if we are dealing with the situation that we found in Yorkshire and Humberside, and particularly in Gloucester, where a month’s rain fell within an hour, we have to look at whether the precautions we have taken in the past are satisfactory, whether infrastructure is sited in the right place, and whether drainage arrangements made in the 19th and 20th centuries are suitable for 21st century conditions. I assure him that the review has sufficiently wide terms of reference—I could read them out, but I shall pass them on to him—for all these issues to be looked at. But again, all parties will have to agree that further expenditure on infrastructure will be necessary, and that it will be a public expenditure requirement for the country.

The Prime Minister was responsible for the establishment of the Stern review, which he will recall pointed out the severe economic consequences of climate change. Is it not clear from the events of the past few weeks that we cannot afford not to take the necessary steps, or, indeed, not to spend the necessary money, to mitigate the effects of climate change?

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is right. The Stern report, which the Treasury commissioned, said that global warming is very likely to intensify the water cycle and increase the risk of floods. It is an accepted part of the Stern recommendations that we have to do more. We have increased expenditure on flood defences from £300 million to £600 million. We will increase that to £800 million in the next few years. We will ensure that the necessary investment is made and, if the review reports that we need to do more, we will put it to the House of Commons that we should spend more to ensure that our infrastructure is properly equipped to deal with emergencies such as those that we have experienced.

My right hon. Friend knows that bingo clubs throughout the country provide a safe form of entertainment for many thousands of our constituents. However, due to a combination of factors, including the smoking ban, the removal of amusement games and the high taxation that bingo clubs face, 21 clubs have already closed in Scotland alone. Will my right hon. Friend agree to meet me and representatives of the industry to ascertain whether we can find a way forward, especially through value added tax, to try to preserve as many of our bingo clubs as possible?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I have looked at the issue from time to time. I realise that he is passing judgment on a former Chancellor of the Exchequer when he makes his comments about what has happened to the taxation of bingo. I assure him that the current Chancellor will continue to consider those matters and that I too am happy to meet him to discuss them.

The agreement that we got on the budget is good for Britain. It means that we will make a proper contribution—[Interruption.]

I am sorry that Conservative Members do not want to support the enlargement of the European Union, which is the reason why the budget was adjusted. It was right to do that in the interests of supporting the economic development of eastern Europe. I believe that we got a good settlement for the country and that, when the House debates it in detail, Conservative Members will see that it is a good settlement for the country. I hope that, from the hon. Gentleman’s new position of freedom on the Back Benches, he might be able to support us.

My right hon. Friend knows that, today in Britain, 4,000 children live in care establishments and long to live in family homes with parents. What are the Government doing about that?

My hon. Friend raises an important issue, which is very much part of the spending review that we are undertaking so that we can do more for children in the establishments that she mentioned and recognise their needs. I believe that all parties accept that we undervalued what we needed to do in the past. The review that is taking place will make for better policy for the future. I am happy to talk to my hon. Friend about those issues so that we can agree on a proper way forward.

(Witney) (Con): This morning, the Prime Minister said in an interview about the EU constitution—[Interruption.] There is plenty more. He said:

“if I thought I was doing something that needed a referendum I would say so.”

The Irish Prime Minister says that 90 per cent. of the constitution remains in the treaty and the Spanish Foreign Minister says that 98 per cent. remains. What figure would the Prime Minister put on it? [Interruption.]

Order. The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to be heard. I have said it before and I will say it again: I do not want a Whip at my side shouting. It is the last thing I want.

I have a simple question for the Prime Minister: if the Spanish Foreign Minister cites 98 per cent. and the Irish Prime Minister cites 90 per cent., what is his figure?

I see, Mr. Speaker, that we are quickly back to the old agenda. I have to tell the right hon. Gentleman that, if he examines each aspect of the treaty and what we secured in our negotiations, he should support it, not oppose it. The first issue is the charter of rights—it is non-justiciable in British law, so we secured our negotiating objective. The second is justice and home affairs—we have an opt-in, so we secured our negotiating objective. The third issue is security, foreign affairs and defence policy, which remains intergovernmental, so we secured our objective. The fourth is social security—no expenditure affecting us will be made without an emergency brake that we can put on, so we secured our negotiating objective. National security will remain a matter for individual Governments, so we secured our negotiating objective. He might be better off, in the interests of unity within his own party, looking at what the chair of his democracy taskforce said only a few days ago. He said that, as a result of what we had negotiated, a European referendum would be “crackpot”, “dotty” and “frankly absurd”.

If the right hon. Gentleman wants to trade quotations from former Chancellors, I can tell him about a former Chancellor who promised a referendum and who put it in his manifesto. That former Chancellor is him. He talks about his red lines, but he had red lines with the constitution, and they are pretty much the same red lines. That is why the man who wrote the constitution says that the changes have been few and far between. That is why the President of the Commission is going round saying that it will usher in

“the world’s first non-imperial empire”.

Mr. Giscard d’Estaing says that more than 90 per cent. remains and Jean-Luc Dehaene, the former Prime Minister of Belgium, says that the figure is 95 per cent., so which is it? The Prime Minister claims to be a numbers man, so is it 90 per cent., is it 95 per cent. or is it 98 per cent.? Come on.

Let me just read from the mandate agreed at the Council:

“The constitutional concept, which consisted in repealing all existing Treaties and replacing them by a single text called ‘Constitution’, is abandoned.”

That was the decision made at the intergovernmental conference in Brussels. The Conservative party should recognise that that was achieved and that all our negotiating objectives, including the opt-outs, so that the charter is non-justiciable in English and British law, were also achieved. The Conservative party has got to wake up to the fact that we succeed when we negotiate in Europe, and we do not need to have an empty chair.

Why does the Prime Minister not wake up and read this quotation from his trade Minister? He said:

“This is a con to call this a treaty; it’s not. It’s exactly the same: it’s a constitution.”

That is the man whom the Prime Minister put in the House of Lords as his trade Minister. The right hon. Gentleman says that he wants to restore trust in a Government that he has been part of for 10 years; he says that he wants to involve people in the decisions affecting their lives; and he says that he wants the state to be the servant not the master. Yet on the key test of whether to honour the commitment that he personally gave to hold a referendum, he has failed. Why is he afraid to trust the people and hold that referendum?

The right hon. Gentleman is back to the old agenda. It did not take long after the Ealing, Southall by-election for him to retreat—the old agenda on Europe, the old agenda on grammar schools, the old agenda on spending and the old agenda on tax cuts. The wheels are falling off the Tory bicycle, and it is just as well that he has got a car following him when he goes out on his rounds. Let me just quote what his old friend Lord Kalms has said to him:

“We’re having a very bad period.”

He said that they needed to do some rethinking and that

“Some of the policies need substantial working on.”

He continued:

“What we should do is pack up”,

go to our constituencies,

“and come back in the autumn”

and rethink. That is what the Tories have got to do.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in urging Royal Mail to enter into meaningful discussions with the Communication Workers Union and thus ensure that the jobs and the good pay and conditions of Royal Mail employees, such as those at Mount Pleasant sorting office in my constituency, are protected?

Obviously, we want decent pay for all workers in this country, but we must also tackle inflation, and people have to accept settlements that will ensure that inflation is low in the years to come. While I want to see justice for every low-paid worker in this country, we have to remember that if we do not win the battle against inflation, we will have a bigger problem next year or the year after. That is why I believe that all workers should look at pay settlements as a means by which we can conquer inflation over the next few months.

Q3. Given the warnings from the Chief of the General Staff at the weekend that the Army was out of reserves, and given that the Defence Select Committee heard yesterday that more than 90 per cent of terrorist attacks in Basra are now being perpetrated on British forces, is it not time to bring the British forces out of Iraq and to concentrate our efforts on Afghanistan, which the west neglected by rushing to war in Iraq on a false prospectus? (152112)

We will meet our responsibilities in Iraq. They are responsibilities in relation to the United Nations and to the new, democratic Iraqi Government. We have reduced the number of troops from 44,000 to 5,500, and in three provinces we have moved from a combat role to an overwatch role. We will have to make a decision about moving to an overwatch role in a fourth province. I do not think that we would be doing the Iraqi Government or our commitments to the United Nations any service by setting an artificial timetable now.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman, however, that we must support the effort in Afghanistan. It is the front line against the Taliban, and this is where we would like to see greater burden sharing by all our NATO and other allies. It is also where our Army and our defence forces are doing an excellent job, as they are in Iraq. Where the Army and the defence forces ask for extra and new equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is being provided. We have already spent £0.75 billion on updating the equipment that is available to the forces, and, in Afghanistan in particular, I was able to announce new helicopters for our forces for this year and next year. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that, when it comes to the provision of equipment to deal with these emergencies, we have been forthcoming in providing the resources necessary.

Q4. Holly Davenport from Wakefield was just five years old when she suffered burns to 50 per cent. of her body after falling into a scalding hot bath. Each year, 600 people suffer the same terrible fate as Holly, three quarters of whom are children under five. Will my right hon. Friend meet me and the “Hot water burns like fire” coalition, so that we can impress upon him the need to change the law to enable the installation of thermostatic mixing valves on the baths in the 3 million new homes that we are going to build over the next 13 years, to protect the most vulnerable in our society? (152113)

I want to praise my hon. Friend’s campaign on behalf of her constituents in the light of the terrible damage and injuries that have been inflicted. We share her concern to do everything that we can to minimise scalding as a result of failures in hot water systems. We are working closely with the industry to provide guidance and training to those who install and maintain hot water systems, and to review building regulations, which are important in regard to determining what further action is necessary. I shall be happy to meet my hon. Friend and her campaigners to talk about these issues.

Today, a Scottish opinion survey shows the standing of the Prime Minister trumped by that of the Scottish National party Scottish Government. May I ask the Prime Minister to turn this around? Who is he supporting as the next leader of the Labour party in Scotland, or is he standing behind Jack McConnell?

The former First Minister has done an excellent job for Scotland. During his period in office, and those of his predecessors, 250,000 jobs were created in Scotland. I believe that the state of the Scottish economy is due in no small part to the work of this Government with the Labour Scottish Administration, when they were in power. I hope that the hon. Gentleman’s party will do nothing to damage the economic record that has brought such prosperity to Scotland.

Q5. Will my right hon. Friend commit to boosting UK manufacturing by making a commitment to the new aircraft carriers that are much needed by the Royal Navy, and by ensuring that those platforms will have UK-built aircraft? If the joint strike fighter transfer does not go ahead, will he ensure that the Typhoon operates from those carriers? (152114)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has always taken an interest in the ordering of aircraft carriers. The announcement on them is being eagerly awaited in Portsmouth, Glasgow, Rosyth and Barrow and, indeed, throughout the UK maritime industry. This is a major project for the future of the shipbuilding industry, and a major addition to the strategic strength of the Royal Navy, and I hope that he will be pleased by the announcement that the Defence Secretary is going to make in a few minutes.

Q6. The Government’s first election manifesto outlined plans for Scotland and stated:“The Union will be strengthened and the threat of separatism removed.”Given that we now have a separatist leader of the Scottish Executive and given the increasing resentment in England about the imbalance in funding and voting between Scotland and England, what positive proposals does the Prime Minister have for dealing with that—or is he just in denial? (152115)

I have to tell the right hon. Gentleman that in both the Scottish and Welsh elections, nearly 70 per cent. of voters voted against separatist parties. Even after the elections that he referred to, there is no majority for separation and no majority for independence in either Scotland or Wales. I would have thought that the Conservative party had learned its lesson on these issues. When the leader of the Conservative party is in Scotland, he says that he supports devolution wholeheartedly, but when he is in England, he says that he has doubts about whether it should happen at all. [Interruption.] Oh yes. I believe that the Conservative party should make up its mind and support the Union and devolution.

Q7. Is it fair that 1.8 million children in this country grow up in poverty because they live in a household where nobody works? That is the single biggest issue in my constituency and the Rhondda. Is it not time that we did far more to ensure that every child gets an opportunity in life, and that we got more people off benefits and into work, so that we could break the vicious circle whereby poverty cascades down through the generations? (152116)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. When the employment figures were published last week, 29 million people were in work—2.5 million more than in 1997. That is as a result of the new deal—opposed by the Conservative party; the minimum wage—opposed by the Conservative party; and new measures in public expenditure—opposed by the Conservative party. We will continue to do the right thing to create jobs in this country.

National Security

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement. On 29 and 30 June, the professionalism, vigilance and courage of our police and our security and emergency services thwarted a conspiracy to murder and maim British citizens. Britain—led by London and Glasgow —stood firm in the face of threats. Our calmness and steadfastness as a nation sent a powerful message across the world that we will not yield to terrorism, or ever be intimidated by it.

Those events were the 15th attempted terrorist plot on British soil since 2001. As previously set out, the police and security services are currently having to contend with around 30 known plots, and monitor more than 200 groupings or networks and about 2,000 individuals. I think that the whole House will agree that our country—and all countries—has to confront a generation-long challenge to defeat al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist violence.

In recognition of that continuing long-term threat, we have created, among other things, a new national security committee to oversee the new office for security and counter-terrorism. Following the first meetings of the national security committee, I want to report on changes that we now recommend.

First, let me confirm to the House that in future we will publish a national security strategy, and that the first will be published and presented in the autumn to Parliament for debate and decision in this House. At the time of the spending review, we will announce a single security budget for our country. In line with the Butler report, we will separate the position of chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee from policy adviser to the Government. Thus, the sole responsibilities of the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee will be to provide Ministers with assessments that have been formulated independently of the political process and to improve across Government the effectiveness of intelligence analysis.

Today, I am also publishing the Intelligence and Security Committee report on rendition and the Government are consulting on how in future the ISC should be appointed and should report to Parliament—where possible, with hearings in public, a strengthened capacity for investigations, reports that are subject to more parliamentary debate and greater transparency over appointments to the Committee.

To strengthen the counter-terrorist capability of the police and security services, we have, since 11 September, doubled our overall investment to more than £2 billion a year. Dedicated anti-terrorist resources have also doubled. Even in advance of the spending review settlement for future years, the Security Service will, by next year, be twice the size it was in 2001.

The protection and resilience of our major infrastructure and crowded places requires continuous vigilance. I can confirm that over 900 shopping centres, sports stadiums and venues where people congregate have been assessed by counter-terrorism security advisers, over 10,000 premises have been given updated security advice, and the police will continue high-visibility patrols.

The counter-terrorism Bill will also include a new power allowing the Secretary of State to ensure additional protection for key utility sites. We have asked Lord West to oversee, over this summer, a further overview of how best we protect crowded places and our buildings and national infrastructure, from roads, railways and tunnels to bridges, water systems and utilities.

Since 1997, the Government have given the police new resources and Parliament has provided new legal powers to arrest and try terrorists. Thanks to the hard work, dedication and commitment of the men and women in the police, security and intelligence services and the prosecuting authorities, this year alone, in nine cases, a total of 30 individuals have been convicted. The forthcoming counter-terrorism Bill will propose additional penalties for terrorists charged with other criminal offences.

Our first line of defence against terrorism is overseas at other countries’ ports and airports where people embark on journeys to our country and from where embassies issue visas. To protect us in routes and places where there is the greatest threat of harm, I believe that we now need to accelerate our plans, completing the move from old and ineffective paper-based systems to real-time monitoring, which will allow us to act immediately and in a co-ordinated way across immigration, police, and intelligence.

The way forward is electronic screening of all passengers as they check in and out of the country at ports and airports, so that terrorist suspects can be identified and stopped before they board planes, trains and boats to the United Kingdom. After a review of counter-terrorism screening, and as part of the overall spending settlement for security to be set out in the autumn, the Home Secretary will enhance the existing e-borders programme to incorporate all passenger information to help to track and intercept terrorists and criminals, as well as, of course, illegal immigrants.

While new biometric visas are already in place for immigrants from high-risk countries, I can confirm that within nine months—from March next year—we will extend biometric visas to all visa applicants. From 2009, we will introduce a new, enhanced system of electronic exit control, linking the checking of passports to checking against the warnings index.

The second line of defence is at our borders, where biometrics—not just fingerprints but iris recognition—are already in use. To strengthen the powers and surveillance capability of our border guards and security officers, we will now integrate the vital work of the Border and Immigration Agency, Customs and UKvisas overseas and at the main points of entry to the UK, and we will establish a unified border force.

I have asked the Cabinet Secretary to report back by October on the stages ahead in implementation and whether there is a case for going further while ensuring value for money, but as a result of our announcement today, the first change that people will see is that, starting from next month when arriving in Britain, they will be met at the border—either sea port or airport—by a highly visible, uniformed presence, as over the next period we move, for the first time, to one single primary checkpoint for both passport control and customs.

But this, our second line of defence, has also to be complemented by a third line of defence—ID security within our own borders. While for UK citizens the first biometric ID cards will start during 2009, from the end of 2008 any foreign nationals coming to the UK for more than six months will be required to have a biometric ID. Such an identity scheme will help to prevent people already in the country from using multiple identities for terrorist, criminal or other purposes.

In the identification of potential terrorist suspects, there should also be maximum co-operation internationally, with maximum possible use made of alerts and watch lists. While Lord West’s review has found no systematic failings in our procedures for checking potential suspects, it has highlighted the importance of enhancing existing co-operation to share more information between police and immigration services and internationally across countries: within the European Union, to enable British law enforcement authorities to access immigration information on existing European Union databases; bilaterally with other member states, mutually to exchange information; and joining up criminal records databases throughout the EU, so that our authorities can quickly identify individuals who are charged with crimes, no matter where in Europe they are convicted. At a cost of £5 million, we will link the UK watch list to the Interpol database of lost and stolen documents.

In addition to the nine foreign nationals recently deported under immigration powers on grounds of national security, a further 21 foreign nationals are currently subject to deportation proceedings on national security grounds. On the same grounds, we are preventing 124 individuals from coming to our country and refusing to admit another 52 for glorifying terrorism or other unacceptable behaviour. Overall, 4,000 foreign prisoners are likely to be deported from our country this year. We have agreed repatriation arrangements with Jordan, Libya, Lebanon and Algeria, and we will now press ahead to sign more agreements.

Liberty is the first and founding value of our country, and security is the first duty of Government. The British way is that every measure we take to enhance security is complemented by additional protections against any arbitrary treatment and in defence of the liberties of the individual. We want to consult widely, and we seek—and look forward to obtaining—an all-party consensus on how we treat intercept evidence and on new provisions for pre-charge detention and post-charge questioning. The independent and cross-party review into the use of intercept as evidence in court will be led by Sir John Chilcot, and its members will include the Privy Councillors Lord Archer of Sandwell, Lord Hurd and the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith).

While it is already a criminal offence to seek training for terrorism overseas or in this country, we will consult on tightening bail conditions, and in particular on restriction of travel, in any cases where people are suspected of complicity in terrorism. We have in place a regime that allows pre-charge detention for up to 28 days. There is general agreement that the circumstances in which the police might need to go beyond even 14 days will be rare, and that will be subject to special procedures of both judicial oversight and parliamentary accountability. I detect that there is also a growing weight of opinion—including from Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of anti-terrorism legislation—that there might be some circumstances in which detention beyond 28 days is necessary, such as if the police have to intervene early to avert an attack, if huge quantities of material evidence need to be analysed, or if assistance from other countries is necessary.

The 2005 case cited in previous debates on this issue involved investigation of some 60 mobile phones, 268 computers, and 920 DVDs. However, the airline investigation last August involved 200 mobile phones, 400 computers, 8,000 CDs, DVDs and other discs containing 6,000 gigabytes of data, almost 70 premises searches, and inquiries across three continents. Another case involved 3,000 statements, the examination of 6,000 documents, more than 8,000 exhibits and inquiries across nine countries. During the recent period—I must make this clear to Members, in the light of a radio debate this morning—six people had to be held for 27 or 28 days.

While one of our proposals, which enjoys broad support, to allow post-charge questioning for the explicit purpose of securing evidence in a terrorism trial will reduce the risk that we will need to go beyond 28 days, the Home Affairs Committee concluded that that step will not entirely eliminate the risk. It is right to explore whether a consensus can be built on the most measured way to deal with the remaining risk. I hope that Members will agree that we should not return to the previous proposal rejected by the House, but I also hope that they will agree that there must be a maximum limit—and that that should be set by Parliament.

We today put forward four options for consultation over the coming months. One proposal that we cite in the consultation document from Liberty, to which we are grateful for engaging constructively in the debate, is that if this risk materialises, we should declare an emergency under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 and allow for a period beyond the 28-day limit, for up to a further 30 days, although that would require the declaration of a state of emergency. We are also proposing for consultation—this would not require a state of emergency—an extension of the current limit for up to 28 days more or a lesser period but only if, in addition to the requirement that a judge must approve every seven-day extension, the case is notified to Parliament and subject to a timely report to it of all circumstances, and with the option of a later parliamentary debate.

This therefore means that any extension would be subject not only to a specific case being made by the Director of Public Prosecutions, subject every seven days, up to the agreed limit, to the approval of a High Court judge, and subject to the regular report of the independent reviewer, with an annual debate in Parliament but, in each and every instance, to a specific parliamentary notification procedure, to a further statement to Parliament on the individual case, and to a review of the specific case by the independent reviewer, with the provision for this House to scrutinise and debate the report and all the circumstances.

More important even than consensus here in the House is the consensus that we seek in all communities across the country. Since the attacks of 7 July 2005, communities in Britain and across the world have come together in a common front against terrorism and against the propaganda that fuels it. This requires not just the security measures we are outlining today, but that we work with all communities—and, indeed, all countries—through debate, discussion, dialogue and education as we tackle at root the evils that risk driving people, particularly vulnerable young people, into the hands of violent extremists. Here, schools, colleges, universities, civil society, faith groups—indeed, every institution in our country—have a part to play.

Last week, President Sarkozy of France and I agreed to propose the formation of a joint working group with Germany and other countries to share our experiences and develop ways to expose and defeat terrorism. We will report later this year on this work, but we can make a start today. Over the next three years, we will provide an additional £70 million for local authorities and community groups to improve the capacity of local communities in our country to resist violent extremism. This will include developing leadership programmes for young people, strengthening the capacity of women’s groups, and local projects to build citizenship. There are perhaps as many as 1,000 madrassahs in Britain, educating more than 50,000 to 100,000 young people in after-school classes. In Bradford, an agreement was reached to include citizenship education in their curriculum, and we will now offer to work with other communities on similar programmes.

We will also support a new skills qualification in citizenship and community cohesion for faith leaders. We will sponsor English-speaking imams and propose inter-faith bodies for every community in the country to build greater understanding. We will update guidance to universities before the autumn on how they can do more to protect the safety and security of vulnerable young people in particular. I can also confirm funding for a BBC Arabic channel, and an editorially independent Farsi TV channel that will broadcast to the people of Iran. Following further discussion on these and other issues, the Government will report back to Parliament on further measures that can isolate extremists who preach and practise terrorism.

Our priority as a Government is a Britain strong in security, robust in our resolve and resilient in response, so that as a nation we both defeat terrorism and isolate violent extremism, wherever we confront it and whatever its support. I hope that in doing so, an all-party consensus that will extend into every community of this country is possible, so that together we can create a stronger, safer and more cohesive United Kingdom. I commend this statement to the House.

I thank the Prime Minister for his statement, and I very much agree with what he said in praising the police, the security services and the public for what they did to combat those terrorist attacks. This is an area, of course, where we can and will work together. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that the threat we face from terrorism today is of a different order from the threats we faced in the past? It requires tough, consistent and rigorous action at every level: intelligence and surveillance, tackling extremism, effective policing—including at our borders—and taking all the public with us. It is not just about passing new laws.

On intercept evidence, I welcome the fact that the Prime Minister has accepted our proposal for a Privy Council committee. Will he pledge to legislate immediately if the committee can find a way to lift the ban on the use of this vital evidence in court? We welcome the single security budget, but can he confirm whether spending for special branch, which carries out much of the vital surveillance work done around the country, is included in that budget, because that urgently needs to expand?

When the right hon. Gentleman was Chancellor of the Exchequer, he took the decision to freeze the Home Office budget. Now that that Department has been split in two and he has become Prime Minister, will he revisit that decision?

One of our major concerns on ID cards is that costs are spiralling and the project’s effectiveness is being widely questioned. Does the Prime Minister agree that the money could be better spent to bolster security and public safety elsewhere?

I am delighted that the Prime Minister has finally adopted our policy of a border police force, about which I have been asking him since he became Prime Minister. The immigration Minister has described that policy as damaging, disruptive and distracting, and the Prime Minister and others said that all the way through the election campaign. I am pleased that the Prime Minister now agrees with us and that questions from this Dispatch Box result in action from the Government.

The commission that I set up under Lord Stevens includes the former chief inspector of constabulary and the current head of the British Transport police. Their work is well under way. In order to prepare the policy quickly, will the Prime Minister consider turning the commission into a Government commission, with Opposition involvement, so that we may implement the policy properly and ensure that it is a proper border police force?

On tackling extremism, the Prime Minister has said little about controls on terror suspects travelling abroad. Can he tell us today whether he is considering new laws? Does he agree with me that we should be using intelligence, surveillance and co-ordination to ensure that everything possible is done to break terror networks between this country, Pakistan and the middle east?

On Hizb ut-Tahrir, I ask him again why there is still no ban. It is banned not only in Sweden and Germany, but in Egypt and Pakistan. The fact is that two years ago the then Prime Minister did not say that he would look into banning that group, that he would review it or that he would consider it: he said that he would do it. Why cannot the Prime Minister make the same pledge today?

Another promise made two years ago was to deport those using websites to incite hatred and extremism. Will the Prime Minister confirm that since then only one person has been deported under those specific provisions?

On the issue of winning hearts and minds, the Prime Minister said much with which I agree, and we both agree that not enough is done today to integrate new arrivals into our country. We welcome what he has said, but will some of the extra money be used to reverse the cuts in funding English language teaching, which is so vital for the proper integration of new arrivals?

Turning to the issue of further legislation, will the Prime Minister confirm that seven people who have been given control orders have absconded? May I welcome the decision finally to take up our proposal of allowing the questioning of suspects after they have been charged? Is not that the most important way of ensuring that the police can get on with their job without introducing something that could, if we were not very careful, start to look like a form of internment?

That brings me to the issue of 28 days. We will look at the Prime Minister’s consultation papers very carefully. I have to say that we have seen the point before about the volume of evidence that needs to be gathered. What specifically in the paper today amounts to new evidence? In particular, what evidence does he have that was not available in December, because it was then that the then Home Secretary, Attorney-General and Lord Chancellor agreed that fresh evidence was needed before any further change could be justified?

Rather than passing a new law, will the Prime Minister look carefully at our proposal—and Liberty’s—to use the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, which gives the Government power to detain people for an additional 30 days in time of national emergency. That would make a total of 58 days, two more than the Prime Minister has talked about, without the need to introduce a new, repressive law. The Prime Minister said in his statement that the problem is the need to declare a state of emergency, but if there was a multiple attack on our country and those powers were needed because of the pressures on the police, it would indeed be a state of emergency. Should not this House ask that Ministers prove that all existing laws are being used before they reach for new legislation?

Will the Prime Minister recognise that all the actions necessary—better use of intelligence, stronger policing, cracking down on extremists or passing the necessary laws—may come to nothing unless he is prepared to take a tough and hard-headed look at the Human Rights Act 1998? It is not just me saying that: the previous Prime Minister said that it needed reform and the previous Lord Chancellor said that there were problems with it. Will the Prime Minister now admit that the Act is frustrating our fight against terrorism? Will he work with me to draw up a proper Bill of Rights that protects our liberty and our security? Vitally, do the Government understand that what is needed to defeat terrorism is the hard-nosed defence of liberty, and we must avoid any approach that lapses into ineffective authoritarianism?

Finally, will the Prime Minister welcome with me the fact that with a border police, intercept evidence, questions after charge and a national security council, my party is playing a key role in setting the agenda in making our country safe?

I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman’s support for the individual policies that we have put forward. The support that he has indicated for the work of the emergency, police and security services is appreciated across the House. I know that his support for the bravery in the face of violence of the people involved in the incidents in June was much appreciated at the time.

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we have to do more on hearts and minds, and to integrate people who have come to our country. We need to look at what is happening in some communities to see how we can bind people closer together. I agree that if we could reach a conclusion on the intercept inquiry, we should legislate as quickly as possible. I am glad that there is now all-party agreement on the issue of post-charge questioning.

The border force will be a unified border force that combines the work of the Border and Immigration Agency, Customs and UKvisas at all the main points of entry. It will be a single, uniformed presence and a single checkpoint for passengers. There will be new borders officers, with immigration, Customs and police powers to investigate and detain people suspected of immigration, customs or criminal offences, all reporting to the head of the Border and Immigration Agency. As people come into a port or airport, they will see one single, uniformed presence.

The right hon. Gentleman’s other proposals will be investigated in the Cabinet Secretary’s review, but what we propose today can be implemented very quickly and people will soon see that uniformed presence at ports. If it is not exactly the same as the right hon. Gentleman’s proposal, work will be done to consider other measures he wishes to propose. I believe that it is important that we move ahead now with the unified border force that I propose, and the details are made clear in the documents.

On the issue of 28 days, Parliament is at its best when we discover common ground. It is common ground that there may be circumstances in which the police are justified in asking to go beyond 28 days. Over the course of the last few years, whatever the debates on 90 days or on this allegation or that, the Government and the official Opposition have come to the view that there may be circumstances in which more than 28 days is necessary. I hope that the Liberal party and the other parties will say that they also agree with that case. Therefore, in the rare circumstances in which the police will ask to go beyond 28 days, the question will be what we should do.

The Leader of the Opposition asked if there was new evidence that we could bring to bear since the publication of previous discussions. He agrees that we are dealing with a unique set of circumstances. International terrorists wish to maim or murder indiscriminately as many people as possible. In some cases, they are suicide bombers who have no fear for their own safety, but simply wish to inflict the maximum damage. They also seek to achieve a propaganda effect.

The new evidence is that in six cases in recent times the police have had to go to 27 or 28 days. The new evidence contained in the document before the House is simply the number of exhibits and items for investigation and the number of countries that have to be involved in an investigation before charges can be properly laid. The ricin case involved 26 countries. One ricin-related operation involved 800 passports and 2,500 forged documents. In some of the cases, thousands of documents are involved that are eventually put before the court. That is why the police have said that it is their view that they need more than 28 days.

I accept that we are talking about rare and unusual circumstances, and that it is not a power that we would wish to use other than in the rarest of circumstances. However, if we agree that we will go beyond 28 days in certain circumstances, by what mechanism can we justify to ourselves that the situation is rare, and how can we ensure that there is proper judicial oversight and parliamentary accountability? Those are the questions that we must ask.

I have looked at the proposal from Liberty to which the shadow Home Secretary has given some support. It suggests that a state of emergency would be declared, under the civil contingencies legislation—but do Opposition politicians believe that the declaration of a state of emergency in the circumstances that we have been talking about would not send out a message about how we deal with things in this country that is exactly the opposite of the message that we want to send out?

However, I do accept that there should be a special parliamentary procedure if we go beyond 28 days. Therefore, I ask the Opposition to consider in detail—and obviously there can be cross-party talks on these matters—what we propose as an alternative. We are talking about rare circumstances, and in some cases the parliamentary power that we propose would not be used in any one year. Therefore, would it not be better to ask the Home Secretary to make a parliamentary notification about what has happened and prepare a report that would come to Parliament? In each case, moreover, the independent reviewer would be asked to prepare a report for Parliament as a whole and not just for the Home Secretary. Parliament would then be in a position to debate the matter in full, if it chose to do so.

It seems to me that what the Opposition parties and Liberty have suggested may be a way forward is better dealt with by the notification procedure, by the requirement on the Home Secretary to give a report, by the requirement that, if it is thought necessary, the House will have a debate on the matter, and by the requirement that the independent reviewer prepare a report in each and every circumstance.

I hope that we can have a full debate over the summer months on this and the two other proposals that have been made, in addition to the one from Liberty. I am as anxious as other people in this House that we as a nation can move forward with a united agreement on this matter. Such a consensus would serve this House well. I believe that we can find a solution to this problem if we have a debate and dialogue about it that allows people to listen to all sides of the argument.

The Leader of the Opposition asked about two other things. On Hizb ut-Tahrir—[Interruption.] In fact, the right hon. Gentleman is the last person to have corresponded by letter with Hizb ut-Tahrir, when he thanked it. However, what I say to him is that we must look at the evidence in every single case. We must be aware that when we proscribe an organisation, that should not be overturned on appeal. It is therefore necessary that we look in detail at all the evidence, and that is what I said to him that I would do. I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he wished to provide me with any new evidence, and he is certainly welcome to do so over the next period of time.

As to whether a Bill of Rights is the answer to the problems of deportation, we accept that, when it is difficult to deport an individual from this country, control orders are not just the second best way to deal with the problem, but the third best too. The Government have always made it clear that that is not our preferred route, but the Leader of the Opposition has to look very carefully at the constitutional position that he is taking on this matter. On “The Westminster Hour” last year, his shadow Attorney-General was asked whether a British Bill of Rights

“would be drawn up to make it easier to deport suspected terrorists to countries which might torture them, would it?”

The answer was:

“No, I don’t think it would…It would be quite wrong to suggest it would completely transform the situation.”

In the spirit of debate and dialogue, I ask the Leader of the Opposition not to give people the impression that if he accepts the European convention on human rights, he can find an easy way round the problem of deportation by simply adopting a British Bill of Rights. Let us debate the matter in such a way that we understand the difficulties and work through them, rather than giving people the impression that a solution can be found simply by announcing a new piece of legislation that we know might not have the intended effect.

Otherwise, I feel that there is scope for consensus in other areas. I hope that, over the summer and autumn months, there will be discussions between the parties, led by the Home Secretary, about how we can work together on all the major issues to defeat what everyone agrees is the great issue of our generation. We must ensure that terrorist violence will not flourish, and that it will never intimidate this country.

The Prime Minister was right to begin with a tribute to those who had a hand in thwarting the terrorist efforts of 29 and 30 June. He might also have mentioned the members of the public who behaved with conspicuous gallantry, especially at Glasgow airport. I hope that there may some way to recognise their bravery formally, in a way to which we are accustomed.

The Prime Minister’s statement contained a great deal of detail, and we shall obviously consider it very carefully indeed. We have heard some of what has been said today before, but some of it is undoubtedly new. One thing that should be welcomed unequivocally is the rearrangement of responsibilities with regard to the Joint Intelligence Committee. If the JIC had been dealt with previously in the way that has now been set out, perhaps the misuse of intelligence in September 2002 would not have occurred.

The Government have acknowledged the case for post-charge questioning and for telephone intercept evidence, and that is plainly something that we welcome. Those are the sort of proposals that offer the best approach to terrorism, as they are practical measures that would assist successful prosecution, rather than complex measures designed to circumvent the principles of the criminal justice system.

In due course, we shall be asked to make judgments about how best to defeat terrorism in all its guises. The Prime Minister has asked for consensus, as he is entitled to, but I have to tell him that for many of us, consensus cannot be achieved at the expense of principle. The essential test for any proposed new power must always be whether it is necessary, not whether it is desirable or convenient.

Of course the public have a right to security, but they also have a right to security against the power of the state. We know that it is in the nature of the police to ask for more powers—for the best of motives but often for the worst of reasons. It is in the nature of Government to grant such powers, and it should be in the nature of Parliament to resist them.

Key questions have to be asked. What has changed in the past 18 months that merits asking Members of Parliament to change their minds about detention without charge? Which investigations in that period have been hampered by the absence of a 90-day limit, or of a limit greater than 28 days? Where is the conclusive evidence that an extension to the 28-day period is required, and what assessment has been made of the risk of fanning extremism with a detention policy that will act as a recruiting sergeant for terrorism, just as internment did for the IRA? Why does Britain require greater powers of detention than other comparable democracies, including Australia?

The Prime Minister dealt in his statement with the question of emergency under the Civil Contingencies Act, and he supplemented his position in response to a question from the Leader of the Opposition. It would be extraordinary if one single terrorist made it necessary to declare a state of emergency for the whole country. To that extent, I agree with the scepticism expressed by the Prime Minister, but it would be a most curious constitutional development if the alternative was that the matter should be brought before Parliament. I suppose that this is the high court of Parliament, but the suggestion that reports should be made to Parliament, followed by later parliamentary debate, seems to stand the normal provisions of our constitution—and the separation of powers—very much on their head.

Let me make it clear that we will fulfil our responsibilities, as I have no doubt will every other Member of this House, but it is worth pointing out that there are other things that the Government might have done. For example, why are there no measures to make it easier to charge people with a lower threshold offence at an earlier stage in investigations, when a prime facie case for a charge can be established? Finally, why is there no reference in the statement to the possibility of a more extensive use of plea bargaining, so that those on the periphery of conspiracies may be used as credible witnesses against those who are the principals in terrorist activity?

There is a balance to be struck—[Interruption.] I heard a Labour Member say, “Oh dear!” But he is talking about the rights and privileges of all the people whom he represents here, and we can be pretty certain that the first time one of his constituents finds himself or herself the subject of some of these provisions, he will be here to make the case that something should be done to alleviate the consequences. When we make judgments of this kind we make judgments that affect the very fabric of the society we live in. That is why those judgments have to be based on principle and not expediency.

I admire the passion with which the right hon. and learned Gentleman puts his case for the defence of civil liberties in this country; it is what marks out our constitution, and has done for hundreds of years. Protection against arbitrary acts by Government, or any vested interest, must be central to the business of the House in making sure that such things do not happen in this country. I agree with him on the issue of principle. The question we have to deal with, however, relates to circumstances in which, in the last few months, six investigations led to 27 or 28 days. I can put to the right hon. and learned Gentleman figures that show the degree and scale of the evidence, the intercontinental nature, and the multiple passports, multiple identities and multiple addresses used by terrorist suspects or potential terrorists. The scale and complexity of the investigations that the police now have to conduct in relation to the specific issue of terrorism dwarf what came before. As the Leader of the Opposition—and also, I believe, the right hon. and learned Gentleman—recognises, we are in a very different situation from that of even 10 years ago in relation to terrorism.

The question is: can we both ensure the security of the citizens of this country and protect the civil liberties of the individuals who live in this country? I believe that we can. I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has interpreted our proposal for consultation as a threat to the relationship between the judiciary and Parliament. I do not believe that it is. I am suggesting that, as has been recognised by a number of people, there are circumstances in which it may be right to go beyond 28 days—unusual, rare and only in the instance of terrorism—and the question is how we can find a mechanism for dealing with those circumstances. One suggested mechanism is the declaration of a state of emergency and, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman rightly says, people question whether that is the right message to send out. However, if the Home Secretary were to notify Parliament that a case was going beyond 28 days, if at the same time the independent reviewer, whom the right hon. and learned Gentleman has agreed should play a role in reviewing all cases of between 14 and 28 days, was brought to bear so that they could look at the individual case, and if the option was left—after the report of the independent reviewer—that there could be a debate in Parliament on the issue, that is not a threat to the judiciary; it is parliamentary accountability working at its best. I hope he will understand that what I am trying to do in the proposal is to uphold the principle of independent judicial oversight, but saying at the same time that where issues of public interest are raised it is right that in certain circumstances they be debated here in the Chamber of the House of Commons. I hope that he will agree on reflection that this is a way forward.

I agree that not only should we support the emergency services, the police and the security services, but we should recognise their bravery, professionalism, vigilance and dedication to duty. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman said today and I said yesterday, a way must be found in our honours system of both recognising and celebrating the work they do.

I hope there will be agreement between the parties on the other matters we have discussed, and that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will use the summer and autumn period, when I invite him—[Laughter]—not to the usual talks that I have suggested, but to specific talks. As a protection, the Home Secretary will lead the talks this time. I invite the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his party to talk about the issues over the summer months to see whether, where I find that the independent reviewer, the Home Affairs Committee, the organisation Liberty and, today, the leader of the Conservative party, all recognise that there may be a case for going beyond 28 days in certain instances, there can be a way forward on which we can find agreement in the House. I hope we will work towards that agreement.

Order. Before I call the next hon. Member, may I say to the House that these are important matters and I am anxious to call as many Back Benchers as possible? No Back Bencher has yet asked a question, and we have had more than 40 minutes on the statement. There is another statement to follow and a heavy programme after that, so may I please ask for the briefest of questions from every Member? We will try to get as many Members in as possible. Perhaps I could also ask the Prime Minister if he, too, would not mind being as brief as he can.

I thank the Prime Minister and congratulate him on the substance and spirit of his statement. It is right that he should seek consensus on these issues, and secondly, that he should seek to balance the strengthening of powers with the strengthening of scrutiny. Although the headlines will no doubt be devoted to the matter of detention, I urge my right hon. Friend to recognise that two other strategic issues should receive as much attention. The first is the development of the office for security and counter-terrorism, and within it the research, information and communications unit. If there truly is a battle for ideas and values, that integrated effort on our part is essential. Secondly, the whole of our border enforcement depends ultimately on willingness to use technological means based on identity management and biometrics. All the rest, whether a border force, increased numbers, uniforms or extended borders, will be as nothing unless we can biometrically identify people who come to this country, people who stay in it and people who leave it.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who as Home Secretary led the way in setting up the office for security and counter-terrorism. We continue—I hope—the work that he started, and I praise him for what he did when he was Home Secretary. He is absolutely right about the two issues that he raises. The first is the importance of winning what I call the hearts and minds argument—some people may put it differently—integrating people into our community while making sure that the arguments against violence and extremism, which will isolate terrorists and potential terrorists, are held right across the country. The office within the OSCT to which he referred will be very important in that regard and it is already doing important work. As I said, we will build on that, in co-operation not only with other countries but also with many communities in this country.

The debate about biometrics could itself lead to better consensus in the future. Once all the arguments are heard and debated, and the guarantees about the protection of civil liberties against arbitrariness are understood to be real protections, we may be able to move forward in that debate, too. I accept it is contentious but I agree with my right hon. Friend that we cannot have protection at our borders and e-borders without forms of identity management within our country.

May I put this to the Prime Minister? I am not persuaded as yet of the need for an extension of pre-charge detention. If the Prime Minister wants to reach agreement across the House, why does not he establish a Committee of senior parliamentarians to take evidence on the matter? That Committee would report back to the House, and the House would then be in a position to take an informed view when it came to vote.

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for the open mind he shows by suggesting that there ought to be more debate on the matter. The Home Affairs Committee exists to look at those very issues, and one of its previous reports said exactly what I am saying today:

“There will be cases that do provide…justification. We believe…that the 28 day limit may well prove inadequate in the future.”

That makes it “entirely possible” and “increasingly likely” that cases would go beyond 28 days. That is the all-party report of the Home Affairs Committee. If it can find a mechanism through which to debate the issues over the summer and the next few months it would be a good thing to do, but I shall look at the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s proposal to see what progress we can make in ensuring that there is proper discussion. The evidence has certainly convinced me that we need to take action in rare and unusual circumstances in which the police will need to go beyond 28 days.

My right hon. Friend carries a heavy responsibility in the fight against terrorism, but does he accept that Parliament agreed to 28 days—after the original three, five, seven or 14 days—because of the acute terrorist threat to our country, so we should be very hesitant indeed and reluctant to go further? That could be counter-productive in the fight against terrorists and their apologists, so I hope that he will continue to seek consensus. Consensus was found on 28 days, so we should be hesitant about taking the controversial steps that divided the House nearly two years ago.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I hope that, in the spirit of what he says, he will have an open mind during the debate that we will have over the next few months. I agree with him that we should rule out the original proposal that did not command support in the House. I am also pretty clear that we should rule out the idea of an indefinite period of detention, and it should be made very clear that any maximum limit will be set by the House through legislation. I also believe that the evidence that we have, and the growing views of the Home Affairs Committee, the independent reviewer, and now, I believe, the Conservative party, that there may be circumstances in which we go beyond 28 days, should be reflected in an attempt to find a consensus on whether a further number of days are necessary and in which circumstances that should be permitted.

Can the Prime Minister tell us anything about the relationships that he has had in negotiations with the southern Government? The only part of the United Kingdom that has a land border is, of course, Northern Ireland, with the Irish Republic. What will be the reaction now, when we were all informed this morning from Northern Ireland that Operation Banner is no more? The Army has separated all its connections to security, which is now in the hands of the police.

Can I have a strong assurance from the Prime Minister that the people of Northern Ireland, especially now, as there is apparently government there, will be informed of what is taking place? I am not passing judgment on what he said. I come from a land that has been scourged with terrorism, and the baptism of terrorism is a terrible thing. My party is the largest Unionist party in the House from Northern Ireland and the largest party representing people in Northern Ireland, and we feel that every step should be taken that will hinder terrorism and give the people the peace that they need.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for playing a part in the debate this afternoon, and I thank him for being in the House today, given his responsibilities as First Minister of Northern Ireland. He knows both the dangers and the threats of terrorist violence. He also knows that in some circumstances, we must take measures that we would wish not to have to take, to deal with such a threat.

On the right hon. Gentleman’s specific question about co-operation with the Republic of Ireland and its Government, I can tell him that when I met the Taoiseach, Mr. Ahern, only a few days ago at a meeting where he was also present for some part, I raised with him the exchange of data within the European Union. Because we are outside the Schengen agreement, we are not part of the exchange of data, which I believe is necessary if we are to track down potential terrorist suspects. He agrees with me that both his Government and our Government should press the rest of the EU for that exchange of information.

On security and travel arrangements common to the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, I can say that the Minister of State, Home Department, my hon. Friend Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Byrne) is here today and these discussions are taking place, and I will ensure that the right hon. Gentleman is party to everything that is discussed on these matters.

I welcome the Prime Minister’s proposals today—in particular, the funding of the new Arabic channel by the BBC—but an extension of the 28-day limit is a question not just of getting consensus in the House, but of engaging with communities that will be disproportionately affected by any increase. When will the Prime Minister and other Ministers begin that consultation process?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I praise his work both in his community and throughout the country in bringing people together to discuss some of these difficult issues and in integrating people into the life of our country as he has so successfully done in recent years.

People will be surprised when they find out that a police investigation into one or two people can involve 200 phones, 400 computers, 8,000 CDs, 6,000 gigabytes of data and 70 premises, and cross three continents. I think that people will think that it may be difficult for the police to lay the charges that may be the right charges within a few days, and that they will understand why, in six cases in the past few months, we have gone to 27 or 28 days. But I agree with my right hon. Friend that that information is not readily known in the country at the moment, and that if we are to win this debate, and there should be a consensus on these issues, it is important that our Ministers, and, I hope, other hon. Members, can explain in the different communities of this country that this is an attempt to balance the increased need for security in our country to protect the citizens of this country—for their first right is the right to be secure and free in our country—with the need to protect against any arbitrariness in the future. I hope that we can come to a balanced view on this matter.

What proportion of the people currently being monitored and investigated for terrorism in our country have come from abroad in recent years? What impact does the Prime Minister think that his very welcome proposals to strengthen our borders will have on those numbers in the future?

I gave the figures in my statement for the number of people whom we were trying to refuse entry into this country on the grounds that we know of their previous offences, and the number of people whom we are trying to deport from our country on the grounds that they have either perpetrated a terrorist offence or been found guilty of other offences, and have been in prison, and should therefore be deported.

I told the House that the number of people being deported, which was only about 1,500 two or three years ago, had risen to more than 2,000 last year. We believe that we are on track, so that 4,000 foreign nationals who have served a sentence in British prisons will be deported from our country this year. We are stepping up to the mark to ensure that these numbers both remain on track and are achieved. We now look at such cases months before the sentence has finished. In future, we will look at those cases a year before the sentence is completed, so that we are in the best possible position to deport people. That is the information that I can give the right hon. Gentleman on the specifics.

As for international collaboration to deal with the problem of terrorists who are trying to get into our country illegally, that is precisely why I said in response to the First Minister of Northern Ireland that we need a proper exchange of data. I hope that, despite people’s views on the EU, we can agree that that is a necessary means by which Governments must collaborate to avoid terrorism in the future.

Can my right hon. Friend assure us that none of the 4,000 people who will be deported this year will be sent to countries where torture is endemic?

This is precisely why we are signing agreements with individual countries. My right hon. Friend may know that we have signed agreements with Jordan, Libya and Lebanon. We wish to sign agreements with other countries. We will move further on this in the months to come, so that we can receive the proper assurances. At the same time, however, it must be right that we should be able to deport people from our shores, either when they have been criminals in our country or when we know for a fact that they are practising or preaching terrorist violence in our country. That is why, in the spirit of what my right hon. Friend says, we will try to sign deportation agreements with more countries in the months to come.

Will the Prime Minister acknowledge the ready co-operation of the Scottish authorities—not just the police but the prosecution authorities—in securing the early apprehension of those suspected of planning and carrying out the terrorist attempts in Glasgow and London? The Prime Minister will know that a number of the things that he is proposing touch on the requirements of Scottish law—the evidential base, disclosure and possible questioning after charge—so does he see a role for the resumption of the joint ministerial committees between the Law Officers north and south of the border, and between the Justice Ministers north and south of the border, in seeking to contribute to the consensus that the right hon. Gentleman is seeking to establish?

I should also welcome—as I welcomed the First Minister of Northern Ireland—the First Minister of Scotland to the House today, and I thank him for the co-operation, both over that weekend and subsequently, in dealing with a terrorist incident that started in London, but of course was designed to cause terrible damage in Glasgow. That was prevented because of the courage, professionalism and vigilance of people at Glasgow airport and the voluntary effort of people who were simply passers-by. I congratulate all the emergency services and all those people who contributed to defeating what would have been a terrible loss of life in Glasgow as well as in London.

We want to co-operate in future on all the issues that the right hon. Gentleman talks about, whether through committees or individuals contacting one another. Obviously, we must recognise the difficulties that both legal and policing authorities face, but that co-operation will continue. I am very pleased to say that both the police and the prosecution authorities have had excellent co-operation since the events of 28 and 29 June in bringing people to charge. I believe that the police co-operation has been praised on both sides of the border.

I welcome the considered way in which my right hon. Friend has tackled the issue since taking office and I welcome all that he has said today. On the issues relating to communities and service delivery to communities, will he ensure that the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Home Office join up to ensure that the services that we deliver to the community are effective across the board? Will he also encourage more of the national Muslim organisations to take a key role in tackling some of the theological issues that lead to people being drawn into extremism?

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend and I praise the work that he has done in bringing people together. He and the Home Secretary have talked about the issue. I hope that they will be able to continue their dialogue on these matters, and that we can draw on his expertise and the knowledge that he has built up over the years as an incredibly successful representative in his area and region. I know that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has been speaking, and will continue to speak, to many of the faith organisations. They are very much part of the debate—indeed, they are right at its centre—and we want them to be part of the debate moving forward. I hope that we will be able to present a fuller report on some of these issues in the autumn, having consulted the very people he is talking about.

In October 2006, the then head of MI5 told us that the police and security services were monitoring 30 known plots, 200 groupings and 1,600 individuals. The Prime Minister has confirmed today that it is still 30 plots and 200 groupings, but he said that there were 2,000 individuals. Can he say a bit more about the extra 400 people who have come into our reckoning in the past nine months? Are they people we have allowed in from overseas, or are they young British nationals who have become radicalised? Please could he give us a bit more information?

The reports are provided to us by the security services. We are talking about people who are being regularly monitored because of the risk they pose to the British people. They are living—and have probably lived for some time—in British communities. We have to face up to the fact that we are dealing in some cases with suicide bombers who are prepared, as British citizens, to murder and maim their own fellow citizens, whatever their religion. In some communities, we have a number of cells operating and we rely on our security services and our policing effort to do something about it. I am not in a position to distinguish between different nationalities at this stage. Obviously, with the hon. Gentleman having raised the matter, we can look at it, but he would not expect me to report to the House in that sort of detail when we are dealing with a police investigation.

On the question of detention without trial, the whole House will examine the Prime Minister’s proposals very carefully. However, does he accept that there are pragmatic reasons, as well as reasons of principle, why the House so decisively rejected any period longer than 28 days? It is by no means certain that there is a consensus, even among senior policemen and prosecutors, on the need for any extension. The new information that he mentioned earlier about the complexity of investigations was very much part of the debate about 90 days and in that sense is not new to the House. There is the issue that alarm is being caused in communities by the notion that people can be lifted and held without charge for months at a time. In that sense, it might well prove counter-productive. So the issues are not just issues of principle; they are also pragmatic issues and issues of how best to secure our national security.

I am grateful for the views that my hon. Friend expresses, because they are very much part of the debate. The scale of the investigations—for example the airline plot that I mentioned—is of a substantially and qualitatively different nature compared with some of the previous investigations. We are dealing with large amounts of data and, in some cases, with multiple passports, addresses and bank accounts. In some cases, the police do not know the identity of the person they have arrested for some time, because that person is operating under the cover of so many passports, identities, addresses and bank accounts. That issue is increasingly relevant in investigations. If we agree that we are in a qualitatively different position in terms of the threat from al-Qaeda-related activities, we have to consider the security measures that are necessary.

I hope that my hon. Friend will also bear in mind the fact that—because the debate has been so long-lasting —we have taken into account all the issues that have been raised previously. So if we were to move beyond 28 days, that would be subject to a case being made by the Director of Public Prosecutions, to the approval of a High Court judge every seven days, to a regular report by the independent reviewer, and to a debate in Parliament on that. If we went beyond 28 days in any instance, Parliament would have to be notified and a statement would have to be made to Parliament. There would be a review of the specific case by the independent reviewer in a timely fashion and provision for the House to scrutinise and debate a report on the circumstances surrounding the case.

I believe that we are combining the need for enhanced security and the protection of the lives of individuals with a recognition that there should be no arbitrariness in the way in which we treat individuals. Therefore we need not only enhanced judicial oversight, but proper parliamentary accountability. I hope that over the next few weeks and months my hon. Friend will look at the specific provisions, which I believe meet all the points that were eloquently made in the debate previously. I hope that she will bear it in mind that the proposal for 90 days has been dropped and that no one on this side of the House is proposing an indefinite period of detention.

What is being offered as an alternative to the Prime Minister’s proposal on 28 days is not just one thing, as he said, but a combination of at least three things: post-charge questioning, wire-tap evidence, and changing the prosecutors’ code to allow earlier charging. Why does he reject that combination of three things in favour of his proposal, which to all intents and purposes is internment?

We are not rejecting it at all. We are saying that it is possible to complement the measures by a measured approach to what should happen after 28 days in circumstances that are rare and possibly very unusual, but where there is general agreement that we may have to go beyond 28 days. Again, I ask the hon. Gentleman to look at what we are writing in both as protections for the rights of the individual and so that Parliament can be properly informed on these matters. I hope that he will accept that there is a growing body of opinion that believes that going beyond 28 days may, in certain circumstances, be necessary. However, we are responding to what I believe is his view that there should be fair protections for the rights of the individual. I hope that, over the summer months, he will look at the specific proposal and see whether there is a potential consensus.

On the question of the protection of critical infrastructure, my right hon. Friend will be aware that the EU, as well as NATO, is already preparing policy. Will the joint working party to which he referred, which will liaise with Germany and France, also work with the EU and NATO so that we have a concerted and coherent approach across Europe to the protection of critical infrastructure?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and I know that he takes an interest in these matters. Although the working party that we are talking about is about hearts and minds in relation to isolating violent extremists and supporting mainstream and moderate opinion, I agree that there is also a need for cross-Government discussions on how best to learn the lessons of how to protect our infrastructure. That is as true of roads and railways as it is of vital utilities, nuclear power stations and other important infrastructure in our countries. We will draw on the lessons from other countries, as he suggests.

May I commend the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition on the consensual way in which they are attempting to approach the issue? However, may I also observe that if the leader of the Liberal Democrats can contemplate lowering the threshold of evidence required to charge a terrorist suspect, and if even Liberty can contemplate extending the period of detention—albeit by declaring a state of emergency—then there is no magic number of days that resolves the issue of principle when it comes to how we deal with non-state actors who are prepared to commit mass-casualty attacks on the British population? Therefore, will the Prime Minister undertake at least to allow the inquiry that he is setting up to consider Lord Carlile’s proposal? There is a case to be made that setting a higher and higher threshold of days creates more alarm among the public than the exceptional circumstances in which we might have to detain someone for more than 28 days.

The hon. Gentleman makes the powerful general point that we are in unique circumstances, which he has described. I am glad that he put his case in the way that he did. Opinion is moving in this country. For example, post-charge questioning has also been proposed by Liberty, which we would perhaps not have expected it to do a few years ago. The very fact that Liberty has joined the debate on what might happen in circumstances in which we need to go beyond 28 days suggests that it is possible to find a consensus on the issues across the spectrum. I do not know that I necessarily agree with him that some authority other than Parliament should set the final or ultimate number of days for which people can be detained before a charge is put, but of course that, too, can be a matter for the debate, because there are four options in the discussion document. He may wish to make his own representations during discussions over the summer months.

I welcome the introduction of e-borders and the electronic screening proposals, but will my right hon. Friend consider London Luton airport’s offer to pilot some of the initiatives, which will increase passenger safety and speed up proceedings at airports? Will he also undertake to look into international co-operation, so that we can ensure that websites that exist to recruit and train terrorists are taken down as a matter of urgency?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is not only a member of the Home Affairs Committee, but represents a constituency with an airport, Luton, which is a very important part of our airport network. She is right to suggest that where airport authorities want to work with us to increase security, and want to pilot some of the means by which we do so, we are very happy to co-operate. I can see the Minister of State, Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Byrne), who has responsibility for immigration; he will talk to my hon. Friend about how we can co-operate on those projects.

The Prime Minister has announced that he is publishing the Intelligence and Security Committee report on extraordinary rendition today. I regret that he decided not to make a full statement on that important subject, too. Did the US authorities ignore vigorous protest from our security authorities about the rendition of Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil al-Banna, and will the Prime Minister take this opportunity unequivocally to condemn the policy of extraordinary rendition—that is, the practice whereby many people have been kidnapped by US authorities and taken to places where they may be tortured?

Where people are at risk of being tortured, we have been very clear about our objections to such a policy, but I think that the hon. Gentleman should read the report. There will be other chances for us to debate the details of it, and I am not going to condemn the US authorities in the way that he suggests.

Will the Prime Minister explain a bit more about the existing repatriation agreements with non-convention countries, and other such agreements that are due to be signed? Will he give an undertaking that in future we will sign such agreements only with convention countries, and that there will be monitoring of what happens to prisoners who are returned to a country, and of any charges or ill-treatment that they might face on their return?

My hon. Friend raises very important points, but it is in the interests of this country for more countries to be prepared to sign repatriation agreements with us. Over the next few months, I hope that we will be able to report to the House—there will be chances to debate this—that countries that hitherto have not been prepared to sign these agreements will do so. I think that that is for the benefit of us and of those countries, in the long run, so I will not wholly go down the road that he suggests. I will say, however, that when we sign these agreements, we will report to the House so that the House can debate them.

The whole House will support my right hon. Friend in his efforts to secure consensus among the leaders of the political parties on the issues that we are discussing, but does he agree that there will be occasions when the Government and the Prime Minister will have to take decisions on security without consulting other politicians?

My right hon. Friend has experience of Government, and he rightly suggests that decisions that have to be made, and made quickly, will be made. However, on this particular issue, which has been contentious for the House, and on which there has been a big national debate, I believe that there is movement in opinion, and I believe that it is the duty of the House to see whether we can reflect those changes in opinion by trying to reach consensus. I do not apologise for trying to seek consensus on the issue.

Does not the six-month threshold for the requirement for foreign nationals to have biometric ID leave a large loophole for would-be terrorists, who might seek to come to the country for a shorter period? Obviously, there is a serious issue of cost, and we cannot get away from that, but apart from cost, is there any reason why that threshold should allow a period as long as six months?

I hope that we can join the debate, because the hon. Gentleman appears to be supporting identity cards.

Well, the hon. Gentleman supports biometric visas, which are the equivalent of identity cards for people who have been in the country for more than six months. I hope that we can debate the issue in future, because it seems to me that e-border controls, which we can tighten up, and border controls—we have made proposals on them today—can work properly only if we complement them with an ID system, such as the one that he proposes for foreign nationals in this country, and such as the one that we propose for British citizens in the long run. Let us join the debate and see whether we can get consensus, although it may not be with the Front Benchers of the two Opposition parties. It may be that we can draw on the changes that are taking place in the Conservative party, and that some Members on the Opposition Back Benches will support us.

I warmly welcome today’s statement, but I ask the Prime Minister to accept that in the debate on the scrutiny of intelligence and security, there appears to be a desire for inquiries to be more open and accessible. The Intelligence and Security Committee regularly and scrupulously takes evidence from the security agencies. Is that not a valuable part of open democracy that should be maintained?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee. She has done a very valuable job and has distinguished herself in taking up the work of that Committee, which has resulted in today’s report; we have also had very good reports from it in the past. The reason why I favour a reform of the Intelligence and Security Committee is not to lose the uniqueness of what she describes, which is the ability of parliamentarians to talk to the security services about matters that it would clearly not be in the interests of the country to report widely. There is a second reason why the Committee should take the form that we suggest: it ought to be able to tell the country, through its work, about the important efforts made, and energies used, by the security services in the interests of our whole country. That is the part of the work of Select Committees that other Committees can undertake, and we must find the means by which the Intelligence and Security Committee can do that, in the interests of the security services and parliamentary accountability. I applaud the vital work that is being done, and I know that the security services appreciate it, from our discussions with them of some of the big challenges that they face, but we ought also to think about a public role, which I think will enhance the security services and the reputation of Parliament.

I urge the Prime Minister to look again at the plans for e-borders, which are based around the check-in process. Technology already in use in America frequently does not pick up problems until after the aircraft has taken off. I urge him to look instead at the technology available off the shelf, much of it developed in Britain and in use in countries such as New Zealand and some of the Gulf states, which starts the process at the point at which people purchase their tickets.

We are looking at that, and if the hon. Gentleman has particular expertise that he wishes to bring to bear on these matters, I know that my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for immigration will be very happy to talk to him about it. We must benefit from all the new technology that is available, but I appeal to the hon. Gentleman as someone who I know has thought a lot about the issues: we must recognise that a combination of e-borders, border control and some form of identity management will be necessary for the future.

CSR and Aircraft Carriers

I am pleased to inform the House that the Ministry of Defence has agreed with Her Majesty’s Treasury a comprehensive spending review settlement for the next three years. The total departmental expenditure limit for Defence over the CSR period will be £34 billion in 2008-09, £35.3 billion in 2009-10 and £36.9 billion in 2010-11. That is an additional £7.7 billion for defence by 2011, and a 1.5 per cent. average annual real terms increase against our CSR baseline, excluding the costs of operations that are met from the reserves and the time-limited defence modernisation fund. The Treasury will, of course, continue to fund from the reserves the additional cost of operations over and above the defence budget, having already provided some £6.6 billion from the reserves to support the front line since 2001.

The settlement continues the longest period of sustained real growth in planned defence spending since the 1980s; that is evidence of the Government’s commitment to defence and to the men and women who serve with the utmost bravery in our armed forces.

The result of Labour’s consistent funding for defence is that the defence budget will be significantly higher in real terms than the budget that we inherited in 1997—on average, a billion pounds more for defence every year, for 10 years. Compare this with the last five years of the Tory Government, when the defence budget was being cut by around £500 million a year.

Our priority remains success on current operations. This settlement gives the MOD the financial certainty required to continue delivering that success. Over the past year I have been able to announce to the House important enhancements in protected vehicles, in helicopters and in surveillance. The settlement will enable us to do more in all these areas and others. It also allows for additional investment in the support that our service personnel deserve, building on recent improvements in pay, in the new tax-free operational bonus, in medical care for our wounded personnel and in accommodation.

At the same time as ensuring success on current operations, and support for our people, this settlement enables us to invest in the capabilities that we will need for the future. I am pleased to be able to confirm today that we will place orders for two 65,000 tonne aircraft carriers to provide our front-line forces with the modern, world-class capabilities that they will need over the coming decades. These will be named HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales. They are expected to enter service in 2014 and 2016, respectively.

This delivers on the Government’s promise in the 1998 strategic defence review. The carriers represent a step change in our capability, enabling us to deliver increased strategic effect and influence around the world at a time and place of our choosing. They will be a key component of the improved expeditionary capabilities that we need to confront the diverse range of threats in today’s security environment. They are evidence of our commitment to ensuring that our armed forces are modern, versatile and equipped for the future.

In parallel, we will continue to work closely with France. Our co-operation has already yielded real benefits. We have shared the costs of developing the common baseline design to which we are committing today and we have capitalised on our huge collective technical and military experience. Our industries are exploring further opportunities for mutual benefit, including joint procurements of equipment for the carriers, and shared support arrangements. We look forward to making a joint announcement on further co-operation in the next few months.

The carrier programme will sustain and create some 10,000 jobs across the UK, but we have always been clear that the carriers cannot be built without change in the maritime sector. As we set out in the defence industrial strategy, we need further improvements in efficiency to ensure that the taxpayer is getting value for money. We need to ensure that the UK maritime industry is the right size and shape, so that it is sustainable in the longer term, so I am pleased that VT Group and BAE Systems intend to form a joint venture in naval shipbuilding and support.

The creation of such a joint venture will enable the Royal Navy to work with industry to deliver the infrastructure that the Navy will need to support the fleet in the future while retaining all three of our existing naval bases at Portsmouth, Devonport and Faslane. This will be good news for the three communities and the service, civilian and contractor personnel employed at the bases. None the less, some reductions in the 17,600 personnel currently employed will be necessary and will be taken forward in consultation with trade unions in the usual way. We aim to rationalise infrastructure and spare capacity, streamline processes and build on partnering and other commercial arrangements. For example, today we are also announcing a £1 billion partnering arrangement with Rolls-Royce for the in-service support of the nuclear steam raising plant that powers the Royal Navy’s submarines over the next decade.

I am determined to ensure that more of our money is spent where it is really needed, reducing overheads to put more into the front line and into supporting our people. To enhance the spending power that this settlement gives us, we will make savings against the Department’s overheads, including a 5 per cent. year-on-year saving in our administrative overhead over the next three years and a 25 per cent. reduction in our head office. These are additional to the £2.8 billion efficiencies delivered over the spending review 2004 period.

A priority through the CSR period will be the continued investment in improving accommodation for our people and their families. We expect to spend some £550 million on this over the three-year period, including plans to upgrade over 18,000 barrack-type bed spaces. This builds upon the achievements of recent years in providing upgrades to our service families homes and our plans to spend £5 billion over the next 10 years on upgrading and maintaining accommodation. We also intend to explore with the Treasury and the Department for Communities and Local Government how best we can support the wish of many servicemen and women to own their own homes.

Full details of the CSR settlement for defence will be announced in the autumn, alongside the outcome for all Government Departments. Today, however, I am providing a summary for the Library of the House.

Our armed forces are admired and respected world wide. I am conscious that with operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, we are currently asking our armed forces to do a lot. In return we must ensure that the Government do all they can to support them and their families. This significant additional investment shows that the Government are determined to do just that, and to ensure that in the years ahead they maintain their well-earned and much deserved reputation for being the best armed forces in the world.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for his statement and for prior sight of it.

There has been widespread support on both sides of the House for both the carrier programme and the joint strike fighter, and I am pleased that we finally have the decision that we have been promised since February 2004. Indeed, the carriers have been in planning and design for twice the length of the second world war.

Although it is welcome, let us not forget that the decision has come at a high price for the Navy. Since 1997 the Royal Navy has faced significant cuts in force levels completely at odds with the Government’s strategic defence review, which called for 32 surface combatants. Does the Secretary of State agree with the Minister with responsibility for security that

“we need 30 destroyers and frigates for what the government wants us to do”?

Will the right hon. Gentleman guarantee today that we will see no further reductions in the surface fleet from its current inadequate numbers?

If we are to have the new carriers, they will need adequate protection. The Government initially assessed the need for eight of the new Type 45 destroyers. Will the Secretary of State guarantee today that all eight will be procured? If we are to have the carriers, they will need to carry the appropriate aircraft. Can he tell us how many F35s it is currently intended to have on each of the carriers, and how many helicopters will complement that number? I presume that the Government know what they want to have on their carriers.

It is disappointing that the carriers will enter service at least two years later than expected. Can the Secretary of State guarantee that any co-operation with France in order to reduce costs will not result in a further delay for the carriers’ introduction? If we are to have the carriers, they will have to be based somewhere. What does today’s statement tell us about the Government’s longer-term plans for our naval bases? Where will the carriers be based? If he can be so specific about job cuts, can he be more specific about his wider intentions?

There is no suitable dry dock for a 65,000 tonne 900 ft carrier at Portsmouth or Devonport. Construction of a new dock or the lengthening of the existing docks would be a very expensive process. What are the Government’s plans?

We welcome the retention of three of our existing naval bases. That will be welcomed on both sides of the House, and it is a matter on which we have campaigned, but there will be a strong suspicion that we did not get the full details today. Finally on this, can the Secretary of State guarantee that we will continue to have eight attack submarines, as we have been promised?

We will look at the Government’s expenditure plans in great detail. We are involved in two long military conflicts. They have cost the lives of 227 of our servicemen and women, and have cost the taxpayer over £7 billion. The intensity of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in the loss of equipment and in equipment being worn out much more quickly than would otherwise have been expected. In other words, the defence budget needs to rise faster than predicted just for us to stand still. On top of this, there is increasing evidence that operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have not been fully funded by the special reserve and that there has been salami-slicing of equipment and training budgets to fill the gap.

The Secretary of State told us that the budget will go up by £7.7 billion by 2011. During the period up to 2011, what costs will be incurred in the procurement of the carriers, the procurement of the JSF, the Trident replacement programme, the procurement of the Type 45s, the future rapid effect system, the cost of upgrading the naval bases for the carriers, and the cost of replacing assets lost, damaged or prematurely worn out by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan? Only when we have detailed answers to those questions will we be able to make a judgment on whether this is anything like an adequate settlement for the armed forces, given what they are being asked to do. Under the current Prime Minister, we are only too well aware, following his last Budget, that financial statements that look good today can look very different tomorrow. If there is any sleight of hand in what the Government are saying on defence expenditure, it will not be forgiven by our troops in combat or in this House.

I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s welcome for the announcement on the carriers. There has never been an announcement as to when the carriers would come into service—

There was an expectation on the part of some people. However, with all due respect to the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox), given the nature and complexity of this project, that is his best criticism. This is a very large and important procurement with significant implications not only for the Navy but for communities throughout the country, as well as for our shipbuilding infrastructure and the industry that will support the surface fleet for decades to come. It is right that we should continue to negotiate and consider this project and the way in which we have handled it before getting to this stage.

The hon. Gentleman asked several specific questions, which is of course his wont at the Dispatch Box. [Interruption.] As he says, it is his job. In due course, as decisions are made in a very dynamic environment and as consideration is given to all the issues that he raises, announcements will be made. He has been in his job for long enough to know that we have consistently announced investments not only in the long-term support of our armed forces and equipment but in responding to their short-term needs in a dynamic environment. Indeed, I made reference to some of the announcements that I have had the privilege to be able to make in relation to protected vehicles, helicopters—[Interruption.]

Order. Mr. Speaker takes a very dim view of electronic devices going off in the Chamber. I am not quite sure whom it belongs to, but this is a general plea to the House. We have already had one going off this afternoon, but the Member scuttled out before I could reprimand him. It is very rude and seriously disturbs the whole tenor of the debate, and I hope that hon. Members will try not to do it in future.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I apologise to you and to the House? I turned my telephone off before I came into the House, and I do not understand why it went off.

I am afraid that I do not have the power to deal with electronic devices, but my earlier remarks still apply.

That is an example of the complexity of modern technological equipment. Perhaps it gives us a small insight into how complex it is to design and build carriers, with their integrated systems, and why we have to take such time and care to ensure that they are right.

Let me reply to the questions asked by the hon. Member for Woodspring. As I said, announcements will be made appropriately. I say to him, in the spirit in which the question was asked, that we stand by our description of what is necessary to sustain our Navy for the challenges that it faces and deals with so well and so professionally across the world. Only this week, in chairing a meeting of the Admiralty Board, I was immensely impressed by the work that our Navy is able to do right across the world. I have asked for a piece of work to be done to compare its current presence and capability with what it was 10 or 20 years ago. My sense is that we will discover that it is now doing much more because it is better trained and better equipped than it was then. The simplistic view of just counting ships and paying no regard to capability pays no proper respect to what it does.

Our co-operation with France has been a bonus to us, not a hindrance. We will continue with it, and it will in no way affect the timing of any further statements.

I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s scrutiny of the spending aspects of the statement; that is entirely appropriate and exactly what he should do. However,

“there is no magic pot of money we can dip into to spend a lot more on the Armed Services, much as we would like to.”

Those words are not mine but those of the Leader of the Opposition on Webcameron in April 2007. The challenge that the hon. Member for Woodspring faces is not to scrutinise our spending plans, which will increase spending on our armed forces, but to explain to the country what his party would spend if it were in government. However, he has already been warned by the shadow Chancellor not to make spending promises.

The hon. Gentleman asked where the carriers will be based. We will make that announcement when it is the appropriate time to do so.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement, which will be well received in the Royal Navy, particularly with regard to the aircraft carriers. It will be well received across the armed forces generally, and there is no question in my mind but that it will be well received in industry, particularly the shipbuilding industry. May I remind my right hon. Friend of the old saying that it was tears that made the Clyde? There will be cheers on the Clyde today following this announcement.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his welcome and for his kind words. I pay tribute to the contribution that he has made to our ability to make the announcement on the carriers. When he was Minister with responsibility for the armed forces, he made a significant contribution to the challenges of modernising a substantial part of the way in which we deliver effect through the MOD. We are now in a position to apply the substantial savings and efficiencies that he was able to generate for future generations. He is entitled to a significant share of the praise for this announcement.

I welcome the statement and thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of it.

On the spending announcement, the Secretary of State will understand that we will wish to study the content in detail over the coming period. It will be important for us to ensure that the difficulties with overstretch and shortages in personnel and the problems with equipment are addressed. I am sure that the communities of the three Navy bases will welcome the decision but will perhaps wait with trepidation as regards the potential job losses.

If Britain is to be a force for good around the world, the carriers will be an essential part of our capability. With them, we will be able to conduct operations in far-flung parts. Can the Secretary of State explain what role the dockyards at Rosyth, Barrow, the Clyde and Portsmouth will play? If the final commissioning is to take place at Rosyth, that will be one of the most complex construction projects ever on the Forth, and even more significant than the iconic Forth bridge. The carriers will be a dramatic sight from many parts of Fife, including North Queensferry in my constituency, the home of the Prime Minister. With construction taking place in all parts of the UK, this will be Britain at its best.

It has been said that if the carriers can be built on time and within budget, other countries will be interested in buying from us. Which countries are interested? Is the JSF still the aircraft of choice for the carriers? We have heard about delays with the JSF—what effect will that have on the carriers? Can the Secretary of State clarify when all forces accommodation will be brought up to standard?

I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s welcome for the announcement. As I said, the carriers will sustain and create 10,000 jobs in the UK, and during the peak assembly time that will mean nearly 5,000 jobs at the four main yards of Rosyth, Govan, Portsmouth and Barrow. Of course, detailed negotiations still have to take place on the final shape of the contracts, and whether further improvements can be made on our negotiations thus far is a challenge for the future. However, we are in a position to move forward on that, which is why I was able to make today’s announcement.

The hon. Gentleman will see the carriers appear in his constituency as they are assembled at Rosyth. I am sure that they will be admired as much as other massive constructions nearby, which have nearly become wonders of the world; they will attract significant interest.

Our co-operative work with France concerning its desire to build carriers to the same design is at an advanced stage. I am not in a position at this stage to share publicly any other commercial discussions that are taking place, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman understands why. When I am in a position—or when those involved in the construction are in such a position—to make public statements about advances in discussions on interests that might have been expressed by other countries, I will do that.

It may be that, because I lost a particular piece of paper, I have not given the House a piece of information that relates to a question from the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox). The carriers are to be base-ported at Portsmouth.

We remain committed to the JSF programme, which continues, as the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Willie Rennie) knows. With the help of many people in the House, we seek to resolve the challenges of that programme in order to ensure that our aircraft of choice flies from these carriers.

I welcome the announcement about building the two carriers. They will be vital to the Royal Navy’s ability to operate independently, if necessary, throughout the world. My right hon. Friend will be aware of the importance of the Barrow shipyard not just to south Cumbria, but to the whole of the north-west. Will he therefore confirm that a substantial proportion of the two carriers will be built at the Barrow shipyard?

I can of course confirm my hon. Friend’s understanding that the Barrow shipyard will make a substantial contribution to the construction of the carriers as they are built in blocks. I am not in a position to give him specific proportions, but these figures may give him an indication of the proportion of work that the Barrow shipyard can expect when the negotiations and contracts are concluded. During the peak assembly time, nearly 5,000 jobs will be sustained or created in the four main yards, of which it is estimated 1,100 will be in Barrow.

I am very pleased indeed that the carriers are going ahead. Can the Secretary of State assure the House that the procurement of the FRES vehicles and the future strategic tanker aircraft will not be compromised by this procurement? He has announced some useful increases in defence spending, but does he nevertheless not feel that something is fundamentally wrong? Our Army is now 98,000 strong, our Navy is dropping in size and our Air Force is dropping very rapidly. We are asking so much of them; do we not need a fundamental change in our approach to defence from all parties in this House, and from the country as a whole?

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I respect the knowledge that he has gained, not just in his time as a Minister at the Ministry of Defence but in the valuable service he provides to the House in his chairmanship of the Select Committee on Defence, the role of which we in the MOD greatly value. Nobody in the House could do anything other than respect views that he expresses.

In relation to the overall spending envelope available to the Government in this spending review, defence has done four times as well as it has done in the past. That may not be the step change that the right hon. Gentleman wants, but there is something this Government cannot be criticised for: it cannot be said of us, as it could of the previous Government, that we have not increased spending quite substantially, year on year, in real terms. Indeed, we have committed ourselves to investment in the long term, as well as in excess of £6 billion from the reserves to support those troops we have committed to the front line.

We ask a lot of our forces, and we focused on that over the weekend because of a leaked report, which allegedly said something that I said at the Dispatch Box, if not in exactly the same words, but almost in terms. The right hon. Gentleman will know, as will many other hon. Members, that we do not intend to sustain the commitment we are asking of our armed forces, and there are already clear indications that we are significantly reducing it, not just in Iraq but in Bosnia, and we are coming to the end of Operation Banner in Northern Ireland. Hopefully, we are moving into an environment where we will not be asking our troops for that level of commitment continuously, and we can then address some of the issues that that would have generated otherwise.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement today and, along with 2,000 workers in the Scotstoun yard in my constituency and all the other workers on the Clyde, I thank him. On the work that is coming to the Clyde—although I do not want to appear greedy— would he perhaps make a statement on what is happening with No. 7 and No. 8 of the Type 45s, which would keep those workers in employment well beyond the next decade?

My hon. Friend knows that we have a forward plan for shipbuilding that is described in the response to the strategic defence review. There are numbers associated with that, which I do not depart from. He also knows, however, that both sides involved in negotiations on the orders that we placed for the Type 45s have to face challenges relating to their cost. It is my responsibility to ensure value for money for the taxpayer. Commitments to procurement in the long term necessarily have to be incremental, and I am afraid that they have to stay that way.

When I am ready to make announcements on the challenges we have set ourselves for the surface fleet and submarines, I shall make them, but I am not in a position to announce everything at once. I am in a position to make this announcement today. It is very good news for my hon. Friend’s constituents, and for a very important employer in his constituency. It is very good news for people throughout the United Kingdom, and for the Navy. I ask him to rest there for a time, and enjoy that good news, before demanding that we move on.

Order. May I repeat my request for brief questions and, I hope, brief answers from the Secretary of State? We will try to get as many people in as possible.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the aircraft carriers will operate in task groups, and that they will need full protection against airborne and submarine threats? The Type 45 is extremely capable against airborne threat, but is there not a yawning gap for the task groups’ defence against submarine threat?

The hon. Gentleman knows that we refer to these as a combined taskforce. We talk about carriers in relation not just to the actual boat but to what flies from the carrier and what supports it. There will be a combined taskforce that reflects all of the threats, which is why we are putting significant investment into submarines so that there is such capability to be deployed when it needs to be.

Hallelujah! This announcement will be much welcomed by the work forces, the unions and the management of shipbuilding industries up and down the Clyde. However, does the Secretary of State agree that the placing of these orders for aircraft carriers is an enormous triumph for the Union? As a fellow Scottish MP, does he agree that none of the hundreds—indeed, thousands—of man hours that will come to Scottish yards and Scottish suppliers would have come to a separated, segregated and isolated Scotland?

I thought that my hon. Friend was going to put me in a position whereby I could say that there was a possibility of persuading my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, North-West (John Robertson) to rest on his laurels a little and enjoy success; I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, South-West (Mr. Davidson) would insist on the next order. However, he asks me a question that enables me to say that, as the construction of the substantial vessels takes place on the Clyde and people see them, they will be a constant reminder to the people of Scotland that being part of the United Kingdom brings benefits not only to their security and safety but to their economic prospects, because they have a Government who intend to provide security and the economic power to invest. A Scotland torn out of the United Kingdom would almost certainly be unable to afford to do that.

The Minister responsible for defence equipment and support has made it clear that if the technology share agreement that affects the development of the joint strike fighter is found wanting Britain may not buy that aircraft for the carriers. Are there sufficient resources in the settlement to maintain the development of a marine version of the Eurofighter Typhoon?

In our negotiations about the joint strike fighter programme we are not planning for failure. Having said that, as my noble Friend Lord Drayson has said, including to the right hon. Gentleman, we have contingency planning for that—albeit remote—eventuality. Of course, that planning includes the necessary resources to carry through the development.

I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on achieving an above-inflation increase in the settlement. I am sure that he put a great deal of personal effort into that. I also welcome the investment in the important new capability of the future carrier and the keeping of the three naval bases. Does he acknowledge that, to optimise Devonport sustainably, there is a need for a long-term commitment to support surface ship fleet work at Devonport?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, and other hon. Members who represent constituencies where there are naval bases, for their contribution to the naval base review. All those communities have been championed exceptionally by their local Members, who have conducted their advocacy on behalf of their communities with respect for each other. My hon. Friend in particular is entitled to credit for that. There is no doughtier champion of her community. She must be pleased today that there is a long-term future for Devonport. The investment that the Government put in the infrastructure of the base must have been obvious to the people of Devonport and an indication of how much we value that resource.

I welcome the announcement about ordering the carriers and retaining the Faslane base, although I am obviously concerned about the prospect of job losses.

May I make the case to the Secretary of State for basing the aircraft carriers at Faslane? He mentioned Portsmouth at the end of a reply to another question, but I hope that he will reconsider the decision. Faslane has superb deep-water anchorage and enough clearance for large ships such as the new aircraft carriers to get in, even at low tide. There is also plenty of space to accommodate all the back-up support that the carriers need. I therefore hope that the Secretary of State will reconsider basing them at Faslane.

The hon. Gentleman is a champion for his community, although I wonder if those whom he purports to champion understand the consequences for his community and jobs there of his view on the deterrent.

I understand the hon. Gentleman’s argument, but decisions about where to base the carriers—they are to be base-ported at Portsmouth—are not made simply on the depth of the water. There are several other issues to be taken into consideration. The naval base review balanced them all and concluded that, to support our fleet, we need all three existing naval bases, including Faslane, which makes an extraordinary contribution to sustaining our Navy. At some stage, those communities need to work together and not necessarily in competition for the resources that others have.

My right hon. Friend knows that I wrote to him a few weeks ago in my capacity as chair of the Portsmouth naval base stakeholders group and asked him to make an announcement before the recess to allay some of the uncertainty in my constituency. I therefore sincerely thank him for his statement, for removing the cloud that hung over Portsmouth naval base and recognising the important role that our base plays in keeping the country secure. Today’s announcement, coupled with the aircraft carrier contract, will give my city a huge boost and ensure that the Royal Navy is equipped for its future challenges—

I think my hon. Friend may be satisfied with the answer, because it starts by paying tribute to Portsmouth, its people and those who work in the naval base and support our Navy so splendidly. They, as well as the people of Devonport and the people on the Clyde, are entitled to have their significant contribution rewarded by such an announcement. However, they should now begin to work with us to try to find the necessary efficiencies to allow us to offer all three communities and their bases the sort of long-term future that they want.

In relation to the naval bases, will the Secretary of State give us an idea of the scale of the job losses to which he referred, so that the community of Plymouth can begin to prepare itself? What is the likely impact—the knock-on effect—on Devonport dockyard? Will he confirm that no surface ships that are currently base-ported in Devonport will be shifted to Portsmouth as a consequence of today’s statement? Although it is, of course, welcome that Devonport naval base will not be closed, will he confirm that we are not condemned to death by a thousand cuts? We are looking for reassurance.

There is no intention of condemning anybody to death by a thousand cuts. I made it clear to those who conducted the review that I wanted an honest assessment and not something that misrepresented the position and then got us into salami-slicing in the communities that we are considering. That would have been dishonest and inappropriate. I am advised comprehensively by the outcome of the review that we can sustain significant bases in all three places. I am not prepared, outwith the appropriate consultations and discussions that need to take place, to bandy figures or even general descriptions. However, let me emphasise that there will be co-operative, open and continued discussion with hon. Members. We will share information with hon. Members to the extent that we can as the next process goes on. I reassure the hon. Gentleman that there is no intention of making salami cuts, but I do not want a continuation of competition between the bases for the opportunities that exist. It is now time for us all to co-operate and work in the way that the industry and the Ministry of Defence are beginning to show people can achieve a future for all of us.

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement and yet another real-terms increase for the armed forces and the Ministry of Defence, however that might be tempered by recognising the huge challenge and commitment that our forces face. It is in stark contrast to the 28 per cent. cut in real terms over some seven years under the Conservative Government.

I especially welcome the announcement about the carriers. I declare an interest. I was there at the birth of the carriers in the strategic defence review. I was there, as Secretary of State for Scotland, at the saving of the Scottish yards, which I confirmed when I was Defence Secretary.

I am especially delighted for the Navy—it deserves the announcement as reward and recompense for its efforts—and the workers on the Clyde. Seven years ago, when the yards were on the verge of closure, they were given a chance. They have taken that chance and earned the right to secure their future. Today, my right hon. Friend has given them the chance to do that.

It is my privilege and pleasure to build on the work that my right hon. Friend did in the two terms that he spent at the Ministry of Defence, first as Minister for the Armed Forces and latterly as Secretary of State for Defence, immediately before I took over. There will be recognition by the Navy and others of the contribution that he made on a number of significant challenges, not least the development and publication in time of the defence industrial strategy. Without that we would not have achieved the level of affordability that we have achieved and we would not have been able to make today’s announcement. He is therefore entitled to a significant portion of the credit for today’s announcement, and I am sure that he will be given it in any event, without my seeking it for him.

Finally, with my right hon. Friend’s special knowledge of the issue, he knows that, because of the reductions that we inherited and the damage that they did to the infrastructure of our armed forces, which he pointed out, the muttering of excuses from the Conservative Benches does not explain things all the way.

So inadequate was the provision for defence expenditure from the previous Conservative Government that this Government, for whom the right hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (John Reid) was Minister for the Armed Forces, decided to cut the budget by £1 billion a year—a cut that was reduced to £500 million a year only by the intervention of the then Chief of the Defence Staff. A little less political spin in the Secretary of State’s statement would have done a little more honour to his office. To describe the real increase in defence expenditure given in the figures as quite substantial breaks any reasoned connection with the English language. The armed forces are exhausted and worn out. Their forward equipment programme will be substantially damaged by the expenditure involved in trying to accommodate the aircraft carriers and aircraft. What are the consequences for the forward equipment programme of the Secretary of State’s statement today?

The hon. Gentleman describes the budget in the early years of this Government. My recollection is that we came to power with a commitment to follow the planned budget of the previous Conservative Government. We inherited an economic situation that required significant attention and a legacy of under-investment not only in our armed forces, but throughout public services. As he knows, or should know, spending is an issue of priority but there is a limited pot of money for it, as his own leader points out on his website.

The hon. Gentleman also knows—this is not something that we have instigated in government—that the Ministry of Defence looks at the equipment programme year on year, at its affordability in relation to the available budget and at the inflationary factors that have affected that. We will continue to do that. When we have to make tough decisions, as every Government do, we will announce them to Parliament. However, we will make no decisions that in any way affect the capability or the performance of our armed forces. The whole focus of what we do in relation to the budget will be to ensure that we support our armed forces to face the challenges that we set for them. We have done that consistently since I have been the Secretary of State.

Order. I have been in the House for only a short time now and I have heard two very long questions and quite lengthy answers. If I am to try to call all other hon. Members, I must ask for very short questions and concise answers, as we have quite a lot of other business to be done today.

My right hon. Friend has rightly praised the calibre of our personnel in the Royal Navy. It is truly of an exceptionally high standard. Can he assure the House that the changes that he has announced today will in no way be to the detriment of the high-quality training that is afforded to our personnel, particularly given the huge technological challenges facing the Royal Navy with the future vessels?

It is a fact that there are fewer shipbuilding jobs in Scotland now than there were in 1997. It is therefore welcome to hear today’s announcement on the carriers and the news that Scotland’s only operating naval base is to be retained. However, is the Secretary of State aware of concerns about job retention on the Clyde in relation to the MARS—military afloat reach and sustainability—project? As we are talking about time scales two days before the recess, will he confirm that he now expects the board of inquiry into the Afghan Nimrod tragedy to take place during the recess?

The House is stunned every time the hon. Gentleman gets to his feet and asks questions about jobs in relation to military equipment or installations that his party does not support. In fact, it is a party with an avowed policy of taking us out of NATO. Never mind the fact that his party would never be able to afford to build aircraft carriers or parts of them in Scotland—it would have no intention of doing so, because they would not be necessary for the forces that it would need. It is sometimes difficult to respond to challenges on the Floor of the House, but it is very easy to respond to challenges from the hon. Gentleman’s party in those circumstances. If he had his way, there would be practically no work in Scotland.

Des Browne