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Commons Chamber

Volume 478: debated on Thursday 10 July 2008

House of Commons

Thursday 10 July 2008

The House met at half-past Ten o’clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Private Business

London Local Authorities (Shopping Bags) Bill (By Order)

Order for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time on Thursday 17 July.

Manchester City Council Bill [Lords] (By Order)

Order read for resumed adjourned debate on Second Reading (12 June).

Debate to be resumed on Thursday 17 July.

Bournemouth Borough Council Bill [Lords] (By Order)

Canterbury City Council Bill (By Order)

Leeds City Council Bill (By Order)

Nottingham City Council Bill (By Order)

Reading Borough Council Bill (By Order)

Orders for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time on Thursday 17 July.

Oral Answers to Questions


The Chancellor of the Exchequer was asked—

Aviation Duty

The Chancellor announced in the pre-Budget report 2007 that air passenger duty would be replaced by a per-plane duty in November 2009. A formal consultation that considered all aspects of the duty’s operation closed on 24 April. More than 160 responses were received, and Treasury officials are considering and analysing those in the policy design process. No decisions have yet been made about the duty’s design, and the Chancellor plans to make a further announcement about the policy in the autumn.

Why would the Minister want to make United Kingdom airports less competitive and drive long-haul operators to European airports, thus depriving this country of business and inconveniencing travellers? We will drive long-haul flights to European airports. Is that what the Minister and the Government want?

Of course it is not the aim of the tax, but at the same time, aviation needs to make a fair contribution to the public finances and better reflect its environmental impact. I note that the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne), the shadow Chancellor, is also an enthusiastic supporter of a per-plane aviation duty.

Yes, but while we need to move to a per-plane tax, does the Minister not understand that the Government’s proposal to increase hugely the long haul to short haul ratio of 4:1, will discourage long haul point-to-point flights, which reduce the carbon footprint, and will encourage people instead to take connecting flights to European airports, thus hitting our aviation industry and increasing the global carbon impact?

We have received a range of representations, some of which the hon. Gentleman echoes. We are examining those and modelling the potential impacts on transit, long haul and freight, but no decisions about precisely how to arrange the tax have yet been made.

Will my hon. Friend assure me that some of the moneys raised from aviation duty will be earmarked for another high-speed rail link in the United Kingdom, preferably up the west coast main line through one of the centres of Britain—Wolverhampton?

I hope that my hon. Friend will acknowledge the huge increase in investment in our railways since the Government have been in office.

Given the widespread concern about the aviation duty proposal, will the Minister confirm that the retention of the current system of air passenger duty remains one option?

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to talk to those on his Front Bench about their support for a per-plane duty.

Fuel Duty

The Government understand the difficulties facing businesses and families as a result of record oil prices, which is why the Chancellor deferred the forecast 2p per litre fuel duty increase that was planned for April this year. Future duty increases will also be considered in the light of future economic conditions.

The Chancellor may understand motorists’ difficulties, but he is still about to clobber 9 million motorists with extra road duty and the Government are still taxing our fuel more expensively than anywhere else in Europe. With that in mind, what relief can the Government offer motorists who have no alternative but to use their cars?

The hon. Gentleman should also reflect on the fact that as oil duties rise, there will be more fuel efficient cars, which are cheaper to run as one gets more miles to the gallon. Given where oil prices are at the moment, they will concentrate motorists’ minds.

As the Government consider the pre-Budget statement and next year’s Budget, does my hon. Friend think that it would be better to use the tax system to reduce or to increase demand for oil?

As a country, we certainly have to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and on oil in particular, in the medium to long term. It is therefore important—and this was discussed at the G8—that advanced economies such as ours wean themselves off their reliance on finite energy sources. The car duties have a role to play in that; as Professor Julia King said in her report, we need to be able to shift to cleaner engines and engines that reduce our carbon footprint.

At the moment, there is a considerable mismatch between the actual cost per mile of running a car and the cost per mile as assessed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs for tax purposes. That is bad enough for everybody, but it particularly impacts on volunteer car drivers such as those for the hospital car service. They cannot claim the real cost of providing their service and are therefore no longer able to provide it. Is it possible to give any guidance on that matter to HMRC?

We understand the extra pressures that high oil prices are placing on many families in the UK at the moment. It is important to understand that volunteer drivers can claim their costs back, but they have to keep records of the mileage that they have donated for voluntary purposes. If they do that, they will not owe any tax on it. The approved mileage allowance payment—AMAP—scheme is a simplification. If such drivers wish to claim the actual costs of the miles that they drive, they can do that.

While the Labour party offers nothing more than government by nods and winks about what may or may not happen to fuel duty in the autumn, the Conservatives have proposed a fair fuel duty regulator that will cut duty when pump prices are soaring and that will be funded by the windfall to the Treasury from higher oil prices. The Government’s response has been to claim that there is no windfall to the Treasury. Will the hon. Lady now acknowledge that the National Institute of Economic and Social Research—the only independent body to have done any proper research on the issue—has concluded that, after taking into account all economic effects, there is a net benefit to the Treasury of £1.4 billion for every $10 increase in the price of oil? Why will the Government not agree to that plan to share the windfall, helping consumers and stabilising the public finances at the same time?

The plan would destabilise the public finances because it seeks to distribute an oil windfall that does not exist. The leader of the hon. Gentleman’s party said, “To be fair to the Government, when the price of oil goes up, corporation tax profits tend to go down, so corporation tax goes down and they suffer in other ways.” There is no oil windfall tax for the hon. Gentleman to distribute. Actually, his so-called fuel stabiliser is merely a gamble with £3 billion of public expenditure. The Conservatives need to tell us what they would cut to deliver a cut in fuel duty that may not even make it through to prices at the pumps.

Climate Change

Climate change will have a serious impact on the economy as well as on the planet. The Stern review found that the cost of inaction could be the equivalent of 20 per cent. of GDP. That is why we are working internationally and nationally to cut carbon emissions and why we welcome the steps forward made at the G8 summit.

I thank my right hon. Friend for her answer. She will be aware of my private Member’s Bill, which is designed to cut carbon emissions from Government buildings, and I thank my hon. Friend the Exchequer Secretary for her help with that Bill. What more does my right hon. Friend think can be done to improve the energy efficiency of the Government estate and what action can she take to achieve that?

My hon. Friend is right to say that we need to improve the energy efficiency not only of the Government estate but of buildings right across the country. Overall energy efficiency on the Government estate has gone up by about 20 per cent. in recent years, but we need to go a lot further. I welcome the fact that my hon. Friend’s Bill raises these issues, which she feels very strongly about. We want to keep talking to her about this, and my hon. Friend the Exchequer Secretary will write to her with further information. I think, too, that we should be considering how we build zero carbon offices and schools and how we can substantially cut carbon emissions from our public buildings in the longer term.

To what extent does the Treasury welcome the recent hike in oil prices as an incentive to encourage more environmentally friendly vehicles?

We have been very clear that the increase in oil prices is causing substantial problems for economies right across the world. It is causing difficulties for the UK economy as well as creating challenges for the global economy. That is why it is important for us to take action, working with the Saudis and people across the world, to try to address that increase and to bring those prices down in the short term. It is also why, in the longer term, we need to take more action to reduce world dependency on oil and fossil fuels in order to save the planet and to support the economy.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that climate change is both a challenge and an opportunity? Will she take further steps with her colleagues to get more eco-innovation in our universities and in the private sector? Some strong steps are being taken to make us a leading expert in this area, and a bit more encouragement from the Treasury would help.

My hon. Friend is right to say that we need to recognise the opportunity to develop leading-edge environmental technologies. That is why we are thinking particularly about carbon capture, which could have an impact right across the world, and about making the most of the UK science base in that respect. We have some great expertise and innovation in this country, and we need to ensure that that is supporting new environmental technologies.

My right hon. Friend is aware that 20 per cent. of global emissions come from deforestation. Will she therefore ensure that her Department resists the blandishments of the Office of Government Commerce, which would undermine the Government’s new policy on timber procurement, to ensure that all timber used on the Government estate is sustainable and legally harvested?

As my hon. Friend will know, my hon. Friend the Exchequer Secretary has been engaged in some detail in how we can improve sustainable procurement, and a new document was published yesterday to support that. We are working to ensure that we can get the most sustainable procurement possible within the legal framework that we have.

Low-Income Households

A single-earner family with two children on earnings of £16,750 per year, which is half male average earnings, will pay no net tax in 2008-09 because tax credits and child benefit more than offset income tax and national insurance liabilities. In 1997-98, that family’s net tax burden was 9.3 per cent. of gross income; in other words, they would have been £1,557 a year worse off.

The Chancellor left 1 million people uncompensated even after he tried to clean up the mess following the abolition of the 10p tax band. Can the Minister confirm that the people in many of those households, who drive older, often larger cars and have children, will be precisely those hardest hit when his changes to vehicle excise duty are forced through? Why is it that every time the Chancellor fiddles with tax rates the working poor are the hardest hit?

I completely disagree with the hon. Gentleman. He knows that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will consider all these matters for the pre-Budget report. He should have a look at the transformation that low-income families have seen in their incomes and their share of the nation’s wealth since 1997. It was a completely different experience when his party was in government.

The Treasury Committee report on the 10p tax issue noted that the 13 May announcement ensured that fewer low-paid people will be paying income tax, and we described that as bringing simplicity, transparency and greater incentives to work. The Government must ensure that every effort is made not to return those people into the tax system. In that respect, the Committee recommended a poverty commission in which an analysis of the root causes of poverty would be made for the Government to consider so that we can make advances in slashing poverty and ensure that the 2020 abolition targets are achieved.

My right hon. Friend knows that we welcomed his Committee’s report, and we are considering all the recommendations that he made in detail. I hope that he accepts that we will make a full response in due course.

Does the right hon. Lady know how many low-income households will be affected among the 45 per cent. listed in The Daily Telegraph this morning who will, based on Treasury figures, suffer as a result of the vehicle excise duty hike?

Clearly, low-income families who have motor vehicles will be among those affected, but I do not have exact figures for the hon. Gentleman today.

My hon. Friend will be aware that in recent years many low-income households have been those of pensioners, so may I on behalf of pensioners pass on my thanks to the Government not only for the winter fuel allowance and for pension credits, but for raising the threshold to £9,000—which is more than 87 per cent. higher than it was in 1997? Having used that route to raise those households out of poverty, can we please now look at non-child households, and consider using the same strategy with regard to their tax threshold?

The tax burden for single-earner families without children on half of average male earnings—the figure that I used earlier—is still less than it was in 1997-98. Those families are £167 a year better off than they were. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments about pensions, and I was pleased that this year’s Budget was able to increase the full basic state pension by £3.40 a week to £90.70 a week, which is the biggest increase in the basic state pension since 2001.

Does the Financial Secretary realise that many people are baffled by the Government’s policy towards low-income households? Did the Prime Minister intend to damage their interests in last year’s Budget? How many of those families remain disadvantaged, and how many does she think live in Glasgow, East?

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As a result of our reforms to the tax and benefit system since 1997, households are better off, on average, by £1,250 a year, and the poorest fifth of households are better off, on average, by £2,575 a year. Those figures may not feature in the headlines today, but they are important and make all the difference to families on low incomes.

Some 1.1 million households will end up paying more tax this year simply because the Prime Minister, to use the words of the Treasury Committee report, wanted to pull a rabbit out of a hat in his last Budget. Under this Chancellor and the last one, is not the lesson of the 10p rate fiasco, the climbdown on capital gains tax reforms or the botched changes to non-dom rules that short-term political hits and fixes take priority for this Government over making the right decisions for the country’s future?

The short answer is no. I invite the hon. Gentleman to consider the comments of the International Monetary Fund on the economy in the UK, which were published in May and strongly endorse the approach that the Government have taken. I commend those comments to him.

Global Economy

5. What discussions he plans to have with his international counterparts on the global economy in 2008. (217456)

Given that many economic commentators believe that imprudent banking practice has contributed to the development of the credit crunch internationally, what discussions has my right hon. Friend had with his international counterparts about improving banking supervision on a global basis to complement the measures planned in this country?

My hon. Friend is quite right. If banks in the United States and elsewhere had been more aware of the extent of the risk that they had entered into, particularly in the sub-prime mortgage market, many of the problems we see today could have been avoided. We have had many such discussions, and there is now agreement that we need to do more to strengthen international supervision, especially of institutions that trade in many countries. At home, we will be introducing regulation this October. The legislation will set out a greater number of steps open to regulators to deal with situations as they arise in the future. We will introduce that legislation when the House resumes sitting, and I hope that it will get all-party support.

When the Chancellor has met his G7 counterparts from Japan and the United States, has he compared notes with them about the economic hazards of allowing large bubbles to develop in property markets? Ours is arguably even more extreme than that of the United States. What wisdom have they passed on to him from their experience of how to prevent the inevitable painful consequences of repossessions and negative equity and of how to manage them humanely and properly?

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that, across the world, there have been problems with credit, especially in relation to the housing market. I have said on many occasions that lenders need to understand the security on which they are lending and to ensure that someone taking out a loan can repay it. The position of the housing market in the United States is different from that in this country. The United States still has the problem that, in many parts of that country, there are larger numbers of houses that it is not possible to sell. As long as that problem endures, there will be problems in the United States economy.

More generally, there is widespread recognition that what is happening in the world is more profound than many people believed at the end of last year and even at the beginning of this year. That will have a profound effect on developed and developing countries alike. That is why it is necessary for us to take action where appropriate internationally, and why it will be increasingly necessary for us to take action here at home to help people through an undoubtedly difficult period.

Will the Chancellor explain to his international counterparts why, when Britain has proportionately a larger financial sector and a larger mortgage housing sector than almost any other country, the Prime Minister has been boasting for months that we are especially well placed to withstand the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the credit crunch? The opposite is the case, as is now clear to everyone.

I disagree. The UK economy has grown for well over 10 years. It is resilient—much more resilient than it was. The current period, no matter how difficult, is an awful lot better than the early 1990s, when more than 3 million people were out of work, interest rates and mortgage rates were much higher and we had higher levels of debt. We as a country are better placed now than we have been in the past.

As I just said to the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable), a combination of the effect of the credit crunch and oil prices, which are as high as they have ever been, clearly means that all economies will be affected. That effect will be profound. We all need to be able to act together internationally—whether on oil prices, food prices or stabilising the financial markets. We will also need to continue to be vigilant here at home and to take action to help get our economy through an undoubtedly difficult period.

On Tuesday, one set of the Chancellor’s international counterparts, the EU Finance Ministers, backed proposals to launch disciplinary measures against the UK for breach of the EU’s deficit ceiling of 3 per cent. of GDP. After his predecessor spent 10 years lecturing other countries, how does it feel to be a representative of a country and a Government who have the worst budget deficit of all the countries in the world, with three exceptions, and who are, in terms of public finances, the sick man of Europe?

The hon. Gentleman is talking nonsense. The UK economy is stronger than many other economies. Our economy has been growing strongly for more than 10 years. As I said earlier, our economy, along with every other economy in the world, will experience slower growth this year—there is no question about that. However, on our public finances, if the hon. Gentleman cares to examine our level of debt, he will realise that not only is it lower than it was when his party was in power, but that we are better placed than many other European countries. As I said when I was at the European Finance Ministers meeting on Tuesday, every country will be affected by the twin effects of the credit crunch and the high inflationary pressures that we are seeing through oil prices. We will all be affected—in Europe and every other part of the world.

Notwithstanding all the difficulties globally, the truth is that in 1992, which the Tories have just referred to, every single pit in Derbyshire was closed and the pit sites were derelict. After 11 years of a Labour Government, there are now 3,000 jobs on those pit sites. Tomorrow I will be opening two more factories on the Shirebrook pit site. Three weeks ago I opened junction 29A on the M1 into Markham pit yard to provide 5,000 jobs. Will my right hon. Friend tell his international counterparts that the Tories may have one story, but the real story is that despite all those pit closures, unemployment in Bolsover is now below the national average?

Perhaps the next meeting of ECOFIN Ministers ought to be held on the M1, so we can see for ourselves the difference that has been made. My hon. Friend makes an important point. The difference now is not only that we have large numbers of people in work, but that where people have lost jobs and firms have closed, the Government have taken steps to ensure that we get people back into work. If people go to the sites of the former pits, they will see, far from the dereliction and despair that we saw 15 or 20 years ago, new jobs and new opportunities. That is the difference between a Labour Government, who will help people to get through difficult times, and a Conservative Government, who left people to fend for themselves and suffer. We will not do that; we have a completely different approach.

Primary Schools

6. What recent assessment he has made of the effects on the economy of expenditure on primary schools. (217457)

Investment per pupil has increased by some £2,500 a year to more than £6,000 a year. The proportion of children getting above key stage 2 level 4 is up from 63 to 80 per cent. in English and 62 to 77 per cent. in maths. The Leitch report showed that raising skills and education has a significant impact on improving the economy.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. My constituency shares those successes. Class sizes are down in Wirral, West, every school has been refurbished and key stage 2 results are up from 1997. As a result, over the past 10 years, more students have been going into further and higher education in my constituency. Despite the current downturn in economic circumstances, may I ask my right hon. Friend, who controls the purse strings, to affirm for me that we will continue the investment that we have put into our schools over 10 years, so that that progress can continue?

My hon. Friend is right: in a competitive global economy, skills matter more and more. Therefore, it is vital that we have the skills and education base in this country, so that the economy can compete and we can grow in the long term. We will continue to do that, in contrast with previous Conservative Governments who, in the face of economic slowdown, always cut investment, particularly capital investment. We have increased capital investment in schools from less than £700 million in 1997 to £6.4 billion this year. That is an improvement in giving our children the high-quality facilities that they need.

Energy Costs

The latest assessment of economic developments and prospects was published in the “Financial Statement and Budget Report”.

Will the Chancellor take a greater interest in the enormously increased targets for renewable energy, to which the Government are committed legally and by treaty law? Is he aware that if those commitments are met, they will impose huge extra costs on the taxpayer and the consumer? Is it wise to create fuel poverty and make British business uncompetitive in world markets through those commitments? Will the Chancellor do something about that now, because those commitments will endure for decades ahead?

One of the biggest threats that our economy and, as I said earlier, just about every other economy in the world faces is the high price of oil. I believe that that should act as an encouragement, a spur, to us to do more to generate our own electricity and to get our energy from non-carbon sources. That is important in terms not only of the environment but of security of supply. Self-evidently, a lot of the oil that we currently import comes from parts of the world that are not always politically stable. It is therefore necessary for us to do far more to generate renewable energy. As I understand it, that is also the policy of the right hon. Gentleman’s party, although I accept that it is not his own personal preference and that he has a lot of concerns about that source of energy. For my part, however, I think that we need to do far more, not just here and in Europe, to obtain more renewable energy. I also believe that it is essential to replace our fleet of nuclear power stations.

The Chancellor cannot be unaware of the damaging impact of rising fuel costs on the rural economy, particularly in relation to fuel oil and bottled gas for people who do not have mains electricity or gas. What plans does he have for the introduction of social tariffs for low-income households, particularly, but not only, in rural areas, which use fuel oil and bottled gas and which have experienced extraordinary rises in costs over the past two years?

Of course I am well aware of the problems that people living in rural areas are facing because of high fuel prices. I am also aware of the particular problem that the hon. Gentleman has risen in relation to bottled gas. Although I am not in a position today to say that we can definitely do something about it, I understand the problem to which he refers and it is something that I will consider further.

Manufacturing Sector

8. What recent representations he has received from representatives of the manufacturing sector on the Government’s economic policy. (217459)

We continue to receive representations and views from the manufacturing sector. Like every sector in the economy, manufacturing is being affected by rising oil prices and by the global credit crunch. However, recent reports from the Engineering Employers Federation show continued strength and resilience in the manufacturing sector.

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to refer to the EEF’s recent report, which shows that manufacturing is now in a far better position in relation to economic pressures than it was under previous Conservative Governments, for example, when manufacturing bore the brunt of such problems. As she says, however, the credit crunch and rising energy costs will have an impact on manufacturing. Will she ensure that she sticks closely not only to the employers but to the trade unions in manufacturing, to ensure that the sector comes out of this time of economic pressure maintaining as many manufacturing jobs as possible?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. We want to work closely with all those involved in manufacturing—employers, trade unions and others—to ensure that we can support people through what will be a tougher time for businesses as a result of the challenges from the world economy. Many areas of manufacturing are particularly affected by rising oil prices and rising commodity prices, for example. However, my hon. Friend is right to say that manufacturing productivity has grown by almost 50 per cent. since 1997. The manufacturing sector has strengthened, and that puts it in a considerably stronger position to withstand global pressures than it was in the early 1990s and the early 1980s, when we saw devastation across the manufacturing industry.

I am sure that we can all agree that the pharmaceutical sector is one of the most successful industrial sectors in this country. Has my right hon. Friend noticed, however, that the sector has lost 8,000 jobs in the past three years? The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and the CBI have recently reported on that fact. Will she be having discussions with either of those organisations?

We have regular meetings and discussions, and I think that I am due to meet representatives of the ABPI to discuss the pharmaceutical industry. That sector has invested £3.2 billion in research and development, and my hon. Friend is right to say that it is a world leader. It is important that we work with all our manufacturers to ensure that they get through the difficult period ahead.

Climate Change

As shown by Lord Stern in his review of the economics of climate change, the benefits of strong and early action to tackle climate change far outweigh the economic costs of inaction. The Government welcome Tuesday’s commitment by the G8 to the goal of achieving at least a 50 per cent. reduction in global emissions by 2050, and the recognition of the role of market mechanisms in helping to achieve emissions reductions in the most cost-effective manner.

Does my hon. Friend recognise that the Prime Minister’s leadership in Japan, which secured an unprecedented target for the reduction of CO2 emissions, is completely undermined by Conservative MPs back home who opposed the Bill proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Anne Snelgrove) to help reduce carbon emissions here?

I agree with my hon. Friend that the communiqué agreed at the G8, to which all G8 countries have signed up, is an historic step forward in establishing a target of 50 per cent. reductions. I also agree that Conservative Members need to walk the walk as well as talk the green talk.

Growth and Public Borrowing Forecasts

12. If he will publish UK growth and public borrowing forecasts before the 2008 annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank; and if he will make a statement. (217463)

The Chancellor will publish updated public borrowing forecasts in line with the code for fiscal stability in this autumn’s pre-Budget report in the usual way.

The right hon. Lady will be well aware that the European Union’s Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs has already said that the deficit needs to be corrected by 2009-10. Does she accept that deadline and, if so, how on earth is she going to achieve it?

In fact, the IMF has supported our policy position in a strongly supportive document. The EU has different arrangements as it operates within the eurozone, which we do not, so we have different obligations on fiscal policy. We have chosen to use borrowing to support the economy through a difficult time. That is the right thing to do and constrasts significantly with the continued mistakes made by the hon. Gentleman’s party in the early ’90s.

Is it true to say that present forecasts put Britain in a situation where we have lower net borrowing than we did throughout most of the ’90s? What is my right hon. Friend’s forecast for our performance in comparison with other European countries for the forthcoming period?

My hon. Friend is right to say that there are significant contrasts, particularly in respect of historical periods. Between 1997 and 2007, average borrowing was 1.2 per cent. of gross domestic product; whereas between 1992 and 1997 it was 6 per cent.; and between 1979 and 1997, it was 3.4 per cent. of GDP. Borrowing has been significantly lower and continues to be substantially lower than at the peak of borrowing in 1992, which was 7.5 per cent—a substantially higher rate than it is today.

Gift Aid

13. If he will bring forward proposals to improve the effectiveness of the gift aid scheme for voluntary organisations working in the area of community sport. (217464)

I hope that my hon. Friend will be reassured to know that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is continuing to work with the Central Council of Physical Recreation and with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to improve take-up of the gift aid scheme by community amateur sports clubs. This year’s Budget announced measures to reduce the burden on charities and clubs, including major reform to the auditing process, a comprehensive programme for bringing additional smaller charities into gift aid, a redesign of guidance, outreach to 5,000 new charities through the launch of targeted marketing tools and a number of other initiatives.

I thank the Minister for that reply and for the efforts that she and others are making to ensure that the community amateur sports clubs—CASC—scheme is widely taken up. I believe that 5,000 out of a potential 40,000 clubs have taken it up so far, bringing in about £41 million for sports clubs up and down the country. Is she aware, however, that gift aid on child subscriptions, for example, is the current campaign of the Central Council of Physical Recreation and that property-owning charities such as the National Trust can participate in it? At the moment, it appears that the administrative burden is the main blocking point, but if other charities can do it as part of HMRC, can we now extend the scheme to sports clubs, which would make an enormous impact in many of our most deprived communities in providing some of our best services for young people?

My hon. Friend knows that a number of recommendations were brought forward, including those to which he has referred, and we have considered them very carefully. Some very complex consequences arise from some of those recommendations, including those raised by my hon. Friend, but I am looking closely at them and I will reach a decision in the very near future.

Is the Minister aware that the biggest threat to community leisure trusts throughout the country is her own Department, where officials in Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have threatened to impose VAT on co-mingled services supplied by more than 100 trusts and are seeking to backdate such penalties for three years, which would jeopardise the viability of all those community sports facilities?

I am aware of the discussions between HMRC and a number of clubs. It is only right for all organisations with a tax liability to face up to that responsibility; but, as the hon. Gentleman will know, HMRC is working closely with the clubs, and it is clearly neither its intention nor ours for such clubs to be put out of business.

Topical Questions

The core purpose of the Treasury remains to ensure the stability of the economy, to promote growth and to manage the public finances.

Of course we must recognise that the economic downturn is a worry for our constituents, but it is shared across the world. Siemens in Germany has made redundancy announcements, the Federal Reserve in America is having to make more provisions for its banking sector, and the Irish economy is stuttering. Does my right hon. Friend share my further worry that, while there is a downturn—[Interruption.]

Order. Will the hon. Gentleman please have a seat? I must reiterate that these are topical questions, and the questions should be punchy. They should not be speeches. The Chancellor will try to reply to what the hon. Gentleman has said so far.

My hon. Friend is right. The slow-down in the world economy is affecting every single country—our own, and others in Europe and across the world. In a short time the Prime Minister will report on the outcome of the G8 summit that has taken place in Japan over the past few days.

In many key areas, whether they relate to financial stability, oil or world food prices, we need to act together. Britain has taken a lead in trying to encourage countries to take action, but it is necessary for us to take action at an international level as well as, of course, doing all that we can to ensure that our economy gets through what—as I said earlier—will be a very difficult period.

T2. Why did the Prime Minister tell the Leader of the Opposition that the new road tax proposals would benefit the majority of motorists, when figures just published by the Treasury make clear that that was patently untrue? (217477)

What the Prime Minister said on many occasions was that the majority of motorists would either gain or be no worse off.

T3. At a time when families are indeed suffering economic difficulties, I welcome the Government’s announcement of a scheme to provide personal advice on money matters in the north of England to the tune of £30 million, but can the Minister tell me how it is to be delivered? Will it be wholly internet-based, will it be provided through organisations such as the citizens advice bureaux, or will there be a combination of those arrangements? Will the Minister also tell me to what extent—[Interruption.] (217480)

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words. The money guidance pathfinder, which will start early next year in the north of England—including his constituency—will offer free, impartial advice through a variety of organisations and channels, not just the web but the telephone, and also face to face.

Mr. Speaker: Order.

May I press the Chancellor on the answer that he has just given my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay)? He knows full well that the Prime Minister told my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition last month

“If the right hon. Gentleman looks in detail at the proposal”

—on vehicle excise duty—

“he will see that the majority of drivers will benefit from it.”—[Official Report, 4 June 2008; Vol. 476, c. 765.]

It is clear from the Treasury figures published yesterday that that is not the case. Will the Prime Minister be apologising to the House?

As I told the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay) a few moments ago, I saw what the Prime Minister said at Question Time on 14 May. He said:

“the majority of motorists benefit or pay no more in vehicle excise duty as a result.”—[Official Report, 14 May 2008; Vol. 475, c. 1380.]

That is what the Prime Minister said.

May I press the Chancellor on this? On 4 June, the Prime Minister said that a majority of drivers would benefit from the VED changes. The Chancellor knows perfectly well that that is what the Prime Minister said. Is this not the substance of the issue? Nine million families face higher car taxes at a time when few can afford them. Poorer drivers will be penalised because the tax is retrospective and hits second-hand cars. Any pretence that it helps the environment has been demolished by Greenpeace, which says that it gives green taxes a bad name.

Everyone knows that the Labour party is sleepwalking into another 10p tax fiasco. Will the Chancellor perform the necessary U-turn, or do we have to wait for Heathcliff to come down from “Dithering Heights” before they abandon this disastrous plan to tax families already feeling the squeeze?

I noticed that the hon. Gentleman had been scribbling for the last 40 minutes, composing his question. The crux of the issue is how we encourage people to use less energy and motor manufacturers to produce more efficient cars. I see that as recently as yesterday the shadow Chancellor mentioned his commitment to raise the proportion of tax taken through green taxes. Less than 24 hours later, he seems to have lost interest in the matter.

T4. My right hon. Friend will undoubtedly agree that many of the economic ills from which the world is suffering at the moment are down to the lending policies of banks and other financial institutions, varying from the extreme foolhardiness that led to the sub-prime problems, to the current extreme caution on the part of banks and building societies, which is causing economic contraction in the UK. Has my right hon. Friend got any thoughts on what could be done by way of regulation to moderate those extremes? (217481)

My hon. Friend is right. As I said earlier, if some of the banks—especially some of those in the US—had had a better idea of the basis on which they were lending, and of the fact that some of the people to whom they were lending money were not in a position to repay it when interest rates increased, they would not be in their present difficulties. It is important for any institution, wherever it is—the US, here or anywhere else—to ensure that it knows what it is doing when it lends money. It is also important to ensure that the regulators have in place a regime that ensures that companies are properly focused on the risks to which they might be exposed. In this country, we are in discussions with lenders to try to ensure that the difficulties that some people face are dealt with properly. The general point that my hon. Friend makes about ensuring that institutions are properly alive to the risks to which they may be exposed is very important.

T5. The last time a massive increase in oil and commodity prices brought to an end a decade of growth, the countries that weathered the subsequent stagflation best were those that had used the period of growth to reduce their debt and taxes. Which of the legacies that the Chancellor inherited from his predecessor does he most regret—the fact that we have the highest deficit of any country except Bangladesh and Hungary, or that we have had the worst rise in taxes of any country in the developed world? (217482)

I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman raises that matter, as when he was in the Cabinet we had two of the deepest recessions this country had ever seen in the last century. As I have said, our debt is lower than it was—certainly than when he was a member of the Government—and is lower than many other countries. Obviously, as we go through this period, it makes sense to ensure that we support the economy, and that is why borrowing has risen, but we are in a much better position than we were in the early 1990s. I am sure that he remembers that time well, because he was Secretary of State for Social Security at the time, and one of the big problems for the then Government was that more than 3 million people were out of work.

T6. I have a very topical question, Mr. Speaker. Will the Chancellor ensure that the money that he gives to Europe is withheld in respect of the expenses of Conservative MEPs until they adopt the same independent auditing that Labour MEPs have had for some time, and until the Leader of the Opposition insists that that is done now, not next year? (217483)

I note the trouble that the Leader of the Opposition is having with his MEPs. I note also that for eight years Labour MEPs have had independently audited expenses that are published.

Order. May I say that I was distracted, but I would not expect a question like that again and certainly not a ministerial reply?

Would the Chancellor tell us whether the country would be in a better state had his predecessor modelled himself on Mr. Micawber rather than on Heathcliff?

As I have said on many occasions, the actions taken by the former Chancellor, who is now Prime Minister, over the past 10 years have meant that our economy has grown for more than 10 years. The hon. Gentleman could never have said that of the Government whom he supported. Our economy has grown and remains resilient. Although we are in a difficult time and are going through a pretty turbulent period, we are better placed to deal with that turbulence than this country ever was in the past.

Are my Front-Bench colleagues aware that they are overseeing the economics of a madhouse? What I mean by that is that the tax office at Chorley, which was not meant to close, is now down for closure, whereas the tax office at Blackburn, which was down for closure, is now staying open, yet it costs more to operate. Is there something about these tax offices that means that Secretaries of State’s tax offices remain open in Blackburn, St. Helens and Bolton yet a Back Bencher in Chorley loses his tax office, even though it costs less to operate and is purpose-built? What will the Minister say to that?

My hon. Friend makes his point forcefully, and my colleagues and I have heard it. I am sure that if he looks at all of the reforms that HMRC is introducing and appreciates that HMRC says that it needs 40 per cent. less office space than it has—

I hear my hon. Friend’s point.

I will make a final decision shortly on the consultation on all the proposals and representations that I have received. I understand that there will be an Adjournment debate next week when we will debate the future of offices in the north-west. My hon. Friend might wish to join us on that occasion.

Would the Government review the impact of the proposed VED changes on livestock farmers who need to tow livestock on a trailer? It is necessary to have a 4x4 in order to do that safely. Will the Government look exceptionally at the position of livestock farmers, not least those who operate in the hill country?

I note that some 4x4s are not in the higher VED bands. If the hon. Gentleman wants to see me, I am happy to listen to any representations that he wishes to make about the subject.

The Treasury has made a great announcement about law changes and more funding to support credit unions and defeat unscrupulous loan sharks. As part of promoting credit unions, I urge the Treasury to take more practical steps to raise the profile of the credit unions, to ensure that communities have access to their services and to ensure that if they are partnered with outlets other than the credit unions, those partners are trusted partners.

I agree entirely with what my hon. Friend has just said. That is why I was delighted to announce recently that the Government will bring forward a legislative reform order precisely to empower credit unions and to give them greater ability to partner other organisations, to expand their membership and to grow.

Following on from the point made by the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Hoyle), how will it provide a better service for local businesses, how is it fair to loyal staff and how does it make any sense in environmental terms to close the tax offices in Frome, Wells, Yeovil, Bridgwater and Weston-super-Mare and to relocate their business in expensive and congested Bristol?

It is no reflection whatsoever on the staff in the individual offices when offices are proposed for closure. I accept entirely that they are dedicated, loyal staff who have served Her Majesty’s Inland Revenue or HMRC for a long time. They deserve credit for that, but HMRC is under an obligation that we have placed on it—and as the hon. Gentleman would acknowledge that his constituents would expect—to get the maximum benefit in return for the public expenditure and taxes that we commit to its services. It cannot be right that we should continue to maintain uneconomic offices.

The Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Bill completed its House of Lords stages on 26 February, but we still do not have a date for Second Reading in this House. Why is that?

I understand that the Bill will return to the Commons immediately after we return from summer recess.

Does it remain the Chancellor’s intention to publish his factual report on the operation of the Barnett formula before the summer recess?

G8 Summit

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the G8 summit, which took place under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister of Japan between 7 and 9 July. The summit was unique not just for the range of issues discussed in three interlocking summits—the African outreach, G8 plus 5 and major economies summits—but for the large number of countries whose Presidents and Prime Ministers took part.

Let me first draw the House’s attention to the unprecedented G8 statement on Zimbabwe. In the face of the deepening tragedy in Zimbabwe—the intimidation and deaths, the violation of human rights, the detention of political prisoners—the G8 made it clear that we do not accept the legitimacy of the Mugabe Government and that the UN Secretary-General should now appoint a special envoy both to report on the deterioration of human rights and to support regional mediation efforts to bring about change.

The G8 also called for the immediate resumption of humanitarian aid, which is essential to preventing further suffering and loss of life. We resolved that we would take further steps to take financial and other measures against those individuals responsible for the violence. As the House knows, we have followed that up immediately with a UN Security Council resolution, which is now being discussed in New York. We propose an international arms embargo on Zimbabwe, including a ban on all supplies of any arms, weapons, ammunition and military equipment. We list in the resolution 14 named members of the Mugabe inner cabal against whom travel and financial sanctions should be imposed by the whole international community. We have now set in train work to identify, in Africa, Asia, America and Europe, through a forensic assessment, both the physical assets and the bank accounts and finances of those 14 people. The UN resolution will also establish a committee to monitor the operation of those sanctions.

With worldwide sanctions and the worldwide arms embargo that we propose, our aim is that there will be no safe haven and no hiding place for the criminal cabal that surrounds the Mugabe regime. Now that the G8 has taken its decision, we propose that the UN put the full weight of the international community behind isolating an illegitimate Government.

At the heart of the summit’s other considerations and conclusions were the triple shocks hurting the world economy: the doubling of oil prices, rising food prices and, because of the credit crunch, the rising cost of money. Those are three shocks that, it is now agreed, cannot be solved by traditional monetary policy means alone but require direct action that will tackle the sources of oil and food inflation and make for more stable commodity, agricultural and financial markets.

The summit also reflected a world that is changing fast, with a consensus about the new economic power in Asia; about the fact that oil, commodity and food prices represent global problems that require global solutions; that there is an economic as well as an environmental imperative to break our dependence on oil; and that we should act in Africa and on international development for moral reasons, but also because developing countries hold the key to addressing our food shortages and will be the ones most affected by climate change.

First, while the summit noted that there are many explanations for the doubling of oil prices in a year, and that the scale of change is now greater than the oil shock of the 1970s, the basic challenge, which cannot be resolved by one country or group of countries alone, is that oil demand exceeds oil supply now, and will in the future. Although Governments are taking action domestically—Britain with special winter payments, new help for low-income families and the current freeze on fuel duty—the G8 agreed that the global conditions for ensuring a more stable international energy market were, first, expanding nuclear power, with the International Energy Agency suggesting that we will need 1,000 new nuclear power stations over the next four decades; secondly, accelerating the expansion worldwide of renewables; thirdly, radical measures in each of our continents to improve energy efficiency; and fourthly, co-operation between oil producers and oil consumers to ensure greater understanding of the balance between supply and demand and then to ensure new investment in all sources of energy. The G8 supported the London summit that will be held later this year between producers and consumers.

Britain reported that, for our part, we are following up changes to the North sea licensing structure with a review of the current fiscal regime, with the aim of increasing recovery from new and existing oil fields. We will be discussing with Nigeria next week how the UK can work with the Nigerian authorities to address security problems in the Nigerian delta, which are costing 1 million barrels of oil a day. We are working with the Iraqi Government to build capacity in the oil sector there, and we are discussing with the Gulf states and others how sovereign wealth funds and oil revenues can be recycled into wider energy investments.

Global action to improve energy efficiency and to reduce the world’s dependence on oil will help not only to reduce energy and fuel bills for households and industry in countries such as ours but to fight the battle against climate change. That is essential to the future prosperity and security of the wider world. For the first time, the G8 agreed not just to consider but to adopt as part of an international agreement a long-term goal of a cut of at least 50 per cent. in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Also for the first time, we agreed on the need to have interim goals and national plans to achieve them. I welcome the fact that the major economies group, which now includes China, India, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, Australia, Indonesia and South Korea, as well as the G8, agreed to continue to work together in the UN to achieve an international climate agreement next year, and that the major emerging economies have agreed to adopt appropriate mitigation actions with a view to reducing their emissions below what is called “business as usual”.

As a measure of our shared commitment to meet these challenging goals, the G8 also agreed to 25 recommendations on energy efficiency standards, including agreement that each country will put in place car and consumer goods standards—standards we said that, if implemented globally, could cut global oil consumption by 15 per cent. and energy-related carbon emissions by 20 per cent. That is the equivalent of all the emissions of the USA and Japan combined. As I told the summit, these standards include Britain pressing in the European Union for an average fuel efficiency target of 100g of carbon dioxide per kilometre by 2020, and the Secretary of State for Transport is today publishing a consultation paper in support of this target. Britain will also work with other countries in the European Union on the scope for commercialising the production of electric plug-in and hybrid motor vehicles.

To make a reality of and to monitor higher energy efficiency standards, we are also setting up a new G8 energy forum to meet in the autumn to examine how we can globally adopt new standards and new technologies. This will feed into the next meeting of the consumers and producers dialogue in London, which was supported by the G8 and will happen before the end of the year. We will seek to make permanent these initiatives on energy by setting up an international partnership for energy efficiency co-operation as a high-level forum to accelerate the adoption of these new technologies, and for greater energy efficiency.

We also know that to adopt alternative energy sources Africa and developing countries must have greater access to funds, so it has been a British initiative to create what has been called the climate investment funds at the World Bank. We agreed measures at the G8 that will provide more than $120 billion in public and private finance for alternative energy and other environmental investments. This is $117 billion through the existing clean energy investment framework, and $6 billion of new funding through the new climate investment funds—a huge new global investment fund of more than $100 billion for tackling climate change and encouraging developing countries to move to alternatives to fossil fuels.

With rising food prices having an impact at home and abroad, particularly for the poorest, the need for co-ordinated global action is also clear, so the G8 agreed to invest more than $10 billion to meet the short-term humanitarian needs arising from famines, including increases in food aid, but we also agreed to improve food security and measures for agricultural productivity over the longer term.

One major element in reducing food prices, as well as generating wider global benefits, will be a successful outcome to the Doha trade round, where lowering trade-distorting subsidies and import restrictions could increase the global gross domestic product by as much as €120 billion a year by 2015. The Doha trade round is primarily a development round that will benefit the poorest countries most. But if we are to break the year-long deadlock in negotiations, the upcoming ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation on 21 July will be critical. It is a make-or-break meeting for a trade deal, and I discussed the importance of this at the summit with all its participants, including President Bush, the Presidents of Brazil and South Africa and the Prime Minister of India. We agreed that the biggest signal we could send that the present challenges must not be an excuse for a renewed bout of protectionism was signing that world trade deal.

I hope that all sections of this House will agree that all countries should show the resolution to achieve the breakthrough that we want and need. To support the deal, the G8 also reiterated a commitment to invest $4 billion in aid for trade to help the poorest countries to take advantage of new trading opportunities.

As part of action this year on the millennium development goals, the G8 also signed up to new action to meet goals on health, and reaffirmed commitments made at Gleneagles to provide $25 billion in aid to Africa, and $50 billion globally by 2010, as well as establishing universal access to treatment for AIDS. How the world achieves further major advances in the alleviation of poverty, disease and illiteracy is the subject of the UN millennium summit convened by the UN Secretary-General for 25 September. I call on all countries to do what is necessary to meet the promises that they made on the millennium development goals.

My aim at the summit was to turn generalised commitments that were not time-specific into concrete action and into delivery to address poverty, disease and illiteracy. We agreed that over the next five years we would deliver the commitment of $60 billion to tackle infectious diseases and strengthen health in Africa and developing countries. Some other countries will provide additional resources for health care systems, including our own.

We also agreed to help to fund in 36 African countries a target of 2.3 health workers per 1,000 people. That would mean in total an additional 1.5 million new doctors, nurses or health workers, including a major advance in the number of skilled midwives so that women no longer have to die when unaided during childbirth. The G8 also committed to finance 100 million bed nets by 2010 for the prevention of malaria—this could save 600,000 lives—while $1 billion of new funding for the education fast-track initiative will immediately help a further 10 million children to go to school.

During the summit, I had a number of key bilateral meetings with other leaders on millennium development goal issues, and on other issues as well. This included a meeting with the new President of Russia, when we agreed on co-ordinated international action on Iran and the middle east peace process. But I raised in detail all the major issues that exist between our two countries, our position on the Litvinenko case, the treatment of the British Council and the withdrawal of visas for BP employees.

The G8 also agreed that, in a world of global financial flows, it is essential that immediate action be taken to tackle the impact of financial instability. Action at home should be accompanied internationally by clearer standards for the valuation of assets, changes in the role and use of credit rating agencies and better management of liquidity. More generally, there was agreement on the need for concerted global action to reform the International Monetary Fund. There was agreement that the IMF should become a better early warning system for the world economy, and there was a wider agreement that the international institutions set up in the 1940s were now in need of fundamental reform to ensure that they were fit to meet the new challenges of the 21st century. Further work will be done over the coming year to produce proposals for their reform and renewal.

Just as on Zimbabwe, where we have seen the growth of an international coalition for change, there is growing agreement round the world—and real progress now—on the need for detailed collaborative actions on energy, climate change, trade and international development. I commend this statement to the House.

I thank the Prime Minister for his statement, and I am sure that I speak for the whole country when I say we are pleased to see that Heathcliff has come home.

There are four main issues that I want to ask about—the world economy, aid, climate change and Zimbabwe. First, on Zimbabwe, may I congratulate the Prime Minister on putting the issue at the top of the G8 agenda? Real progress was made on sanctions against the regime and on not recognising the legitimacy of the Government, and he is to be congratulated on the role that he played in that. The key is now to translate those words at the G8 into an effective UN resolution. Given what the Russian President has said—that a UN resolution has not actually been agreed—is the Prime Minister confident that the Security Council will pass a resolution that enforces an arms embargo and meaningful targeted sanctions against members of the regime? Specifically on sanctions, given that EU sanctions target 130 officials, can he tell us why the figure in the draft resolution is just 14?

The G8 also calls for the appointment of a UN envoy to Zimbabwe, which, again, is welcome. Will the Prime Minister press for the appointment to be accompanied by a UN commission to investigate human rights abuses in Zimbabwe? On Africa more widely, can the Prime Minister give us some further reassurance—he spoke about this—that the Gleneagles pledges are not being watered down? At Gleneagles, the commitment was to increase development aid by $50 billion by 2010, with $25 billion of that going to Africa. The latest communiqué has a rather tortuous phrase about being

“firmly committed to working to fulfil our commitments”.

According to Oxfam, on current trends, rich countries could miss their 2010 promise by as much as $30 billion—money that could save 5 million lives. Given all that, is the Prime Minister really convinced that the Gleneagles pledges will be delivered?

Secondly, the Prime Minister mentioned the vital issue of access to HIV/AIDS treatment. Tony Blair said last year that the G8 was still committed to delivering

“universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment by 2010”.—[Official Report, 11 June 2007; Vol. 461, c. 514.]

I asked Tony Blair repeatedly about interim targets to help to make sure that the 2010 commitment was kept, yet now, with just two years to go, the G8 says that it is

“working towards the goal of universal access”.

How close to universal access to those vital treatments does the Prime Minister expect us to get in two years’ time?

Thirdly, on climate change, the Prime Minister said that the G8 agreement represented major progress, and on the face of it, the 50 per cent. cut in emissions does look good, but when we look at the small print, is there not a series of problems with the goal that was set? First, the goal is for global emissions, not G8 emissions, yet there are no figures for the contributions that G8 countries should make. Next, the Prime Minister mentioned the declaration issued by the wider group of economies that met on Wednesday; is it not the case that that had no specific figures at all? Furthermore, while the 2050 goal is clearly 42 years away, there are no interim targets. Vitally, is it not the case—although there seems to be some uncertainty here—that the 2050 goal is not being measured against 1990 levels, as we have always discussed, but against current levels? Could he confirm that? Taken together, do not those points demonstrate that progress has been painfully slow?

The fourth issue is the world economy. As the Prime Minister said, one of the keys to improving standards of living is to break down barriers to trade, and the G8 said that it would continue to work, as a matter of urgency, on the Doha negotiations. Is it not the case that the greatest contribution that the EU could make is to reform the common agricultural policy? The Prime Minister told the Liaison Committee last week that he wanted to see the CAP change “fundamentally”. Would that not have been much easier if the Government had not abandoned much of our rebate, without any guarantee of real CAP reform in return?

At a time when people face higher food prices, higher fuel bills and a credit crunch, what they need is a Government who are on their side and able to help. The Prime Minister talks a lot about global oil markets, and clearly those are important issues, but is there not something that he could do, in the UK, to help people who need a car to get to work? First, why does he not scrap his retrospective vehicle excise duty tax hike for next year? Will he at least admit that when he told me from the Dispatch Box that a majority of drivers would benefit, he was wrong? Will he now correct himself and apologise to the House for getting it wrong? Secondly, will he look at our proposal for a fair fuel stabiliser? [Interruption.] People want to know that the outcome of the G8 will be to help people in this country. Will the Prime Minister look at our proposal for a fair fuel stabiliser, so that when the price of oil rises, the Government share the pain with the motorist?

Is it not the case that when the Prime Minister looked at the situation in other G8 countries, he found that far from being the best prepared for global economic uncertainty, Britain is among the worst? France and the United States are cutting taxes to boost people’s living standards. He cannot do that, as he has given us the biggest Budget deficit of not only the G8 countries but all the 55 large economies, apart from Hungary, Egypt and Pakistan. Is that not the true situation? Is that not why, despite all the difficulties people face, the Prime Minister is actually planning to put up taxes next year and the year after?

Of course people welcome the positive reports the Prime Minister has given on developments at the G8, but are they not entitled to something else? Is it not time that the Prime Minister, who for years boasted about an end to boom and bust and about prudence and stability, told us why as the difficult years come he put nothing aside during the good years to help people when they need it?

Let me start with Zimbabwe where I believe that, as on some of the other issues raised, there is common ground. It was a major breakthrough at the G8 that the Russians and other countries agreed we should impose sanctions on Zimbabwe and that a UN envoy should go to Zimbabwe. The Secretary-General was at the G8 and wants to do that immediately. It was a major breakthrough that people agreed that the sanctions should start with the major figures in the Mugabe regime. I do not deny that the European Union has a wider list, but internationally agreed sanctions right across the world to deal with assets held by members of the Mugabe regime in Africa, and assets that we know are held in Asia and perhaps in parts of Europe outside the EU, will be a major prize.

I accept that the United Nations resolution goes further in two major respects, and detailed negotiations are taking place in New York at the moment, but I hope that the whole international community, having seen the statement of the G8 and the statement of the African Union about the illegitimacy of election process, will agree that they should take together the action we propose—sanctions, with the embargo that would happen on arms, and the envoy to Zimbabwe. It is a delicate situation: violence is being practised against members not just of the community in Zimbabwe but of the Opposition party which has a legitimate claim to having won elections to Parliament. It is important that we support the mediation efforts that are taking place, but it is also important that the whole weight of the international community is behind the efforts to secure transition in Zimbabwe. I believe that time is short for that, so it is important that the UN pass its resolution as soon as possible, and I hope that all countries and all continents will get behind it.

The second issue that the right hon. Gentleman raised was climate change. I have to disagree with him: it is major progress that the major countries, including America and the rest of the EU and Japan, have signed up to an international agreement that, if accepted, would mean a cut of 50 per cent. in carbon emissions by 2050. That did not happen a year ago and it has obviously not been possible for many years in our discussions on climate change. For it to happen at the summit is an important step forward.

I do not think the right hon. Gentleman properly appreciated that agreement that there would be a need for interim targets in 2020 and 2025 was also an important step forward. There was a suggestion that countries should provide their national plans to do so. We are not just putting forward proposals that there be targets set that have to be met by our children’s generation, but that there are targets that have to be met by this generation as well.

The developing countries are now readier to sign up to mitigation efforts and to their own standards for meeting the climate change agenda. That will be part of the talks that are about to take place, including all the different summits in the run-up to Copenhagen, as well as a full discussion of climate change issues at the next G8 meeting with the major economies that I have just listed. What makes it possible for developing countries and emerging markets to sign up to targets has not yet been properly recognised as an outcome of the summit—the $150 billion or so being made available through the World Bank as part of public-private partnerships to enable those countries to invest in alternatives to coal-fired power stations and deforestation—so that they can invest long-term in sources of energy that are more environmentally efficient. I believe we have made major progress on the climate change agenda. The right hon. Gentleman raised this, and it is very important that we recognise that Europe is leading the debate; but we can lead the debate only as part of Europe, playing a full part as a member of the European Union, and I hope at some point that at least the sensible voices in the Conservative party will wake up to that.

On food prices, the right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. We have put forward major changes to the common agricultural policy, which is up for review this year. It is part of the budget settlements of the last few years, and I hope that other members of the European community can be persuaded of the need for major reform of the common agricultural policy.

We need to act on famine now, which is why additional money is being provided by all G8 member countries to deal with the famines in Africa and elsewhere as a result of rising food prices. We need to invest in the equivalent of a green revolution in Africa to complement what happened in Asia, so that Africa ceases to be a net importer of food but, with a population mostly dependent on the land, starts to become a net exporter of food. That will be to their benefit by raising their earnings, and also to that of the rest of the world by reducing food shortages. More and more, the development agenda, the environmental agenda and the economic agenda are coming together and, as I have said to other countries that are looking at their development aid budgets at the moment, it would make no sense for them to cut development aid because it is needed to help Africa with both the agricultural agenda and the environmental agenda.

I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman when he says that we did not do enough on millennium development goals at the summit. It is true that there is legitimate debate among countries about the level of development aid—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman said that countries were not meeting their commitments to the 2010 target. We in Britain are meeting our commitments, and it is right to tell other countries that they, too, should meet their commitments. That is why we try to turn the abstract promises of the past into concrete commitments—what was being said on health, malaria, education and agriculture and dealing with the problems of food.

I come now to the world economy. I hope the right hon. Gentleman has understood the message from the G8 summit: although we can do a great deal in our own countries—we have raised the winter fuel allowance and frozen fuel duty—we have responsibilities to the environmental agenda, as he used to recognise, which is why we are dealing with pollution from cars. There are global problems that require global solutions. Conservative blindness to the need for co-operation in the European Union means the Conservatives do not recognise the need for global action in the way we do. We will continue to work for global co-operation to deal with food, to deal with oil, to deal with commodities and to make for a smoother functioning global economy. I hope all parties will come to recognise that global co-operation and global leadership are now more necessary, not less relevant than before.

I thank the Prime Minister for the advance notice of his statement.

If words could transform the world, the summit would be revolutionary. No one can disagree with the stirring rhetoric about the needs of the developing world, about Zimbabwe and about the urgency of the ongoing trade talks. However, G8 summit words count only if they are translated into action, which is why although of course I welcome the strong language on Zimbabwe and the initiative being taken in the United Nations, I wonder why the Prime Minister has not taken more active steps in practice at home and abroad. For example, nearly three weeks ago I asked him to allow Zimbabwean asylum seekers to have the right to stay in the UK and to work to support themselves before they return home. He said he would think about it. What has he actually decided? What is he actually going to do?

Today, the Prime Minister said—stirringly—that

“our aim is that there will be no safe haven and no hiding place for the criminal cabal that surrounds…Mugabe”.

Of course. Will he go further than the United Nations? As he knows, Zimbabweans cannot be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court at present because they are not signatories to it. However, if the UN Security Council were so to decide, the Prime Minister could tell Mugabe and his henchmen that if they did not give up power within the next six months or so, one step outside Zimbabwe would mean they would be detained and prosecuted by the International Criminal Court. Will the Prime Minister take that step?

I am equally concerned that the Prime Minister is not honouring with action at home the rhetoric on the sharp increase in household gas prices. The G8 has rightly expressed concern—a concern that is particularly acute in the UK, with predictions that household gas prices will increase by 40 per cent. by the winter. As I have asked the Prime Minister several times, why is he not doing what other EU countries have done to recoup the subsidy given to energy-generating companies through the emissions trading scheme to install smart meters and energy-efficient measures in our households, and give real meaningful help to the most vulnerable families struggling to pay their fuel bills? He says that one of the major conclusions of the G8 summit was “radical measures to improve energy efficiency”. Taking steps to revolutionise the energy efficiency of our housing stock would do precisely that, but he seems to refuse to do it on the scale that is needed.

Finally, is it not true that the G8 is struggling to have any real influence over some of the world’s major emerging powers? Much has changed since the 1980s, when the G8 was seen as the boardroom of the world where all the big decisions were taken and everyone else followed. Today, emerging powers such as China and India are a bit like large shareholders, demanding change that the board cannot deliver, and since today is the day for Tory jokes about Heathcliff, I hope that the Prime Minister will agree that the G8 should not die a death like Heathcliff—a man ranting and raving at a world he can no longer understand, control or change. [Interruption.] It is indeed. Does the Prime Minister agree that the G8 should expand to include India and China?

I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman’s remarks about Zimbabwe, and I shall deal with one of the issues that he has raised. We all agree about the need for sanctions, the need for a UN envoy and the need to report on the human rights situation so that the whole world can see what is happening in Zimbabwe. As the right hon. Gentleman acknowledges, Zimbabwe is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court, but under the sanctions proposals that we have put forward, anybody who tries to leave Zimbabwe will be denied travel access, and that will be clear in the resolution at the United Nations.

The right hon. Gentleman did raise with me the question of people seeking asylum from Zimbabwe, and I did say that we dealt on a case-by-case basis with the right to asylum, and that is still the policy. However, I can confirm that no one is being forced to return to Zimbabwe from the United Kingdom at this time—no one. I can confirm also that we are actively looking at what we can do to support in this country Zimbabweans who are failed asylum seekers, who cannot work and who are prevented from leaving the UK through no fault of their own. They are provided with accommodation and vouchers to ensure that they are not destitute, but we are looking at what we can do to support Zimbabweans in that situation, and we will report back to the House in due course. However, I repeat to the right hon. Gentleman that no one is being forced to return to Zimbabwe at the present time.

The right hon. Gentleman also raised the question of fuel efficiency. The G8 accepted 25 recommendations for greater energy efficiency, and I must say that probably the most controversial one relates to cars and the future of vehicles, with the promotion of electric technology, plug-in vehicles and hybrid cars. I believe that all countries—Japan, the European Union countries and America—can make huge progress on that immediately, and we are putting, I think, £100 million into research to encourage companies to move forward on the issue.

The right hon. Gentleman asked what we are doing to ensure that people have access to cheap energy efficiency measures, such as loft insulation. No Government have done more than this Government to tackle those problems. Three million people are about to benefit from the measures on loft insulation and on draughtproofing, and he seems to forget that we have also signed with the utility companies an agreement that they will provide £100 million next year and £150 million in future years to help low-income households to do exactly what he says should happen. So we have the winter allowance, we have the £150 million that will come from the utility companies, we have our own programme for fuel efficiency and we are doing everything we can to tackle fuel poverty. I accept that in difficult economic times, which every country in the world is experiencing, as we have explained, it is our responsibility to do everything we can to help people in this country.

The reason I think the right hon. Gentleman underestimates the importance of the G8 is that, for the first time, I see a recognition that, when facing an oil shock, food price rises and the credit crunch, we need joint international action to solve such global problems. There will have to be a major reform of the international institutions, the necessity for which we have been promoting for some time anyway—even before the financial shocks. Over the next few months, there will be increasingly co-ordinated action by, and collaboration between, the major economies to do what we can to reduce our dependence on oil, to stabilise the energy market, to deal with the problems of financial instability, to help with the difficulties of food prices and to keep the world economy moving forward. I hope that all parties in the House will support that.

No one would compare my right hon. Friend to Edgar in the novel, so that is some consolation. May I congratulate him on showing a photograph of someone—an Opposition party activist—who was murdered in Zimbabwe? It should, I hope, have awakened in the other G8 leaders further interest in that country’s tyranny, but would it not be totally irresponsible if any member of the Security Council decided to veto the proposed British resolution on sanctions and on the embargo? One hopes that that will not happen, but it would be deplorable if it did.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has taken a huge interest in these matters over time. The major advance is that the whole membership of the G8 supports the need for sanctions. I accept that the UN resolution is more detailed, because it not only asks for the UN envoy to be appointed under specific circumstances, but names 14 individuals, demands that the UN monitor the sanctions over a period—this will affect the whole international community, not just the G8—and calls for an arms embargo. I urge every United Nations member country to support the resolution. There cannot be change in Zimbabwe without the G8 sending the strongest possible message that the international community supports such change, and I hope that United Nations members—even those that in the past have not supported such action on Zimbabwe—will realise that in terms of humanitarian aid, this is an emergency, that a criminal cabal is running a country without legitimacy, and that the people of that country need relief from the miseries to which they are subjected.

The Prime Minister stated that in his meeting with President Medvedev, he addressed the subjects of Litvinenko, the British Council and TNK-BP, but he did not share with the House the President’s response. Will the Prime Minister confirm that when, in fact, he received a very negative response from President Medvedev to each of those three issues, he reminded the President that he had said that the improvement of the rule of law in Russia would be one of the priorities of his presidency? And did the Prime Minister think to suggest to the President that the rule of law means not just that the people obey the law, but that the Government of Russia should, too? The process might start with the three matters to which the Prime Minister referred.

I had a very full discussion with President Medvedev about those issues. The meeting ran substantially over time, because of the detailed discussion of the issues that the right hon. Gentleman raises. I reminded the President that the British Council was operating within the rule of law and that it was completely unfair to deal with the British Council as the Russians did. I hope that its full position will be restored as soon as possible. On BP, I made it absolutely clear that the visa decision was not a commercial issue, but an issue for the Administration themselves, and that whatever were the difficulties with the commercial relationship between two Russian companies, the Russian Government had a duty to look at the visas. I made it clear also that the Litvinenko issue would not be closed. We have justice to do on the part of someone who was murdered on British soil, and the current position is not acceptable.

I congratulate the Prime Minister on the strong and principled leadership that he showed at the G8 summit, and on Zimbabwe I welcome the sanctions measures that he announced. However, will he consider three additional measures: first, to return home the ruling clique’s sons, daughters and other relatives who are being expensively educated abroad; secondly, to ban all Air Zimbabwe flights to the European Union, including Britain, and internationally; and thirdly, to discuss with the South African Government their continued supply of electricity, which enables Mugabe and his ruling clique to escape the universal and persistent cuts that are imposed on almost everybody else? Finally, as a fellow anti-apartheid activist of decades ago, my right hon. Friend will recall that exactly the same arguments were used against sanctions on South Africa as are now being used against sanctions on Mugabe. They were wrong then and they are wrong now.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who has a long-standing interest and suffered a great deal from his involvement in anti-apartheid campaigns over many years. He is absolutely right that many things must be considered, and he mentioned the supply of electricity and energy from South Africa to Zimbabwe, but I must say that the starting point is to have the whole international community imposing sanctions. It is all very well for one country or one continent to take action, but it works successfully only when we have the whole international community behind what we are doing so that the regime is genuinely isolated from the whole international community.

We have now started work in the United Kingdom to identify assets in other countries of Africa, where we know they exist, in Asia, where we believe that the regime’s members have assets stocked away, and, of course, in America and Europe. We are doing a forensic assessment to identify the physical assets, the bank accounts and the financial holdings of those 14 main people, who are part of the Mugabe cabal. That is the first step, and it is my hope that we will have the whole international community behind us so that the full pressure is felt on the Zimbabwean Administration.

Both the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition have emphasised the importance of the Doha round. Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to express his support for Commissioner Mandelson against the attacks made on him by the President of France? Does the Prime Minister agree with me that the tragic irony of the situation is that the root cause of Commissioner Mandelson’s difficulties lies in the disastrous decision taken by Tony Blair to renew the common agricultural policy for a further 10 years—a decision that has made it impossible for the European Union to make the constructive contribution to the Doha round that we would all like to see?

I am sure that the European Trade Commissioner will be delighted at the support given him by the former Leader of the Opposition; if I may do so, I shall convey the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s support directly to him. The right hon. and learned Gentleman may have noted the comments of the President of France only yesterday in Japan. He said that he, too, would support a deal that was against the protectionist sentiments that were flowing around the world and he called on other countries, including Argentina and Brazil, to play their part in making a trade deal possible.

The European Union is making concessions on tariffs and subsidies, and the American Government are also making concessions on subsidies. It is important that the whole world should see that changes are also being made in the industrialising and emerging-market countries of the world. That formed part of my discussions with President Lula. A deal is available. Obviously, Europe and America have to contribute to it; so, too, do all the other parts of the world, which have to make it possible for trade to be opened up, not just in agriculture but in manufacturing goods and services. I believe that in the next few days we will see whether that deal is possible. We will do everything to make it happen.

Is the Prime Minister aware that at the very moment when he was meeting the President of Russia for his welcome but delicate discussions to rebuild bilateral relations, without making concessions, MI5 officers were scurrying around London, talking and spinning to the media to do everything to undermine the Prime Minister’s initiative? Is he not aware that things are out of control as regards our security and intelligence services, particularly MI5? The situation is worse than that during the Wilson period. There is no parliamentary oversight of the services’ conduct, whom they speak to and where they meet them. It is time that some control was brought by this place on their conduct, which ultimately undermines his policies and initiatives.

I do not agree with what my hon. Friend says, but he will be pleased to know that, as part of the opening up of the debate about our security services, there will next week be a debate on those very issues of our security. That has been made possible by the Government. We are making changes in the Intelligence and Security Committee so that it is more responsible to the House of Commons. My hon. Friend will have the chance to debate and examine the national security strategy that is put forward. There is more transparency than ever before in how we can examine and scrutinise the working of our security services.

Although I welcome the new extra package of aid for Africa in what seems a renewed commitment on the Gleneagles agreement, I remind the Prime Minister that less than 20 per cent. of what was agreed in Perthshire has made its way through. How will we catch up, given that only two years are left in the Gleneagles arrangement, and when can Africa expect the money?

Ten million more children will receive education as a result of a decision made only this week. That means that since 2000, when we set the millennium development goal, 44 million children will have received education and another 10 million will in the next year. That is us making progress towards meeting the goals set at Gleneagles. Take the provision of malaria nets: 100 million malaria nets have been promised, and they will save tens of thousands of lives as a result of our decision.

Take health as a whole. I was asked by the Leader of the Opposition, and probably did not reply in detail, about the issue of HIV/AIDS. The very fact that we have agreed a timetable for $60 million to be spent over five years means that money will go directly this year, next year and the year after to HIV/AIDS and the alleviation of other diseases—from polio, to tuberculosis, to pneumococcus and other diseases that need to be treated. We are trying to turn promises at Gleneagles that were made sometimes more generally, without being time-specific, into concrete actions. I must say that that is possible only because we are part of a United Kingdom that has weight around the world in pushing the proposals and getting agreement from the big nations. It could not happen under the Scottish National party.

My right hon. Friend has long championed the millennium development goals as a means of tackling poverty internationally. As a result, our country is recognised as a world leader on committing aid. I congratulate him on persuading other European leaders to do their bit to honour their Gleneagles commitments. I ask him to ensure that the millennium development goals are not jettisoned as we try to tackle the current fuel and food crisis. What we need now—perhaps more than ever—is the longer-term strategic thinking that he has spelled out this morning.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who was taking a huge interest in these matters long before he was a Member of Parliament and who has taken the same interest for all the time that he has been one. I congratulate him on the proposals that he has put forward to us over time on meeting the millennium development targets.

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The easiest thing in the world at the moment would be for countries faced with their own economic difficulties to cut the aid and support that they give the poorest countries, but that would be short-sighted and the wrong decision to take. Why? Because there is not only a moral obligation on our part to honour the commitments that we have made, but we will not solve our problems over food, energy, climate change and economic development unless we can involve the poorest countries—the developing countries and the emerging markets. That is why it is right to give $10 billion to support agriculture in Africa. That is why it is right also to give $100 billion in public-private money to fund energy-intensive and energy-efficient developments in the poorest countries. That is why it is also right that $60 billion is committed over five years to make sure that the health commitments that we have made are properly honoured. I will continue to argue that this is the time for us to build a stronger relationship with the developing countries, not to weaken our commitments to them.

Bearing in mind the fact that Japan has already banned the futures market in rice and that India has banned the export of rice, did the Prime Minister make any suggestions to other members of the G8 about steps that could be taken to curb the speculative manipulation of world food markets in ways that could threaten the social stability of many of the poorest countries?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point about the operation of markets in food. The fact is that 26 countries have placed bans on exports of food. Therefore they are making it impossible for other countries that may be able to and should have access to food to deal with famine to have that support. I think that the hon. Gentleman would agree that only 7 per cent. of rice is traded internationally. The biggest problem is not speculation, but production. It is important to recognise that we must get countries in different parts of the world that have either cut back production of these basic staples or are simply producing for themselves, to think of themselves as exporters for the future. That is why it is important to stimulate what some people call the green revolution a second time—but this time not only in Asia, but right across the world.

My right hon. Friend referred to his discussion with President Medvedev about Iran. Was he able to impress on the Russian President that Russia’s interest in making sure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons is just as big as everybody else’s? Was my right hon. Friend able to get a commitment from President Medvedev that Russia would use its undoubted influence with Iran, which we need it to apply, to make sure that Iran does not take the road to nuclear weapons and that Russia will play its part in bringing Iran to the table?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is an expert on this issue, as he is on many foreign policy issues. He knows that an offer has been made to Iran that it abandons its nuclear weapon ambitions and is instead given the guarantee of civil nuclear power. He also knows that that is part of an international offer that Russia is very much at the centre of and supports. Our discussions at the G8 on Iran included Russia promising that it would stick with us in this effort. First, we must try to get Iran to agree to the new offer that has been made, and then, if Iran is not prepared to take up that offer, we will have to consider further sanctions, I hope with Russian support.

Russia has made the offer that we have also made, and which has now come from the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia as well, that there should be a uranium enrichment bank that is held outside the countries that would benefit from it—that is, the nuclear powers making uranium available on terms that would mean that there was security of supply. Iran could be one of the first countries to benefit from that. That is very much a real proposal that is gaining ground throughout the world. I hope that as part of our discussions with Iran and other countries, the idea of an internationally recognised and validated uranium bond or bank can help us to solve these very difficult problems about avoiding nuclear proliferation.

May I reinforce the sentiment not only in this House but among many of our constituents about the need to see an urgent end to the Doha round? World conditions are making that even more imperative. If the ministerial meeting on 21 July is not a success, what is the Government’s fall-back position? Does it include considering whether the EU might take unilateral action to reduce its trade barriers in order to break the deadlock?

The hon. Gentleman is right that the EU can do things; it has already offered unilaterally to remove many of its restrictions on trade with Africa. As he will agree, the importance of a world trade agreement is that every continent of the world is involved—that is the prize. It would not be enough for the EU to take action and for America not to reduce its agricultural subsidies, and it would certainly be of no great benefit to the poorest countries of the world if some of the major continents were not involved. He is absolutely right that we must move forward with an attempt to get an agreement on 21 July. I believe that the director general of the World Trade Organisation is about to produce additional proposals for that. We will give him the support that we can in getting an agreement.

As I say, not only Europe and America but the developing countries and emerging markets must play a part in making this deal possible. I talked to President Lula, Prime Minister Singh and President Mbeki, all of whom have a major part to play in making this possible. I am convinced that these major world leaders want this deal to happen; we must now get through the remaining difficulties that have been the bottleneck to negotiations succeeding over the past year. I think that that is possible, and all our efforts over the next few days will be towards making it possible.

The Prime Minister should know that all of us in Parliament and outside Parliament who have campaigned on Zimbabwe for many years know that the seismic change in international attitudes to Zimbabwe, particularly the unanimous decision that it is an illegitimate regime, would not have happened without the personal dedication and commitment that he has given, not only at the G8 but over the past six months or so. I think that all Zimbabweans in this country will want to thank him. Does he agree that it would be absolutely shocking if something happened that allowed Mugabe still to attend the Beijing Olympics?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has taken a long-term interest in the difficulties that are faced by all races in Zimbabwe as a result of the actions of the Mugabe regime. We are determined to move forward with sanctions, and it is very important that we get the support of the rest of the international community. I want to persuade other countries that this is now the right thing to do, and all our efforts in New York are about achieving that end. We must remember that this is a very important change, with an international envoy, international sanctions and an international arms embargo, and we are negotiating the details today and tomorrow.

I wholeheartedly welcome the Prime Minister’s statement, in the context of energy security and climate change, that the challenge cannot be resolved by one country or group of countries acting alone. Does that mean that having abandoned unilateralism in defence he is now abandoning unilateralism in climate change, and that the Climate Change Bill will be amended so that it spells out what we are prepared to do, which, according to the Bill’s own cost assessment, involves a programme of more than £200 billion, but that that is not unilaterally binding on this country and becomes legally binding only if sufficient other countries sign up to similar commitments?

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman: this is an international problem that requires an international solution. We are 1 per cent. of the world’s population, and we need other countries to work with us, not only the G8 countries but the whole of the rest of the world. I see a determination on the part of developing countries and emerging markets also to be part of a new agreement at Copenhagen, and I hope that we can work to achieve that.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will also acknowledge that we need to make decisions in this country so that we can play our part in reducing our dependence on oil. That requires us to make a decision on nuclear power, which I hope all the Opposition parties will now support. It also requires us to make difficult decisions on wind power, on which we have not previously had the wholehearted support of Opposition parties. If we are to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, we will need to expand both nuclear power and renewables, and I hope that we can still build a consensus in this country on the need to do that.

In contrast to the backward, little England approach to climate change that we have just heard, may I urge my right hon. Friend to embrace the ideas that have been endorsed by President Sarkozy, Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Singh, and more lately by Lord Stern and Professor Ross Garnaut, who is advising the Australian Prime Minister—namely, that we should converge our carbon emissions on a per capita basis, which would provide us with the metric that we can use as a base mark to measure our concrete commitments?

Those are all issues that are part of the negotiations. I know that my hon. Friend is an expert on these matters and was part of a study that the Commonwealth undertook into these issues, and I look forward to hearing what he has to say further on that. The fact is that we have an opportunity over the next few months to get a worldwide agreement on cutting carbon emissions by at least 50 per cent.—it could be higher than that for the European Union and the United Kingdom. We have the chance to get an interim target, and I believe that we also have the chance to get the developing countries and emerging markets to accept commitments that are binding for the future. That must be the primary goal, and I believe that we can get agreement around the kind of discussion that we had yesterday in Japan.

Returning to the Prime Minister’s G8 discussions on measures that will help people to cope in the current economic climate, will he now answer a question posed earlier by the Leader of the Opposition and do so by apologising to the House for stating very clearly at Question Time on 4 June that the majority of motorists would benefit from the road tax proposals, particularly bearing in mind his own Treasury’s figures, which have just been published?

I have spoken to the House on this matter on a number of occasions. I have made it absolutely clear, first, that our policy on tackling pollution used to have the support of the Opposition parties, and secondly, that our policy is fair to people who have the least polluting cars as well as trying to take action against polluting. When I made the comments that I did on 4 June, the Leader of the Opposition said:

“He says that next year, half of all motorists will be better off or no worse off; that is what he has just said.”—[Official Report, 4 June 2008; Vol. 476, c. 765.]

I congratulate the Prime Minister on the real progress that has been made on climate change, although there are clearly details to be decided between now and the UN summit in Copenhagen in 2009. He will have seen the outcome of the GLOBE International legislators’ conference in Tokyo, which was presented directly to the Japanese Prime Minister and involved the participation of Members on both sides of this House in a very valuable way. Two of the contributions at that forum came from Barack Obama and John McCain, who gave very strong support to real changes in the American position on climate change. Has that position been noted by the leaders of the G8 plus 5, and has it had an influence on them?

The G8 itself has said that we look forward to a situation where there can be, under an international agreement, a 50 per cent. cut in carbon emissions by 2050. Equally, we note that John McCain has made a commitment that is similar, and indeed goes beyond that, as has Barack Obama. We look forward to next year’s Copenhagen negotiations knowing that there is a growing degree of support for an international agreement that will contain a very big cut in carbon emissions but also support for developing countries and emerging markets so that they too can play their part in reducing carbon emissions in the longer term.

Further to the Prime Minister’s comments about the importance of the Doha trade round, does he recognise that the protectionist tendency still runs strongly in France and other European countries? That conflicts with and compromises the British position, which is agreed by Members of all parties, for open trade and the reduction of trade barriers for the benefit of the poorest countries. Will he ensure, therefore, that the British Government are represented directly, at a high ministerial level, in future Doha trade negotiations, and that we offer to participate in liberal trading measures with poorer countries regardless of the attitude of protectionist countries in Europe?

We do that already, but as I have said before, the key thing is to get a world trade deal. It is to everybody’s advantage, particularly those in developing countries, that there are not just bilateral agreements, but that everyone plays their part in making world trade move more freely. I referred to the comments of the President of France a few minutes ago. He urged people to move from their protectionist sentiments, and he called on Argentina and Brazil to make possible a world trade deal. There is a common European position, which is being put at the ministerial gathering on 21 July.

Business of the House

The business for next week will be as follows:

Monday 14 July—Second Reading of the Employment Bill [Lords].

Tuesday 15 July—Consideration of Lords amendments to the National Insurance Contributions Bill, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill, followed by a motion to approve the draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) (No.2) Order 2008.

Wednesday 16 July—Opposition day [18th allotted day]. There will be a debate on fuel duty followed by a debate on trade unions and the Warwick agreement. Both debates will arise on an Opposition motion followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords amendments.

Thursday 17 July—Motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to freedom of information. The House will be asked to approve resolutions relating to the Intelligence and Security Committee, followed by a general debate on the Intelligence and Security Committee annual report 2006-07.

The provisional business for the week commencing 21 July will include:

Monday 21 July— Consideration of Lords amendments to the Housing and Regeneration Bill.

Tuesday 22 July— Proceedings will start at 11.30 am. Motion on the summer recess Adjournment, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Crossrail Bill. The House will not adjourn until the Speaker has signified Royal Assent.

I thank the Leader of the House for the business statement that she has just given.

I note that the right hon. and learned Lady has just announced that the business for next Monday has been changed. Last week, in business questions, she announced that next Monday’s business would be the remaining stages of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. We first learnt of a change to next Monday’s business at 11.25 this morning. On 12 May, the Bill was described by the Health Secretary on Second Reading, in Hansard at column 1065, as “a flagship Government Bill”. It will now not be debated in this House until October. Can we have an explanation from the right hon. and learned Lady as to why that Bill was pulled from next week’s business at the last possible moment, and will she give an absolute commitment that the decision had nothing whatsoever to do with the forthcoming Glasgow, East by-election?

During Prime Minister’s questions yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) offered the Leader of the House cross-party support to enable the Government to pass legislation to raise deposit protection levels from £35,000 to £50,000 before the recess. She said that she would consult her colleagues on that matter. Are the Government now willing to introduce that legislation before the recess?

As Leader of the House, the right hon. and learned Lady has a responsibility to ensure that Ministers give correct information in this House. Last month, when desperately trying to defend his changes to vehicle excise duty, the Prime Minister claimed that

“the majority of drivers will benefit”.—[Official Report, 4 June 2008; Vol. 476, c. 765.]

Now we know that fewer than 20 per cent. of drivers will benefit, which is hardly a majority, and that 9 million drivers will be worse off. The Prime Minister just refused to accept his mistake, when given an opportunity to do so by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay). The right hon. and learned Lady’s responsibility is to ensure that Ministers give correct information to this House, so will she ensure that the Prime Minister comes to the House next week, apologises and corrects his statement?

Ann Abraham’s much-delayed report on the collapse of Equitable Life is due out next week. It is expected to criticise the Government’s failure to regulate the insurer correctly and to recommend that policyholders should be compensated. Many Members have constituents who have been caught up in this matter, so when the report is published, will the Chancellor of the Exchequer make a statement to the House on how he intends to respond to it?

Two weeks ago in business questions, I asked the Leader of the House for a debate on the property market. In response, demonstrating her profound knowledge of the housing market, she said that we had already had a debate on eco-towns. The chief executive of Savills has warned that house prices could plummet by as much as 25 per cent. over the next two years. Barratt Homes reports today that house sales have dropped by 43 per cent. in the first six months of this year, and it is cutting 1,200 jobs. Given the concern of millions of home owners, when will she make Government time available for a debate on the housing market?

On another aspect of the economy, the Prime Minister often boasts about his party’s record on getting young people into jobs, but today’s OECD report concludes that the proportion of 16 to 24-year-olds without a job is higher than when Labour came into power. Clearly the Government’s flagship new deal has failed, and yet again, the Prime Minister has shown that he is out of touch. Can we have a debate on youth employment?

Yesterday, the Prime Minister likened himself to Heathcliff. I imagine that most people would be disturbed by this comparison—as indeed it seems was Andrew McCarthy of the Brontë parsonage museum in Yorkshire, who explained that

“Heathcliff is a man prone to domestic violence, kidnapping, possibly murder and digging up his dead lover. He is moody, and unkind to animals.”

Can the Prime Minister make a statement explaining which of those characteristics is most like him?

Finally, we already know that the country has lost confidence in the Prime Minister, but now it seems the Leader of the House has as well. Apparently, she has been meeting Back-Bench MPs to test her popularity should she stand in any forthcoming leadership contest. Can she tell the House what it is about the Prime Minister’s performance that has led her to kick-start her leadership—

At least the right hon. Lady was concluding, Madam Deputy Speaker. That is the most important thing.

The right hon. Lady asked about the business for next week, particularly Monday. She will know that last Thursday, I announced the business for this week and the provisional business for the week following. Today, I am announcing the business for next week. I would have thought that she would welcome the Second Reading of the Employment Bill, which is an important measure that toughens up enforcement of the national minimum wage. She asked me whether there could be a debate on youth employment, and on Monday, there can be such a debate as part of the Second Reading of that Bill.

Of course the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill remains a flagship Government Bill, but in the last full week before the House rises for the summer recess, difficult decisions have to be taken about what business is included. All the way through debates on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, hon. Members have sought to protect time for debate, especially as it involves free votes and the tabling of amendments, so as much time as possible needs to be found for it and the other issues that the Government are committed to. It would therefore be good to look for a date in the autumn when there is no other business such as oral statements, which we are committed to make before the House rises.

The right hon. Lady asked about savings protection, which was raised with me at Prime Minister’s questions yesterday and could have been raised in questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer this morning. If Conservative Members were so concerned about the subject, they could have chosen it for an Opposition day debate next week.

The right hon. Lady mentioned vehicle excise duty, which was the subject of questions to the Chancellor this morning, and the Opposition have chosen to debate it next Wednesday. I therefore suggest that she raise any questions or concerns about fuel duty then.

The right hon. Lady asked for correct information in answers to parliamentary questions. I agree absolutely: we must be sure that information is correct, and that is our policy. As I understand the matter in question, I believe that it involves an estimate of something that will be in next year’s Finance Bill.

The right hon. Lady mentioned the Abraham report on Equitable Life, which has yet to be published. Let us see what it says and then we can consider how to deal with it. She asked about house prices and the housing market. Again, if Conservative Members felt strongly that they needed to discuss the matter in the House, they could have selected it for an Opposition day debate. The subject was also raised in oral questions.

May I ask about nuclear decommissioning? Tomorrow, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority will make a recommendation to Ministers about which company will clean up Sellafield. However, only a few minutes ago, I got a copy of the Public Accounts Committee report, which points to the spiralling costs of decommissioning—up by 41 per cent. between 2005 and 2007. In view of the public money that will be spent on the programme, surely we need an urgent debate on the matter in the House.

There are Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions next week. The Government will respond to the Public Accounts Committee’s conclusions and recommendations in due course. As my hon. Friend says, those issues are important.

First, let me revert to Monday’s business. From the outside, the removal of consideration of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill looks like the Government losing control of their business management. May we have an assurance that, if a range of amendments is to be tabled—many have already been tabled—we can have two days for the final stages immediately after the break so that we can do justice to the issues and so that it does not appear as though the Government are trying to drive through their agenda? After all, there is a free, unwhipped vote on most aspects of the Bill.

When the Leader of the House announced that there was a space on Monday, I was surprised to hear that it would be filled by Second Reading of the Employment Bill, which had its First Reading only in June. The Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Bill, which came to us from the House of Lords in February, has yet to receive its Second Reading. As the Leader of the House knows, its purpose is to release money to support young people throughout the country. I would have thought that that was a priority, especially at the moment. Will she please explain why the measure has not appeared? Will she seriously consider ways in which to get it back on the Order Paper so that we can debate it and it can make progress? I am sure that colleagues from all parties could suggest many ways in which to use the money, not only next year or the subsequent year, but this summer. We should make some progress on that.

On a related issue, the Leader of the House made a helpful comment last week in response to my concern that we should debate youth opportunity and youth safety before the break. We have had another week in which a youngster in Southwark has died as a result of stabbing. A completely innocent 14-year-old, David Idowu, died on Sunday. His parents were grieving with the community yesterday. The Leader of the House said:

“I shall ensure that the House has the opportunity that it clearly wants to focus on these issues.”—[Official Report, 3 July 2008; Vol. 478, c.1027.]

Out there in our communities, many people are talking about the issue. May we have an opportunity for the Government and colleagues of all parties to share their thinking so that families who are worried, whether justifiably or not, that their streets and their youngsters are less safe can have some assurance that the subject is at the top of the political agenda?

Housing is clearly the other great national worry. The Leader of the House announced that the Housing and Regeneration Bill comes back a week on Monday. May we have an opportunity, if necessary, for the Government to table, with cross-party agreement, amendments that would do more than provide extra money to build only 1,100 extra homes? We are short not of 1,100 but of tens of thousands of homes for people at the bottom end of the income scale. May we have a serious proposal to allow empty housing to begin to be used and the private and public sectors to work together and with housing associations and the voluntary sector?

Last week, the Leader of the House commended the Members Estimate Committee report to hon. Members. So did the Prime Minister, the leader of the Conservative party and the leader of the Liberal Democrats, yet the House voted against it, immediately resulting, unsurprisingly, in external criticism by the Committee on Standards in Public Life. Every Liberal Democrat Member voted for the report. What will the Leader of the House do to try to ensure that she and the House recover from a big own goal last Thursday afternoon?

The hon. Gentleman asked about the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. He is right that the House is even more jealous of the time available to discuss amendments, especially Back-Bench amendments, to a Bill that is subject to a free vote. I cannot guarantee two days of debate on the Floor of the House for the remaining stages, but I will try to ensure that the day is not carved up by one or more oral statements, each taking an hour.

What I do know is the commitments that we have for the coming week and for various oral statements that need to be made before the House rises. I will look to ensure that we have a full day’s debate rather than one that oral statements cut into.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Bill. He is right that it is important that money is available from dormant bank accounts for youth activities so that young people are engaged in productive and interesting activities rather than out on the streets becoming vulnerable to gangs or joining them. The Bill is important and I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families has provided for money to start to be spent on youth activities in anticipation of the measure’s introduction. Local authorities and voluntary organisations throughout the country can start putting their plans together and bidding for money in anticipation of the Bill, which will receive Second Reading after the summer recess.

The hon. Gentleman raised the tragic case of his constituent, David Idowu. I am sure that the whole House shares the hon. Gentleman’s concerns, and we send our condolences to David Idowu’s family. It is a great tragedy that that young man lost his life at 14. Before the House rises, we hope to consider the Green Paper on policing, which is germane to many such issues. The hon. Gentleman knows that we had a topical debate in Government time on knife crime last month. We do look for opportunities not only to debate the issue in the House, which we did last month, but to bring forward practical measures that will make a difference.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the Housing and Regeneration Bill; I provisionally announced consideration of Lords amendments for Monday 21 July. He will know that we have been doing a range of things to improve the situation on housing, not just through building more social housing, but through investment by the Housing Corporation, so that it can buy up empty homes, and ensuring that help is there for first-time buyers, not only because of the availability of homes bought up by the Housing Corporation through shared equity, but through the changes in stamp duty. I hope that he will agree that one of the most important things is to have new availability of both brownfield and existing housing sites, so that we can develop more homes. I hope that he and other Liberal Democrat Members will work with us to ensure that we have a greater supply of housing. That is very important indeed.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the business of the House last Thursday. The House did not reject the Members Estimate Committee; rather, amendments were tabled. Both the propositions that were put before the House last Thursday included stronger provision of audit, that 25 per cent. of every—

Yes, the amendment, too. Both propositions included saying that 25 per cent. of Members would be audited every year and that every Member would be audited at least once every Parliament. I had a discussion with the Comptroller and Auditor General yesterday. We can look to ensuring that we build on the implementation of the decision that the House made last Thursday.

The Leader of the House will know that the Modernisation Committee published its report today on regional Select Committees. Highly controversial recommendations were carried by the casting vote of the Chairman, who is a member of the Government. Does she agree that, by convention, changes to Select Committees have been made by agreement among all parts of the House and that it would be quite wrong for the Government to use their majority to force on the House changes in how it holds them to account? Will any votes on that report therefore be on a free vote?

We undertook in “The Governance of Britain” to provide greater accountability for organisations such as strategic health authorities, the Highways Agency and, above all, regional development agencies, which spend a great deal of public money and have an important role to play in the regions of England, but which are not sufficiently accountable. Because of our concern about that lack of accountability, we made it clear in “The Governance of Britain” White Paper that we would bring forward proposals for regional accountability to Committees of the House. That was the Government’s position.

We also decided to put the issue through the Modernisation Committee, in order that there could be a thorough and comprehensive evidence-taking session before Members of the House. I should like to thank all those who came and gave evidence to the Modernisation Committee, including those from regional development agencies, strategic health authorities, the Highways Agency and regional arts agencies, as well as regional Ministers and members of the Liaison Committee. We had some very important evidence-gathering sessions.

Then the Modernisation Committee made a decision, as the right hon. Gentleman said. Although the Committee was agreed that—[Interruption.] Sorry; I am going on too long on that. It was agreed that there was a problem, but it was not agreed what the solution was. We have decided what the Committee’s report should be, and that will come to the House for further debate.

Given the interest in every hon. Member’s constituency in who will be awarded the contract for the successor to the Post Office card account, will my right hon. and learned Friend ensure that a statement is made on the issue before the recess? If she wants to send all hon. Members off in good cheer, may I suggest that it need only be a short statement saying that the contract will stay with the Post Office?

This is not something that I can comment on in answers to questions about the business statement. As my hon. Friend will know, the Post Office card account contract is subject to public procurement rules, but the Post Office has put in a strong bid.

Can we please have a topical debate next week on speech, language and communication services for children and young people? Given that the ability to communicate is the key life skill of all our children, but that at present hundreds of thousands of them struggle to do so, does the Leader of the House accept that such a debate would be hugely appreciated by those of us who have worked on an entirely non-partisan basis with professionals and the voluntary sector alike, supported by the Government, to chart a route to improved provision in the future?

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his excellent report, which was published yesterday. The issue is one of concern to hon. Members in all parts of the House, so I will look for an opportunity for possibly a short debate before the House rises.

Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to come to the House next week and explain why, despite no decision having been made on the Post Office card account, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Mr. Cawsey) said, letters are being sent to pensioners and others in receipt in benefits saying that the POCA will no longer exist and asking them to move to a bank account? That happened before, so why is the Secretary of State allowing it to happen again? Will the Leader of the House ensure that a statement is made next week?

I will ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to write to my hon. Friend and place a copy of the letter in the Library.

That fine newspaper of record, The Sunday Telegraph, found plenty of space to attack me last week over the freedom of information matter concerning the publication of Members’ home addresses, but curiously found no space at all to record the fact that the House had unanimously passed the resolution that those addresses should not be disclosed. I am sure that that had nothing to do with the fact that one of the paper’s reporters initiated the dangerous campaign to publish the addresses. Can the Leader of the House therefore spell out, in words of one syllable, what the significance will be of the statutory instrument that is scheduled for debate on 17 July? Can she give particular attention to the possibility that MPs will need some guidance to be sent to electoral registration officers, so that they can be accorded the right of anonymous registration? Otherwise, the effect of the Standing Order will be vitiated.

The hon. Gentleman has done more than anybody to ensure that there can be proper, open debate in this House without Members looking over their shoulders because their addresses have been put on the House of Commons website. We are grateful to him for his work. However, I am sure that he will agree that it is unlikely in the extreme that I could be in a conspiracy with The Sunday Telegraph against him in that respect. Indeed, I would be happy to be in a conspiracy with him against The Sunday Telegraph on the issue. We will bring forward a statutory instrument under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 that will provide that the House authorities are not required to disclose Members’ addresses or any information that could lead to the identification of their addresses. That statutory instrument will be restricted to the House authorities. The hon. Gentleman also raised an important point about the publication of addresses in respect of nomination, standing for election and electoral registration, which is a separate issue, but one that we need to look at, too.

Will the Leader of the House start talks on a new kind of Opposition day, on which the House can scrutinise the abuse and misapplication by Tory, Liberal Democrat and nationalist councils throughout the country of Labour Government legislation? That could include, for example, the cynical abuse and misapplication of progressive single status legislation by the Tory-Liberal council in Birmingham in order to cut the pay of low-paid workers and clobber the pensions of low-paid council employees.

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. Perhaps he can speak more about that matter in the Opposition day debate next Wednesday.

Referring to the question put by my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young), will the Leader of the House, who also chairs the Modernisation Committee, consult on the recommendations that were passed on the strength of her vote and in spite of the votes of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat members of the Committee? A huge sum of money—more than £2.25 million—is involved in the implementation of that decision. Apparently, we can find that amount quite easily, even though many other desirable projects cannot be resourced. Will she consult other parties in the House prior to our having a debate on the matter? I believe that it needs further consideration, because the majority of the evidence was against the recommendations—which, when all is said and done, are also Government policy.

The hon. Gentleman and I listened to the evidence that was put before the Modernisation Committee. He formed one view after listening to the evidence, and I formed another. If there is no agreement in a Committee, the matter has to be decided on a vote, and we all voted. The Government could simply have brought the proposals straight to the House, without taking them through the Modernisation Committee. However, I believe that it was right to take them through the Committee for proper scrutiny of the evidence. In the end, there was no agreement in the Committee, but the matter will come to the House to be decided on.

Folk in South Yorkshire will never forget that they suffered the loss of a quarter of their local economy, involving hundreds of thousands of jobs, and suffered catastrophic reductions in investment and skills when the Conservatives were last in power. May we have a debate on the importance of the investment in skills? Despite the present economic downturn, such investment will be critical in securing our long-term economic growth.

My hon. Friend will know that, in the draft legislative programme, we have more provision for improving people’s skills, for more apprenticeships and for raising the education leaving age to 18. She is right to say that the most important thing, not only for individual opportunity but for the strength of the economy, is investment in the skills of our people. That is why the Conservatives’ suggestion that we did not mend the roof while the sun was shining is so ridiculous. Our sustained investment in education and skills is what has put our economy in the best possible position to weather the difficult economic storms that are coming to us internationally.

The Leader of the House will be well aware of the problems that binge drinking causes to local communities, to the police and to the health service. Is she also aware that voluntary measures taken by pubs and clubs to reduce cheap drink offers such as happy hours and two-for-one offers have now hit the buffers because they have run up against competition legislation? Is she equally aware that her own licensing Minister has now cast doubt on whether the Government intend to take action to introduce minimum pricing, so as to reduce the amount of ridiculously cheap booze on offer in our supermarkets and off-licences? May we have a debate on booze Britain, so that we can hear the Government’s plans for tackling this serious problem in all our communities?

These are issues not only for licensing but for supermarkets and off-licences, for the Health Department and for the Home Office. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will find an opportunity before the House rises for the recess to raise these important issues, either at Health questions or at Home Office questions, which will be held next week.

The massive hike in domestic electricity prices and mains gas utility bills has caused grave hardship to many families and households. My right hon. and learned Friend might be aware that many of those who are not connected to mains gas have experienced even greater hardship, through the increases in the price of alternative fuels such as oil and liquefied petroleum gas. May we have a debate on extending the gas mains to make it viable for those people to be connected? Many of those properties lie just a few hundred yards from a gas main. This would help to alleviate fuel poverty and give people greater choice. We should also look at the differentials between the price of mains and non-mains electricity and gas.

I will raise my hon. Friend’s important point with the Secretary of State for Wales and the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. He might also like to raise the issue in Westminster Hall, because I imagine that a number of other Members are in the same situation.

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs recently made a statement in the House on bovine TB. There is now great uncertainty throughout the United Kingdom about where we go from here. The Secretary of State announced that we needed to spend more time and money on researching a vaccine and ways in which a vaccine could be administered. There was not time to question him to the degree required, in order to find out exactly where we were going. May we therefore have a debate in Government time to discuss this important issue? Thousands of badgers, thousands of cattle and hundreds of thousands of people are going to be affected by this decision for years to come, yet we still have no exact guidelines on where we are going.

On Monday, following extensive consultation and scientific evidence, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs set out his decision and the basis for that decision. Hon. Members were able to ask him questions, but if there are further questions on the important issue of vaccination, perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to try to catch the Speaker’s eye at DEFRA questions on 17 July.

Will the Leader of the House find time for us to discuss the implementation and planning of controlled parking zones in our cities? In my constituency, a self-admittedly flawed consultation by the Tory local authority has led to flawed implementation and misery for my constituents, who cannot park anywhere near their homes. May we have a debate on how guidance can be given to local authorities so that this does not happen again?

My hon. Friend makes an important point on behalf of her constituents. Being able to park is important for parents ferrying children around, for people going about their work and, particularly, for disabled people. I will ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to write to my hon. Friend and place a copy of the letter in the House of Commons Library.

Will the Leader of the House please consider finding time for an urgent debate on the latest manifestation of rip-off Britain, particularly the practices of companies, such as BT, which choose to charge their customers a premium if they decide not to use the company’s preferred method of payment? Does she agree that that is sharp practice on a grand scale and that it deserves the condemnation of Members on both sides of the House?

That is possibly a matter that I could draw to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and ask him to write to the hon. Gentleman. It might also be a subject for a debate on the Adjournment of the House.

My right hon. and learned Friend might recall that earlier in the year I raised the question of Network Rail track maintenance and the serious problems that occurred over Christmas. Clearly, there are serious ongoing track maintenance problems, in management, in how the work is undertaken and relating to costs. That is exemplified by what has been happening on Thameslink. Last night, there was a track failure and trains were not going through the centre of London. This morning, there was a power failure and trains were delayed. At weekends, the trains do not run through central London; we frequently have a five-day railway rather than a seven-day railway. Could we have a full debate on precisely what we do about track maintenance and the way in which Network Rail undertakes it, and consider in particular what used to happen under British Rail, when it was done infinitely better and much more cheaply?

Perhaps my hon. Friend could put on record during the pre-recess Adjournment debate the concerns that he is championing on behalf of his constituents. There is a great deal of concern about this matter, and those responsible for track maintenance could then take the opportunity to listen to what other hon. Members have to say about it.

May we have a debate on the Lord Chief Justice’s politically correct comments on sharia law, particularly in relation to today’s comments from the Centre for Islamic Pluralism? It states:

“For non-Muslim authorities to propose the introduction of Sharia as a legal standard for Muslims in any non-Muslim land is not only absurdly patronising and discriminatory, but also violates the canons of traditional Sharia law. Sharia law has always held that Muslims emigrating to non-Muslim lands are obliged to accept the laws of customs of their new homes.”

The Lord Chief Justice’s comments have done an awful lot of damage to community cohesion and to the principle of integration in this country. May we have a debate so that we can undo the damage that his comments have done?

If the hon. Gentleman wants to raise that matter further, he should look to Ministry of Justice oral questions, which take place next Tuesday.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend find time for a debate on safeguarding the future of commercial vehicle production in the UK, with specific reference to the emergence of option appraisals on downgrading or terminating the production of transit vehicles at the Ford Southampton plant, which is widely acknowledged to be one of the most efficient vehicle production plants in Europe?

Motor manufacturing in Britain, including of transit vehicles, is very important, so I will ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to seek a meeting with my hon. Friend to discuss how best to take the matter forward.

May we have a debate in Government time on the postcode lottery that operates on health care spending? Last year, residents of the East Riding of Yorkshire had nearly £200 less spent on their health care than the residents of neighbouring Hull. Why is it that those who live in remote, sparsely populated rural areas do not get a fair share of funding, whether it be on social care, transport or education as well as health?

We had a debate on health last week, so the hon. Gentleman had an opportunity to raise those points then. There will also be Health questions on 22 July before the House rises for the recess. The hon. Gentleman will know that his constituents, like those of all MPs, have benefited from a large increase in resources made available to the national health service. I hope that his constituents—those using the health service and those providing it—will have an opportunity to participate in the consultation on how we improve the quality of care in all constituencies on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the NHS.