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Commons Chamber

Volume 499: debated on Monday 9 November 2009

House of Commons

Monday 9 November 2009

The House met at half-past Two o’clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

Culture, Media and Sport

The Secretary of State was asked—

Stonehenge Galleries

1. Whether his Department’s proposed funding for the visitor centre at Stonehenge includes provision for partnership joint funding of Stonehenge galleries at (a) Salisbury and (b) Devizes museum. (298009)

The specific £10 million that we announced last month does not, but English Heritage has agreed funding for the Salisbury and Devizes museums as part of a separate partnership agreement, and the two museums together have received over £500,000 since 1999 as part of the Government’s support for regional museums.

That is very good news, for which I thank the Secretary of State.

The Salisbury and South Wiltshire museum is making a tremendous effort to co-ordinate its fundraising for new galleries with the visitor centre operation. It has signed a memorandum of understanding with English Heritage on marketing and the display of objects. Please will the Secretary of State urge English Heritage to go the extra mile, and help both the museums and local people, to encourage this wonderful new project?

I shall be very happy to do that. I know that English Heritage is engaged in active discussions, and, as the hon. Gentleman said, has already signed a memorandum of understanding. I believe that discussion is still taking place about the amount of support that will become available, but I am confident that both museums will be pleased with the outcome.

Those of us who represent the other side of Salisbury plain are immensely proud of the fact that our area contains the Wiltshire historical records centre in Chippenham. Does the Secretary of State agree that now is the right time for it to be balanced by a suitable museum and visitor centre south of the plain, covering the heritage of which we on the northern side are so proud?

I shall be happy to look into the matter, and either my right hon. Friend the Minister of State or I will write to the hon. Gentleman.


2. What his policy is on the return from UK collections of items looted during the Nazi era; and if he will make a statement. (298010)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his achievement in piloting the Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Bill through the Commons. I also congratulate Lord Janner on leading the support for it in the other place. I am delighted that the Bill, which the Government were pleased to support and which received all-party support throughout, will receive Royal Assent shortly.

The 17 institutions named in the Bill will be allowed to return objects lost during the Nazi era, in response to a claim and when the return of the object is recommended by the Spoliation Advisory Panel and agreed by Ministers.

Will my right hon. Friend say what she can do to try to encourage people with potential claims to come forward, and what attitude she will take when the Spoliation Advisory Panel recommends restitution?

I hope that, in co-operation with my hon. Friend—because of his efforts in steering the Bill through Parliament—we shall be able to provide the maximum publicity when the Bill finally receives Royal Assent. I can tell him that Ministers have never turned down any advice from the Spoliation Advisory Committee in the past, and I do not expect that to change in the future.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) on steering the Bill through the House. I also congratulate the Government on their efforts to bring it to fruition as soon as possible.

Can the Minister assure me that, when people would rather receive compensation than have their belongings returned to them, the Government will examine individual cases carefully to ensure that the wishes of the families, who are, no doubt, those most affected by the holocaust, are listened to and acted on as swiftly as possible?

I agree that we should act as swiftly as possible. The ability to receive financial compensation rather than the return of artefacts already exists; indeed, the problem was that financial compensation was the only form of compensation that people could receive. My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) and I felt that that was grossly unfair. The issue was brought to our attention by a case in which the Fitzwilliam museum was able to return a particular object, whereas the British Museum was not able to return another that belonged to the same family. That was one of the reasons for our seeking this change in the legislation.

Davies Committee

3. When he plans to publish the report of the Davies committee review of listed sporting events. (298011)

Will my hon. Friend view favourably the rumoured recommendations of the Davies committee that Ashes cricket, the entire Wimbledon tennis tournament, the football qualifying matches of the home nations and Welsh international rugby should be returned to the A list, thus putting the opinions of ordinary viewers and sports fans above, say, those of the Murdoch family?

I congratulate my hon. Friend, who I believe has written to David Davies expressing his views.

I am sure that my hon. Friend would want me to read the report before embarking on any deliberations.

As a result of the de-listing of cricket, we now have a women’s cricket team that leads the world. We have also poured an awful lot of money into disability cricket and grass-roots schemes such as the Chance to Shine scheme, which is active in almost every Member’s constituency. What assessment has the Department made of the amount that it has been possible to invest in such schemes as a result of the de-listing of cricket?

I acknowledge all that the hon. Gentleman has said. It was this Government who introduced the system, which was last examined in 1998. Controversial issues are clearly involved, but we want to ensure that we protect sport in the way that he has described while also meeting the needs of the public. We will read the report with great interest, and we look forward to our deliberations on it.

Product Placement

I welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement today, but, as he said in his press statement, other European Union countries have already introduced a new regime and he does not want our commercial programme makers to be put at a disadvantage. Can he therefore tell us when he expects a new regime to be in place?

I do not think the hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying that all other EU countries have already introduced it. Certainly, however, the vast majority of EU countries have indicated that, like us, they intend to move in that direction, and we would hope that, with the consultation launched today, we would be able to make a decision in January and a new regime would be introduced early in the new year.

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, may I congratulate my right hon. Friend on winning—this is long overdue—the Stonewall politician of the year award?

Knowing this question was coming up, over the weekend I started counting how often products were placed on the television programmes I was watching, which were mainly imported from the United States, and I gave up after counting well over 20 occasions. I am not remotely corrupted by this. We should stop being so prissy, get on with it, and give some money to ITV to make up for the huge drop in advertising revenue it has experienced.

It was for those very reasons that I took a different view from my predecessor, although I think the arguments were finely balanced. However, the reason why we are having a consultation is because there are at the same time important safeguard issues, and important health issues around the protection of children and so forth. We want to make sure that we get this right so that we maximise income for producers and for commercial television, which is going through a very hard time at present, while at the same time ensuring that we have the correct safeguards in place.

I welcome the consultation paper, and all of this does, of course, represent a complete reversal of the position of the Secretary of State’s predecessor. Does the Secretary of State accept, however, that product placement will do only a small amount to assist commercial broadcasters, who are facing huge economic difficulty, and that we will need to go further and look at other deregulatory measures that will assist all the commercial public service broadcasters to survive?

Yes, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to highlight that this will not be a panacea for commercial broadcasting. There are a number of things we can do to help ease the plight of commercial broadcasting further, and we are looking into them. Ofcom has in the last year relaxed the rules on the responsibilities of commercial broadcasting, such as in respect of news in the regions. As the hon. Gentleman will know, we have imaginative, sensible and practicable solutions to the problems and pressures facing regional news and other important areas of commercial broadcasting.

Product placement is the way forward. Who knows? We may have something above the Speaker’s Chair. This is a welcome move and goes a small way to ensuring that there is programme making within the great Granada region. However, will the Secretary of State do even more—he has touched on this—to make sure that regional news and current affairs programmes will continue to be made within “Granadaland”?

Given the conservatism of this place, I suspect, Mr. Speaker, that your Chair is the last place where we will see a product placed. As far as I am aware, under the EU directive, products would not be allowed to be placed in news and current affairs programmes anyway. My hon. Friend’s point about regional television news is very important. Many of us have seen our news regions amalgamated and journalists lose their jobs, and the quality and localness of news provision suffer as a result. That has happened in my own region of the south-west. The Government have come up with a sensible and imaginative way of securing the future of regional news, and it would be nice if we felt we had support from hon. Members on both sides of the House for that proposal.

Berry’s in the Ribble valley make good chairs, Mr. Speaker, if you are thinking of going down the route just mentioned.

Clearly, we might see the end of Newton and Ridley beer being served at the Rover’s Return on “Coronation Street”, but we have some very good brews around my constituency—Bowland, Thwaites, Moorhouse’s and the like—which could be served there. Does the Secretary of State agree that product placement should not be allowed in news programming, as people want to ensure the neutrality of programmes in that area?

Yes, I do agree with that, but I do not agree that the hon. Gentleman’s area has better beers than mine, Mr. Speaker, as you cannot beat a pint of Otter ale.

Illegal File Sharing

We intend to introduce legislation to address this serious problem in the next parliamentary Session. Our proposals include a system of notifications to those infringing copyright online and action against the most serious infringers.

I thank the Minister for that answer. There is genuine public concern about the Government’s proposals, and in particular the prospect that people who have done nothing wrong could have their internet disconnected. An appeal system has been announced by the Government, but will the Minister give an assurance that people will have a chance to defend their innocence before any decision is taken to disconnect their internet connection?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that question. People who have done nothing wrong should not be in any danger of having their internet interfered with at all. Hardly anybody, other than the most serious and egregious recidivistic offenders, should ever be in danger of having any of their internet affected, and nobody will have their bandwidth squeezed or their account suspended until they have had repeated letters, been given a healthy notice period and then had a right of appeal—indeed, two rights of appeal—as she requests.

I welcome, as anyone does, the warm words spoken by my hon. Friend, but he must realise that when we set these organisations up they grow like Topsy; they start impinging and pushing the rules. Will he ensure that it is implicit in the Bill that that will not happen and that we will not create a large sledgehammer to crack a small nut?

I can assure my hon. Friend of that. We are not creating a sledgehammer; we are creating a light-touch regime to enforce the existing law.

Everyone understands the need for safeguards, but will the Minister confirm that, assuming the successful passage of the digital economy Bill, the earliest an illegal file sharer could have their internet connection temporarily cut off is February 2012? That is hardly an example of the Government at their most decisive.

First, no I cannot confirm that; how long it will take to reach that point will depend on how things go. In any case, how long it takes to get to a tiny number of very serious infringers having their internet interfered with is not the measure of success. If everything goes well, nobody will reach that point because earlier measures will do the job. I would be grateful if the hon. Gentleman could confirm to the House that he supports the proposals as they stand.

I am happy to confirm that the Conservatives support the proposals. We just do not think that they, on their own, will do the job. Does the Minister accept that if we are to tackle this problem, we also have to look at reforming the outdated intellectual property laws on digital content? If we do not do that, we will not, in the end, deal with the nub of the problem. Will the Secretary of State be addressing intellectual property laws or will that issue be put in the file marked “Post-election: someone else’s problem”?

That issue is very firmly in the file marked “Announced by my right hon. Friends at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills last week.” As the hon. Gentleman says, we need reform of licensing and copyright legislation to bring the system into line with the new technology. That goes hand in hand with the measures to enforce copyright online, as does the message sent out clearly from the Government that the content industries, which will profit from these measures, need to step up to the plate and put some work in to develop new business models and new technology to give people what they need, at a price they can afford.

Football Association

6. What recent discussions he has had with the Football Association on reforms to its (a) management structure and (b) role; and if he will make a statement. (298016)

I wrote to the Football Association, as well as the premier league and the Football League, on 23 September, outlining the Government’s views on their responses to the seven governance and regulation questions put to them by a former Secretary of State. In that letter, I asked those bodies to work more closely together on key issues in football and to support the full implementation of Lord Burns’ recommendations in his 2005 report. I will be meeting all three organisations in the very near future to discuss these issues.

The FA is not implementing the 2005 Burns report and still has a management board that fails to respect and reflect the diversity of those involved in our national game. What more can the Minister do, given the FA’s attitudes, to protect the interests of supporters, players and clubs by dragging this antediluvian, dysfunctional clique out of the 1950s?

My hon. Friend should say what he means. Clearly, there are issues to address, and the whole purpose of this correspondence and these meetings, and the Burns recommendations in particular, is to do that. Progress has been made—there is now an independent chairman of the FA, which is a step in the right direction, and we have seen support for women’s football—but I believe that more can be done. I am looking forward to raising these issues with these organisations in the very near future.

Listed Buildings

7. What recent representations he has received on the level of Government spending on listed buildings; and if he will make a statement. (298017)

Ministers and officials regularly receive representations on listing issues, including funding, from a wide range of partners. More than £26.5 million was made available via English Heritage grant schemes in 2008-09 for the repair of listed buildings and other heritage assets.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. The current system of listing buildings can hold up development and lead to additional costs. In the case of Stockport college, in my constituency, that meant that a capital grant from the Learning and Skills Council for phase 2 development was almost entirely spent on improving two listed buildings with no educational benefit to any young person. That cannot be right. Will my right hon. Friend meet me to discuss my concerns about the current system of listing buildings?

I am very happy to meet my hon. Friend in the near future to discuss the issues and I know that she has written to me about them. She raised two issues of substance. The first is the delay in considering the listing of buildings. We try to get the decisions out within six months, but that does not always happen and we should strive continuously to improve that. The second issue is the balance that has to be struck between ensuring that we protect our heritage, particularly buildings of historic and architectural value, and that buildings are fit for purpose and can be used, particularly by public bodies.

Bearing in mind that Canterbury, Lincoln and Lichfield cathedrals alone—to name but three—are looking for more than £26.5 million, will the right hon. Lady accept that that is not an enormous sum in the face of the problem? Will she encourage her Treasury colleagues to reconsider allowing private owners to offset the cost of maintenance against tax, freeing more money for public buildings?

I hope that the hon. Gentleman, with his great interest in these issues, will accept that the investment that we have made in churches and cathedrals over the past decade or so has been successful in dealing with some of the worst dilapidations that have occurred in those wonderful heritage assets. I assure him that I make constant representations to my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Treasury to see whether we can get some leeway to ensure that more resources are given to conserve our heritage assets.

Will my right hon. Friend resist any temptation to list Preston bus station, which has little or no architectural merit and has had an application rejected in the past? The current application is being used purely as a tactic to stop the redevelopment of Preston city centre.

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. That particular building has not been drawn to my attention so far, so I am grateful to him for doing so. I shall look in detail at all the representations I receive in coming to my decision.

Listed buildings are part of our national heritage—a national heritage that the Secretary of State described last week in disparaging terms as “the past, old buildings” and “monuments”. Does that explain why the Minister’s Department has cut funding to English Heritage by £100 million, more than halved lottery funding for heritage and withdrawn the draft Heritage Protection Bill?

Let me talk first about heritage funding. I would have thought that Opposition Members would support the Government as we try to ensure that investment in our heritage goes to supporting the assets rather than the bureaucracy of particular organisations. Although it might be true that English Heritage’s funding has kept level over the past few years, the investment in our buildings has increased. We now invest some £600 million per annum in heritage across the piece. I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s assertion that there has been a decline in the funding of heritage. Indeed, I look forward to what he will say in his manifesto about the investment that we will have in heritage rather than the cuts that we will have in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and its bodies.

On the Bill that failed to get time in Parliament, I regret that that happened but I am taking forward a lot of the propositions in it. Earlier, we discussed the Bill on spoliation that my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) has successfully piloted through both Houses. We are managing to put other elements of the Bill into effect without the legislation, but we will continue to look for an early legislative opportunity both in this Parliament—

Byron Review

8. What steps his Department has taken to implement the recommendation of Professor Byron’s review on safer children in a digital world. (298018)

Professor Byron’s wide-ranging recommendations require cross-Whitehall co-operation. My Department is working as part of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, as well as providing the new legislative framework we announced in “Digital Britain” to enable implementation of her recommendations.

The Minister will be aware that at midnight a new and violent video game, “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare”, is to be released. It contains scenes of such brutality that even the manufacturers have put warnings in the game telling people how they can skip particular scenes. Given the recommendations of the Byron review, specifically paragraphs 32 and 33, what steps do the Government propose to take to ensure that such violent games do not fall into the hands of children and young people? This is not about censorship—it is about protecting our children.

The clearest recommendation of the Byron review is that content suitable for adults should be labelled and sold as such, and that it should be an offence to sell such content to children. That is the case under current law and it will be the case when the law changes under the digital economy Bill. The game to which my right hon. Friend refers is certificate 18 and should not be sold to children. The Government’s job is to ensure that what adults should be able to get is clearly labelled, and that children are not in danger of being subjected to adult content.

I have seen the content of the video game. It is unpleasant, although no worse than in many films and books. The game carries a content warning. It is an 18-plus game, and carries the British Board of Film Classification 18-plus rating as well. Does the Minister agree that it would be better for Members of the House to support the many thousands of game designers and coders, and the many millions of game users, rather than collaborating with the Daily Mail to create moral panic over the use of video games?

I was in Dundee last week visiting the video games industry, and I certainly agree that it is a large and important industry in which we have a national competitive advantage. It is important that all Members of the House and the Government continue to support it.

Lottery Grants

9. When he next expects to meet representatives of the national lottery distributors to discuss lottery grants to community halls. (298019)

I meet lottery distributors regularly. The Big Lottery Fund and its predecessors alone have made grants totalling £450 million to community buildings across the UK.

During this week of remembrance, does the Minister agree that a group we should not forget is the one looking after the interests of many veterans, both young and old—namely, the Royal British Legion? Can he tell the House why numerous British Legion bids to the national lottery for new premises or repairs to existing premises have been turned down?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I cannot comment in detail about individual bids. I can tell him that the money currently used to support veterans, partly in the way he describes and partly, for instance, in enabling them to take trips back to their battlegrounds with their comrades in their declining years, would unfortunately all be cut under the rather ill-thought-out plans of members of his Front Bench.

Competitive Sport (Schools)

10. What his policy is on the promotion of competitive sport in schools; and if he will make a statement. (298020)

Under this Government, there has been record investment in school sport—more than £2 billion since 2003. From an estimated one in four young people doing two hours a week of sport in school in 2002, 90 per cent. are now doing two hours, and more than half are doing three hours. We have raised admission to offer every young person five hours per week, with three hours for 16 to 19-year-olds; 32 per cent. already do that amount, and we are making access to regular competitive sport a key part of our proposed new pupil guarantee.

How can we give support to competitive sport in schools when national lottery funding has gone down by more than 50 per cent. since 1997?

We fund school sport in a variety of ways, including direct funding from Government. The hon. Gentleman will congratulate the Government on the £100 million we are spending on school sport, although he may be embarrassed by the performance of the previous Conservative Government on school sport. I hope he will support all the initiatives that we are taking forward.

Regarding the Minister’s target for 16 to 19-year-olds, will he confirm that currently 63 per cent. of 16-year-olds and 81 per cent. of 19-year-olds are not meeting the target? With fewer than 1,000 days to go before the target is meant to be achieved, what new policies does he have? Will he at least look at young offender institutions, where the target is already being exceeded?

I was previously the Minister with responsibility for prisoners and young offenders, so I am pleased that sport is taking place in young offender institutions. I am able now, in the role of Minister for Sport, to make sure that a growing number of children participate in school sport. The 16 to 19 age group is difficult but we are making sure, through investment in whole sport plans, that governing bodies tackle those areas where there are difficulties in recruiting people into sport. The good news is that we are offering a diversity of sport. Gone is the stereotyping whereby boys played cricket, football and rugby, and girls played netball and hockey. We are offering many more sports so that young people have alternatives and can have a go at different sports, rather than only the traditional ones, because there are many other things that young people can do.

Sport (Young People)

11. What steps he is taking to encourage young people to participate in sport; and if he will make a statement. (298021)

In the run-up to the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, as part of our legacy promises, we want to create a world-class system of PE and sport for young people in England. We have raised our ambitions to offer every child five hours of high quality PE and sport per week, with three hours for 16 to 19-year-olds. Between 2008 and 2011 we are investing over £780 million through the PE and sport strategy for young people, bringing total Government investment to more than £2.4 billion since 2003.

I wonder whether the Minister shares my concern that some of the money that could be spent on building good sports facilities for young people is being spent on paying very large salaries and expenses for people running the Olympic games, and some of the money finding its way into schools is being spent on computer games consoles. Does he think that that is a good use of public money?

Investment in the Olympics is superb and the whole country will benefit from the Olympic games being held in London. The people contributing to the success of the building of the stadiums and the people involved in organising and running the games are doing a fantastic job. The inspiration from the Olympic games as well as the decade of sport that we are undertaking will mean that young people from all over the UK benefit from sport and have the opportunity to lead healthier lives.

I welcome the Minister’s statement in response to the question. Does he agree that it is particularly important to give support to sport for young people with special needs? Will he join me in welcoming the work of the Special Olympics movement in the UK and the very successful Special Olympics that were held in my constituency in Leicester this year?

I am happy to praise the Special Olympic movement and Leicester, the people of Leicester and my hon. Friend for the work that they carried out in order to hold successful games in July. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Olympics was at the opening ceremony and I was heavily involved in the organisation of the games. It shows that sport should be available to everybody. The Special Olympics is a movement that I want to support to make sure that sport can reach all parts.

May I stress to the Minister the importance of team sport, especially for young men? Those who play team sport in our young offender institutions are less likely to reoffend when they come out. Given the importance of team sport, what can he tell us about promoting team sport, especially among young men?

It is important that we promote sport in all its forms because sport can raise individual self-esteem, teach people about team work and help us with other life skills that we need. We have made it the responsibility of sports governing bodies to develop and grow their sports. They know their sports best. We are looking to them and we will measure how successful they are in making sure that team and individual sports grow, so that everybody has the opportunity to reach our ambitious target of 2 million more people being involved in sport and physical activity by 2012.

Racism in sport is one thing that can put off young people and others. The Commission for Equality and Human Rights seems completely uninterested in doing anything whatever about that under the useless Trevor Phillips. Can the Minister do anything to encourage the CEHR to take the issue seriously?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on being a marvellous advocate for sport free of racism. I am concerned about his feelings and will write to him in due course and make sure that we raise the issue in the appropriate places.

Overseas Tourists

13. How many overseas tourists visited England in each of the last three years; and if he will make a statement. (298023)

The number of overseas tourists who visited England in each of the past three years is as follows: in 2006, 27,586,288; in 2007, 27,794,425; in 2008, 27,291,584. Figures for 2009 show a downward trend in numbers, reflecting the global recession and particularly a downturn in business tourism. However, spend by those tourists is up by 2 per cent. compared to last year. In the month of July, domestic tourism increased by 20 per cent. compared with July 2008, which is the best figure we have had for quite a long time.

I am glad to say that many of those tourists from overseas are coming to this country, not least on account of the euro, and coming to the south-west, where we have a huge amount of furnished holiday lettings. The Minister will be aware that the Government have said that the furnished holiday lettings tax regime needs to change. Why does she think that it needs to change, with the European view having been taken on so quickly? Has she heard from her European counterparts about whether they wish to implement those tax changes?

I have not heard from my European counterparts, but I reassure the hon. Gentleman that I am in close discussion with Treasury colleagues on that issue.

Public Houses (Closures)

We understand that in June this year, CGA Strategy, the pub and drinks market analyst that tracks the pub closure rate on behalf of the British Beer and Pub Association, estimated that 2,377 pubs had closed over the previous 12 months.

Does the Minister accept that that is a tragedy? In many urban areas outside towns and in many rural areas, the pub is the only social community facility. Will the Government introduce some policies to try to preserve pubs in this country, even if that goes against their inclination to increase tax on beer? Beer is a popular British tradition. I like it, people like it, let us keep it.

Of course, tax is a matter for the Chancellor and the Treasury, and I am sure that the Chancellor will have heard the hon. Gentleman’s comments. However, I agree that pubs play a major role in our communities, whether in urban or rural areas. We have been happy to support the community pubs initiative; we are supporting the sector where we can; and I was happy to respond to and, indeed, accept most of the recommendations concerning pub closures from the all-party beer group, chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan). We have to accept that there has been a change in drinking culture, with people having different drinks, but we certainly want to support community pubs, and we will do our best to make sure that we do so.

Football Stadiums

The Government currently do not provide any financial support to improve or develop professional football club stadiums. However, the football stadia improvement fund, which is funded equally by the premier league and the Football Association and administered by the Football Foundation, has to date invested more than £100 million in 1,099 projects. My Department also sponsors the work of the Football Licensing Authority, which, by working with clubs, local authorities and the emergency services, will help to ensure that our football stadiums are some of the safest in the world.

Would the Minister for Sport accept an invitation from me to visit Kettering Town football club for its FA cup second round clash with Leeds United, when he might be able to discuss with the club and its fans potential Government support, through planning guidelines or finance, for the redevelopment of the stadium?

I might take the hon. Gentleman up on his offer, as the next game is against Leeds United, and Kettering beat Hartlepool 1-0 on Saturday. That shows that the Sport Minister is well informed. The serious point is that clubs such as Kettering Town act as a strong community focus, and if there are issues about planning or any other areas where we can offer support, we will do that.

Topical Questions

My Department has a broad range of responsibilities. Today I had the privilege to open with the German ambassador an art installation by a young Welsh artist and a young German artist to commemorate the happy events in Berlin 20 years ago. It is an ice wall in the middle of the street outside the German embassy in Belgrave square, not far from here; and, if hon. Members get the chance, it is well worth seeing before it melts.

Will Ministers urge Ofcom to press ahead with remedies for excessive concentration in the pay TV market—BSkyB accounts for 85 per cent. of all subscriptions—and so increase choice, value and competition for TV viewers across the range of cable, satellite and broadband platforms?

I am sure that Ofcom will have heard the words of my hon. Friend, who has submitted his own representations to its review. It is not up to me to tell Ofcom how to conduct its reviews—it is an independent regulator—but so far it has conducted them well and speedily, and I expect this one to be no different.

T2. Rural areas such as mine often have slower broadband speeds than in urban areas, which damages consumers and business. The Secretary of State’s solution is a broadband tax. We do not support that, but since he does, can he confirm that the £150 million or so that it will raise each year means that it will take some 20 years to pay for the necessary investment? (298030)

No. The hon. Gentleman is assuming that that will be the only source of funding, but it will be pump-priming. We have come up with the idea of a modest levy which represents a smaller amount than that which people have saved from their fixed lines because of the reductions in bills over recent years, yet his party has come up with absolutely no solutions for funding. It is amazing to me that Conservative Members, who represent rural areas in particular—it is the rural areas that will lose out, because the market will not deliver broadband to them—have so far offered no solution. We have a solution; I hope that he will support it.

T4. Tory-dominated Leicestershire county council is ignoring Disraeli’s aphorism, “The most successful man is he who has the best information”, in planning to slash spending by replacing dozens of professional librarians with self-service machines. Will the Minister ensure that library services in Leicestershire and elsewhere are protected from such miserly cuts by making this vital service a statutory one? (298032)

The service is already statutory under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. Local authorities have a duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service. I hope shortly to publish a consultation paper so that we can discuss how libraries can be fit for purpose in the 21st century.

T3. Is the Secretary of State aware that numerous grass-roots community groups in my constituency have received welcome grants from the excellent Awards for All scheme? Why has that scheme now been scrapped? (298031)

T6. My right hon. Friend will be aware of the strong interest of north-west publishers, including the publishers of the Manchester Evening News and the Stockport Express, in becoming the English pilot for regional news. Can he give me any further information as to the time scale for making that decision? (298035)

I am well aware of, and gratified by, the strong interest in the north-west—as in most of the English regions and in Scotland and Wales—in the Government’s proposals to help to save the very important service of regional news. We hope to proceed with this as soon as possible. We will be going out to tender shortly, and we hope to announce by March the preferred bidders for the English region chosen and for Wales and Scotland.

T5. Could one of the Ministers tell us why people who are registered blind still have to pay 50 per cent. of their TV licence? Is it so that the BBC can continue to bribe people with London living allowances to live in Manchester? (298033)

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that that issue was discussed in great detail at the time of the last licence fee review. As he will be aware, this Government introduced concessions for TV licences for the elderly, but there was no consensus, in this House or among several different organisations representing different interest groups, on who else should be added to the list—so none was added. The time to make those representations is during the next licence review; given what he says, I am sure that he will do that.

Have my right hon. and hon. Friends had a discussion with STV about the reconfiguration of its news programmes? People are very concerned about that in the north-east of Scotland, particularly in my constituency, where broadcasts are made under what used to be the Grampian licence—the studios are in my constituency. I am concerned that that area of news will be sucked into Glasgow and have a central-belt bias.

I was in Glasgow last week discussing that very matter with the director of STV, who assured me that its plans for the future would safeguard and build on the local and sub-regional provision to which STV is committed. In order to do that, however, it needs to have a sustainable funding model. That is why it is important that Members in all parts of the House get behind and support our proposals for these regional—or, in the case of Scotland, independently funded—news consortiums to put regional news on a long-term sustainable footing. Without some level of intervention, the market will not sustain it for the long term.

Does the Secretary of State agree that, if we are serious about growing our creative economy and determined that artists and creators are properly rewarded for their work, we must effectively challenge illegal file sharing and end the something-for-nothing culture that exists online? Will he assure me that when he brings forward the digital economy Bill he will consider all necessary measures to protect the 2 million jobs in the creative industries and ensure that creators are properly rewarded for the work that they produce?

I am delighted to have that level of support from the hon. Gentleman, which is perhaps not surprising given his previous career. Yes, I will do that, and he is right to highlight the importance of the creative industries to the UK economy. Not many people realise this, but the United Kingdom is No. 1 in the world in the proportion of gross domestic product in the creative industries. This Government want to ensure that we stay that way.

On his visit to Glasgow, the Secretary of State heard the good news from BBC Scotland about the increase in programmes made in Scotland that are shown throughout the network. Does he agree that the timetable for meeting its target by 2016 is a bit generous, and that it could do it more quickly?

I have some sympathy with that, and in my conversations with the senior BBC management in Scotland they seemed to acknowledge that they could do it a bit quicker than that.

T7. A redundant church in Macclesfield, Christ church, in the centre of the town, is a magnificent part of Macclesfield’s heritage. With a certain amount of money spent on it, it could become a wonderful community facility. The Churches Conservation Trust does not have a great deal of funds. Will the Minister meet me and the CCT to discuss the matter, so that that building can be saved and used for the benefit of people? (298036)

I would be delighted to meet the hon. Gentleman, and of course there are other opportunities for funding to turn some of our churches into facilities that are open to the community.

In considering regional news pilots, will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State take into account the experience of the consolidation of ITV news programmes, and also the quality of media such as we find in the south-west?

Yes. My hon. Friend and her constituents in Plymouth have suffered in the same way as mine in Exeter from the deterioration in both the quality and localness of regional news provided by ITV in the past 12 months. That is exactly why the Government have brought forward our proposals. Not only do I think that we can avert any further decline, but I think that we can return to much higher-quality and more local news provision on ITV with those proposals.

T9. Rugby has Twickenham, football has Wembley, and now volleyball has Kettering. Would the Minister like to congratulate the English Volleyball Association on choosing Kettering for its national training and competition centre, which opened at the weekend? (298038)

Of course I would love to do that—congratulations to Kettering. The world-class facilities that we now have up and down the country show that the investment that we have put into sport is coming to fruition. There are world-class facilities not only for elite sport but for community and school sport.

Following on from the question asked by the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), can the Secretary of State guarantee that if the additional income generated by his measures to cut off illegal file sharers does not exceed the cost of the regulatory burden, he will shelve his plans?

I would think that that is highly unlikely in practice. As my hon. Friend knows, the film industry alone estimates that it is currently losing £200 million a year because of theft from illegal file sharing. I suggest that the regulatory costs of introducing the legislation will not get anywhere near that amount.

During business questions last week I called for a debate on the legacy of the London Olympics and was told to bring up the subject today, so I am. Given that there is genuine concern about the promise of increased grass-roots participation in sport not being delivered upon, and the fact that there are 1,000 days between now and the Olympics, will the Secretary of State join my call for a debate on this very important subject as soon as possible?

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. Both our targets—1 million extra people becoming physically active and 1 million extra people becoming involved in sport—are on target, and we will deliver them.

There are huge discrepancies in Arts Council revenue and grant funding in Birmingham and the black country boroughs. For example, Birmingham receives 15 times per capita the amount that Wolverhampton does. Will the Minister please look into that?

Indeed I will. It is really important that there is a proper regional spread of Arts Council funding, and more important that funding is not concentrated in the regional cities but goes out to all the surrounding areas.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on being voted Stonewall politician of the year, but I am somewhat disappointed to find that in the annual review for ministerial responsibilities, he has been demoted to the bottom of the Cabinet. Does the Prime Minister not share the other organisation’s view of him?

I do not know to what list the hon. Gentleman is referring, but I suspect that it is the list that is regularly published. I suspect the reason why I am 14th or last or whatever it is in the list is that I am the most recently appointed.


The Minister for the Olympics was asked—


The budget of £9.325 billion that I announced in March 2007 remains unchanged. I publish regular quarterly economic updates, the next being due at the end of November, and I provide regular financial briefings, which are sometimes commercially sensitive, to Opposition spokesmen.

I thank the Minister for her response on an issue that is of considerable concern to my constituents, who will be paying quite an amount and footing a lot of the bill for the Olympics, which we strongly support. However, will she give details about which operations will be scaled back if there is a shortfall in sponsorship or private sector investment?

First, I am quite sure that the hon. Gentleman’s constituents will celebrate with the rest of London when the games are held. It is important to remember that 89 per cent. of the budget is being borne by sources other than London. Every host city makes a contribution.

On the hon. Gentleman’s point about scaling back, the London Organising Committee, which is a private company, is on target, even during a recession, with its sponsorship income budget. Of course, we keep these things under regular review, but the committee should be congratulated on its success.

According to the memorandum of understanding signed between the Minister and the previous Mayor in June 2007, the national lottery is due to be repaid once the London Development Agency has recovered its land acquisition and disturbance costs. In that memorandum of understanding, it was explicitly stated that those costs were not expected to exceed £650 million. Is that estimate still accurate?

The figure that was used in the memorandum of understanding, as the hon. Gentleman will remember, was the most conservative figure at the time, which represented the lowest point in performance of land sales for a 20-year period. Obviously, given the impact of the global downturn on land prices, decisions about the sale of the Olympic lands will be taken in the best possible market conditions, but the formula for distribution and reimbursement of the lottery remains the same.

Site Landscaping

I know that the hon. Lady has a great interest in the matter of landscaping in the Olympic park, which is progressing well. Land is being prepared for planting, including the installation of drainage and extensive irrigation systems. Last week Her Majesty the Queen planted the first of what will be 2,012 trees in the park—a mature willow tree grown in Milton Keynes. In fact, the plants for the park have been sourced from Hampshire, Thetford and Wales. I will shortly announce the result of the great British garden competition run in collaboration with the Royal Horticultural Society.

I am delighted that some nurseries and horticultural companies from the United Kingdom will benefit, but can the Minister say for what reason companies such as Johnsons of Whixley in the north of England, which can source excellent plants for a showcase for the landscaping of the games, have not been chosen? Will she assure me that such companies are just as eligible for the competition as others in the UK?

Obviously, I cannot specifically comment on that business, which I believe is local to the hon. Lady’s constituency, but all such contracts will be advertised on the CompeteFor website. We are very fortunate with the very wide range of horticultural suppliers, and I urge all horticulturalists in her constituency to bid again.

What assessment has the Minister made of the role that volunteers could play in the landscaping of the site? She will be aware that 250,000 people have already volunteered. Will she ensure that they are brought into use as soon as possible—indeed, given those volunteering opportunities immediately?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there is a tremendous enthusiasm for people giving their time as part of the Olympics, not only in London but around the country. We want to ensure that that energy and that will to give time, motivated by the Olympics, is fully utilised in a variety of ways, and we will make announcements about that at the beginning of next year. On his point about involving volunteers in the park, some 20 primary schools—the construction crew—take part in such activities. I know that the organising committee and the delivery authority will want to maximise that.

Educational Materials

5. What discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families on the development of educational materials based on the London 2012 Olympics. (298005)

The opportunities for children in schools are enormous. We have already announced the Get Set programme, which is in 12,000 schools. It involves young people in Olympic-related projects, which are a reflection of Olympic and Paralympic values. I encourage hon. Members to encourage their local schools to become involved in the programme if they have not already done so.

Does the Minister agree that, in addition to the economic benefits that can come to Wales and other parts of the UK through hosting Olympic teams, we should do everything that we can to encourage community groups and schools to take advantage of all the possible cultural exchange and understanding that can take place?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I know that she regularly raises this point on behalf of her constituents. There are benefits to be gained for the whole country. She rightly refers to the cultural Olympiad and I am sure that her constituents will have noticed that the steel for the aquatic centre was rolled in Neath. The whole country is supplying materials for the Olympic park, and that can be an inspiration for communities and constituencies such as hers.


7. When she next expects to meet the London Organising Committee for the Olympic games to discuss the budget for the London 2012 Olympics. (298007)

I meet the chairman and chief executive of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games on a regular basis. We discuss a range of issues, including its budget for staging the games, and the Government’s budget for construction, security and wider delivery.

Can the Minister confirm that the LOCOG budget will be met 100 per cent. by the private sector, and that there will be no recourse to funding from taxpayers’ funds?

The organising committee is confident that its budget is secure. There are obviously aspects of staging the games that rightly fall to the public sector and some are shared responsibilities, including some aspects of security and other areas that we are working through with the organising committee at the moment. There is general confidence in the excellent success that it has had in raising money.

Sex Industry

8. Whether she has commissioned any research on the effect of increased visitor numbers for the London 2012 Olympics on demand for the sex industry; and if she will make a statement. (298008)

My hon. Friend has a great record in championing tough action against the exploitation—[Interruption.]

Order. I apologise for interrupting the Minister. I do not know how detectable it is elsewhere, but within the Chamber there are far too many private conversations taking place—[Interruption.] Order. I need no help from the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Vaizey). To put it bluntly, it is straightforward bad manners for people to witter away from a sedentary position when a question is being asked or answered.

Major sporting events in the past have seen increases in sex trafficking and the exploitation of young men and women. We are absolutely determined to take every pre-emptive action that we can, with the Metropolitan police and with established voluntary organisations, to ensure that the London 2012 Olympics do not become a target for that vile trade and are not tainted as a result.

The Minister will be aware that last week the House of Lords concurred with this House that if a man seeks to pay for sex with a woman who is trafficked or bullied into prostituting herself, he is thereby committing an offence. Will my right hon. Friend convene a meeting with the Mayor of London and others involved in the Olympics to consider how they can publicise that new offence in advance of the Olympics, so that people are not inadvertently caught because there is sex trafficking associated with it?

I am very happy to accept my hon. Friend’s suggestion of convening a meeting of all interested parties, to ensure both that we take effective action to deal with that potential problem and that men and women—young men may be open to exploitation as well as young women—are aware of their rights. The other important thing is to ensure that a clear message goes out to the traffickers that there is no point in coming to London.

As always, Mr. Speaker.

The Minister says that she will work with the Met, yet the Met is planning to disband the Human Trafficking Centre in London. Bearing in mind that the traffickers see the Olympics as a honeypot, how can she tolerate that?

The hon. Gentleman has a strong record in this area, and I would be happy to talk with him further about the issue. There is already a dedicated group in the Met working with the five boroughs, but I want the House to be under no misapprehension about how seriously the threat is taken. It is planning, well in advance of the games, that will ensure that it does not materialise.

FOI Request (Immigration)

(Urgent Question): To ask the Minister for Borders and Immigration if he will make a statement on the Freedom of Information Act investigation into the withholding of immigration documents.

This relates to a policy to clear a backlog of general immigration cases between 2002 and 2004. The incidents in question happened more than five years ago and were the subject of a full inquiry by Ken Sutton at the time, in 2004. The Home Office accepted that report in full and implemented all the recommendations made. The report can be read on the website and has been there since 2004.

A request for information from a Mr. Steve Moxon was received in January 2005. We have followed the processes as set out in the Freedom of Information Act. Some information was released when first requested. As the Act allows, some information was initially withheld on the basis of an exemption under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The exemptions used were sections 36(2)(b)(i) and (ii), which relate to prejudice to the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views. Those are qualified exemptions, subject to a public interest test, which means that they can be applied only where the public interest in disclosure is outweighed by that against. The decision was appealed by the individual under the process laid out in the Act. After consideration of that appeal, we upheld our decision.

In line with the procedures set out in legislation, the appellant exercised his right to appeal to the Information Commissioner. In March 2009, the Information Commissioner ruled that further information should be disclosed. We then released that information in April 2009.

This morning the Home Secretary used the front page of a national newspaper to say that he wanted to start a national debate about immigration. It is a shame that he is not here to start that debate this afternoon.

More and more evidence is now emerging to suggest that the Government broke freedom of information laws and tried to cover up a deliberate change of policy designed to encourage much higher immigration, very probably for party political purposes.

Two weeks ago, a former Home Office adviser, Andrew Neather, was widely reported as saying that Ministers had covered up a secret plan to allow in more immigrants and to make Britain more multicultural. When I put those allegations to the Minister, he said, quite extraordinarily, that he had not and that he did

“not know to whom or to which reports the hon. Gentleman refers.”

—[Official Report, House of Commons, 26 October 2009; Vol. 498, c. 7.]

Let us hope that he can do better today.

First, there was what was originally a secret plan. Will the Minister confirm that what he was talking about back in 2002 was a relaxation of the rules for clearing immigration applicants so that those who had been waiting more than 12 months would be granted clearance to stay without any further investigation into their cases? Will he also confirm that the head of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate said in an e-mail to the then Minister that that involved

“pragmatic grants, i.e. not pursing every angle which could conceivably justify a refusal”,

and that the policy meant that

“some risks would have to be taken”?

Will he also confirm that Ministers were aware of that policy change and that they accepted that it involved taking risks with immigration applications?

Then there was the cover-up. Will the Minister confirm that the Home Office tried to withhold documents outlining that policy change from the Information Commissioner? I have copies of those documents, and they are clearly marked “withhold” at the top. Will he also confirm that the Information Commissioner found the Home Office guilty of breaking the law, and ordered the documents marked “withhold” to be released? Will he tell the House why Ministers broke the laws that this Government had passed?

The Home Secretary says that he wants a rational debate on immigration, but why on earth does he think anyone will take him seriously in that debate when it is now clear that this Government have set out deliberately to deceive the British people, and have proved utterly incapable of telling them the truth about their policies on immigration.

Mr. Speaker, I seek your guidance on the hon. Gentleman’s accusation that Ministers deliberately deceived the British public.

My understanding is that no personal charge against an individual Minister has been levelled—[Interruption.] Order. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely entitled to seek a ruling on the matter. The infraction occurs if a Member accuses another Member of misleading the House or of dishonesty to the House. I was listening intently, and I have quite big ears, but I did not hear that.

I am very grateful, Mr. Speaker, for your confirmation that that was not the accusation by the Opposition spokesman, who has just, in this House, accused Ministers of breaking the law.

Perhaps I could address what is clearly the hon. Gentleman’s latest political gimmick. He seems to ascribe to Ministers a motive that he had when he made his rather embarrassing gaffe at the Conservative party conference. He has brought before the House this afternoon—[Interruption.] These are serious accusations.

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Richard Ottaway) has relatively recently toddled into the Chamber—[Interruption.]

Order. If the hon. Gentleman came in earlier, so be it—I am happy to concede the point—but I am concerned with the issue of substance. I do not want sedentary chuntering of the kind in which he regularly indulges. I do not want to hear that.

Let me explain the background to the House. As I said in my answer to the urgent question, the policy issues were dealt with thoroughly and comprehensively by the Sutton inquiry, and are not the subject of the question tabled today. That rather reveals the motive for asking the question. The hon. Gentleman referred to Mr. Neather, the Evening Standard correspondent, who wrote in that paper on 26 October:

“My views have been twisted out of all recognition.”

That is what Mr. Neather, whom the hon. Gentleman prays in aid, said.

On the freedom of information request, the serious allegation was that we broke the law. In fact, the instruction from the Information Commissioner was issued on 5 March 2009, and on 9 April, in line with that ruling, we disclosed the information—to little or no comment at the time, if I may say so. That again calls into question the hon. Gentleman’s motive in asking this question.

The plain fact about the policy issue in 2004, which was the subject of debate at the time, is that the then Minister acted entirely honourably. I do not know whether she is in her place now, but hon. Members will recall that my right hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Beverley Hughes) acted entirely honourably and took full responsibility for what happened at the time. The backlog legacy programme that was put in place was designed to deal with a backlog that had accumulated not only under this Government; as I said in the House last week, it went back to Willie Whitelaw’s time. Once again, we are having to clear this matter up.

We will sustain public consensus behind the value of legal immigration only if controls are effective and illegal immigration is firmly countered. That has clearly not been the case. First, there is clear evidence that immigration policy was to grant applications rather than to refuse them, and to give the benefit of the doubt to the applicant—a policy that was never made public or debated in the House. Secondly, throughout this period, the Government did nothing to reinstate the exit checks that the Conservative Administration had begun to abolish. As a result, we have not been able to check whether nearly 2 million people a year who have been issued with short-term visas have left again. That is just as large a relaxation of policy as the decision to lean towards approvals. Given that just 60 per cent. of those leaving this country this year can be identified, will the Minister make an urgent commitment to introducing manual exit checks until the e-borders scheme is complete? Will he also estimate how many short-term visa holders have definitely left the country, and how many have overstayed? Will he commit to managing immigration properly, so that public confidence can be restored?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his support for the border control measures that we are putting in place. Indeed, he and I agree on the need for those border controls. I wonder whether he will join me in asking the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), who has tabled the question today, whether he has dropped his opposition to border controls. The fact is that there are those on the Conservative Benches who talk about civil liberties, and others who talk about the need for databases to control migration. The Conservatives have to make their minds up. At least the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne) is consistent.

The Minister and the head of the UK Border Agency gave evidence to the Select Committee last Tuesday, and the Minister gave us a number of important facts and figures. Will he confirm that none of the issues that are before the House today will have any effect on the veracity of the information that he gave last Tuesday, and that he stands by the figures that he gave us? There are also some outstanding points from that meeting. Will he ensure that a reply to those points reaches the Committee by Friday of this week?

I am grateful to the Chairman of the Select Committee. The answer to his first question is yes. Nothing in the question and answer today in any way affects the veracity of the evidence given to the Select Committee last week. Indeed, the question today is about the allegation that we have broken the law in applying the Freedom of Information Act, and that is something that I absolutely reject. It is a very serious accusation. The policy that I have been asked about today relates to incidents between 2002 and 2004. Regarding the specific answers that my right hon. Friend requested by his deadline of Friday, or a week Friday, I hope that he will forgive me if—he is not nodding; he will not forgive me. I will do my very best to comply with the request of the Chairman of the Select Committee, as I always do.

In a spirit of forgiveness, I say this to the Minister: at the time leading up to the resignation of the right hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Beverley Hughes), there were a large number of different failures in the immigration and related systems. If it is true, as has been asserted in the newspapers, that decisions were taken for political reasons, one of the most important aspects of the matter will have been the reduction or relaxation of the citizenship process, which we know took place. Did Mr. Ken Sutton investigate that?

There is a conflation of two points there—I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his political imagination, but he is talking about different things. The issue of controversy was over the then A2 applications and how they were dealt with—

The right hon. Gentleman says from a sedentary position that he was there; I remember it very well. He extrapolates from that the accusation that there was a political plot. There is no evidence of such a plot; indeed, the Government’s Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 was criticised for being too authoritarian on the issue of immigration—[Interruption.] Some right hon. and hon. Members in their places today criticised it from that point of view. A good effort is going on to raise a straw man, if I may say so, but as ever with the Opposition party, there is no substance to the policy because there is no policy.

Would the Minister agree with me that one of the real sources of poor administration in the immigration system are these delays that the policy which was the subject of the freedom of information request was designed to address? I have a pile of letters with me that my researchers expected me to sign, three of which inform my constituents that they should not expect a decision before 2010 in one case and before 2011 in the other two, so what is the Minister doing to speed up this process right now?

Again, that question is about current policy, not about freedom of information. With your agreement, Mr. Speaker, may I say that if Members are concerned as to why we are here five years after the events, the timetable of compliance with the FOI shows the Home Office in very good light indeed? Indeed, I was surprised that I was able to comply so quickly; the delays were not down to the Home Office. On the substance of the question, as I hope my hon. Friend knows, the measures put in place to clear the backlog are substantial and, indeed, as I was able to tell the Select Committee, a further 350 extra members of staff are now being deployed. The date to which she refers is the end-date, the date by which we will have cleared all the backlogs. Again, we recognised the problem and took action to address it. The MPs correspondence tracker system, which I will take this opportunity to advertise, is a superb service to Members who currently send 60,000 letters a year to me and my colleagues.

Order. May I just say to the Minister of State that the dividing line between comprehensiveness and prolixity is thin, but I fear that he has just crossed it?

Does not this information reveal a culture of risk-taking and laxity in government? Is there not a danger of this culture continuing when, as the Home Affairs Select Committee learned last week, the points-based system overrides the discretion of individual immigration officers even when they entertain the gravest of doubts about people seeking to enter the United Kingdom. May we have an immediate review rather than have to wait for another sorry performance like the Minister’s today?

The hon. Gentleman has reported back from the Select Committee in a way that does not reflect what I told that Committee. The allegation that immigration officers and entry clearance officers do not have those powers is simply not the case. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that an immigration officer should be able to refuse entry into this country—without any reason, when that is the point in guidance and indeed in law—then let him say so. I would bet that those on my side of the House for one would not wish to see that.

May I welcome the Minister’s statement? At a time when visa and entry clearance officers are under criticism, often unfairly, may I ask him to convey to his staff my deep gratitude for their compassionate handling of the case of Kenny Chan in my constituency, whose funeral I am attending tomorrow? His Chinese girlfriend, and main carer, Bo Ji, has been allowed through discretion to come into the country, and we are deeply grateful to those staff.

I hope that the whole House agrees that immigration and customs officials in the UK Border Agency do an important job professionally and well, often in very dangerous circumstances, and have to take some very difficult decisions. I remind the House that 285 million people were transited in and out of the United Kingdom last year, which represents a significant challenge in immigration and customs control.

The information that was suppressed, and to which we are now privy, contained a warning that the policy was not without risk. Has the Minister made any evaluation of those persons who were let in, and of whether any of that risk has come to light?

I thank the hon. Lady for that question, and I take it that she has read the information that has been disclosed—

She indicates that she has, in which case she will be able to confirm that the information was checked for all people, as is always the case, against the watch lists. That was said at the time. The Brace—backlog reduction accelerated clearance exercise—operation, as it was known in 2002-04, replicated guidelines that had been used in the past by Governments of all persuasions. However, I can reassure the hon. Lady on the point that she raises.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the major issue is not the alleged cover-up of an alleged immigration policy, but the problem of the overt immigration policy of unrestricted free movement of labour in the European Union?

At the time, the A2 countries were not members. My hon. Friend follows such issues carefully, and he will have noted the statement that I laid before the House last week on extending the restrictions to A2. I note that he welcomes that. I am grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to bring that to your attention, Mr. Speaker—[Interruption.] No, I am grateful, because it is a good policy, and I suspect that no one was aware of it before now.

One of the pieces of propaganda being put around is that, somehow or other, there was a deliberate Act of Parliament, or policy decision, to expand immigration. As I said a moment ago, the legal framework under which the Government operated in 1997 was the British Nationality Act 1981 brought in by the Conservative party. We introduced the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, which strengthened our immigration controls, and some years later reintroduced the very border controls that allow us to control and manage migration and that the Conservative party got rid of in 1994. Will the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell therefore drop his opposition to our electronic border system—the very system that protects our borders?

There are no more Conservatives who would be able to answer such a question. Will the Minister accept, however, that the shadow Home Secretary put the question in the context of the Home Secretary’s desire to have a much more open, tolerant debate about the issue of migration, which is healthy in terms of trying to ensure that people do not vote for extremist parties at the next election? In doing so, is it right to recognise that immigration policy was too liberal, with too many mistakes, which puts stresses and strains on the provision of services to others, especially in Croydon where the immigration service is based?

We are very grateful to the good people of Croydon, which, as the hon. Gentleman says, is our major base. The fact is that the major pieces of legislation—the 1961 Bill that led to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962, the Immigration Act 1971 and the British Nationality Act 1981—are the framework for immigration in this country, and since 1997 the Government have introduced a number of Bills—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Epson and Ewell is keen on chunnering—I think that was your phrase, Mr. Speaker. [Interruption.] Chuntering. I must be careful—that is not chumpering, is it? In the debate on the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill, he criticised the Government for introducing too many immigration Bills. Which is it? Is it that we did not have enough immigration Bills, or too many? He must make his mind up.

It would be entirely wrong to cast aspersions on the Minister’s integrity, which is beyond reproach in respect of this and other matters. I am ashamed that Opposition Members should seek to do that. However, will the Minister consider the uncontrolled immigration from the European Union countries, which may not be totally in the British interest, and seek to find a way of reining it in?

I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman has said.

The debate on European Union immigration is a debate in which I am more than happy to engage. I am more than happy to justify the benefits gained by the United Kingdom. I am thinking of, for example, the 500,000 British people who live in Spain, the work and study opportunities that we have in the European Union, and the story of migration from European Union countries: migration that has benefited mutually, for instance, Ireland and the United Kingdom, Spain and the United Kingdom, and east Europe and the United Kingdom in the current year, and will no doubt do so in future years. That, however, is a debate from which the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell will run a million miles, because it will open up the question of Europe.

Energy National Policy Statements

With permission, I shall make a statement about the energy national policy statements and our proposals on clean coal.

In the summer we published the low carbon transition plan, which explained how we would meet our commitments to carbon reduction for 2020 and beyond. New infrastructure is being provided for the coming years, with 20 GW under construction or consented to—more than the amount that will close by 2018—but in order to meet our low-carbon energy challenge, and owing to the intermittency of wind, we shall need significantly more generating capacity in the longer term. As our documents explain, over the next 15 years to 2025, one third of that larger future generating capacity must be consented to and built. Given that challenge, the imperative of reform in the planning system is clear.

The current system is characterised by duplication, with several bodies responsible for different aspects of consent, overlapping responsibilities for politicians and independent decision makers, and delay. Today, to guide the decision making of the new Infrastructure Planning Commission, we are setting out for consultation six draft policy statements on energy, the most important being those on the trinity of fuels of our low-carbon future: renewables, nuclear power and clean fossil fuels. We need all of them in the long term, because the challenge of the low-carbon transition is so significant. We need renewables, which are a home-grown and plentiful source of supply and are already powering 2 million homes in the UK; we need nuclear power, which is a proven, reliable source of low-carbon energy and an important base load in the system; and we need fossil fuels—with carbon capture and storage—which make possible a flexible peak-load response.

Last year, offshore wind generation increased by two thirds and onshore wind generation by one quarter. However, we need to increase the rate of progress significantly in order to meet our objective of 30 per cent. of our electricity coming from renewables by 2020. The national policy statement on renewables covers onshore renewables over 50 MW and offshore wind over 100 MW. Other onshore decisions remain with local authorities. The policy statement seeks to strike the right balance between achieving national objectives and avoiding adverse impacts on the local environment and biodiversity. While Government set out the framework in the policy statements, each application will be decided upon by the independent Infrastructure Planning Commission. The IPC will have to take account of regional and local plans drawn up by local authorities, and developers will have to ensure that they have consulted locally before any application is made, with local authorities submitting local impact reports.

The Infrastructure Planning Commission will make its decisions on the basis of a clear timetable of a year from the acceptance of an application to a decision. That is a crucial change from the system that operated in the past. This system is right for energy security. By meeting our commitments on renewables we can limit the need for gas imports, holding them at 2010 levels for the rest of the decade. It is also the right thing to do for the environment, because there is no bigger threat to our countryside than climate change. But, according to the estimates that we are publishing today, even given our ambitious targets for renewables there will be a need for additional new non-renewable power. We need to use all available low-carbon sources, which is why we were right to end the moratorium on new nuclear power stations in this country last year. In response, energy companies have announced intentions to build 16 GW of new nuclear power. In the spring, we invited comments on the 11 sites that had been nominated for new nuclear, all of which are on or near existing nuclear sites. I can tell the House that 10 of the 11 sites have been judged potentially suitable and have been included in the draft policy statement. The next step will be consultation in the 10 selected sites, as well as nationally. The consultation proposes that the 11th site, Dungeness, not be included in this national policy statement. That is because, following advice from Natural England and others, the Government do not believe that a new nuclear power station can be built there without causing an adverse effect on the integrity of the internationally unique ecosystem.

Under the habitats directive, we are obliged to consider alternative nuclear sites. An independent study has suggested that three—Kingsnorth, Druridge Bay and Owston Ferry—are “worthy of further consideration”. We have concluded, however, that all of them have serious impediments and none of them is credible for deployment by the end of 2025, the period of the policy statement; nor do we believe they are necessary for our plans for new nuclear. Therefore, we have excluded all of them from being potential sites in the draft policy statement.

On waste management, the Government are satisfied that, on the basis of the science and international experience, effective arrangements to manage and dispose of the waste from new nuclear power stations can be put in place. In addition, today we are opening consultation on the proposed regulatory justification for two different reactor designs.

New nuclear is right for energy security and climate change, and it will be good for jobs too, creating up to 9,000 jobs to build and operate power stations at each site and helping leading companies to access the international market.

As well as renewables and nuclear, the third part of our low-carbon future is clean fossil fuels. There is no solution to the problem of climate change either at home or abroad without a solution to the problem of coal—cheap and reliable, but the most polluting fuel. Already, €180 million has provisionally been offered from the European budget to assist Hatfield power station to fit carbon capture and storage, and I can confirm that we have received bids from E.ON and Scottish Power for the next stage of the current CCS competition for a post-combustion power station. Early next year, we will allocate the up to £90 million that has been set aside for the bid or bids that will go forward to the detailed design and engineering stage. Our aim is clear: for carbon capture and storage to be ready to be deployed 100 per cent. on all new coal-fired power stations by 2020. We are determined to ensure that, with the right combination of regulation and incentives, we make this happen, so I can confirm that, under our new framework, there will be no new coal-fired power stations without CCS. With immediate effect, in order to gain development consent all new coal plant will have to show that it will demonstrate CCS from the outset on around 400 MW of total output.

Our plans are based on up to four projects between now and 2020, including up to two post-combustion projects and up to two pre-combustion projects. The pre-combustion demonstration projects are expected to have 100 per cent. CCS on their coal capacity from day one. The post-combustion projects will be expected to retrofit CCS to 100 per cent. of their capacity within five years of 2020. That will be enforced by the Environment Agency, and there will be a review to confirm it by 2018. If we conclude at that time that CCS will not be proven, we believe further regulatory measures will be required to restrict emissions from these plants, such as through an emissions performance standard.

Even with the right regulation, however, if we leave the funding of CCS simply to private companies, it will not happen in time. To make CCS financially viable, our proposed energy Bill contains powers to introduce the levy to support demonstration that the Chancellor announced in the Budget; and, in response to points made in the consultation, the levy will also be available to support the move to 100 per cent. retrofit of CCS. Taken together, these policies are the most environmentally ambitious set of coal conditions of any country in the world, and they provide the opportunity for Britain to create thousands of jobs in carbon capture and storage throughout our country.

On coal, nuclear and renewables, the aim of our national policy statements is clear: consistent with the advice of the Committee on Climate Change, we need to be on course for the long-term goal of near-zero carbon emissions from power. In the spring, we will publish further work on the pathway from 2020 to 2050 consistent with this trajectory.

Alongside the overall policy statement and those for nuclear, renewables, fossil fuels and gas storage, we are also publishing the policy statement for electricity networks. Together, these documents represent a framework for the future of our energy supplies.

In every area—onshore and offshore wind, and other renewables; nuclear; and clean fossil fuels—there will be people who wish to oppose specific planning applications. Their voice must be heard in the process, and we believe that it will be. The planning process must ensure that we give consent to the right projects in the right sites. Although of course we need a process that can turn down specific applications, saying no everywhere would not be in the national interest. As a country, we need nuclear, renewables and clean coal for our energy future. They are necessary for security of supply, tackling climate change and the future of our economy. That is why we are reforming the planning system and publishing our statements today. I urge all those in all parts of the House to unite behind these proposals, and I commend this statement to the House.

What we have heard softly spoken is a declaration of a national emergency for our energy security. The question that the Secretary of State must answer is why did the Government leave it so late? The statement is made necessary by the Government’s admission in July that they expect power cuts in 2017—that was the first time since the 1970s that a British Government have had to make such a disclosure. The cause of this national emergency has been obvious for many years. Over 12 years, 15 successive Energy Ministers—a new one every nine months—have behaved like the ostrich and stuck their head in the sand rather than face up to the action that was needed to address our energy black hole.

Will the Secretary of State say whether the Government knew that most of our nuclear power stations would reach the end of their planned life before 2017? Will he tell us whether anyone in his Administration was informed that North sea oil and gas production would peak and fall away? Did anyone tell them that our most polluting coal-fired power stations were about to close? Every one of the measures contained in this statement should have been brought forward 10 years ago, when the Government had the chance to secure the investments that are so desperately needed to keep the lights on, to keep prices down and to cut carbon emissions. So will he answer the question: why did they leave it so late?

On the planning statements themselves, we support the Government, but does the Secretary of State accept that to give the certainty that investors require they should be endorsed by a full vote of this House, so that they have the democratic legitimacy that will entrench them against future judicial review? We agree with him that it is absolutely right to create a fast-track planning process for large infrastructure projects, with a dedicated secretariat and time-limited decisions, but does he agree that the final decision should be taken not by an unelected, unaccountable official, but by a Secretary of State responsible to this House?

Nuclear power must be part of a diverse energy mix, provided it is commercially viable, but does the Secretary of State accept that it is now too late for nuclear to come on stream fast enough to replace our current capacity before it shuts down, and that this will increase our dependence on gas imports before 2020? The moratorium was this Government’s and they are responsible for that. Why did they leave things so late?

On coal, will the Secretary of State confirm that the large combustion plant directive will close a third of our coal capacity, and that since it was agreed by the Government in 2001 not a single carbon capture and storage plant has been authorised to replace that capacity? Will he say which countries, in addition to China, Australia, Canada, Germany, Norway and Belgium, have used this delay to overtake Britain in CCS? Will he say whether 2014 is still the date by which any entry into his chaotic CCS competition must be up and running, or will he confirm what the industry tells me, which is that it has been put back yet again? I note that his statement was silent on this. Why did the Government leave it so late on CCS?

Will the Secretary of State confirm that Germany keeps 100 days’ worth of gas in storage and France keeps 120 days’ worth, but that Britain has just 15 days’ worth of gas storage? Was his colleague Lord Hunt of Kings Heath right when he said that the current measures would increase that by just five hours? Why did the Government leave it so late?

On renewables, will the Secretary of State confirm that Britain has the lowest proportion of energy coming from renewable sources of any EU country, apart from Malta and Luxembourg? If he intends, once again, to entertain us by blaming the gaping hole in our energy supply on rural district councils, rather than on the void in energy policy, will he say why his statement proposes no reforms to allow communities to benefit from wind farms? A decade on from the renewables target, will he tell us why he left it so late?

Britain’s consumers and businesses will pay through the nose for the last-minute scramble that the Secretary of State has announced today to cope with the black-outs that he predicted in July. Will he explain, clearly and simply, why the Government have allowed us to get into this state and will he accompany his response with an apology to the British people for 12 years of negligence, for which we are now paying the price?

It is hard to know where to start with the hon. Gentleman, and not for the right reasons. In the course of the day, he has managed to show a unique combination of alarmism and complacency. I say that he has shown alarmism because, if he had listened to my statement, he would have heard me say that if we look ahead to 2018 we will replace the 18 GW of infrastructure that is closing with 20 GW of infrastructure. I know that he is interested in the issue of energy unserved, so I direct him to the Redpoint analysis that we are publishing today, which will show him the updated figures as a result of the more recent data we have. I think that will put him right.

The hon. Gentleman showed both alarmism and complacency because what he did not say was that he wants to abolish the Infrastructure Planning Commission. We have gone through this process of years of reform, and the business community likes the system and says that it is the right thing to do. We know that it is necessary, as I said in my statement, to make the low-carbon transition, but now the hon. Gentleman comes along and says that he wants to abolish the IPC.

What do we have from the Conservative party? The Conservatives say that the Secretary of State would set the national policy statements and also decide on the specific applications. What kind of separation of powers is that? It would not only be wrong because it would disrupt a system that is coming into place, and rightly so in my view—it will hasten the low-carbon transition that we need—but wrong in principle, too.

The hon. Gentleman asked a series of other questions. On carbon capture and storage, we still do not know whether the Conservative party supports the levy that the Chancellor announced in April. My right hon. Friend announced a levy in the Budget in April and the Opposition say that they will fund CCS from the proceeds of the EU emissions trading scheme. For six months, I have told the hon. Gentleman—as the Treasury has told his hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Charles Hendry)—that those funds are already accounted for in the national accounts, so it is funny money that the Conservative party wants to use and we still do not know whether it supports our carbon capture and storage levy.

The truth is that what we heard from the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) is a clear example of why the Conservative party is not fit for government.

I thank the Secretary of State for his statement, but can he tell us why the press were clearly briefed on Friday, contrary to Mr. Speaker’s ruling, and why the statements were supplied to our Whips Office only about 18 minutes before the statement was given in the House?

Although the Liberal Democrats have, as the Secretary of State would expect, consistently supported, and continue to support, a future with clean fossil fuels and renewable energy, nothing that he has said today about nuclear power persuades us that the arguments that it is safe and secure have been made in any way that is different from how they have been made in the past.

Will the Secretary of State make it clear that what he has announced today are draft policies, and will he tell us what the timetable is for consultation? Will all the evidence supplied in response be published, and do the Government still have an open mind on arguments that might persuade them that they are going down the wrong road? Does today’s draft hide within itself the necessary justification of the nuclear policy for European Union requirements, because he did not mention that in his statement at all?

How can the Energy Secretary say that the next generation of nuclear power stations are any more likely to be built without taxpayer subsidy than the last generation when he has not decided which sort of power station design to choose or where the sites will be, and when there is no scientifically justified and secure way of disposing of the waste? How can he tell us that he will go ahead with the plan when the Health and Safety Commission has expressed serious concerns about the proposed designs that are on the table?

How can the Secretary of State tell us that this is the right mix when nuclear power would make so small a contribution to our energy future, and so late in terms of the timetable that he has set out? If he were far more ambitious about renewables and willing to invest in them in the way that he has invested in the nuclear industry in the past, could we not have a safe, reliable and publicly much more acceptable future? Why did he talk about jobs in the nuclear industry but not say a word about the much greater potential for jobs in the renewables sector, which is evidently known and supported around the country?

On CCS, can I be clear that the Secretary of State is saying to the House as before that there will be a new generation of coal-fired power stations but they will not all have to be CCS-compliant from the beginning of their operation? Some of the next generation will, therefore, be dirty power stations from the beginning rather than the necessary clean stations.

Was there a commitment in the statement to a UK grid supported and funded by the Government? Was there a commitment to the European supergrid, which we need if we are to have energy security across the continent?

Finally, as a Labour Minister with all his good democratic credentials, the Secretary of State must find it difficult to come to the House and argue that in future the major energy decisions in this country will be taken by an independent body, not even answerable to Ministers of the Crown, let alone to the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Is it not the truth that the one thing that has been disposed of is not nuclear waste, because the Secretary of State has no solution for that, but the democratic process in coming to all those difficult decisions?

Order. Before the Secretary of State replies, may I gently say to the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) that he did somewhat exceed his time? This is not an example that should be imitated by other colleagues.

I will try to be brief in reply, Mr. Speaker. Obviously, it pains me to disagree with the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes), but let me deal with the three specific points he made. He has an anti-nuclear position. I disagree with it and I shall briefly explain why.

We have very ambitious targets for renewables in this country. We all know the targets are ambitious, so to ask—as the hon. Gentleman did—why we are not more ambitious is, frankly, not realistic. We know that we have tough commitments, but looking at our needs in terms of low-carbon energy in the future, it is wrong to rule out nuclear power, because I think it can make a real difference. As for the hon. Gentleman’s point about nuclear not making a contribution, companies have already put forward plans—as I said in my statement—for 16 GW of new power, which is significant.

The hon. Gentleman made some specific points about nuclear. He said that we had not decided about the stations. Actually, we are saying that there is a choice of two stations—the Westinghouse station or the AREVA station. We shall benefit from the fact that the stations are being built elsewhere, because many of the issues that could be faced will have already been gone through.

On coal, let me be absolutely clear: we have said that there will be no new coal without CCS. That is absolutely clear. We are absolutely clear about that—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman says, “Expected.” No, CCS will have to be demonstrated from the outset in any new coal-fired power station. That is very clear from my statement, and he will see it from the documentation as well.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned democratic oversight, which comes in the national policy statements, but when those statements are put forward by Ministers it is right to leave specific questions about specific applications and developments to an independent body. I think that will give more assurance in the process, and I wish the hon. Gentleman had supported our proposals today.

May I congratulate the Secretary of State on his statement? It arises from the planning delay over important national energy requirements. I should like to ask him specifically about wind turbine power. As he is aware, we are doing well on offshore investment, but not so well in onshore investment, where a great deal more will have to be done. It appears that recently 75 per cent. of applications have been rejected, often against the advice of planning officers, by the elected officials who appear to feel that they will be overruled anyway. Will my right hon. Friend comment on that? We welcome his investment in Yorkshire in the Hatfield plant.

My right hon. Friend played an important role in Kyoto and his advice has been very helpful in the run-up to Copenhagen. He is absolutely right. He has been very brave, and has stood up for the issue of onshore wind and said that we need to go ahead with it. He is absolutely right about that. Part of the argument we need to advance in the House and in the country is not just for planning reform but for going ahead with onshore wind, which is why I wish the shadow Business Secretary had not said that he was against all onshore wind. I think it is right that all of us stand up and say that we need onshore and offshore wind. We cannot say no to any of the low-carbon alternatives.

Order. Thirty hon. and right hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye, so brevity is of the essence. I know that a good example will now be set by the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard).

Is the Secretary of State aware that his decision to exclude Dungeness from his list of preferred sites will be greeted with consternation by many of my constituents, who will be bemused by the objection of Natural England, having regard to the fact that there are already two nuclear power stations at Dungeness? Will he assure me that he will continue to consult on the possibility of restoring Dungeness to the list, and will he confirm that Natural England will not have a veto on that possibility?

I know from our conversations that the right hon. and learned Gentleman feels strongly about these questions. I can confirm that this is a consultation. No, Natural England does not have a veto. We act on its advice and the advice of others. The specific issue with respect to the proposal for Dungeness was that the site was adjacent to the existing power station, which causes a lot more difficulties in relation to habitats than the existing power station. It is a question not simply of new habitats rules coming into place since the original station at Dungeness was built, but of the specific siting of any new station at Dungeness. As I say, there is a consultation and we look forward to hearing the views of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and others.

I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement and the plans that he announced for accelerating our plans for new nuclear power stations, which will be warmly welcomed in the country as a whole. His statement updates us on the planning reform changes that the Government have introduced, which will de-risk a lot of the investment that is necessary. Does he have an open mind about whether it might be necessary to go one step further at some point in the future, either in the form of a minimum floor price for carbon or in the form of a new low-carbon obligation on the power generators?

Let me pay tribute to my right hon. Friend because he took the very brave decision on nuclear power, which has not quite a universal consensus, although perhaps a growing consensus, in this House. As for the carbon price, we do want a more robust carbon price than we have at present. The best way of achieving that, in my view, is plan A, which is Copenhagen, and getting an ambitious deal at Copenhagen. He was also right, in my view, to rule out a specific public subsidy for new nuclear, but our focus is on getting that deal at Copenhagen so that we can ensure a more robust carbon price.

The Secretary of State said that he foresaw 150 MW of wind power capacity being installed. Can he confirm that on average 27 per cent. is the typical usage, so that typically 100 MW of that 150 MW will not be in use at any one moment?

I think the right hon. Gentleman has got his megawatts and gigawatts a little confused, if I may say so. The point I was making in my statement was the scale of application that would be below or above the threshold. He is right in that wind power is what we call de-rated in terms of its impact on the electricity system, and the calculations that we put forward take account of that.

What is there in place to ensure that there will be full environmental impact assessments in order that there can be a level playing field for deciding whether to invest in nuclear or renewables? I have concerns about investment in nuclear.

I know that my hon. Friend feels strongly about these issues. Local environmental impacts are built into the assessments. Whether on renewables or on nuclear, those decisions are for the IPC. It is important to say that the advance of the planning reforms is so that the question of need is settled in consultation at this stage in the national policy statements. The question of specific applications and their impact on biodiversity and other matters is then a decision for the IPC, so I can reassure my hon. Friend that the IPC will have to make judgments on those questions.

May I welcome the Secretary of State’s well justified refusal to put Druridge Bay in Northumberland back on the list of potential nuclear sites, and, as someone who has campaigned for 20 years ago to get it off that list, assure him that any future Secretary of State who sought to put a nuclear station on such a magnificent and environmentally diverse site would face a similarly intense and successful campaign?

Again, I know from speaking to the right hon. Gentleman that he feels strongly about these matters. We made a judgment about Druridge Bay and, indeed, the other two sites identified as worthy of further consideration—both that there were serious impediments to their being placed on the list, and that they were not necessary for our plans for new nuclear. Hence, they have been excluded from the national policy statements. I hope that that acts as reassurance to the right hon. Gentleman and his constituents.

As French, Finnish and UK regulators have all recently agreed that the current control systems for the evolutionary EPR reactor are to be subject to architectural change—in other words, the reactor is still being designed— how can the Government possibly sanction the justification of nuclear plant before reactor design is finally decided? Is that not a classic case of putting the cart before the horse?