House of Commons
Wednesday 24 February 2010
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]
business before questions
Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, That she will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House a Return of the Report, dated 24 February 2010, of the independent Inquiry into care provided by Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust January 2005 to March 2009.—(Mr. Frank Roy.)
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—
Good morning, Mr. Speaker. Youth unemployment in Scotland has increased in recent months, but since 1997 the number of 18 to 24-year-olds in Scotland claiming unemployment benefit is down by 40 per cent. That issue was discussed at the recent jobs summit in Easterhouse.
The figures in Scotland have gone down 40 per cent. In Scotland the number of 18 to 24-year-olds claiming unemployment benefit for six months or more was 8,800 in January 2010, so hopefully that answers the hon. Gentleman’s question. I would have thought that it would be a matter of consensus across all the political parties that we have to do more together to challenge youth unemployment, because it dampens expectations among the most idealistic and energetic generation, and has the potential to ruin young lives. However, based on the hon. Gentleman’s question, it is clear that he does not understand very much about unemployment among young people in Scotland.
Youth unemployment is a massive problem in Ayrshire, with North Ayrshire having some of the worst levels of social deprivation in Scotland. Does my right hon. Friend welcome the Ayrshire jobs summit, which is taking place tomorrow, and does he agree that economic growth and job creation are key for the most successful future for Ayrshire?
It is very important that we take a team Ayrshire approach to trying to overcome youth unemployment, and not just youth unemployment. We are keen to ensure that those over 50, who have perhaps not experienced unemployment or been in a job centre for a considerable period—or perhaps never in their lives—do not become used to unemployment and do not spend that period in advance of their retirement settling for a life on unemployment benefits. It is therefore essential that we do more together across all the generations, in Ayrshire and across Scotland.
In 2000 the then Secretary of State for Scotland boasted that
“For the first time in generations, the end of youth unemployment is a real possibility”.
After 10 years of Labour Government youth unemployment has not ended; it has actually shot up by 60 per cent. Last week the Secretary of State said that the onus was on bankers to deal with unemployment. Then he claimed that Scotland’s economy had been boosted by the recent snowfall. Has it not occurred to him that youth unemployment in Scotland is high not because there are too many bankers or not enough snow, but because the Government’s economic policies are not working?
It is a fact—I thought that the hon. Gentleman would share this view—that a minority of bankers in Scotland have a moral responsibility for their actions and the way they behaved in destroying fantastic international banking institutions, the consequences being, in part, a global recession and rises in youth unemployment. However, because of the actions of this Labour Government, 50,000 jobs have been saved in Scotland. It is clear that the hon. Gentleman does not care about that, because he is so fixated on trying to get only one job, and that is my job, at the next election. The people of Scotland know that. They see through it and they see the Conservative party in Scotland for what it is: less popular today than even in Mrs. Thatcher’s time.
I do not think that the Secretary of State should give lectures on people who are seen through. He will acknowledge that a stable and supportive family environment plays a major part in equipping young people with the personal skills needed for employment. Yet Cardinal O’Brien has warned that the Secretary of State’s Government are undertaking a
“systematic and unrelenting attack on family values.”
Last night the Secretary of State was due to say, “When the Cardinal speaks, people listen.” The cardinal has spoken. Is the Secretary of State listening?
It is right that we focus on how we get through this recession together. We are determined to ensure that we support families, through tax credits and the national minimum wage, for example. It is sobering to reflect on the fact that during the 1980s Tory recession, it took 19 years for the jobs situation to return to pre-recession levels. Nineteen years—nearly two decades—is how long it took Scotland to recover from that recession. The fact is that the Conservative party has not learned the lessons of the 1980s, because it remains committed to cutting tax credits from many families throughout Scotland. It is no wonder that Scotland sees the Tories as a real danger to its well-being.
I wonder whether my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State could comment on the success of the future jobs fund. He will be aware that his ministerial colleague the Under-Secretary of State visited my constituency recently and saw some of the fruits of the scheme. Is it working in this area?
My hon. Friend has campaigned vigorously in his constituency on the future jobs fund, which is testimony to the way he carries out his politics. He is a fantastic constituency Member of Parliament. We announced 1,300 more jobs in the future jobs fund last week, and there are now 9,000 opportunities in the fund in Scotland. That is the Labour Government subsidising the opportunity for young people and others to have the chance of a job during this recession. The Conservatives are committed to abolishing the future jobs fund, which is 9,000 more reasons in Scotland not to vote for them.
Intellectual Property (Statutory Protection)
I have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues on a range of matters concerning Scotland. My Department recently made two orders under the Scotland Act 1998 relating to intellectual property for the Commonwealth games and the register of tartans.
What will be done to protect the intellectual property rights of the people of Stirling if the excavations at the Dominican friary show that the bones that have been found there are indeed those of Richard II, and to provide Government moneys to support DNA analysis and perhaps to allow for an exhibition before the bones of that English king are returned to this country?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for providing me with a little advance notice of his supplementary question. It gave me an opportunity to look at the reign of Richard II, which was marked by particular acts of violence. He crushed the peasants’ revolt, built up a group of unpopular favourites, arrested, imprisoned and executed the people he worked with, or banished them and confiscated their estates. It sounds a little like a Conservative party selection meeting. More seriously, I am sure that we are all very interested in the results of the archaeological investigation, and that the Scottish Government and the local authority will be more than pleased to promote any find that might be discovered.
Is the Minister aware that there is a tremendous amount of intellectual property involved in building aircraft carriers on Clydeside? Is she also aware that, at this very moment, convenors from trade unions from across the United Kingdom are meeting representatives of the Liberal party to try to get them off the fence on the question of whether they are prepared to support the aircraft carriers?
Thank you for your guidance on that point, Mr. Speaker.
My hon. Friend has been a doughty fighter for the aircraft carriers in Glasgow, and he is well aware that the project is important not just for Glasgow but for Scotland and the whole of the UK, and that many people will benefit from it. We should cherish and support the talents and skills of the engineers and workers in our shipyards at all times.
When it comes to intellectual property, we have a good example of the Scottish and UK Governments working together, and we fully support the measures that have been taken on the Commonwealth games order. That has been one of the successes of the devolution settlement, but the hon. Gentleman unfortunately fails to appreciate that because he has only one aim for Scotland, which is to take it out of the United Kingdom and damage it.
The Government are committed to strengthening the Scottish Parliament and making it more accountable to the public in Scotland. We will bring forward a Bill early in the next Session of Parliament.
As I said, it is important that the powers of the Scottish Parliament should be increased, and that there should be an increased sense of accountability to the public in Scotland. There is a weakness in the way in which the architecture of devolution has been designed, in that the Scottish Parliament is largely responsible for spending money but does not take decisions about how large its budget should be or how the money should be raised. That is why it is an important part of the Calman recommendations—the vast majority of which we accept—that a patriotic Parliament should be given not only additional powers but, importantly, new accountability.
Only last weekend, we learned of another tragic incident in which a three-year-old boy was shot with an airgun. How many more incidents like that do we have to see before the Secretary of State takes immediate action? The Scottish Government are ready to go, and it is his prevarication that has led to this situation. Will he now get his finger out?
It is pretty cheap and nasty—of course, unusually so for the hon. Gentleman—to try to make politics out of an accident involving an airgun. We are determined to act on this under the Calman recommendations, in great contrast to the Scottish National party’s plans for a rigged referendum. A decade after legislating to ban foreign donors in British politics, the SNP’s referendum would allow money to flow in from all over the world, in a system that is now found only in the Borda counting systems in Nauru and Kiribati. The SNP’s plans for a rigged referendum are absolutely and utterly Kiribati.
The Secretary of State is aware of my view that the present White Paper procedure is unnecessary and that we could have a Bill before the House now. However, since we have this period of delay, will he use the time to ensure that when he brings the Bill forward, it will include a provision to end the practice of double jobbing, whereby people can sit in this Parliament and in the Scottish Parliament, taking two salaries for doing only one job? Surely that has to end.
This is an important issue and we are keen to phase it out. The Government are committed to taking a UK approach to this matter, as it affects Northern Ireland and the Welsh Assembly as well as the Scottish Parliament. I am not that keen to get into the politics of it all, but the issue of whether politicians should have two salaries is important. The hon. Gentleman raises a very important issue. The Government are committed—towards 2011, I think—to phasing out this system of a double mandate and two jobs.
We can guess why the Secretary of State does not want to get into the politics of it since both Margaret Curran and Cathy Jamieson are seeking to come here as Labour MPs on a dual mandate. When he says that a UK approach should be taken, he ignores the fact that the other place has already decided to deal with this problem for Northern Ireland. Surely that is the example that we should follow, and double jobbing should end now, not at some future date of his choosing.
I do not agree. I think everyone in Scotland knows that there is only one prominent person who is currently double jobbing, but I do not want to make a party political issue of it—[Interruption.] Of course, it is the First Minister. The two people whom the hon. Gentleman alludes to are phenomenal campaigners and powerful women who I hope will be elected to the House of Commons. The Liberal Democrats suggest that that is a foregone conclusion, and the hon. Gentleman’s lack of confidence might encourage me to be arrogant, but I am not going to do that.
My right hon. Friend last met the First Minister on 11 January at the national jobs summit in Glasgow. He also wrote to the First Minister calling on him to delay the referendum Bill and join us in focusing attention on supporting people in Scotland as we move from recession to recovery.
I am grateful for that answer. Is the Minister able to tell us why during the financial crisis, which the Secretary of State pointed out hit Scotland hard because of the impact of the banking crisis, the Prime Minister did not meet the First Minister to discuss these important issues for almost a year?
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we continually work constructively together with the Scottish Government on a whole range of issues, including those around the recession and the banking crisis. There have not only been regular meetings between the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State, but regular joint ministerial meetings on domestic issues as well as European and financial meetings. The devolution settlement is working well.
Surely there can be no more important discussion between the Government here and the Scottish Executive than about the confidence of people in the electoral system that elects the Scottish Parliament, which was set up by this Parliament. It seems to me that if the proposal is to put a confused question in a referendum and to have either what was called the Condorcet system, which was last abandoned 80 years ago in Michigan, or the de Borda system, which is used to elect the two Slovenian ethnic minority members, that must undermine the confidence of the people in the electoral system. Surely the Scottish Executive must be called to account on that question.
My hon. Friend raises an important point about the lack of proper priorities on the part of the Scottish Government at this time. Our sole priority should be to tackle the recession and to get people back into work, instead of trying to create yet another quango at considerable public expense for no good purpose whatever and conducting a referendum that no one wants at this time.
More than eight weeks ago, the finance committee of the Scottish Parliament made a perfectly reasonable request for a Treasury Minister to come to Holyrood and explain the implications of the pre-Budget report for Scotland. No reply has yet been received. The Chancellor may well have been distracted by fighting back the forces of hell, while the Secretary of State may have been distracted by appealing to the forces of heaven. Is there any hope that the two of them might now come down to a more earthly plane, show respect to the Scottish Parliament, and grant that request?
This Government have paid respect to the Scottish Parliament by setting up and supporting the Calman commission. The hon. Gentleman took part in that process, and will be aware of the commission’s recommendations. We have agreed that we are more than happy for the Secretary of State to visit the Scottish Parliament to discuss issues relating to the Queen’s Speech and other issues of government, but regrettably the Scottish Government have been completely unpersuaded to join in and become seriously involved in matters of parliamentary protocol.
I hold regular discussions with trade unions and business representatives from across Scotland. As I said earlier, last month I co-hosted a national jobs summit in Easterhouse with the Scottish Government, the Scottish Trades Union Congress and CBI Scotland.
Last week, when I addressed a meeting at the Rotary Club of Dalkeith, it became obvious to me that the co-operation that has been delivered locally between employers and trade unions is very important if we are to get through the current crisis. May I invite my right hon. Friend to come to Midlothian, meet employers and trade unions, and help them to agree on measures that will allow them to get through the crisis jointly?
I am disappointed to learn that I was not invited to the Dalkeith rotary club event, but I am delighted that it obtained the better speaker in my hon. Friend. Of course I shall be happy to visit his constituency. He has put his finger on something very important: as I have said before, the global importance of the current recession requires a team approach to be taken throughout Scotland by the Labour Government, the SNP Edinburgh Government, business and trade union leaders, so that we can get Scotland through the recession more quickly and more strongly. [Interruption.]
Gaeltec Ltd in Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye faces liquidation at the hands of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs because PAYE and national insurance contributions have not been paid as a result of financial constraints. Will the Secretary of State reassure the business community that liquidating a company over non-payment of £28,000—leading to redundancy payments that would amount to about £120,000, as well as subsequent unemployment and related benefits—would make no sense whatsoever to the public purse, and that he will lobby HMRC and try to make it see sense?
I am always happy to listen to the right hon. Gentleman when he argues a constituency case so passionately. I will not become involved in the specific detail of the business relationship between HMRC and that one company, but I think he will be reassured to learn that the business payment scheme set up by HMRC has allowed 17,000 Scottish companies to delay their payment of taxes totalling £300 million. However, I will happily look into the specific matter that he has raised.
Long-term unemployment in Scotland has fallen by 91 per cent since 1997, but there are still too many people out of work, and we are reforming the welfare state and investing in the jobs of the future.
The number of long-term unemployed people in my constituency has fallen dramatically since the mid-1990s, and the unemployment rate is half what it was during the 1992 recession. Does my right hon. Friend agree that public investment is essential to sustaining private sector jobs? Will he ensure that the Government reject the flawed economic analysis which calls for an immediate slash and burn of the public investment that is crucial to maintaining many of the families in my constituency who work in the private sector?
I hope that my right hon. Friend, who has again argued passionately on behalf of Stirling and the surrounding area, will be reassured by the fact that I agree with what she says, but I know that she will be even more reassured by the fact that the International Monetary Fund agrees with her. During this unprecedentedly severe global recession, it has been necessary for the Government to intervene, such as by supporting the banks, and in particular the Scottish banks, and by supporting people who would otherwise be out of work to stay in work. However, as my right hon. Friend says very clearly, we know that we still have much more work to do to get Scotland through this recession, and we should have no truck with either Conservative plans for immediate cuts or the cloud cuckoo land economics of the Scottish National party.
My right hon. Friend and I have regular discussions with colleagues on a wide range of issues.
Does the Minister acknowledge that there would be no better way to develop the economies of the north of England and Scotland than to make a commitment to invest in a high-speed rail link, as that would stimulate investment there and ensure that Scotland and the north of England can fully participate in the development of the country? Are the Government committed to that step, and do they understand why the Conservative party is not?
The right hon. Gentleman correctly refers to the great possibilities high-speed rail offers to the whole country, including Scotland. This Government are committed to making sure that high-speed rail reaches the northern part of the United Kingdom—as well as the west midlands, where the first phase of the project will take place, and which we will report on later this spring. The right hon. Gentleman is also right that we require cross-party political consensus, because this project will take several decades to complete. It is very disappointing that the official Opposition reject the opportunity to take part in dialogue now, on an issue that is important both for the future of this country and for reaching our climate change targets.
Despite the global recession, there are 234,000 more people in work today in Scotland than when this Government came to power.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. He will also want to congratulate both Ryanair on the expansion of its maintenance facility at Prestwick, and the Minister for having the summit tomorrow. However, will he take a look at an issue that is of concern to at least one of my constituents: the whole question of education maintenance allowance, where there is a disparity between Scotland and England? Will he look into that? [Interruption.]
My hon. Friend’s question must be a very popular one, Mr. Speaker! Amidst all the hullabaloo and excitement on the Opposition Benches, he asked about the important issue of supporting young people in Scotland through the recession. It is very important that politicians in Scotland do not take their eye off the ball in terms of the recession, but that has sometimes happened in the Scottish Parliament. Some people seem fixated with the constitution, at the expense of dealing with the recession. When we talk about over 230,000 more people being in work in Scotland, that is not just a large figure, but it tells of an enormous number of families whose lives have been transformed. It is the equivalent of the entire population of the city of Aberdeen being in work today who were out of work during the previous Government’s time.
Public Expenditure Levels
In 2007-08, the total expenditure on services per head in Scotland was £9,032. Scotland and England have seen similar percentage increases over the past decade.
The fact is that the Barnett formula has survived in various versions for more than a century. It survived 18 years of a Conservative Government. That funding formula has been in place, in whichever form, since 1888. It has been protected and has survived those 18 years of Conservative Government, but it now seems to be under threat from this Conservative Opposition.
Search and Rescue Services
My right hon. Friend has discussions with ministerial colleagues on a range of issues.
Privatisation of the search and rescue services has caused great concern in my constituency, particularly given the reported reduction in the number of helicopters from 38 to 24. I hope that the Government have rigorous plans in place to monitor the effectiveness of search and rescue services once they are in the private sector and that the Minister will be able to reassure me on that today.
I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that there will certainly be no degradation of the existing service, from which I know his constituents benefit. In particular, I should say that the new helicopters that will be introduced will have more capability and a faster response time, which I am sure will be welcomed.
The Prime Minister was asked—
Before I answer the question, may I pay another tribute to our troops? They are working with incredible bravery, with fortitude and with dedication to defeat those who would bring terrorism to the streets of Britain by denying the terrorists both land and support and by offering the population of Helmand in Afghanistan a more secure and more prosperous future. I know that the House will join me in paying tribute to the seven soldiers who have lost their lives since the House last met: from 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, Lance Corporal Darren Hicks; from 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, Lance Sergeant David Greenhalgh; from 6th Battalion The Rifles, attached to 3rd Battalion The Rifles, Rifleman Mark Marshall; from 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, Kingsman Sean Dawson; from 36 Engineer Regiment, the Royal Engineers, Sapper Guy Mellors; from 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, Lieutenant Douglas Dalzell; and from 1st Battalion Scots Guards, Lance Sergeant David Walker. These were men of exceptional bravery, of great courage and great skill, whose loss is deeply felt. Each and every one of them was a hero, dedicated to their colleagues and to their mission. We send our profound condolences to their families and loved ones.
This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
I am sure that everyone in the House will want to associate themselves with the Prime Minister’s comments.
My constituents never shared in the bankers’ bonuses yet they paid to bail out the banks. What assurances can my right hon. Friend give me that they will get their money back, that we will not allow bankers’ greed to threaten our core public services and that we will not, ever, squander this investment on a half-baked public share offer?
First of all, we have imposed a 50 per cent. national insurance tax on bank bonuses, which has to be paid by everybody who is paying cash bonuses over the course of the next year. We have insisted on the application of the G20 rules, which means that cash bonuses above a certain amount cannot be paid—they can be paid only at a later date. We are also working for a global banking levy; we are in discussions with other countries and making progress on how that could be administered. At the same time, we are determined that the banks pay back every penny that is owed to the British public. That is an essential means by which we reduce the deficit, and any plan to give cut-price shares would mean that the deficit would be higher and the public would be denied the money that they should have returned.
First, may I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to the seven servicemen who have been killed in Afghanistan since the last time that we met: Lance Sergeant David Walker; Lieutenant Douglas Dalzell; Sapper Guy Mellors; Kingsman Sean Dawson; Rifleman Mark Marshall; Lance Sergeant David Greenhalgh; and Lance Corporal Darren Hicks? We are paying a high price for the operations we are undertaking in Helmand, but it is an essential mission and our forces and their families need to know that they have the support of the whole House and the whole country in the work that they are doing.
While the report into the Stafford hospital has only just been published, I want to ask a couple of questions before turning to other subjects. Hundreds of people went into that hospital—some with relatively straightforward ailments—and ended up dying because of the way they were mistreated. Talking to the relatives, as many of us in this House have done, is absolutely heartbreaking. Does the Prime Minister understand that these victims will never be content with an inquiry that was conducted in private, behind closed doors and without any public hearings? Does he understand their clamour for a public inquiry?
Let me say, first of all, that we understand both the sadness and the sorrow of all the relatives who lost their loved ones in the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. We know that every single one of those cases where relatives have doubts or questions are now being investigated individually. I understand that more than 300 cases are being investigated and every one of the families deserves to have the answers that are necessary. That is the first form of inquiry that is being done.
The second form of inquiry is the Francis inquiry, which, as the Secretary of State for Health will report in a few minutes, will continue its work on the regulation and supervision of foundation hospitals and, in particular, of this hospital. What happened in this hospital was completely unacceptable. What happened was a management failure in the hospital. When it comes to accident and emergency, I am shocked not only to read the stories but to find that where there should have been four consultants, there was only one, and that where there should have been 55 nurses, there were only 37. This is a failure in management that has to be dealt with. I am grateful to the Secretary of State for Health for bringing forward a series of recommendations including a recommendation that where management fails, just as with doctors, we should be able to strike off from a list those managers who are not acceptable to health authorities.
I am grateful for that answer, but is not one of the tragedies of Stafford the fact that people were dying because of bad practice—not just bad management, but bad clinical practice and an over-adherence to processes—year after year. Death rates at the hospital were far too high and were out of line from 2005, yet the Healthcare Commission started investigating only in 2008. Is it not clear that the structure of primary care trusts, strategic health authorities and the Healthcare Commission did not bring this to light early enough? Does the Prime Minister agree that we need a better way of publishing results and patient outcomes in our hospitals and that we need openness, clarity and transparency to stop this happening again?
Yes, but the right hon. Gentleman should recognise the action that we have already taken: a new quality test for foundation trusts; a new requirement for approval by the NHS medical director; a Care Quality Commission investigation; reviews are under way; we can remove the chairs of the trusts more easily; and there is already an early-warning system in place. All those things have been done already but, at the same time, the Secretary of State will announce later that there will be an inquiry into mortality ratios and whether that is the best way of judging whether a hospital is successful. There will be proposals about the deauthorisation of foundation trusts and, of course, we know that there are also disciplinary hearings under way. We have done everything we can to ensure that after this was exposed we have not only investigated the individual worries of families who are affected but learned every lesson possible so that it will not happen again. We have a statement this morning from the interim chair of the Care Quality Commission that says:
“We have no reason to believe that there is another trust in England with problems of the scale and magnitude that existed in Mid Staffordshire”.
I want to reassure people on that and also to reassure them that we are constantly tracking the situation.
Just as we need openness in the health service, we need openness at the heart of Government. After the Chancellor’s extraordinary statement last night, the Prime Minister said this morning on GMTV:
“I would never instruct anybody to do anything other than support my Chancellor”.
Will he try to stand up with a straight face and tell us that that is true?
We can talk about the Prime Minister trebling the deficit, about wrecking the pension system, about ruining the tax system and about bringing this country to its knees. Right now, six weeks before an election, with a record Budget deficit, at the end of a long recession, I want to ask why the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are at war with each other. This is what we are told—[Interruption.] If they get any closer, they will start kissing. We are told that Damian McBride, Gordon Brown’s spin doctor, was “spreading poison against Darling” and that he
“told every journalist who had access to a pencil that Alistair’s interview was a disaster.”
We are also told that there was the most poisonous briefing against him. Last night, the Chancellor said that after he had said what he had said, No. 10 Downing street unleashed “the forces of hell”. Why does the Prime Minister think that he said that?
I have already answered the right hon. Gentleman’s question. I never instructed a briefing against the Chancellor.
When it comes to the question of the economy, which the right hon. Gentleman has raised, can he and his party now explain why they were for reducing the deficit, then against reducing the deficit and are now for reducing the deficit again? None of his policies stand up, and that is why there is never any substance from the Leader of the Opposition.
It was this Prime Minister who put character at the heart of the election. It was this Prime Minister who asked to be judged on his moral compass. Why is it that the moral compass always points at someone else rather than at him?
This is a verbatim, eye-witness account from one of the journalists. Listen to this:
“Brown’s point man…turned to the journalists and started laying in”—[Interruption.]
Order. If hon. and right hon. Members do not stop shouting, I may have to ring some sort of helpline myself—or, worse still, suspend the sitting. This sort of noise and ranting makes an extremely bad impression on the British public. I appeal to the House to have some regard for the way in which we are viewed by the electorate. The House will hear the Leader of the Opposition.
I gather that things have got so bad in Downing street that even the security guards need protection. Let us just keep it simple. Will the Prime Minister get to his feet and tell us that he knew absolutely nothing about the briefing against his Chancellor? Will he, in front of all these people who have worked with him for so long, after 27 ministerial resignations and after three attempts to get rid of him, get to his feet and tell us that he knew nothing about the briefing against the Chancellor?
The right hon. Gentleman is not doing very well. He has asked me the same question three times and I have answered it. I would rather be defending my Chancellor than be in his position of having to defend his shadow Chancellor. The truth of the matter is that the Chancellor has been right on every issue of economic policy over the past two years and that the shadow Chancellor and the Leader of the Opposition have been wrong on every issue in the past few years.
If the Chancellor was right, why was the Prime Minister trying to get rid of him? The Prime Minister wants to talk about the economy; let me give him one statistic and see if he will confirm it. Figures out today show that gross domestic product per capita is lower today than when this Government began. Will he confirm that they are the first Government in 40 years to leave this country poorer than when they began?
The Chancellor and I can confirm that GDP is higher per head than it was in 1997. [Interruption.] That is the question that the right hon. Gentleman asked and that is the answer he will get. The problem with the Leader of the Opposition is that not one time does he ask any question about the substance of policy: he gets it wrong every time. People are now taking a hard, long look at the Conservatives and they are now seeing through them
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has taken a very keen interest in how we can make progress against cancer in our country. The truth is that if people get early screening and diagnosis, there is a 90 per cent.-plus chance of survival from breast cancer and other forms of cancer such as bowel cancer. That is why we are so keen that everybody who is worried can see a specialist and get a diagnosis as quickly as possible. That is what will save lives.
Our policy of having a two-week guarantee, now reduced to one week, has massive support throughout the country. I cannot understand for the life of me why the Conservative party is against these guarantees that we give to every patient in the country. If the Opposition want to show their commitment to the NHS, they should support the guarantees for cancer care.
I would obviously like to add my own expressions of sympathy and condolence to the families and friends of the seven brave soldiers who tragically lost their lives serving so selflessly and professionally in Afghanistan since the House last sat. They are Lance Corporal Darren Hicks, Lance Sergeant David Greenhalgh, Rifleman Mark Marshall, Kingsman Sean Dawson, Sapper Guy Mellors, Lieutenant Douglas Dalzell and Lance Sergeant David Walker. We all owe them and their families an eternal debt of gratitude.
The last time that the Prime Minister wheeled out his slogan “A future fair for all” was back in 2003. Then, just as now, the poorest were paying more of their income in tax than the richest, but there is one big difference—since 2003, the gap between what the poorest and the richest pay has doubled. How can he possibly call that fair?
As I have said to the right hon. Gentleman before, he has to include the importance of tax credits. He forgets that 6 million families in this country get child tax credits, that child benefit was worth only £10 when we came to office, and that the child tax credit is worth anything from £30 to £100 for a family of one or two. That is why we have been able to reduce child poverty in this country. Because we support the policy of tax credits, we will continue to reduce child poverty in this country.
Parties that want to cut child tax credits, as the Conservative party does, will put more children in poverty in this country. That is why we oppose the Opposition’s policy.
The Prime Minister reels off his so-called record, but he has asked us to take a second look and what do we find? The 10p tax rate hit hard-up families, and the hike in national insurance hit people who work hard and play by the rules—tax injustice for the many, tax breaks for the few. Given what happened the last time that the Prime Minister promised a future fair for all, is it not the truth that this is not a slogan but a warning?
I thought that the right hon. Gentleman would do better than that. First, we have been dealing with tax breaks at the top, including removing pension tax reliefs for those who are very wealthy, and I hope that he will continue to support our policy. The Chancellor has signed an agreement with Lichtenstein that will bring £1 billion of money back to this country. As far as helping everybody is concerned, it is our policy of helping the unemployed and helping people out of recession that is making the difference between poverty and people having sufficient to live on. That is why, because of our policies, there are half a million more people in work than was predicted even at the time of the Budget. That is what makes the difference to poverty.
Will the Prime Minister and the whole House join me in condemning the kidnapping and the brutal murder by beheading of two young Sikh men in Pakistan by an extremist Taliban group? Will he share with the House the action that the Government are taking to assist the Pakistan Government in protecting minority groups in Pakistan from the Taliban?
The danger posed by the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistan Taliban, which both work from Pakistan, becomes more and more obvious every day. When my hon. Friend refers to the murders of people in Pakistan by the Pakistan Taliban, he is referring to violent incidents that are happening every day as a result of the efforts of the Taliban. We are working with the Pakistani authorities so that we can make inroads into the Taliban. There has been some success with the leadership of the Afghan Taliban in the past few weeks, but we will continue to work with the Pakistan security authorities and we will continue to say to the Pakistani people, “We will help children with their education. We ask you to work with us so that the madrassahs cannot have an evil influence on the young people of Pakistan.”
Is the Prime Minister aware that February was designated by the Office of Fair Trading as scams awareness month? Does the attempt by the Opposition to pose as a party fit for government not qualify as one of the biggest scams in recent history? Will he join me in logging on to the scamnesty website to draw attention to this latest example of a blatant “scameron”?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me advance notice of the question. Like him, I am very sorry to hear of the tragic death of Stephen Oliver in October last year and I, too, send my sincere condolences to the Oliver family. I understand that consular staff in London and in Greece are ready to provide advice and assistance to Mr. Oliver’s family as appropriate, including advice on how best to seek further information about the circumstances of his death. I will make sure that that is done. I am sure that ministerial colleagues at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will look further into any concerns that the hon. Gentleman may have.
Can the Prime Minister confirm that he condemns not only the use of false UK passports in a criminal operation, but any act of state-sponsored assassination anywhere? Will he drop the Government’s plans to amend the law on universal jurisdiction, which has so far been justified on the basis of the need to protect Israel’s right to due diplomatic conduct and to proper inter-governmental engagement—standards for which the Israeli Government showed utter contempt by the disdain with which the Israeli Foreign Minister treated the Foreign Secretary this week?
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that where there are questions about the misuse of British passports, they have to be answered. We have set up an investigation, which is ongoing, into the very instance that he raised. I would not draw immediate conclusions without seeing the evidence. It is important to see the evidence before any further conclusions are drawn, but I agree that we do not support state-sponsored terrorism in any country. I should say to the hon. Gentleman that the laws on international jurisdiction affect all countries, not just one country.
Once again, the Conservative party cannot raise an issue of policy. Yesterday we had an education statement; on Monday we had a business conference with announcements of new investment; and a Conservative Back Bencher gets up with a planted question from his Front Benchers and cannot ask a question even about his own constituency.
First, I share my hon. Friend’s anger about what has happened on Teesside, and the loss of 1,700 jobs in any area is unacceptable. The loss of 1,700 jobs in an area that has depended on that industry for years and had a contract that would have guaranteed future work for many future years is more unacceptable, and we have to look at that very carefully. As I think the House knows, there was a contract involving four companies which would have guaranteed the output of the plant. That contract broke down through the partners in it disagreeing among themselves about the future.
We are doing everything that we can to find a buyer for the plant. I have personally talked to Mr. Tata and to the chief executive of Corus, and I have met people in the area who are concerned about what is happening to the jobs and the prospects for young people there. As we look for a potential buyer, we have also put £60 million into the Teesside area so that we can create new jobs, new training opportunities for jobs and new developments in the area that will provide jobs in the future. But I share with my hon. Friend my anger at what happened, and I am determined that our Government will do everything that we can to make sure that people who lose jobs get jobs in the future, and, if we can avoid it, that people do not lose jobs at all.
Since 2008 and the introduction of new rules on motorcycling and tests, the number of people taking the test has declined by 62 per cent. and the number of people passing the test has declined by 58 per cent. The motorbiking industry is extremely important in the UK. What will the Prime Minister do to rectify what is obviously a very poor system?
I shall take the figures that the hon. Lady has given me and ask the Transport Minister to look into that very matter. It is important that we have a strong motorcycling industry in this country, and it is important that her question about the specifics of the tests be answered.
This is a very important issue, and a national debate would help us to resolve these issues. Last year there were 832 matches to the national DNA database, and those were made in cases of murder, manslaughter and rape. That is why the database is supported by the families of victims as essential in protecting the public. So any Conservative party proposal that reduces the DNA register’s ability to punish and find those people who are criminals is, I believe, a step backwards for justice in the country. I hope that the Conservative party will think again about a policy that would leave people who are guilty free as a result of our inability to take the action that is necessary.
I share the sympathies that the hon. Gentleman expresses to the family of his constituent who tragically lost his life. I share also with the hon. Gentleman the urgency to persuade the country that, first, we are in Afghanistan because there is a threat of terrorism on the streets of Britain. I repeat that the majority of the serious terrorist plots that have been discovered in Britain and would threaten the lives of people in Britain come from the Afghanistan-Pakistan area. In other words, they do not come from plots within Britain or Europe. They are organised from the Afghanistan-Pakistan area, and that is why we are in Afghanistan—to prevent al-Qaeda running Afghanistan through a Government who would be run by the Taliban themselves.
I say secondly to the hon. Gentleman that we have got to persuade people that we have a purpose for our mission, and that is to train up the Afghan forces. There will be 300,000 Afghan police, security forces or army in 2011; they will be a far greater force in numbers than the coalition forces together. Gradually, the Afghan forces, as in Operation Together, have got to take security control of their country to allow our troops to come home.
The Opposition have announced that they wish to cut the child trust fund and cut child tax credit, and they would cut the Sure Start children’s centres in our constituencies—and where would the money go? To pay for an inheritance tax cut for only 300,000 people. It does not take much time to leaflet those 300,000 people to tell them that they would be £200,000—
There are Members here in all parts of the House who are from Northern Ireland or care deeply about Northern Ireland. I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that any renewed terrorist attacks are something that we must be vigilant about and take the necessary action to stop. As he knows, large numbers of previously terrorist organisations have decommissioned their weapons and announced that they are ceasing violence. Two organisations have not done that, and pressure must be brought to bear upon them. The way we show terrorist organisations that we will have no truck with their violence is by building up the strength of the political and democratic process in Northern Ireland. That is why I urge all parties—parties in this House and in the Northern Ireland Assembly—to support the agreement that will mean the devolution of policing and justice and the end to a process of constitutional conflict over many years in Northern Ireland. That would be the biggest signal we could send to anybody who is interested in terrorism in Northern Ireland.
I cannot beat the humour which my hon. Friend brings to this occasion. When the Leader of the Opposition is having his next pint of Guinness and playing darts, he might consider this: there is growing support across the world, just as there was growing support to deal with the recession in a way that he would not propose to deal with it, for a global levy that will put the place of financial institutions firmly at a global level and make a contribution to society. That is the way forward—a global levy, a global banking organisation, and global financial institutions working together. I hope that the Opposition can see beyond their antipathy to Europe to support global action.
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement.
Until the late 1960s, successive UK Governments had over a long period of time supported child migration schemes. They involved children as young as three being transported from Britain to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The hope was that those children, who were aged between three and 14, would have the chance to forge a better life overseas, but the schemes proved to be misguided. In too many cases, vulnerable children suffered unrelenting hardship and their families left behind were devastated. They were sent mostly without the consent of their mother or father. They were cruelly lied to and told that they were orphans and that their parents were dead, when in fact they were still alive. Some were separated from their brothers and sisters, never to see one another again. Names and birthdays were deliberately changed so that it would be impossible for families to reunite. Many parents did not know that their children had been sent out of this country.
The former child migrants say they feel that this practice was less transportation and more deportation—a deportation of innocent young lives. When they arrived overseas, all alone in the world, many of our most vulnerable children endured the harshest of conditions, neglect and abuse in the often cold and brutal institutions that received them. Those children were robbed of their childhood, the most precious years of their life. As people know, the pain of a lost childhood can last a lifetime. Some still bear the marks of abuse; all still live with the consequences of rejection. Their wounds will never fully heal, and for too long the survivors have been all but ignored.
When I was first made aware of this wholly unacceptable practice, I wrote to the Prime Minister of Australia to urge that together, we do more to acknowledge the experiences of former child migrants and see what we could achieve. It is right that today we recognise the human cost associated with this shameful episode of history and this failure in the first duty of a nation, which is to protect its children.
Shortly, I shall be meeting a number of former child migrants here in the Palace of Westminster to listen first-hand to their experiences, and as Prime Minister, I will be apologising on behalf of our nation. To all those former child migrants and their families, to those here with us today and those across the world—to each and every one—I say today that we are truly sorry. They were let down. We are sorry that they were allowed to be sent away at the time they were most vulnerable. We are sorry that instead of caring for them, this country turned its back, and we are sorry that the voices of these children were not always heard and their cries for help not always heeded. We are sorry that it has taken so long for this important day to come, and for the full and unconditional apology that is justly deserved to be given.
I would like to recognise the work of my right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) as Chairman of the Select Committee on Health, and of his predecessor the former Member for Wakefield, David Hinchcliffe. For their commitment to this cause, I would also like to praise all past and present members of the Commons Health Committee and the all-party group on child migrants. I would also like to pay tribute to the work of the Child Migrants Trust and the International Association of Former Child Migrants and their Families, which have campaigned for justice over many years. I know that the House will join me in paying special tribute to Margaret Humphreys, who founded the Child Migrants Trust and has been a constant champion and fighter for child migrants and their families.
Although we cannot undo the events of the past, we can take action now to support people to regain their true identities and reunite with their families and loved ones, and to go some way to repair the damage that has been inflicted. I can announce today support for former child migrants that includes the establishment of a new £6 million family restoration fund.
There are many painful memories as a result of the child migration schemes, and for many, today’s apology will come too late for them to hear it. We cannot change history, but I believe that by confronting the failings of the past we show that we are determined to do all we can to heal the wounds. I commend this statement to the House.
On behalf of the Opposition, I welcome what the Prime Minister has said and the moving words of the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who spoke last November of
“the tragedy—the absolute tragedy—of childhoods lost.”
This was something that happened under British Governments of all parties, and the apology made is on behalf of all of us.
We on the Conservative Benches join the Prime Minister in sending our good wishes to those affected, including those in London today and those attending events in other countries. We join him also in praising campaigners such as Margaret Humphreys and the Child Migrants Trust, as well as the work of the Health Committee.
It is hard to believe that this went on for so long that the last children sailed in 1967, after most of us in the House were born. Anyone who studies what happened—it happened systematically and for so long—will be profoundly shocked at the splitting of families, the lies and abuse that took place, the official sanction that made it possible, and as the Prime Minister said, the heartache that it caused.
In his apology, Kevin Rudd emphasised the projects that the Australian Government are supporting to provide what he described as a solemn reminder of the past. Bearing in mind our very close ties with Australia and the other Commonwealth countries affected, it is important that we do all we can to assist in that work.
It is right to judge a society on how it cares for its most vulnerable, especially our children, so should not our legacy to future generations be to do all that we can to make sure that the lessons from these appalling events are learnt and applied, so that such terrible mistakes can never happen again?
I am sure the whole House would want to thank the Leader of the Opposition for his eloquence in stating that there is not just Government support, but all-party support for the action that we are taking today. I believe that these sentiments will be shared in every part of our country.
Of course, I add my own voice and that of my party to the Prime Minister’s apology for Britain’s role in the child migrants programme. An apology—we all know this—will never heal the extraordinary pain and hardship that was inflicted on thousands of vulnerable children and their families, but I hope today’s apology will go some way to start to atone for Britain’s record in this shameful episode in our history.
I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to all involved in recognising the plight of those who suffered, including current and former Members of this House, but especially the Child Migrants Trust and the International Association of Former Child Migrants and their Families, which have done so much to try to heal the pain. I specifically welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement that he will establish a family restoration fund—that is very welcome indeed.
I pay tribute to those child migrants in London today and, of course, those who are not. The suffering that they endured is simply unimaginable; the apology they are now owed is unlimited.
The child migrants who are with us today will be pleased to know that every main party—and, I believe, all the parties—in this House are supporting both the apology and the efforts that we are making to deal with some of the problems that they still have by the creation of the new fund. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the eloquence of his tribute to what is being done.
On behalf of the Health Committee, may I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement and for the Government’s continuing support for former child migrants? In 1998, when the Committee decided to do the inquiry under the chairmanship of the former Member for Wakefield, David Hinchliffe, two members of the current Committee were involved—the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Syms) and my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Dr. Stoate). Does the Prime Minister agree that it was the independence and resources of that Back-Bench Committee which enabled this dark chapter in the UK’s history to come out of the shadows and to make this day possible?
I do agree with my hon. Friend and I pay tribute to his personal work in making people aware of the problems that still had to be faced and the need for far further action than had been proposed. It was when he first came to me that I realised that the action we were proposing was insufficient to deal with the problem and that we had to work with the Australian Government to do far more. I acknowledge not only his work, but the work of all members of those Health Committees, and, indeed, the general work that Select Committees do to expose problems that need action.
I was a member of the Health Committee that spent two weeks in 1998 in Australia and New Zealand hearing the life histories of hundreds of former child migrants. I must say that those were two of the most harrowing weeks of my life just hearing their stories.
The Catholic Church in Australia, some 10 years ago, led the apologies from the receiving agencies, and a number of others have done likewise. The Australian Government issued their apology last year, but I remind the Prime Minister that the report we presented to the House on 30 July 1998 said to the British Government that
“an apology is in order”.
The apology is therefore long overdue, but none the less, it is very welcome.
I should like to ask the Prime Minister a question. Sending agencies in this country were complicit in this trade in children. Has he had discussions with them that they should join him in this apology?
I am grateful for the work that the hon. Gentleman has done and for his visits to Australia, which have helped to make what is happening today possible. I assure him that the reason that the apology has been made now is that we wished to consult the child migrants themselves about the form that the apology should take and how we should go about making it. That is why many child migrants are here in Westminster today, and I and other leaders will speak with them shortly and pass on the apologies of the whole House about what happened in our country. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that people made many mistakes in the implementation of this policy and in its design. We have to be vigilant to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.
May I join in welcoming the Prime Minister’s statement? There have been several calls for public apologies for past events, and this one has the merit of being made to people who are still around to hear the expressions of regret. I am sure that other members of the Health Committee will join me in paying particular tribute to David Hinchliffe, the former Member for Wakefield and former Chair of the Committee. He became almost obsessed by the grotesque injustice of these events and, at one point, persuaded me as Health Secretary to sign over some money to help to fund the Child Migrants Trust so that it was better able to go about its task. I welcome the Prime Minister finding extra funds for the trust and I pay tribute to Margaret Humphreys and others. This is one of the most shameful incidents in modern times in this country, and when people say that we do not have the standards of the past, they should remember the standards of the people who did this sort of thing.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. He has taken a huge interest in this subject, and I join him in paying tribute to David Hinchliffe. As a Member of Parliament he took this issue up with great vigour, and since ceasing to be a Member he has continued to push for the changes that we are announcing today. The accounts that I have read of what happened to many of the child migrants are very harrowing indeed, and it is a reminder to us that we have to be vigilant and determined to eradicate injustice, wherever it may be found.
May I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement and agree with the comments about David Hinchliffe? More than 10 years ago, I went to Australia and New Zealand and heard the migrants’ stories. It was very harrowing and horrible. I also welcome the additional money. The fact that we can now reunite some of the families will make some small amends for the troubles and difficulties that these children faced.
I was one of the members of the Health Committee who visited Australia and New Zealand. I have been a GP for many years and I think that I have heard most stories, but never have I heard such harrowing tales of distress and loss as I heard from those brave migrants. I wish to place on record my tribute to those very, very brave people who were able to open their hearts to the Committee. We heard tales that I hope never to have to listen to again of abuse perpetrated by organisations whose job it was to protect children, but clearly failed to do so. I also wish to place on record my thanks to my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Frank Dobson). He was the first Secretary of State to take this situation seriously and, as he has already modestly said, to find money to allow some of these migrants to meet their families and pick up some of the threads that they had so cruelly taken away from them.
Both colleagues who have just spoken are right. These harrowing experiences about which we have read were the fate of so many children who should never have been sent from this country, who should have known about their true parents, and who should have had proper support and protection. We must never allow it to happen again.
In welcoming the Prime Minister’s comments, may I encourage him not to forget a new generation of 65,000 children who reside in child care facilities in the UK, all of whom have huge potential that is so often unrealised? They all have God-given gifts and abilities that this nation needs. Can he reaffirm his commitment to the House to ensure that those children get the best support to realise their full potential?
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement. The first time I came to know of this was a few years ago when I was a Minister and proposals were worked up by officials to reduce some of the funding for these child migrants. Thankfully, we saw that off. At one stage, I had to tell officials that I would resign rather than allow that to happen, so I welcome the extra funding pledged by the Prime Minister. Does he agree that, as long as any of these child migrants are still alive and with us, we must continue to fund and support them?
I, too, welcome the Prime Minister’s statement. I must declare an interest as chair of the Justice for Families campaign, which resists injustices against families on the basis of the best interests of the child. The challenge always is that, when people say, “It’s better for the child”, it is quite difficult to question the injustice. Sadly, many things similar to the child migrant programme, albeit on a smaller scale, continue today, and families are emigrating from this country to escape the family courts. What confidence does the Prime Minister have that a Prime Minister in 20 years will not be making a similar, but smaller scale, apology?
The Prime Minister will have heard the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Dhanda), but even those of us who have not been deeply involved know that this has been a sorry and very sad saga. Will he ensure that the money, which is so appreciated, is found and willingly, usefully and generously disbursed to those who have had so much to bear over all these years?
In order to appreciate the scale of the problem, can the Prime Minister give an indication of the number of children sent abroad, and does he have any idea of the number who might still be alive?
My constituent, Pat Hewkin, who sadly died last year, lost her younger brother when she was six when child migrants were sent to Australia. I was honoured to be there when her brother came over for the first time and they were reconciled. I saw the joy, the sadness and the horror of their having to tell their stories, but it was absolutely wonderful to see how they were reconciled and able to meet each other—thanks to the work of the Child Migrants Trust and Margaret Humphreys. Pat was also able to go over and visit him in Australia. I hope, therefore, that the work of the Child Migrants Trust will continue to be supported because to see those families that were split asunder able to meet each other again was a very emotional thing to witness.
This was a very poignant statement for me, because, at the age of five—in 1967—I travelled to Australia for several months with my mother, who was an Australian citizen, to spend a very happy time with my grandparents. It is truly shocking to think that, at the same time, this country was officially sending children against their will to Australia where they had such a grim time. May I say that sorry is often the hardest word and commend the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition for what they have said today? It was the right thing.
May I congratulate the Prime Minister on his apology today and congratulate the Child Migrants Trust? Many of these children not only lost their childhood and education, but worked as virtual slaves in Australia. Today’s apology will be a small compensation for that terrible loss and experience. However, will my right hon. Friend guarantee that those surviving child migrants will not have to return cap in hand to the Government in a few years?
I hope that we will be able to continue the funding for as long as it is necessary to ensure that what reparation can be made, is made, and what damage can be reversed, is reversed. I know that we are dealing with the individual circumstances and stories of families now in very different positions, but we will do whatever we can to help individual families.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement and would like to associate my colleagues with it. It is a shameful part of our history, and we ought to make the apology with deep humility. Can he assure the House that the Government action of which he is speaking will extend to every part of the United Kingdom?
Yes, I can. I thank the hon. Gentleman, because every party in the House has now associated itself with the apology. I believe that I can now tell the child migrants when I meet them that it is the unanimous wish of the House both to apologise and to set up a new fund to help them.
May I commend the Prime Minister’s sincere apology and those from other party leaders in the House? They rang so poignantly with the very profound statement from Kevin Rudd last year. The Prime Minister will be aware that it was not just those children who were transported who suffered isolation, abuse and lies; many of their siblings left at home all too often experienced cruel care as well. Recently, many of them have come forward and had difficulty being received and believed. Their difficulty now is believing what they are being told: that there are no records available to settle their concerns, suspicions or beliefs that they have siblings in Australia and elsewhere. Will he ensure that this fund will help to unlock those difficulties that many of those people are now facing?
The fund is intended to help those families who were split up as a result of misguided decisions. Obviously, we shall look at what we can do to help reunite brothers and sisters or siblings, and at the same time ensure that they have proper provision for themselves in the future.
Is it not clear, from what the Prime Minister has said, that one of the most reprehensible features of this policy was the systematic deception of children and their parents? Do we need any further indication of just how unreasonable this policy was other than the fact that it had to be cloaked in such deception?
First, the deception was unacceptable, but secondly the results of that deception were that parents thought that their children were in this country, when they were not, and children thought that their parents were dead, when they were alive. It is a most cruel deception for children to be made to believe that something that they should know about, or have the chance to know about, could never be told to them. When dates, birthdays and names are changed to conceal the truth, it is completely reprehensible, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said in his eloquent way. We must make this apology, not just for that reason, but for the other reasons that I have cited.
Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust
With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a statement on the report of the independent inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which I am publishing today. Copies have been placed in the Vote Office.
In July last year, I commissioned Robert Francis QC to conduct this inquiry. I asked him to establish what went wrong at Stafford hospital and why; what lessons can be learned; and what further action is needed to ensure the trust is delivering a sustainably good service to its local population. In particular, I asked his inquiry to focus on listening to patients and their families. I said at the time that the full impact of what happened at Stafford hospital would be understood—particularly in the NHS at local and national level—only when we heard clearly the voices and experiences of those most affected.
The Francis report fulfils all those aims. I wish to thank Robert Francis for his thorough report, and the painstaking way in which he has conducted this investigation. Over 900 pages and two volumes, his report lays bare a dysfunctional organisation at every level and appalling failures of basic care over the period between 2005 and March 2009. The report confirms the severity of the then Healthcare Commission’s assessment of the trust in March 2009. In his covering letter to me with the report, Robert Francis says:
“The overwhelming number of accounts given by those affected should surely put to rest the views, still harboured by some, that the Healthcare Commission’s report painted an unfair picture of how the Trust was performing. There can no longer be any excuse for denying the enormity of what has occurred.”
Let me be clear: the care provided was totally unacceptable and a fundamental breach of the values of the NHS. Since March last year the Government’s first priority has been to help the trust to take immediate steps to improve patient safety, care standards and public confidence. Last July a new chair and chief executive were appointed and, with a new board and senior team, they are making progress, as confirmed by the Care Quality Commission’s three and six-month reviews. However, as their local hospital hits the news again today, I appreciate that doubts about safety will be in the minds of people in Stafford. In advance of this statement, I therefore asked the Care Quality Commission for its latest assessment of both the Mid Staffs trust and the wider NHS. I will place a copy of its letter in the Library. The Care Quality Commission confirms that the trust is safe to provide services, although further improvements are still needed, and says that it does not believe that there is any other hospital in England with problems on the scale or of the magnitude seen at Mid Staffs.
There have been many calls for a full public inquiry into events at the trust and the wider regulatory system. When I came into this job I gave those calls very careful consideration. In particular, I spoke to the four Members whose constituencies are served by the trust. It was clear to me that a further process of inquiry was needed to establish the full picture and to help the healing process. However, I had to balance that with not distracting the trust from the overriding need to make immediate improvements in patient care. It was that consideration which led me to establish the inquiry in the form that it has taken, rather than as a full public inquiry. I did not believe that a lengthy, adversarial inquiry would be in the best interests of health care in Staffordshire. The chairman was able to ask me for further powers if he felt they were needed, but he did not do so, and I believe that his report supports the approach that we have taken. He concludes:
“I am confident that many of the witnesses who have assisted the Inquiry by written or oral evidence would not have done so had the Inquiry been conducted in public.”
More than 900 members of the public and 82 current and former members of staff contacted the inquiry directly or indirectly, and 113 witnesses gave oral evidence. That evidence revealed an organisation with a culture
“not conducive to providing good care for patients or a supportive working environment for staff”.
The board did not consider patient complaints, clinical governance or quality at its meetings. Meetings were held in private, and Robert Francis describes the organisation as working in isolation from the wider NHS community and as having a closed culture. As he has said today, the board
“lost sight of its fundamental responsibility to provide safe care.”
That dysfunctionality extended to the way targets were managed in the trust and the failure to put in place adequate staffing levels to provide safe patient care.
The management of the trust cut staffing to dangerously low levels, at one point leaving A and E with a third fewer nurses than were needed to provide safe care. A work force review in March 2008 disclosed that the trust needed to increase its nursing establishment by 120 whole-time equivalents. There was an intimidating and bullying management style. Among staff there were failures of professional standards and clinical leadership. Some staff were praised, but the report finds a “lack of compassion” and an “uncaring attitude” among others. Time and again throughout the report, there are unacceptable examples of poor care, neglect and disregard for patients’ dignity. At times, as Robert Francis says, that could be described as rudeness, hostility or even abuse.
The trust has already taken disciplinary action to hold individuals to account. The trust and the professional regulatory bodies, the General Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council, are investigating a number of clinical staff potentially implicated by those events. Today I have written to the chairs of both bodies to ask them to consider the report in detail and work with the trust to determine whether further action is needed against any individuals. I have asked for their response by 12 March.
In total, Robert Francis makes 18 recommendations. Together with the new board of the trust, the Government accept all the recommendations in full. I will take the four recommendations that apply to my Department in turn.
First, Robert Francis recommends that I consider steps to improve accountability among executive and non-executive directors of trusts. The board that presided over the failings at Mid Staffs has been replaced, and other managerial staff have been suspended. However, it is a long-standing anomaly in the NHS that the robust professional regulatory system for clinicians is not matched by a similar scheme for managers and non-executive directors. We must end the situation where a senior NHS manager who has failed in one job can simply move to another elsewhere. That is not acceptable to the public and not conducive to promoting accountability and high professional standards, so today I am announcing that I will consult on a new system of professional accreditation for senior NHS managers.
Secondly, Robert Francis asks me to consider asking Monitor to de-authorise Mid Staffs as a foundation trust. The report makes it clear that Mid Staffordshire has not been deserving of the foundation trust status that it has held for the past two years. At the same time as setting up the inquiry, I proposed to create a new power for Monitor to de-authorise foundation trusts, to make it clear that this status has to be continually earned and is not a one-way ticket. That provision was subsequently endorsed by this House. I can tell the House today that I accept Robert Francis’s recommendation to consider asking Monitor to de-authorise Mid Staffs. My strong view, in the light of the report and the support that the trust is likely to need in the medium and long term, is that I will ask Monitor to consider de-authorising when the powers come into effect in the coming months. I will therefore ask the CQC, Monitor and others to give me their views of the trust’s long-term clinical and financial prospects, and I will consider initiating the process in the light of their responses.
Thirdly, Robert Francis asks me to review how comparative mortality statistics are compiled, as well as the methodologies that underpin them, to improve public confidence in and understanding of them. One of the principal reasons why the Healthcare Commission launched its review in 2008 was that it was not satisfied with the trust’s explanation of its high hospital standardised mortality ratio. The inquiry has consulted a range of experts on the issue, and Robert Francis concludes:
“it is in my view misleading and a potential misuse of the figures to extrapolate from them a conclusion that any particular number or range of numbers of deaths were caused or contributed to by inadequate care”.
However, as he points out, there is no shared methodology for HSMRs, nor any clear account of how they should be used and interpreted. The result is confusion for patients and the public. I therefore welcome and accept the recommendation to establish an independent working group to examine and report on the methodologies in use. The NHS medical director, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, has already established that group, which includes the key parties involved in developing and using HSMRs, as well as leading academics and others. The group has committed to developing a single HSMR for the NHS.
Fourthly, the report calls for a further independent examination of all the commissioning, supervisory and regulatory bodies, in relation to their monitoring role at Stafford, with the objective of learning lessons about how failing hospitals are identified. I accept that recommendation, and can tell the House that Robert Francis has agreed to chair the further inquiry. We are publishing draft terms of reference today, and we welcome views on them.
In addition to accepting all the report’s recommendations, there are further steps that I will now take to learn the lessons of this and prevent a repeat. First, let me make clear today to all foundation trust boards my strong presumption that their meetings should be held in public and that governors should have access to all papers in the trust. The decision of the board at Mid Staffs to hold more meetings in private on achieving FT status is a direct contradiction of what this House intended when it passed the original foundation trust legislation.
Secondly, I am today accepting the National Quality Board’s recommendations to improve early warning systems in the NHS, and I am publishing its report today. Thirdly, a group has been established to advise me on updating whistleblowing guidance. Statutory protection for whistleblowers is enshrined in the NHS constitution, but events at Stafford hospital reveal the need to ensure that staff feel able to exercise that right.
Fourthly, I want to see a much greater focus in the NHS on measuring patient satisfaction and staff satisfaction—key indicators of good quality care. In December, I announced that a growing proportion of a hospital’s income will be linked to patient satisfaction, rising to 10 per cent. of its payments over time. Fifthly, I brought forward the new system of provider registration in the NHS to ensure essential levels of safety and quality. The CQC has already announced today its intention to register Mid Staffs, although it will place conditions where further improvement is needed.
In conclusion, the Francis report delivers a damning verdict on a dysfunctional organisation. It was principally a local failure, but I accept that there are national lessons to be learned—and they will be. Last year, the Prime Minister apologised to the people of Staffordshire. On behalf of the Government and the NHS, I repeat that apology again today. They were badly let down. I pay tribute to the people who had the courage to come forward and tell their stories and to expose the failures of the past, in order that they could protect others in the future. Robert Francis said that many of the patients who gave evidence to the inquiry
“were motivated because they do care about the hospital, and demonstrated by their actions that they can be a part of mending the fractured confidence.”
That sentiment is shared by all those who came forward, and indeed by the majority of people who complain about the NHS. They do so because they want it to be better. I want their voices to be heard loudly and clearly in this trust, and across the NHS.
Today, Sir David Nicholson has written to every NHS chief executive and chair, urging them to read this report and to review their standards, governance and performance in the light of it. When the NHS fails—as it did the people of Staffordshire—it is right to confront it with its failings. At times, there is a tendency in the NHS to push complaints away. I believe very strongly that it is only by facing up to failure—and by holding a mirror up to the NHS—that we can ensure that it is a learning organisation and prevent any repeat.
Since events at Stafford, Lord Darzi’s next stage review has established a major drive to build an NHS that places a relentless focus on quality. For the vast majority of patients, the NHS provides a good standard of care. The CQC’s latest patient survey showed that 93 per cent. of patients rated their overall care as good or excellent. When things go wrong, however, we must face up to them and do everything in our power to ensure that such events can never happen again. I commend this statement to the House.
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for making an oral statement today, and for giving me advance sight of it. I want, once again, to express our deepest sympathies to the patients who suffered and to the relatives who saw them suffer. My right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) and I have had occasion to talk to those relatives in Stafford, and the stories of their experiences were harrowing. Today’s report, the second volume in particular, sets out the most compelling—indeed, horrific—character of many of the sufferings of the patients and their relatives.
I pay tribute to the work of Julie Bailey and Cure the NHS, and to their determination and persistence in holding the hospital trust and the Government to account for their failures in relation to this hospital, and in securing this further investigation. The Secretary of State will recall that, when the Healthcare Commission published its first report, his predecessor instituted an internal Department of Health inquiry under Dr. Colin-Thomé and another under Professor Sir George Alberti. We told the Government then that that would not meet the need of the people of Stafford for a clear investigation in public into what had happened. When the Secretary of State announced this inquiry by Robert Francis, we told him again that it would not achieve that aim. This is the fourth report, and none of them has diminished the need for a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005, in which evidence can be taken in public and under oath. We can combat a culture of secrecy and bullying only by ensuring the fullest openness and transparency in any investigation.
The whole House will, none the less, be grateful to Robert Francis for fulfilling his brief in a thorough and objective manner. We find no fault with his work, but we do object to Ministers setting up report after report with constrained terms of reference that are designed more to focus on local management than to get to the full truth and the full context of the tragedy at Stafford hospital by analysing in addition the failure of national and regional scrutiny and of NHS performance management.
In my evidence to Robert Francis, I urged him to recommend a further investigation into the role of the external monitoring and performance management agencies, and I am glad that he has taken this advice and made that recommendation today. Such a further investigation is essential, because many of the serious questions that we and the relatives of those who died have been asking the Government for the past year remain unanswered.
Why did the primary care trust fail to ensure that standards were up to scratch when it commissioned services from the hospital? Why did the strategic health authority, which was charged with performance management of the hospital when it was an NHS trust, fail so abjectly in that task? Why did the Department of Health simply wave through the foundation trust application at the very time that clinical standards were so poor? Why did it take so long for the scrutiny by the inspectorate to establish that the high mortality rates were occurring, and to undertake an investigation into them? What are the problems with national policy and decision making on patient and public involvement that resulted in people failing to listen to patients raising their concerns in Stafford? And what are the problems with the whistleblowing procedures and practices in the national health service that prevented or inhibited front-line staff from speaking out about poor standards of care?
The Francis report provides a powerful analysis of the impact of the Government’s top-down targets on patient care at Stafford hospital. When the scandal was laid bare by the Healthcare Commission last March, the then Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw), said that
“this was not a problem about targets”.
However, the Francis report—on page 165—states:
“This evidence satisfies me that there was an atmosphere in which front-line staff and managers were led to believe that if the targets were not met they would be in danger of losing their jobs. There was an atmosphere which led to decisions being made under pressure about patients, decisions that had nothing to do with patient welfare. As will be seen, the pressure to meet the waiting target was sometimes detrimental to good care in A&E.”
Will the Secretary of State now acknowledge that Ministers were wrong to deny that targets were part of the problem at Stafford, and that they are wrong now to maintain that they are not the issue? Will he therefore move to abolish top-down political targets, so that the NHS can focus on patient safety and quality of care as an absolute priority?
In this Parliament alone, I have had to stand at this Dispatch Box on four occasions to respond to issues of failing hospitals: Stoke Mandeville in 2006; Maidstone in 2007; Mid Staffordshire last March, and again today; and Basildon and Thurrock in December. Each time, Ministers have insisted that these are isolated cases and blamed local management principally, but the themes have become too frequent and too familiar for this simply to be a coincidence: waiting time targets prioritised over patient care; clinical priorities distorted by Government targets; a focus on financial issues at the expense of patient care; senior management at board and strategic health authority level putting targets and policy processes ahead of a focus on quality care for patients; primary care trusts focused on cost and volume, and not on quality; and front-line staff finding their attempts to voice concerns going unheard or, even worse, suppressed. That is not good enough. We cannot go on like this.
We must be committed to establishing a full public inquiry into the tragedy at Mid Staffs. It must be an inquiry with a remit broad enough to ensure that no stone remains unturned and no lesson is overlooked. That would restore confidence among the public in and around Stafford. We will learn the lessons across the NHS, and we must do so up to and including the Department of Health. Action must be taken on the results.
For our part, we would abolish top-down political targets and the pointless bureaucracy that surrounds them. Instead, we would focus relentlessly on the results for patients. We will make patient experience and outcomes central to accountability. We will ensure that the quality imperative drives NHS services so that when complaints are made, the inspectorate receives, understands and acts on them. We will make quality and safety the central drivers of NHS performance and we will see through the changes in leadership, strategy and reform in the NHS that will give the public the confidence that when they go to hospital, they are there to be cared for and to be treated—and never to be harmed.
Order. This is an extremely important and sensitive matter. Nevertheless, both the Secretary of State’s statement and the initial response from the shadow Secretary of State have exceeded the time allowed for such exchanges, so I would ask the Secretary of State to provide economical replies and for others to take note in order that we can all make some progress.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The shadow Health Secretary began by extending his deepest sympathies to the patients and families affected, and I am sure that that will be echoed across the whole House and across the country. Today is another difficult day for those people, but we hope that this report will allow their voices to be heard at least more clearly than they have been hitherto.
The hon. Gentleman paid tribute to the work of Cure the NHS, which campaigned to have the events at Stafford hospital thoroughly investigated, and I believe that the report published today meets that requirement for a thorough investigation into those events. He asked whether the initial inquiries were internal to the Department of Health and he called for an independent inquiry, but that is the inquiry that I commissioned. As I said in my statement, when I came to this Department, I believed that a further process of independent inquiry was necessary. I commissioned it; I set it up; and I will deal with what it tells me today.
I do not think it is possible to read the Francis report and conclude that it does not tell the full truth or reveal the whole picture of what happened at the hospital. We now move forward from the inquiry to consider the actions of the regulatory and supervisory bodies. I have made it clear to Robert Francis that, should he need further powers to conduct that part of his work, he can come back to me and I will consider the request.
I draw the shadow Health Secretary’s attention to the draft terms of reference issued today, which state:
“The Government’s presumption is that the inquiry will be held in public, but this decision is a matter for the Chair.”
I would welcome the hon. Gentleman’s comments on those draft terms of reference, but I believe that they meet the tests that he put before us a few moments ago.
The hon. Gentleman also asked about the PCT, the SHA and the Department of Health. He is quite right to do so: he is quite right to ask questions about those bodies, their role in what happened and why things were not spotted sooner. That is precisely why we are setting up the second stage of the inquiry—so that those searching questions can be asked of those organisations.
The hon. Gentleman asked me about targets, suggesting that they were the problem. Let me quote the Francis report:
“As will be seen, the pressure to meet the waiting target was sometimes detrimental to good care in the organisation. This is inconsistent with the guidance about targets published by the Department of Health. It is vital that this target must not in any way jeopardise the quality of care offered to patients.”
If the hon. Gentleman reads the Francis report in full, as I am sure he will, he will see that the failure of the trust was the implementation of targets within it, and, indeed, the failure to provide adequate staffing levels on the wards to ensure that care could be delivered safely and meet the standards that other trusts around the country are able to meet. That is the conclusion I draw from the inquiry.
The hon. Gentleman asked what steps we can take to ensure that this does not happen elsewhere in the NHS. With an organisation on the scale of the NHS, I am sure that he and I would accept that things will go wrong and problems will occur. The right thing to do is to face up to them and take action to prevent them from happening again. In this particular case, I believe that we have faced up to the enormity of what happened at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. It has been laid bare today in a very detailed report of more than 900 pages. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I take my responsibility to act on the report’s findings with great seriousness. That is precisely what I will do.
I thank the Secretary of State for early sight of his statement. This is an utterly shocking scandal, which is a stain on the good name of the NHS. It demonstrates again horrifying evidence of patient neglect, which should never feature in the national health service. I welcome the recognition in the statement that there are national lessons to be learned, but the focus of the inquiry was none the less on this particular trust.
It seems to me that the inquiry was not designed to ensure that the full wider lessons could be learned. It was not designed to hold anyone to account, which it specifically says, as the terms of reference did not permit investigation into the role of any of the external agencies. It was also held in private. The inquiry was not able to consider the reports of any of the individual cases through a separate process because they were not ready in time. The report itself confirms that disappointing numbers of staff came forward to give evidence. That is not good enough. It is not the fault of the inquiry, but the fault of the process created by the Government. The bottom line is that the report will not satisfy the families of those who lost their lives and it will not bring an end to demands for a full public inquiry. I also pay tribute to the work of Julie Bailey and the organisation Cure the NHS.
Do not the findings reinforce the need to learn wider lessons about the causes of the failures that took place in the hospital: the focus on process at the expense of outcomes; the failure to listen to those who receive care; staff disengaged from the process of management; insufficient attention to the maintenance of professional standards; a weak professional voice in management decisions; abuse of vulnerable elderly people; and a lack of transparency? The key point is that none of those findings can be said to be unique to this particular trust. The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) highlighted other failing hospitals that the House has debated.
There is surely a need for a full public inquiry, and it should surely first consider the pay-off to the chief executive and the fact that people are too often rewarded for failure. This chief executive received £400,000. I have a copy of the private investigation into his actions. Surely it should be published in full—it is heavily redacted, which amounts to a cover-up of the full findings of the investigation. It points to a case for disciplinary action, yet there was a very substantial pay-off to this chief executive.
A public inquiry should also look at the role of targets. The statement rightly said that blaming targets in their entirety would let management off the hook, but not looking at targets lets the Government off the hook, given that targets played a part in the failures of this hospital.
It is also essential to look fully at the role of regulation. I am pleased that there will be a further inquiry into that, but it should surely be held in public and should look at the complex web of regulation that we have created. The fact that we have five different national organisations with some responsibility for patient safety has resulted in no one taking proper responsibility for it. In Basildon, for example, there were 21 visits by seven different organisations in the year before the final report emerged. We need to look at the devastating report into the role and failure of regulation that was commissioned by the NHS Confederation last summer. It showed that we have ended up with paper safety rather than real patient safety and a tick-box culture.
A public inquiry should also look at the process for securing foundation trust status, which provided a false reassurance to people that the hospital was performing to a high standard. Finally, do we not owe it to the families of those who have lost their lives to have a full examination in public of the wider lessons that need to be learned from this scandal?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that this is a shocking report that damages the name of the national health service. He asked why the report did not allow consideration of wider national issues, but he will have seen that the report does comment on national lessons to be learned. There were four recommendations in the report, which I spelled out in my statement, and I responded to those points. I did agree with the chairman that he could comment on what he wanted to comment on. However, we wanted the inquiry to focus primarily on the trust and the voices of the patients affected by the terrible events in the trust, so that we could get to the bottom of the failings and allow the trust to move on—which is, I believe, what we must do.
I wanted to get to the bottom of events as quickly as I practically could. I was also anxious that the trust should not be debilitated by a protracted inquiry that would divert it from its main job. I believe that we have got to the bottom of what happened locally; I now want the trust to move forward, and I believe that it is moving forward under the leadership of the new chair and chief executive. However, I accept Robert Francis’s recommendation that we look more closely at the bodies that have a supervisory, regulatory and commissioning role in relation to Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. As the hon. Gentleman will know, we have already embarked on that task. David Colin-Thomé has done some work in examining the role of the primary care trust, but we must now put that work on a proper footing—knowing what we know from the first inquiry—so that we can learn the lessons at a national level, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman today that that is what we will do.
The hon. Gentleman said that the failings were not unique to this particular trust, and rightly observed that what went wrong in this instance was caused by a focus on process rather than on people. The words “focus on process” were used by Robert Francis, and they are at the heart of what went wrong. There was a failure to understand and respond to the public about what matters, and to see each patient as an individual deserving of the very highest standard of care—the care that we would all want our own families to receive.
The hon. Gentleman was right to say that the failings described in the report are not unique to the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, but it must also be said that the scale on which they occurred make the events in that trust unique. I sought an assurance from the Care Quality Commission that no other NHS trust exhibits problems on the scale of those found at Mid Staffordshire, and it gave me that assurance today, but let me also assure the hon. Gentleman that we remain constantly vigilant, and will ensure that every possible action is taken to deal with poor performance and poor quality in the NHS.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the Garland report on the former chief executive of the trust. I understand that he did not receive £400,000, but received his notice period and no more than his contractual entitlement.
The hon. Gentleman also asked about targets. The suggestion is that targets are there to distract people in the NHS from patient care, but they are essentially about the basic minimum that every person who arrives at the door of the NHS should be able to expect. They are fundamentally about people and the quality of care that should be given to every single person, regardless of their background or what they bring to the door of the NHS. In this case, the trust grotesquely failed to manage the pressure involved in delivering that basic standard of care to every person who arrives at the door of the NHS, which is what so many other trusts throughout the country manage to do.
Let me remind the hon. Gentleman what happened before there were targets for accident and emergency departments. The previous Government, in fact, suggested a four-hour target because there was chaos in A and E departments in the early and mid-1990s, and the present Government retained that target because basic minimum standards must be available to every patient who arrives at the door of an accident and emergency department.
The hon. Gentleman asked for a proper safety structure rather than “paper safety”. I can tell him that I take my responsibilities in respect of the new registration process extremely seriously. He will know that I have expedited the introduction of that system, which I believe directly responds to the concern that he has expressed.
Finally, the hon. Gentleman asked for a full inquiry into all these events. I believe that the second inquiry that I am setting up today will meet his demands. I invite him to comment on the draft terms of reference, and if he believes that they can be strengthened, I shall listen to his comments.
What the hon. Gentleman has asked for, I will carry through. We will ensure that there is no repetition of these events in the national health service.
I must tell my right hon. Friend that I am not surprised by the contents of the report—although I have not read it yet—in view of the evidence taken a few months ago by the Select Committee on Health about patient safety, part of which concerned the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. When we debate the subject in Westminster Hall next month, it will be possible to flesh out these matters a little further.
My right hon. Friend said that more groups were being formed to examine a number of issues, including whistleblowing. May I ask him to look again at the recommendations in the Health Committee’s report on patient safety? We suggested that there should be a system of whistleblowing like the one in New Zealand, which seems to be far more efficient and provide people with far more access. As my right hon. Friend pointed out in his statement, people in the NHS do not feel that they are able to blow whistles in an appropriate manner, even when there are horror stories such as those about what was happening to patients in Stafford hospital.
The Chair of the Health Committee has made a fundamentally important point, and he is right to press me on this issue. I believe that at times there is a failure at local level in the NHS to exercise the openness and transparency for which the House of Commons regularly calls.
I recall the debates on the foundation trust legislation. At the heart of that proposal was the replacement of national accountability with a greater degree of local accountability. It is impossible to say that that fundamental founding vision of what it meant to be a foundation trust was fulfilled in the Mid Staffordshire trust, and the issue of whistleblowing is an important aspect of that.
I do not believe that there is any Member in any part of the House who does not believe in the principle of whistleblowing. I do not believe that any of us would tolerate in our constituencies circumstances in which staff did not feel that they could come forward. We would want any member of the NHS to feel able and free to bring to our surgeries concerns about the trust in which he or she works. I believe that that goes for every Member of this House: no one who does this job wants to push away problems rather than addressing them directly.
We have put that requirement in the NHS constitution, and I repeat it today on the Floor of the House. We fundamentally uphold the right of NHS staff to raise concerns, and if their local trust does not have a culture that supports that, the position must be changed.
Order. These are extremely important matters. Let me repeat Mr. Speaker’s earlier remarks. If I am to call every Member who wishes to ask a question, I must urge Members to ask brief questions and the Secretary of State—please—to give one brief answer.
As the Secretary of State knows, from day one I have called for a full public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005, and I am glad that that request has been reiterated from my party’s Front Bench today. Does the Secretary of State accept that many people feel that they did not obtain full justice from the report? The inquiry was held in private; furthermore, the very fact that the Secretary of State has arranged a further report from the same QC indicates that there should have been a full public inquiry in the first place.
Does the Secretary of State agree that the self-assessment question—the issue of the emphasis placed by the people in the regulatory system on targets and money-driven rather than patient-focused care—is the key question that must be looked into in relation to Stafford, and that in order to get that right—
Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman has had his money’s worth.
And he deserves to do so, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am grateful to him for the role that he has played in bringing his concerns to me and to the Minister of State, and for the discussions that we have had.
The hon. Gentleman asked about “full justice”. As the Prime Minister said earlier, individuals can make their complaints directly through a process of investigation. As for the fundamental question of whether it was right to hold a private inquiry, I have two points to make. I have to balance the need to ensure that the hon. Gentleman’s local trust takes immediate steps to improve the quality of care that it provides for his constituents. I see that as my fundamental duty: above all else, I must help people today in the quality of care they receive. I accept that others may not agree, but it was my judgment that an inquiry of this nature was more likely to get to the bottom of the issues more quickly, so that the trust could focus on the job of improving patient care. I also refer the hon. Gentleman to Robert Francis’s comment that he believed he received more from the public and staff because of the nature of this inquiry. The same level of privacy is clearly not justified in a national inquiry, however, which is why I say in the terms of reference that the presumption is that it should be conducted in public.
First, may I congratulate Cure the NHS on its work? I am delighted that the Secretary of State is determined to learn the lessons from Stafford so that the whole NHS can benefit. It is absolutely right that hospital trust boards must always meet in public. It is also right that the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust should be de-authorised, but will the Secretary of State ensure that hospital managers do not profit from their failures and that other hospitals looking to apply for trust status, such as the University hospital of North Staffordshire, do not make the same mistakes as Stafford by putting financial issues and staffing levels before patient safety?
May I echo my hon. Friend’s comments about Cure the NHS? Although this process is, of course, very difficult for all those affected at the local level, I can say without fear of contradiction today that the actions that it has taken are now leading to changes in the national health service that will prevent a repeat situation from arising either locally or elsewhere. A number of changes that will benefit patients everywhere have already been made.
I had to reread the passage in the report that stated that on receiving foundation trust status, the trust began holding more meetings in private, because that beggars belief. As anybody who debated the FT legislation knows, that fundamentally contradicts the vision for foundation trust status. I repeat to all foundation trusts today that we expect meetings to be held in public wherever possible. I also very much hear what my hon. Friend says about the importance of not jeopardising the quality of patient care. Patient safety is the paramount and overriding priority of every NHS hospital, and of every NHS organisation. Everything else comes second to that.
In thanking the Secretary of State and the Minister of State, the right hon. and learned Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. O'Brien), for their unfailing courtesy in keeping Staffordshire Members informed, may I ask the Secretary of State to insist that the inquiry he has announced today be held in public, and to reflect upon the words of a widow who came to see me after having lost her husband, probably unnecessarily: what is crucial is that confidence and trust in the trust must be restored now, so that the area and the people the trust serves can look upon it with confidence and trust?
I thank the hon. Gentleman again for the manner in which he has helped us address these issues; his courtesy is always appreciated. I entirely agree that confidence is the key issue. This is another difficult day for the hospital, but I believe that from today the trust can begin to move forward, because we have now inquired fully and in depth at the local level. I believe the trust is making progress under Antony Sumara and Sir Stephen Moss; that is reflected in the report and in the reports that I hear locally from Stafford, and we need to do everything we possibly can to support them. There are 140 extra staff at the trust, and it has received about £4.5 million from the West Midlands strategic health authority. Support is going into the trust, therefore. We are considering whether we should initiate a process of de-authorisation, but we would only do so because we may be able to get more support more quickly to the trust, in order to build the confidence that the hon. Gentleman rightly calls for.
Even after four inquiries, it is still impossible not to be shocked by the record of failure of care in this case. We now know, beyond peradventure, what happened, and I think we know why it happened. What we do not yet know enough about is how it could have been allowed to happen. That is why there is a valid case for a fifth inquiry, into the regulatory structure, and I am glad the Secretary of State has announced that today. May I make one further point? There is one group of people who bear no responsibility for what happened: the patients. If we have one overriding obligation now, it is to make sure both that that hospital, which has failed them, pays for the errors of the past by being supported by the national health service, and that patient care in that hospital is as safe and effective as possible.
I entirely agree. My hon. Friend is right that there have been earlier inquiries, and I commissioned this extra report in order to hear loud and clear the voices of his constituents and those of other hon. Members who have spoken, and of my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney), the Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. The report is a thoroughly depressing read. When we hear and read stories of how patients were treated—and of patients doing their all to help staff, such as by taking the linen home to wash it—we know that there has been a basic failure of care for the constituents of my hon. Friend and of other Members, and there must be the most thorough investigation of that at local and national level. That is what I believe I am delivering to my hon. Friend and other colleagues in this House, and to their constituents. In the Francis report today, I believe we have the most thorough local investigation, and that will be followed by the second-stage inquiry, conducted in public wherever possible, so that we can get absolutely to the bottom of these issues, and people can finally feel that the issues they have raised have been fully investigated.
As a member of the medical profession, I was staggered and saddened by the low profile and lack of effectiveness of staff whistleblowers in Stafford. I therefore welcome the Secretary of State’s promise to update whistleblowers guidance. The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and the work of Public Concern at Work need far more publicity. Does the Secretary of State agree that we still need to consider extra measures to support whistleblowers, who are still terrified of going through the normal channels? That is the whole point of my private Member’s Bill.
May I say to my hon. Friend that my door is open to him to talk about his Bill and how we can deliver what we both want, which is to improve the culture in the NHS so that whistleblowers can come forward without fear of repercussions and recriminations? I cannot say today that that culture exists in all parts of the NHS, but I can say unequivocally that that is the culture I want to see in every corner of our national health service. If he is willing to work with me towards achieving that, I am sure that we have a completely common purpose.
May I put a very simple point to my right hon. Friend? What clearly stands out from all this wealth of erudite and important words that we have heard in this House and everywhere else is that the hospital was terribly understaffed. If a company or any other organisation were so seriously understaffed, it would never get anywhere. I therefore have a suggestion. It involves one piece of paper, and I ask him not to resist it on that ground. In fact, such a piece of paper might already exist but have insufficient prominence. If we had one piece of paper on which hospitals had to list current staffing levels against the agreed requirement in the critical matter of doctors and nurses, we would all know whether or not there were sufficient staff to do the job. If such a piece of paper had been available, we could have avoided this whole situation.
I agree with my hon. Friend that that is, in many ways, the main message that comes out of the report. I was shocked to read that the work force review of March 2008 found a shortage of 120 whole-time equivalents, as well as one consultant in A and E when there should have been four, and 37 nurses when there should have been 55. Herein lie many of the problems the trust faced. It simply had an inadequate work force to deal with what needed to be done on a daily basis. That led to intolerable pressure on the wards, which in turn led to unacceptable treatment of patients. It is absolutely clear to me that this is unacceptable. That is one of the main messages that comes out of the report—and indeed, Robert Francis describes the trust as chronically understaffed.
The Secretary of State has said that one of his priorities is an early-warning system to ensure that what happened at Mid Staffs is not repeated elsewhere. The Dr Foster report identified seven hospitals with consistently high mortality rates. Is the Secretary of State going to order an investigation into those hospitals to make sure that their management is not leading to a possible repeat of what occurred at Mid Staffs?
The hon. Gentleman will know that action has been taken in respect of Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. He may not be aware that further steps are being taken against Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Greater Manchester. Where action needs to be taken in order to intervene, we are taking that action. I should repeat to him the view of the Care Quality Commission, which is that there is no evidence to suggest that problems of this magnitude are replicated elsewhere in the NHS. I also say to him that I am not complacent on these issues: how could one ever be? Since what happened in Bristol, we can say with some confidence that we have, with the support of those on the Opposition Benches, begun a process whereby we are shining a spotlight on data in the NHS that in times past simply were not available. A wealth of data are now available to inform the public about standards at any particular trust. Many of the data are available on the NHS Choices website, but they can be improved so as to build a better understanding and appreciation of the picture at any trust. The hospital standardised mortality ratio—the HSMR—is not, in and of itself, a verdict on a trust; it is a trigger in respect of whether further action is required. As we have said today, we need further understanding of that target and an improvement of its methodology so that it is clearly understood across the NHS.
I welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to hold a further inquiry into the regulatory bodies, in particular Monitor. He is talking about asking Monitor to de-designate the trust as a foundation trust, but a more fundamental question is how the hell Monitor ever came to designate it as a foundation trust in the first place, in the middle of this scandal. That was a lamentable performance by Monitor, which was supposed to look into all aspects of the situation and then make a recommendation to the Secretary of State. It seems that he can legitimately say that Monitor is not doing its job at all, and that some of the people at the top of Monitor ought to be leaving, under his new dispensation.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his question, and his welcome for the second stage inquiry under Robert Francis. The questions that he has just put before the House will be very much at the centre of that second stage investigation. The problem may have been that undue prominence was given to financial matters, rather than quality of care, when the foundation trust application was being considered. I say that without having had the further inquiry conducted, but those are precisely the matters that it will examine. I am grateful that my right hon. Friend supports the step that we are taking by carrying it out.
I do care about patient safety, and I say again that it is the overriding concern for every NHS organisation in the country, including NHS London. However, I would ask the hon. Lady to open her mind to the possibility that at times changes to hospital services are necessary to enhance standards of patient safety. The National Audit Office recently pushed Ministers on the reform of major trauma services, which implies a reconfiguration of hospital services. The lesson in the Mid Staffs case is that the trust was acting in isolation without sufficiently well developed clinical networks in its surrounding community. I say to the hon. Lady that sometimes patient safety may be enhanced, rather than diminished, by the reorganisation of services.
May I return to the issue of HSMRs, which the Minister mentioned in his statement? He told us that there is no “clear account of how they should be used and interpreted. The result is confusion for patients and the public”. He will know that people in east Lancashire are routinely told that the reconfiguration allegedly saved 200 lives. We know that academics and clinicians are reworking the methodology, but when will we get the results of that study, so that it can be applied across the NHS as a whole?
That is a very important piece of work, which is why I said in my statement that Professor Sir Bruce Keogh is already making progress on it. However, it is very important for the voices of the royal colleges, other professional bodies, and organisations across the health care world to be listened to in that work. When it is produced it will succeed only if it has support from, and is owned by, all those bodies. We will do this as quickly as we can, but in producing an HSMR measure in which the whole system has confidence we might need to take time to ensure that we carry out those discussions with all those concerned.
May I pursue the question put to the Minister by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone) by asking him specifically about Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which was one of the seven on the list? Many people in Northamptonshire are unnerved by the possibilities that might arise from the situation in Kettering. I wonder whether the Minister will reassure them by saying what specific action he has taken with regard to that trust?
I would ask the hon. Gentleman to refer his constituents to the statement made by the Care Quality Commission today. I will place its letter, which gives assurances about the NHS as a whole, in the Library. I should say to him that there is a need for constant vigilance on safety standards in the NHS. The HSMRs are not, of themselves, evidence of failure—but they can provide a trigger for inquiry into whether standards are sufficiently high at any one hospital. I encourage him to continue to ask questions and to work with his local trust to ensure that standards are sufficiently robust at his local trust; that is exactly what I do with my local hospital. However, we need a better measurement of mortality ratios so that we can all be clear about, and have confidence in, what they tell us about our local hospitals.
Point of Order
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I ask this while the Secretary of State is in his place, and with malnourishment being one of the many serious issues that arose at Mid Staffs. You will recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the answer given to me on 2 February 2010, at column 236W of Hansard, saying that the nutrition action plan, which the Government have been sitting on since as far back as last July, would be published “in February 2010.” If that is to happen with a statement made to the House, it would need to happen tomorrow. Have you been given any indication that there will be an oral statement on that subject tomorrow?
I have no knowledge of the point that the hon. Gentleman makes, but I understand that the Secretary of State is anxious to say something.
Public Bodies (Procurement of Seafood)
Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require public bodies to purchase only those seafood species and stocks that are demonstrably sustainable; and for connected purposes.
I am delighted to introduce this Bill. Even as I speak, promising changes are afoot. A written answer to me that was published yesterday clearly put on the record the departmental fish procurement percentages, and I was pleased to see that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had—this is according to what I have read—refused to sign off the EU protocol on tuna because it was not sustainable enough. So, this Bill is appropriate at this time, if not prescient. I thank, in particular, Alex Jackson of Sustain for allowing me to introduce it, and all those Members—some 50 or more—who signed early-day motion 226 to draw attention to this important issue.
No one can be in any doubt that the way in which we catch and consume fish on a global scale is of great importance given that it is devastating the biodiversity of our oceans and endangering some of our best loved fish species. Stopping the destruction will require action to change both how we catch fish and how we consume it. The Bill focuses on the crucial consumption side of that solution and outlines how Government, as a huge consumer of fish in the public sector, can lead by example in the purchase of sustainable seafood.
What is the problem? It is important to understand that fish stocks need careful management and that fisheries that are over-exploited can collapse suddenly, causing irreversible damage. Probably the most famous example of such a collapse occurred off the east coast of Newfoundland in 1992 when cod stocks vanished, the local industry evaporated and 40,000 people lost their jobs. To this day, the cod have not returned.
Data from the United Nations fisheries and aquaculture department paint a very bleak picture of the state of our oceans. On a global scale, it estimates that
“80 per cent. of the world fish stocks for which assessment information is available are reported as fully exploited or overexploited and, thus, requiring effective and precautionary management.”
In British waters, we face an urgent problem. In the north-east Atlantic, the majority of commercial stocks are fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s fisheries and aquaculture department’s report of 2005. British salmon stocks are considered to be fully or over-exploited and North sea plaice, cod and sole are considered to be outside safe biological limits.
The experts also tell us that the threat posed by climate change will only serve to exacerbate those problems. In 2005, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that climate change will have a significant impact on the future abundance and distribution of fish stocks.
What will the Public Bodies (Procurement of Seafood) Bill do? It will help support the sustainability of global fish stocks and species by making it a legal requirement that public bodies in the UK can only buy fish that is proven to be sustainable. It would do that by prohibiting the purchase in the public sector of fish from the Marine Conservation Society’s “Fish to Avoid” list, which includes all fish in danger of over-exploitation. It would also require that all wild-caught fish purchased by the public sector should come from stocks that meet the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation’s code of conduct for responsible fisheries, which includes fish that meets the need for Marine Stewardship Council sustainability certification.
The Bill would aim to achieve three important things. First, it would ensure that the Government spend public money on fish in a responsible way that acts to solve environmental problems rather than causing them. Each individual British taxpayer spends approximately £70 a year on public sector food. They need to know that their money is being spent by Government to support the marine ecosystem and protect the sustainability of popular fish species rather than putting them at risk.
Secondly, the public sector should lead by example in the food we buy and serve to educate through best practice. It is especially important that public bodies lead by example in the purchase of fish, because the issues surrounding the sustainability of seafood are complex and not generally well known by the public. The Bill would guarantee that the public sector generates greater awareness of the issue and would also demonstrate to those who eat and prepare public sector food what sustainable fish is and how it can be purchased. That is particularly important when we consider that the public sector serves more than 1 billion meals a year to consumers including nursery and school children, hospital patients, elderly people in care homes and members of the armed forces.
Thirdly, the sheer purchasing power of Government has the capacity to drive the market for sustainable seafood, catalysing advances in the seafood industry. So, what about the public sector? The public sector is a big consumer of fish, but it is not an ethical consumer of fish. Sustain, the alliance for food and farming, estimates that each year the Government spend more than £40 million on seafood in the public sector. At present, public sector organisations are not required to meet any legal standard for the fish that they buy. There is Government guidance, but no rules. In fact, the Government do not even require the public sector to meet the rules they introduced under the fish labelling regulations, through which retailers must clearly label the origin and species, including the method of production, for all fish and fillets sold.
As a result, the public sector buys fish species that include some of the most vulnerable stocks in the world. The Ministry of Justice, for example, spends £1.25 million a year on fish and more than one 10th of that total is spent on haddock, without any regard to its sustainability. That is a huge cause for concern because, according to the Marine Conservation Society, some stocks of haddock are “unsustainable, overfished and vulnerable”.
The picture is not any better in hospitals, where tiger prawns, dogfish and swordfish—species which are often produced particularly unsustainably—are available to purchase from the big catering companies. Research compiled by Sustain showed that of 341 fish, seafood or fish-based sandwich filling products provided by the biggest supplier of food to the NHS, which trades using an NHS logo, only one is listed in its catalogue as certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.
There can be little doubt that the future of popular global fish species lies precariously in the balance. The Bill provides a clear legal framework that would ensure that the millions of pounds of public money spent on seafood each and every year is invested in a way that would transform the long-term sustainability of seafood species throughout the world.
Question put and agreed to.
That Mr. David Drew, Peter Bottomley, Andrew Stunell, Annette Brooke, Mark Durkan, Mr. Andrew Dismore and Alan Simpson present the Bill.
Mr. David Drew accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 5 March and to be printed (Bill 72).
Consideration of Bill, not amended in the Public Bill Committee.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will be aware that fuel poverty and energy efficiency are key elements of this Bill. There was significant debate in Committee about a Government document called the household energy management strategy, about which the Under-Secretary told us on 14 January:
“I would have liked to have been able to brandish that to Committee members today, but it will come out in a couple of weeks’ time-ish.”––[Official Report, Energy Public Bill Committee, 14 January 2010; c. 218.]
A week later, he said that they were
“on…course to ensure that Members will see the strategy before Report”.––[Official Report, Energy Public Bill Committee, 21 January 2010; c. 403.]
We were given those assurances five and six weeks ago—the strategy has not come out so far. It is fundamental to our consideration of the Bill. Can you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, put pressure on Ministers, even at this late stage, to produce this important document?
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I endorse the point made by the hon. Member for Wealden (Charles Hendry) and remind the Under-Secretary, through you, of the undertaking and the conversation between all three parties. It is nonsense to try to debate the future of this part of policy without the relevant Government document, which must be available somewhere.
Mr. Speaker is always anxious that all the documents necessary for a debate should be available before that debate takes place. That is obviously even more important if assurances have been given that the document will be ready. Those on the Front Bench will have heard the points of order. On the question of whether it is possible to do anything about it, there is nothing more that I can do from the Chair but repeat that it is important that all the documents necessary for a debate are ready and available before that debate begins.
New Clause 8
Reports on decarbonisation and CCS progress
‘(1) The Secretary of State must, for each reporting period, prepare a report on progress during the reporting period—
(a) in decarbonising electricity generation in Great Britain (covering separately generation by coal-fired generating stations), and
(b) in the development and use of carbon capture and storage technology in Great Britain.
(2) Each of the first three reports under subsection (1) must include an assessment by the Secretary of State—
(a) of whether use of carbon capture and storage technology in generation of electricity on a commercial scale has been, or when it will be, successfully demonstrated;
(b) of whether coal-fired generating stations for which appropriate consent is given on or after 1st January 2020 that are built in Great Britain can be expected to be constructed so as to enable use of carbon capture and storage technology on all their generating capacity.
(3) A report under subsection (1) must also include a review of whether, having regard to the other matters contained in the report, any government policies should be revised and, if so, why.
(4) In preparing a report under subsection (1), the Secretary of State must—
(a) consult the Scottish Ministers and the Welsh Ministers;
(b) take into account any relevant points raised by reports by the Committee on Climate Change under section 36 of the Climate Change Act 2008 (reports on progress).
(5) The Secretary of State must, within 1 year after the end of a reporting period, lay before Parliament a document containing the report under subsection (1) for that period.
(6) In this section—
“appropriate consent” means consent under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 or section 114(1)(a) of the Planning Act 2008;
“coal-fired generating station” means an electricity generating station powered wholly or mainly by coal;
“decarbonising electricity generation” means reducing the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere from electricity generation;
“reporting period” means—
(a) the period beginning with the passing of this Act and ending with 2011;
(b) the 3 year period beginning with 2012 and each subsequent 3 year period;
and “the reporting period”, in relation to a report under subsection (1), means the reporting period to which the report relates.’.—(Joan Ruddock.)
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: new clause 6—Carbon emissions performance standard—
‘(1) The Secretary of State shall make provision by regulations or otherwise for a carbon emissions performance standard to set the maximum level or levels of carbon dioxide that may be emitted per unit of output by all individual generating stations.
(2) The Secretary of State shall review the emissions performance standard established under subsection (1) no less frequently than every three years.
(3) In establishing the level or levels of the carbon dioxide emissions performance standard in subsection (1), and in carrying out the review required in subsection (2), the Secretary of State must—
(a) take into account the most up-to-date scientific knowledge about climate change; and
(b) obtain and take into account the advice of the Committee on Climate Change, particularly in relation to carbon budgets, medium- and long-term emission reduction targets, and future emissions from the electricity generating sector.
(4) The Secretary of State must introduce the standard under subsection (1) no later than 12 months from the date on which this Act is passed.’.
New clause 15—Emissions performance standard—
‘(1) The Secretary of State may by regulation introduce an Emissions Performance Standard to apply to new electricity generation plant.
(2) In this section “Emission Performance Standard” means a restriction on the amount of carbon dioxide that electricity generation plant can emit.
(3) In setting such a level, the Secretary of State must take account of the latest information available to him on—
(a) the most up-to-date scientific knowledge about climate change;
(b) the advice of the Committee on Climate Change, particularly in relation to carbon budgets, medium and long-term emission reduction targets, and future emissions from the electricity generating sector;
(c) the affordability of electricity prices for consumers; and
(d) national energy security.
(4) The Secretary of State must set out his proposals for consultation within six months of the passage of this Act, with final proposals to be placed before Parliament within 12 months.’.
New clause 25—Emissions performance standard—
‘(1) The Secretary of State shall, within one year of the passing of this Act, make provision by regulations or otherwise for a carbon dioxide emissions performance standard to set the maximum level of carbon dioxide that may be emitted each year by any coal fired electricity generating station.
(2) The maximum level of carbon dioxide under subsection (1) will be no more than 25 per cent. of the emissions that would be produced by a coal fired power station of an equivalent size operating without any carbon capture and storage equipment.
(3) The emissions performance under subsection (1) will come into effect no later than 2025.’.
Amendment 1, in clause 4, page 4, line 17, at end insert—
‘(2A) An electricity supply levy will not be charged in respect of supplies of electricity, derived exclusively from renewable sources of energy.’.
Government amendments 5, 9 and 36.
First, let me say that the document is not central to the features of the Bill. When my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary gave that undertaking in Committee, he did so in good faith. We want to get the document right, and it will be published shortly, but I do not believe that it is vital to the conduct of this debate.
Let me now address new clause 8 and Government amendments 5, 9 and 36. There has been much discussion during the passage of the Bill about the need to reduce the emissions from electricity generation and particularly from fossil fuel generation. In many ways, this issue is at the heart of my Department’s mission. The decarbonisation of the electricity sector is central to achieving our statutory goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 per cent. by 2050. The low carbon transition plan, which was published last July, set out our plans for getting about 40 per cent. of our electricity supplies from low carbon sources by 2020. Those plans include a comprehensive package of measures such as increasing support for renewable technologies, facilitating the development of new nuclear power stations, and demonstrating, then deploying, carbon capture and storage technology in our fossil fuel plants.
We have not stopped there. The lead times for investment decisions in energy infrastructure are such that we now need to develop clear pathways towards our 2050 goal; we cannot just stop at 2020. Our decarbonisation pathways to 2050 document, which will also be published shortly, will build on our low carbon transition plan and set out possible pathways to a low-carbon UK, including the decarbonisation of the electricity sector.
The need to decarbonise the electricity sector means that the issue of emissions from fossil fuel power station has to be addressed. Coal-fired power stations generate about 30 per cent. of UK electricity and about 40 per cent. of global electricity. Tackling emissions from coal-fired power stations must therefore be a priority if we are to avert dangerous climate change while enabling countries to maintain energy security.