The business for the week commencing 7 June will include:
Monday 7 June—Continuation of the debate on the Queen’s Speech. Constitution and home affairs will be debated.
Tuesday 8 June—Conclusion of the debate on the Queen’s Speech. Economic affairs and work and pensions will be debated.
Wednesday 9 June— Second Reading on the Identity Documents Bill.
Thursday 10 June—General debate on poverty.
The provisional business for the week commencing 14 June will include:
Monday 14 June—General debate on emerging economies, followed by general debate on the middle east.
Tuesday 15 June—Proceedings on House business.
Wednesday 16 June—Opposition day [1st allotted day]. There will be a debate on an Opposition motion: subject to be announced.
Thursday 17 June—General debate: subject to be announced.
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 10 and 17 June will be:
Thursday 10 June—A debate entitled “Volcanic ash—impact on passengers and the aviation industry”.
Thursday 17 June— A debate entitled “Alternatives to child detention”
I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the forthcoming business and I am also grateful for the statement on Gaza yesterday and for the planned statement today on the terrible tragedy in Cumbria. The thoughts of the House are with the families, friends and relatives of those killed or injured, and with the communities so devastatingly affected by what happened.
Last week, the Leader of the House agreed with me that it was “deplorable” that the Queen’s Speech had been leaked. He said that it was
“a discourtesy to the House and to Her Majesty”
“steps will be taken to minimise the risk of such leaks occurring again.”—[Official Report, 27 May 2010; Vol. 510, c. 285.]
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what steps have actually been taken; what will be done differently; and what his current assessment is of the likelihood of a repeat of the leaking of information that we saw two weeks ago?
The right hon. Gentleman also said last week that the Government had no intention of reintroducing Regional Select Committees, despite the concern expressed by Opposition Members that their abolition would remove one of the ways for the House to scrutinise the effects of the £6 billion cuts that the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government had announced. However, he did say he would get back to us on what was happening to the Regional Grand Committees. Can he tell us the latest information on those Committees?
I ask that question particularly because on Friday, the Prime Minister went to Yorkshire to tell us how he wanted to develop regional economies. He set out a series of priorities, which sounded remarkably like the priorities we had identified when in government, but without the investment, because of the £336 million cut from the Business Department revealed at Business, Innovation and Skills questions today, and without the strategy to make it happen, because of confusion over the future of the regional development agencies. We heard further comments this morning from the Business Secretary, but I have to say that they shed very little light on the issue. I think he said that the RDAs would be changed fundamentally, but might actually look the same at the end of the process. That reminded us of last week’s comment from the Leader of the House that the child trust fund would not be abolished, but would be phased out—we were a bit puzzled as to the difference.
The Leader of the House will have noted the anxiety arising from this morning’s contributions and yesterday’s Prime Minister’s questions about the uncertainty the Government are creating for businesses in our regions. Surely Regional Grand Committees could help to throw some light on what on earth is going on in terms of regional policy. Should not the Government also rethink their policy on Regional Select Committees?
To add to the general air of confusion, the Prime Minister also announced in his speech that he would be “assigning” Ministers and “senior MPs” to some of our biggest cities, so what does this mean for smaller cities and towns, and what does it mean for rural areas, villages and seaside towns? In Yorkshire, for example, because of the effect of agriculture and tourism on their economies, rural areas have benefited from having a regional strategy and a regional body to help development, so why should they not get a Minister? Under the Labour Government, regional Ministers were able to speak for the whole region, but that just cannot happen under the current proposals. Will the city Ministers or senior MPs report to the House? Is their work to be scrutinised by members of some new City committees that the Government might have in mind? It really does look like the Government are making it up as they go along with a kind of botched DIY regional strategy, but what is really happening, as we saw this morning, is that key commitments made by the last Government are being put at risk.
I also ask the Leader of the House if we can have an early statement to clarify the position on Building Schools for the Future. After yesterday’s exchanges at Prime Minister’s Questions and after the education debate, I really think we are none the wiser about the future of the programme. The Prime Minister said he was absolutely clear about it, but I have to say that I would hate to hear him if he were being abstruse. Could the Leader of the House ask the Education Secretary to give the House a straight answer to a straight question? Is the Building Schools for the Future budget protected or not?
I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for what she said at the beginning. The whole House shares the grief of the families and friends of those who lost their lives in Cumbria. However, I note what the local Member of Parliament said about the resilience and cohesion of the area. I am sure that that is absolutely true.
I am happy to say that there has been no further leak since I made my announcement last week. As I said then, the Cabinet Secretary is taking steps to ensure that there is no repetition of the discourtesy that occurred over the Queen’s Speech.
I make no apologies for not re-establishing the Regional Select Committees. They were forced through on the casting vote of the former Leader of the House, and were narrowly approved in the last Parliament after a huge rebellion on the Labour Benches. They turned out to be a total waste of money, and, as I have said, I make no apologies for not reintroducing them. We will make an announcement in due course about the future of Regional Grand Committees.
The right hon. Lady asked about the schools budget. The Chief Secretary made clear that the in-year reductions to which he referred in his statement last week would not affect schools. As for child trust funds, I understand that they will not end immediately, but will be phased out over a period. I will ensure that the right hon. Lady is given the right answer on that. She also asked whether the Secretary of State for education would give a straight answer. I am sure that he will on the next occasion when he appears at the Dispatch Box to answer questions.
We have just had a lively exchange in Business, Innovation and Skills questions, in which many of the issues raised by the right hon. Lady were dealt with more than adequately by my ministerial colleagues.
Can the Leader of the House tell us whether there is any possibility of a debate—or an explanation—on Severn bridge tolls, which have continued to rise for people travelling into Wales, but were frozen in marginal seats by the last Government? Will he ask someone to explain to us why the last Government appeared to discriminate against the people of Wales in that fashion?
My hon. Friend has asked a robust question. I am sure that oral questions will give him an opportunity to elicit an answer and to find out exactly why certain seats were spared the increases in the last Parliament, and also to set out this Government’s philosophy on the important issues surrounding access to Wales.
Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the ability of Members of Parliament to do their job following the inception of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority? I should like a debate not on the incoherent and ill-thought-out rules that have been introduced, but on such matters as the operation of the online system, which often crashes, is incoherent and does not work, and the fact that Members of Parliament cannot talk directly to IPSA’s staff. That has led to new Members’ being in debt to the tune of several thousand pounds, and being unable to set up offices at an early stage in order to provide the service to their constituents that they were elected to provide.
I take that issue very seriously. As I said last week, I think that the House made the right strategic decision in the last Parliament when it decided to contract out responsibility for the fixing and paying of our allowances. We know of the difficulties that we got into during the last Parliament in that regard. Having said that, however, I should add that the whole purpose of the allowances regime is to enable Members of Parliament to do their job: to represent their constituents, and to hold the Government to account. I am seriously concerned by the growing number of stories from Members on both sides of the House about the difficulties that they are experiencing in accessing the system.
Immediately after business questions I shall meet representatives of all the political parties, and shortly thereafter I shall have a second meeting with the chief executive and the chairman of IPSA, to whom I shall convey the strong feelings which I know are widely shared. I shall also do all that I can to ensure that the technical problems to which the hon. Gentleman has referred are addressed as quickly as possible.
The solution rests in the hands of hon. Members. An all-party parliamentary group can only get going if enough Members agree to sponsor it; otherwise, it will not get off the ground. However, I agree that there are a large number of APPGs, many of which overlap.
Let me, at the beginning of a new Parliament, urge all colleagues to consider before automatically—to do a favour to a friend—signing up to an APPG whose meetings they have no intention of attending. Although APPGs have an important role to play, we need to be more selective about which ones we have, and to decide our priorities in a better way.
Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate on the review of paediatric cardiac surgery that is currently under way, and which is due to report in September? I recently visited Glenfield hospital in my constituency, and the patients and staff at its outstanding paediatric cardiac unit are very concerned about the implications of the review for the future of the unit. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will wish those concerns to be fully debated in the House.
May we have a full day’s debate prior to the strategic defence review on the adequacy of our strategy for Afghanistan? That would enable us to examine whether a policy of short-term surging, medium-term withdrawal and no apparent long-term plan for security whatever is the best way to proceed.
As my hon. Friend will know, we had a debate last week in which the Secretary of State for Defence and the Foreign Secretary both spoke and issues relating to Afghanistan were raised. None the less, I agree that this country is at war and it is important that the House has an opportunity to debate the important issues my hon. Friend raises and to put them in the context of a strategic defence review. I would therefore certainly hope that before too long we have a debate along the lines that my hon. Friend suggests.
In thanking the right hon. Gentleman for arranging a debate on the middle east, may I ask him whether he has seen early-day motion 120, standing in my name?
[That this House advocates and supports a warm and close relationship between the United Kingdom and the Republic of India; notes the two countries' historical ties; further notes that India is the world's largest democracy; recognises that such a relationship can help resolve the vexing issue of Jammu and Kashmir; believes that the Indian High Commission in London has a vital role to play in fostering this friendship; regrets that the conduct of the Indian High Commissioner, Nalin Surie, is causing serious damage to that friendship; condemns the failure of the Indian High Commissioner to respond to letters from the right hon. Member from Manchester, Gorton stretching back to January 2010, in which the right hon. Member has requested that the visa application of one of his constituents initially made many months ago and for which the constituent has paid £113.86 has still not been granted; is concerned that the efforts of a right hon. Member of this House to help have been rudely ignored; further believes that Nalin Surie is not fit to hold such an important and influential post; and calls for his removal to India by the Indian government and his replacement by a diplomat who will commit himself or herself to fostering good relations between the two countries.]
The early-day motion draws attention to the failure of the Indian high commission to grant a constituent of mine—a British national—a visa six months after he applied, while keeping more than £100 of his money. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot arrange for a debate on the matter, will he ask the Foreign Secretary to intervene?
I am very sorry to hear of what has happened and of the discourtesy that was extended. I will, of course, pass the right hon. Gentleman’s representations on to the Foreign Secretary and see if he can take the matter up with the Indian high commission.
Will it be possible to have a debate next week on my right hon. Friend’s proposal to set up the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, rather than having it go through on the nod later this evening? If we had a debate on it, we would be able to consider early-day motion 79.
[That this House calls on the Government to ensure that any Bill to establish a fixed-term Parliament and to change arrangements for Dissolution is published first in draft and then subjected to pre-legislative scrutiny.]
Moreover, we would be able to consider whether the Committee should be a Joint Committee of both Houses. My right hon. Friend and I both served on a Joint Committee on constitutional reform in the last Parliament, and I suggest to him that a Joint Committee would be more appropriate than a single Committee of this House alone.
My hon. Friend makes a good point. We have put down a motion on today’s Order Paper to set up the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee because we thought it would be helpful to the House for that Select Committee to be elected at the same time as all the other Select Committees and to get it up and running quickly. My hon. Friend will know better than anyone else in this House that if he is here at six o’clock this evening and makes a noise, the matter will be adjourned and we will then have to find time for a debate. He is perfectly entitled to do that. The consequence would be that we would lose a bit of time in establishing this new Select Committee, but it would not be the end of the world if that happened—and my hon. Friend could, indeed, raise in that subsequent debate the broader questions about how this proposed new Select Committee would interface with, for example, the Public Administration and the Justice Select Committees.
Last year, in Liverpool, Wavertree we saw the savage death of John Paul Massey, who was savagely attacked by a pit bull. A review of the dangerous dogs legislation was initiated in March, under the last Government. Will the Leader of the House urge the Home Secretary to update the House on the progress being made with this review?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that question, and I understand the concern felt in her constituency. On Monday, we have the Queen’s Speech debate on home affairs, and I will make sure that the Minister replying to that debate takes her point on board and updates the House on the review to which she refers.
I pay tribute to the courage and dedication of firefighters up and down the land. May we have a debate on funding for fire authorities because under the previous comprehensive spending review, shire authorities, such as your own, Mr Speaker, received on average an allocation of just 2%, whereas many urban authorities received up to 18%. Although we all understand the financial constraints that we are under at the moment, can the funding under the next review at least be fair across the land?
When will the Leader of the House timetable a debate on the provision of respite care homes and, in particular, on their closure when there is an urgent need for them and no alternative provision? I am thinking, in particular, of the possible closure of Earlsmoor respite care home in my constituency. Does he agree that such homes should not be closed when no alternative provision has been made, given what is, in many cases, a thankless task carried out by thousands of carers?
I join the hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to the job done by those who work in respite care homes. I do not know whether it would be appropriate for him to have an Adjournment debate on the specific subject that he raises and, thus, get an answer from the responsible Minister.
Further to this week’s letter written by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government regarding regional spatial strategy and specifying recommendations for Gypsy and Traveller site numbers per region, could we have a debate on how local authorities can protect themselves from Gypsy and Traveller encampments riding roughshod over planning law in green belt areas? We must ensure that we have a fair system of proper provision of legal campsites for Gypsies and Travellers.
I understand the anxiety that the hon. Lady expresses and I know that at the previous general election my party put forward proposals to give local authorities greater powers to deal with these unauthorised encampments. She may have an opportunity a week today at Communities and Local Government questions to develop her concerns with the appropriate Ministers—perhaps she will be able to do so during topical questions.
May we have a debate on domestic energy prices and, in particular, on the fact that many of my constituents are still being ripped off? That applies particularly to those who live in rural areas that do not have a connection to the gas mains. Those people’s unit prices are increasing every quarter and people living on some small estates are paying different prices. Can we ensure that the market helps these people, because at the moment it is not working?
Yesterday, the Prime Minister said that community hospitals could “breathe easily”, which is great news for those of us who have such hospitals in our constituencies, as we know how important they are. Could we have an early debate on community hospitals so that I and others can raise issues of importance to us? For example, people in Clitheroe were promised a new hospital to replace the old community hospital, but the project was frozen last year—the people of Clitheroe should not have to wait.
My hon. Friend makes a forceful case. He will know that we exempted health expenditure from the difficult decisions that an incoming Government will have to take. He may wish to apply for a debate in Westminster Hall on community hospitals, and I am sure that if he does so, the debate will be well attended by Members from both sides of the House.
Would it be possible for the Leader of the House to make time for a debate on support for the UK film industry? Labour Members raised the issue in Business, Innovation and Skills questions earlier. My personal interest arises because of the centre of creative excellence south of Seaham, part of the funding for which comes from One NorthEast, the regional development agency, and from Northern Film and Media. We understand that One NorthEast faces a cut of 40% in its budget this year. This is a matter of concern, because of the potential for jobs and training opportunities. Those on both sides of the House might find it instructive if we were to have a debate on this issue.
May we have a full debate on the implications of the Government’s excellent proposals to get rid of the previous Government’s planning targets? Two beautiful pieces of countryside in my constituency, which are at Micklethwaite and in Menston, face unnecessary and unwanted proposed developments. Our holding a full debate may allow residents in those areas, who are campaigning against the developments, to see a route map towards having these pieces of land taken out of the unitary development plan altogether.
My hon. Friend reminds the House that the letter from the Secretary of State abandoning the regional spatial strategies has been greeted with acclaim by those on this side of the House and, I suspect, secretly by those on the other side of the House too. My hon. Friend will have an opportunity to cross-question planning Ministers a week today, and I will see that they are forearmed with an answer to his question about the sites in his constituency.
Funding for the Manchester Metrolink extensions is being reviewed by this Government, despite the fact that advanced works and track laying are taking place. Can the Leader of the House use his good offices to urge the Secretary of State for Transport to come to this House to give assurances to Greater Manchester transport planners and my constituents on this important matter?
I am sympathetic to what the hon. Gentleman says, because in a previous capacity I authorised the extension of the Metrolink. All the questions from Labour Members are requests for more public money, at a time when they have left us with a deficit of £160 billion. It would be helpful if, at some point, we heard, alongside the suggestions to spend more money, one or two suggestions as to how we might save some of the money and get the public accounts back in balance. To return to his specific question, I should say to him that Transport questions will take place on 17 June, and that will give him the chance to press the case for the Metrolink in his constituency.
I understand that the Government intend to press ahead with using valuable parliamentary time to debate a Government motion on hunting. If that is the case, may I urge the Leader of the House to ensure that that debate is as quick as possible and takes place as soon as possible?
My hon. Friend is right, because the Queen’s Speech contains a commitment to have a debate on hunting and for the House to resolve whether or not the Hunting Act 2004 should stay. I note his request for such a debate to take place sooner rather than later, but it will have to take its place against bids for debates on other subjects that are equally or perhaps more important.
In the previous Parliament and in the run-up to the general election, the right hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson), who is now the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, made it very clear that one of the first priorities would be to remove allowances from Members of Parliament who are elected to this House but who do not take their seats and do not fulfil the range of duties that people expect of a Member of Parliament, and thus to resolve an iniquitous situation. Given the great public concern about the abuse of expenses and allowances in the previous Parliament, when can we expect a motion to come before the House to remove those allowances from Members of Parliament who do not do their jobs here?
I understand the concern that the hon. Gentleman raises. I hope that he will understand my saying that I will need to consult colleagues in government and perhaps the authorities in the House before we go down the particular route that he has outlined.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister confirmed that nobody in the public sector will be allowed to earn 20 times more than what the people at the bottom earn. I calculate that no manager in the NHS will, thus, be able to earn more than £189,321.60. Can the Secretary of State for Health make a statement as to when that limit will be imposed?
I commend my hon. Friend on his mental arithmetic in coming up with that figure. Clearly, this involves issues relating to those who are already getting paid salaries that exceed the differential, so the policy is easier to implement in respect of new recruits as opposed to existing staff. None the less, I shall raise this issue with the appropriate Minister, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health, and see that my hon. Friend is given an appropriate answer.
This follows on from our initial discussion about IPSA. If the Leader of the House has any discussions with Sir Ian Kennedy, will he remind him that a lot of people in this House are concerned about the safety of the online system? Is the Leader of the House aware, for instance, that this email that I have here has been sent to me when it should have gone to another Member of Parliament? It has names and everything on it—I am not disclosing the name now, but he is welcome to see it if he wants. He should draw this to the attention of Mr Kennedy and tell him that a system that allows this to happen within the space of a few weeks—according to my information, this has also happened to another Member of Parliament—has to stop. Therefore, when the Leader of the House has these discussions he should consider the question of not merely sticking to the online system. While he is at it, will he ask Mr Kennedy whether his expenses details are online? And what are they?
Yes, I will. I take very seriously any breach of confidentiality, particularly on the sensitive matter of Members’ expenses, against the background of all the problems that we had in the last Parliament. I will therefore take up the whole issue of security at the meeting that I will have shortly with the acting chief executive and the chairman. I will ask whether they will consider, even at this late stage, an alternative regime for those who are not comfortable with claiming online.
Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate to follow up the important issue of business rates and major regeneration schemes? In the Gracious Speech, we saw our first glimpse of the excellent Bill for decentralisation and localism, which promises to give local communities a real share in local growth. In my constituency of Harlow, the regeneration of the town centre would be hugely supported if a greater share of the new business rates could be kept in the local community.
My hon. Friend makes a forceful point. There will be CLG questions a week today, when he will be able to press the Ministers on that, but I agree that it is important that those who pay business rates should have access to the relief that they are entitled to automatically, and that there should be opportunities to recycle the business rates within the local community.
I entirely agree with the comments made by colleagues on both sides of the House on the workings of IPSA. I did not come to this Parliament to be an accountant, and yet I find that I spend an inordinate amount of time now trying to sort out all the demands of IPSA. I wonder whether there might be confusion in the Government on this, as the written answer from the Leader of the House published in Hansard today in response to a series of questions from my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) states:
“There is no ministerial responsibility for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.”—[Official Report, 2 June 2010; Vol. 510, c. 45W.]
On another page, however, a written answer from the Prime Minister states:
“The Deputy Prime Minister will also have policy responsibility for the Electoral Commission, Boundary Commission, and Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.”—[Official Report, 2 June 2010; Vol. 510, c. 23WS.]
So who is responsible for what, and is the Deputy Prime Minister actually a Minister?
Yes, he is. I understand the concern that the right hon. Lady has raised, and let me explain the thinking behind this. The Bill setting up IPSA was sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, and any legislation that dealt with IPSA would have to have a Government Department sponsoring it. To that extent, therefore, it is true to say that responsibility for IPSA and all the other bodies falls under the umbrella of the Deputy Prime Minister. However, it is also the case that at the moment IPSA is an independent body, so questions about how much people get paid and how it operates are not ones that Ministers can answer—hence the reply to the hon. Member for Walsall North. Against that background, however, I hope that she will accept that those two apparently conflicting statements can actually be reconciled.
Will my right hon. Friend make further representations about the demonstration in Parliament square? The current demonstration is completely different from the one in the last Parliament. That focused on one individual, but this morning there were 20 tents in Parliament square. Does he think that this is a satisfactory situation?
Will the Leader of the House assist me in getting a response from the Department of Health on a matter that I first raised in February, prompted by consultants at Wexham Park hospital in my constituency? They feared that the hospital had fiddled the books to acquire foundation status. I got replies from the former Secretary of State for Health every month, telling me that the Department was still looking at the question. I have been in direct touch with the current Secretary of State’s office but have still heard nothing. Will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State to reply to me on this important issue?
Will the Leader of the House consider having a debate on the badger cull, which is a real and present danger to farmers in my constituency? An infected heifer must be put down immediately, whereas an infected badger has to be let go, as putting it down is a criminal offence.
I will share my hon. Friend’s concerns with the Minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who has responsibility for this matter. I know that there is concern in rural constituencies about the current regime, which precludes badger culls.
In the last Parliament, I asked the previous Leader of the House for a debate on the NHS’s use of independent sector treatment centres, following the tragic and unnecessary death of a constituent of mine at the Eccleshill facility in Bradford. May I ask the new Leader of the House for a debate in Government time on this important issue, so that we can reassure people that the use of independent sector treatment centres is both safe and appropriate for the NHS?
I was sorry to hear about the death of the hon. Member’s constituent. I see no reason why he should not get an answer from the Secretary of State for Health giving him an assurance that, where health authorities contract out and use the independent sector, they first of all assure themselves that all the appropriate safeguards are in place to ensure that patient health is not prejudiced.
According to the Bank of England’s annual report, which was published today, the Governor was paid £305,000 last year. However, that pales into insignificance when compared to the salaries of the chief executives of major—and indeed minor—financial organisations. They are regularly paid more than £1 million a year, and sometimes £10 million or even £20 million. The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) would like a debate on public sector salaries, but will the Leader of the House find time for a debate in Government time on all high salaries? That would allow the House to be aware of the vast disparity that obtains in this country.
Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on pensions and on encouraging the general public to save for their old age? That is especially important given the report in today’s Financial Times that suggests that the coalition Government are planning to scrap from 2012 the requirement on employers to enrol employees automatically in pension schemes.
I would counsel the hon. Gentleman against believing absolutely everything that he reads in the papers, even the Financial Times. However, there will be opportunities to put questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the hon. Gentleman will, of course, be able to share his anxieties with ministerial colleagues during the debate on the Budget statement, when that comes.
The Leader of the House will be aware of the plight of people with haemophilia who were infected with HIV and hepatitis C as a result of their NHS treatment with contaminated blood products. Given the confirmation yesterday that Ministers do not intend to challenge the High Court ruling in the case of March, will he arrange for the Secretary of State for Health to come urgently to this House to set out the Government’s approach to supporting that very needy group, bearing in mind that nearly 2,000 haemophiliacs have died so far?
Can the dear Leader tell us when he might find time for a debate on the future of the aircraft carriers? Before the election, we were promised that we would have an examination of the break clauses on day one of the new Government. However, day one, week one and almost month one have gone and there has been no announcement. Any public expenditure could be found by cutting the grants that we provide to the EU.
I am grateful for that helpful suggestion—the only suggestion that we have had so far from the Opposition—as to how money might possibly be saved. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have announced a strategic defence and security review, which will examine the issues that he has raised, and he will have an opportunity at Defence questions to press Ministers on the specific projects that he has outlined.
May I ask the Leader of the House when we are going to have a debate on what the Government call quangos, because there are 700 jobs at stake in Coventry? More importantly, do the Government consider regional development agencies such as Advantage West Midlands to be quangos? Do they also understand that major problems are now building up in the civil service itself—among the lower-paid, not the higher-paid? If the definition of quango includes them, should we not have a major debate on this?
On the specific issue of the west midlands regional development agency, we have just had an hour’s questions to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which included, I understand, a question on the west midlands RDA. On the issue of quangos generally, quangos cover a wide range of Government Departments, and it may be better to look at the quangos within the context of each individual Department and see how they fit in, rather than have a wide-ranging debate on quangos spanning every Department.
I welcome the Leader of the House to the Dispatch Box. Thinking back to when he and I, and the Speaker, entered the House, one of the toughest parts of the job was if someone had a young family and represented a constituency some way from the House. They were tough times, and I do not want us to go back to the days when I very rarely saw my wife and children because they lived 200 miles away. Is it not the case that IPSA almost seems to be at war with new young Members who have family responsibilities some distance from this House, and without consultation has changed the transport arrangements for families and is making it more and more difficult for families to stay together when we are doing the difficult job that we do in this House?
I believe people of all incomes, all ages and all types of family arrangements should be eligible to become Members of Parliament, and the allowance regime should not penalise any particular group or deter any particular group from becoming MPs. IPSA has said that it will conduct a review of the regime. I believe that that is an important step, and I know that other hon. Members will feed into the review points similar to the one that the hon. Gentleman has raised, so that Members are not separated from their families for large lengths of time.
I am aware that the Government have so far announced in just two weeks some 24 reviews; there may well be many more. May we have a debate in the House on the number of consultants who will be employed to conduct these reviews—and, possibly, the Leader of the House might be agreeable to having a debate on whether we need a review to look at the number of reviews?
I am sure that that was meant in an entirely helpful way. I see nothing wrong in having a review on a serious and complex issue, in order to ensure that Governments come to the right conclusion, and the last Labour Government announced a long series of reviews. At the same time, we are taking steps to cut costs in-year on IT and the use of consultants, and I see no conflict between having some serious reviews on constitutional issues, economically conducted, and at the same time reviewing the use of consultants more widely within Whitehall.
Further to a number of questions asked during BIS questions, may we have a debate, or at least a clear statement, on the future of the agency workers directive, which would affect beneficially and give minimal protection to millions of workers in many constituencies, including my own? Before the election there was a clear commitment to enforce the agency workers directive. There seems to be some confusion in the new Government; that may be the product of having Ministers from different parties in the Department, but we need a clear statement so that we know where we are.
I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that there was sometimes confusion between Ministers when they all came from the same party. On the serious issue that he raises, I understand that it was touched on during BIS questions, but I will ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to write to him, dealing with the specific question that he asks about the agency workers directive.
Given the contradictory answers given to me and to the shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills by the Secretary of State, I wonder whether we could have a debate on the loan facility for Sheffield Forgemasters, given that it is not only of importance to Sheffield but of strategic national importance for manufacturing.
Is it true that the Lib Dem part of the coalition is continuing to claim state funding, despite not being in opposition, and if so, should we not have an urgent debate on that obvious way to save the Leader of the House some money?
May we have a debate in Government time—a full day debate, on the Floor of the House—on human rights around the world, in which we might discuss, for instance, the problem in Russia and the Government’s change of policy in relation to Russia, which is cutting all the programmes that engage with civil society in Russia and that make it possible for people to defend their rights against a very difficult regime, in a situation where very few people have an opportunity to put forward their legitimate rights and few people have an opportunity to assemble? Will he ensure that Ministers come to that debate and explain their change of policy on Russia?