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Commons Chamber

Volume 512: debated on Wednesday 30 June 2010

House of Commons

Wednesday 30 June 2010

The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock


[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

Northern Ireland

The Secretary of State was asked—

Presbyterian Mutual Society

1. What progress has been made in providing assistance to savers affected by the current situation of the Presbyterian Mutual Society. (4204)

Both the Prime Minister and I have publicly stated our firm commitment to working with the Northern Ireland Executive to ensure a just and fair resolution to the PMS situation, and all options are being considered. The reconvened ministerial working group will meet soon to review progress, and I will be its chairman.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of those with savings of less than £20,000 in the PMS are in the older age bracket? As a result, they have been denied access to their savings for more than 20 months and have faced hardship and great distress. Does he appreciate that the urgent resolution of this situation is necessary? What timetable is he working on to resolve it?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question. I totally appreciate the severity of the pressures, particularly on older people, who are having trouble paying nursing home fees and so on. I would love to set a timetable, but I cannot do so. All I can say is that this Government take this issue seriously, we will get a grip on it, we have reconvened the working group and I will chair it. I very much hope that we will arrive at a solution.

I thank the Secretary of State for his answer. Given the extent of central Government support for failed financial institutions and the severe budgetary pressures faced by the Northern Ireland Executive, does he accept that it is imperative that the Treasury endeavours to alleviate the financial burdens faced by savers in the PMS? Will he take those views on board when he begins to chair this group shortly? If the Northern Ireland Executive find resources for this organisation, will the Treasury match those several-fold?

I am most grateful to the hon. Lady for her question. I would not want to prejudge the result of our deliberations, so I merely say that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will be on the working group, and its other four members are all part of the Executive and will put the point of view of the Executive clearly in our deliberations.

Dissident Paramilitary Activity

2. What recent assessment he has made of the extent of activities of dissident republicans in Northern Ireland. (4205)

3. What his most recent assessment is of the level of security threat from dissident republican organisations in Northern Ireland. (4206)

7. What recent assessment he has made of levels of dissident paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland. (4210)

The threat level in Northern Ireland remains at severe, but the security forces continue to bear down on this small number of criminals. So far this year there have been 121 arrests and 30 charges brought, which compares with 106 arrests and 17 charges brought in the whole of 2009.

I thank the Minister for his response. In the light of the Independent Monitoring Commission’s report, the increase in the activity of a small band of dissident republicans and, in particular, the worrying use of car bombs, will he consider continuing the previous Government’s practice of providing additional funds from the reserves to tackle terrorism?

We did, of course, endorse that approach and, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, we wrote the most open-dated cheque in supporting the previous Government’s moves in that direction before the general election. In my opening remarks, I referred to the level of activity among those who reject the peace process and who have, in effect, turned their backs on it. I do not wish to distinguish them by calling them “dissident republicans” because I believe that that gives them a status that they do not deserve. I believe that the security services, particularly the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Department of Justice in Belfast, which is headed by David Ford, and crucially, the Garda in the Republic of Ireland, are working extremely carefully and closely together to try to prevent these atrocities from happening on a more regular basis.

The Minister will be aware that in recent days a 300 lb bomb and a 160 lb bomb have been planted in Northern Ireland by these so-called “dissidents”. Further to the previous question, may I ask whether he will give assurances to this House today and to the people who live in the area where these bombs were put that we will get whatever resources are needed, be they financial or manpower?

The hon. Gentleman’s constituency had the pipe bomb in the grounds of the Brownlow PSNI station on 18 June and the tragic and unacceptable murder of Constable Stephen Carroll by the Continuity IRA. The answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question is that we support any bid by the PSNI for additional resources, and we will make representations to the Treasury as and when necessary, because the security of innocent individuals in Northern Ireland should be paramount in everything we seek to do.

Does the Minister agree that this is not just about the threat of bombs and dissident activity but about the fact that many dissidents in Northern Ireland—as I know from my experience as a Minister there for some time—are involved in criminal activity? Even today, we have seen reports of criminal gangs and prostitution run by dissident paramilitaries. Will he ensure that resources are available not only to tackle the emergency situation but to deal with the long-term security and crime issues that impact on the community across the Province?

Indeed. Things have changed since the right hon. Gentleman was in Northern Ireland and, of course, crime issues that are without any kind of terrorist connotation are a matter for the Department of Justice, David Ford and the PSNI. Of course, we will provide all the resources that are needed. I cannot stress enough the close co-operation we have with the Garda on cross-border issues. I am delighted to make an announcement today on one of the things for which we have been lobbied by the PSNI—an automatic number plate reading device that will cost £12.9 million. The Secretary of State has been lobbying the Treasury since he took office and I am delighted to be able to announce to the House this morning that we have that funding for the PSNI. That will be a useful device in its continuing battle against those who would commit crime.

May I congratulate the hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State on their appointments and wish them well in Northern Ireland? Further to previous questions, may I ask what discussions have taken place between the Government, the Chief Constable and the Justice Minister in Northern Ireland on access to the security fund?

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his elevation to the Privy Council. We have regular meetings, both on a statutory basis and on an informal basis, with David Ford, the Chief Constable and others in Northern Ireland. We listen to the requests that they make for access to the funds, as the right hon. Gentleman suggests, but I think that they will be heartened by the news that when they asked us for something during the first few weeks of our being in power, we delivered.

I am grateful to the Minister for his response and congratulate him on his announcement today. Given that he is now off to a good start, I hope that he can continue with that. On the wider issue of resources, will he give us an assurance? Given the amount of powers that are devolved to Northern Ireland, one of his main tasks will be, along with his colleague the Secretary of State, to fight the Treasury for funds for Northern Ireland. He will be judged on that, so will he give a commitment that he is fighting on that front, too?

The right hon. Gentleman will know that we do not have to fight with the Treasury, because in the Treasury are our dear and trusted colleagues. Whenever we have asked them for anything, they have delivered— although I would concede that that has happened only once to date. Without being particularly partisan against Labour Members, I refer the right hon. Gentleman back to the outgoing Chief Secretary’s remark that “There is no money.” This is a very tight fiscal round and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Secretary of State and I will make representations to the Treasury when asked to do so on behalf of the devolved Administration in Northern Ireland.

I congratulate my hon. Friend and the Secretary of State on their appointments. Does the Minister agree that one way in which paramilitary activity can start to be countered is if there is co-operation between people in all sections of the communities in each of these areas? Is the Minister satisfied that sufficient progress is being made in that respect?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on being appointed Chair of the Select Committee. I hope that that is one issue that the newly formed Select Committee will consider. Of course, he is right, particularly in the light of the Saville report on Bloody Sunday when, for many people, we finally got the truth of what happened on that dreadful day. It is incumbent on everyone in Northern Ireland to come forward and tell the truth. It is only through the truth being told that we can get reconciliation and allow Northern Ireland to move on in the way that everybody in this House would wish it to.

I welcome the Minister to his post and wish him genuinely warm good wishes in his responsibilities. I also welcome the very good news that he and the Secretary of State have secured this additional £12 million from the reserve. That is vital funding and I congratulate them on obtaining it. I am sure that he will agree that the Independent Monitoring Commission has played a vital role in the political process and in the peace process in Northern Ireland. Now that devolution is complete, what role does he envisage for the IMC in the future?

I pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman and I have heard nothing but good about his time in Northern Ireland as a Minister. He is a hard act to follow. To keep my answer short, in line with what you have just suggested, Mr Speaker, the IMC has, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, performed a sterling service. We and the Irish Government keep the continuing need for it under review.

Public Inquiries

4. What his policy is on holding further public inquiries into events involving deaths which took place during the troubles in Northern Ireland. (4207)

I reaffirm the statement made to this House by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 15 June, where he reassured the House that there would be

“no more open-ended and costly inquiries into the past.”—[Official Report, 15 June 2010; Vol. 511, c. 741.]

May I, too, congratulate my next-door neighbour from just over the border in Shropshire on his appointment as the Secretary of State? Does he agree that the Saville inquiry, no matter how long it took, marked a watershed in the troubled history of Northern Ireland? While respecting the families’ legitimate rights still to grieve, it is important to look to the future. All the Governments of the past 30 years should be congratulated on their efforts toward reconciliation in Northern Ireland, but will he outline what specific initiatives the new Government will take to secure peace in Northern Ireland?

I am most grateful for my neighbour’s kind comments. He is absolutely right that Northern Ireland needs to look ahead, but the people of Northern Ireland need to work together, and solutions for dealing with the past and looking ahead must be agreed among those who lead the country at local level. We cannot have solutions being imposed from above.

I, too, congratulate the Secretary of State and the Minister of State on assuming their posts. In the Prime Minister’s statement on Saville, he said that he wanted to

“reassure the House that there will be no more open-ended and costly inquiries into the past.”—[Official Report, 15 June 2010; Vol. 511, c. 741.]

We know that that was also the Secretary of State’s position in opposition, so we were a little intrigued to hear from the Prime Minister in the same statement that we

“should look at each case on its merits.” —[Official Report, 15 June 2010; Vol. 511, c. 744]

So—a straight answer here will do—does the right hon. Gentleman accept that he may have been a little rash, in opposition, definitively to rule out future inquiries, whatever the case? A yes or no will do.

I am most grateful to the shadow Secretary of State for his comments. I do not want to turn this into a love-in, but I compliment him on delivering the final stage of devolution. That was his great achievement as the Secretary of State. It is important, in considering that past, that we do not shut out any possible solutions. The Prime Minister said last week in his statement that the Historical Enquiries Team is doing good work, has support across the community and achieves very high satisfaction levels: 86% of those who have had HET reports were satisfied with its performance. For the time being, that is the route ahead, but we cannot impose a solution from above.

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman mentions the HET, which he will know was established as part of a process and is not, of course, the process. It is looking at 3,268 unsolved killings, but after five years it is still working on the 1970s. It is not an inquiry, it is not an inquest and it is not a police investigation. We know that all families want the truth, so will he be straight with those families, including the family of the hon. Member for South Antrim (Dr McCrea), and admit that now Saville has been published, there is a responsibility on the Government to come forward with a fully funded, comprehensive process to establish and discover the truth and bring reconciliation for all families?

We have a process through the HET that is achieving very high levels of satisfaction—of the families who have had a report, 95% credited it for professionalism and 86% for performance. That is working. Before we go further, we need to work with local politicians. As I keep repeating, there is no role for us, as the national Government, to impose. I draw the right hon. Gentleman’s attention to comments made by David Ford this week.

“We cannot have a Saville-type inquiry for all the tragedies of the past, but the fundamental matter of dealing with the past is something which has to be dealt with collectively by the Executive.”

Consultative Group on the Past

5. What plans he has to take into account the recommendations of the report of the Consultative Group on the Past in formulating policy on reconciliation measures in Northern Ireland. (4208)

In determining what role I can play, I will of course consider the recommendations made by the Consultative Group on the Past. I will shortly publish a summary of responses to the previous Government’s consultation on the group’s proposals.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on his appointment and I thank him and his predecessor for the quality of contact and consideration that they extended to the families regarding the publication of the Saville report. On the wider issues of the past, there are thousands of victims, all of whom have different needs in terms of truth, recognition and remembrance. Does the Secretary of State agree that the community also has a collective responsibility to discharge its regard for the past so that future generations will know that it was a dirty war and that we will never settle for a dirty peace?

I am grateful for that question and pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman, who has taken me to his constituency. I met the families in the Bogside two or three years ago, and on that trip I also met Dr Hazlett Lynch a few hours later. That drummed into me the fact that there is no consensus on the past. We have to work at local level, and I appeal to the hon. Gentleman to work with his colleagues in the Executive, in collaboration with us, to find a way forward. However, there is no black-and-white solution that will work if we impose it from above.

May I add my congratulations to the Secretary of State on his appointment? Is he aware of the report produced this morning by the Commission for Victims and Survivors giving the Government advice on dealing with the past? How will he take forward the report’s recommendations so that we have a more comprehensive process for dealing with all aspects of the past and the needs of victims?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that question. The document will form part of our listening exercise. We will publish the summary of the conclusions of those who responded to the previous Government on the Eames-Bradley report. As I have said, we will be going round talking and listening to various groups, but I repeat—for the nth time in this question session—that we cannot impose. It is up to people in Northern Ireland to work together to decide a strategy going forward.

Pat Finucane

I am aware of the previous Government’s commitments and that there has been a long-running exchange between the previous Government and the Finucane family on the question of an inquiry.

Before I explain how I propose to approach this question, I want to hear the views of the Finucane family for myself. I have written to the family to invite them to meet me.

I welcome the Secretary of State to his position and thank him for that answer. Earlier, he indicated once again that there would be no more open-ended inquiries, but when the Prime Minister responded to the Saville report, he said both that and

“but of course we should look at each case on its merits.”—[Official Report, 15 June 2010; Vol. 511, c. 744.]

Although I thank the Secretary of State for his answer, I am not sure—and I wonder whether the family of Pat Finucane are sure—which of those positions holds true for that case.

As the hon. Lady knows, the issue was the subject of considerable discussion between the Finucane family and the previous Secretary of State. I think that today it is appropriate for me to talk to the family first rather than to give a black-and-white answer on how we are going to take this forward.

As the Secretary of State will know, there is no bar to an inquiry on this issue, except that the family are looking for some kind of special provision. If he grants that, the danger is that he will create a hierarchy of victims, and that thousands of people who have not had justice will look on and wonder why they are not getting the same justice.

I am grateful for that, and the right hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. I repeat my earlier reply—that, at this stage, the first thing that I should do is to go and talk to the family—but I also repeat that it is our policy not to have any more costly and open-ended inquiries.

Dual Mandates

8. What discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues on the system of dual mandates in the House of Commons and the Northern Ireland Assembly. (4211)

I should be demanding time and a half.

I have had several discussions with ministerial colleagues on the system of dual mandates. I believe that dual mandates should be brought to an end but that the best way to do so is by consensus among the Northern Ireland parties.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that so-called “double jobbing” has scarred Northern Irish politics for far too long? If local parties will not agree to end that voluntarily, will he consider introducing legislation to restrict the practice and ensure that double-jobbers take only one salary?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question, and he is quite right. The time to end double-jobbing is upon us: quite simply, a Member cannot sit in two legislatures at once. We know from local polls that double-jobbing is very unpopular—in one poll, 71% of respondents were against it. We would like to negotiate with local parties and, if absolutely necessary, we would legislate. However, I draw attention to the example set by my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Alun Cairns). On the day that he was elected to this House, he announced his intention to stand down from the Welsh Assembly, and he has forgone his salary for the rest of this year.

Order. There are far too many private conversations taking place in the Chamber. It is very unfair on the hon. Member asking the question, and indeed on the Minister answering. The House must come to order.

Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland

9. When the Government plan to publish their response to the consultation on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. (4212)

I thank the Minister for that illuminating reply. Before the election, the Secretary of State expressed scepticism about legislating for a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights, but does the Minister accept, now that he is in office, that as there was a solemn commitment to doing so, and as that was part of the Belfast agreement, it would present difficulties in the peace process if he were to renege on that commitment now?

I do not think that there is any question of reneging. The fact is that the world has moved on; we now have a coalition Government who are committed to looking into a UK-wide Bill of Rights. Of course we remain committed to fulfilling the commitments in the Good Friday agreement, and we are considering the best way of doing that within the architecture of a UK-wide commission. We genuinely believe that if we are to have a UK-wide Bill of Rights, the people of Northern Ireland are best represented within that, rather than by any stand-alone sideshow.

Security Threat

10. What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister on the level of security threat in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. (4214)

The Minister will be aware that in north-west Northern Ireland, more pipe bombs were exploded or defused in the first five months of this year than in the entire 12 months of 2009. On the Fountain estate in Londonderry, hundreds of attacks have taken place in the past year. What resources are being put into Northern Ireland to ensure that the police—and the Army, if called on—are there to respond to such a threat?

The hon. Gentleman will be glad about our announcement this morning on automatic number plate recognition. That will be a useful tool for the Police Service of Northern Ireland. He mentioned pipe bombs; we condemn all those attacks. They are indiscriminate, and they target innocent people. When we talk about policing in Northern Ireland, it is worth remembering that operational decisions are matters for the Chief Constable, in whom we have great faith and with whom we have regular meetings, and of course the Department of Justice and David Ford. It is perhaps worth remembering that in Northern Ireland, there is still an average of 4.36 police officers per 1,000 of the population. That compares with 2.87 per 1,000 of the population in England and Wales. I am not saying that that is necessarily enough—it can never be enough—but there are police and resources, and we respond to demands from the PSNI.

What is the Minister’s assessment of the wider security threat in the context of Ulster Volunteer Force activity and the murder of Bobby Moffett?

I join most people in this House, I suspect, in condemning the gunning down of Bobby Moffett in the cold light of day in a completely unacceptable way, and I pay tribute to all those people who live in that part of the city and who attended his funeral. The hon. Gentleman would not expect me to make any judgment on the case, as it is obviously the subject of ongoing investigation by the PSNI, but it is not impossible that there will need to be a hard line taken later, in the autumn, when the IMC next reports.

Presbyterian Mutual Society

11. What recent discussions he has had on his Department’s policy in response to the collapse of the Presbyterian Mutual Society. (4215)

I have held a number of discussions with both Treasury Ministers and Ministers from the Northern Ireland Executive in recent weeks as we seek to identify options to assist members of the Presbyterian Mutual Society. The reconvened PMS ministerial working group will meet soon to review progress.

I welcome the Secretary of State’s reply, which will give some reassurance to the thousands of people in Northern Ireland affected by the collapse. Does he recognise that there have been 18 months between the collapse of the society and the general election, and that this is another example of the Labour party leaving a mess for us to sort out?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, because it was a boast of the previous Prime Minister that

“No UK depositor has lost money.”

That is why we have decided to grip the issue, and why I will chair the working group. I very much hope that we will come to a resolution soon.

Rather than those on both sides of the House playing party politics with the needs of savers in Northern Ireland, can the Secretary of State tell the House when he will come to a conclusion, so that savers, especially pensioners who are hard pressed at this time, can access and use their money?

We have been in power only seven weeks. We have set up the working group. We will set about our work with determination, and I hope we will provide a solution soon.

Speaking as someone who was very kindly treated by the Garda when I made a map-reading error in hot pursuit, may I ask my right hon. Friend what the relationship currently is between the Garda and the Police Service of Northern Ireland?

I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but unfortunately his question does not relate to the response to the collapse of the Presbyterian Mutual Society. I hope he will take that gentle admonition in the spirit in which it was intended.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—


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.

Is the reason that the Prime Minister wants to put fewer criminals in jail to do with cutting crime or cutting budgets?

What the Government want to do is clear up the complete mess of the criminal justice system left by the Labour party. Each prison place today costs £45,000, yet 40% of prisoners are back in prison within a year, more than half of them are on drugs, and around 10% of them are foreign national prisoners, who should not be here in the first place.

The American waste giant, Covanta, is proposing to build in my constituency an incinerator about the size of Wembley. Will the Prime Minister give an assurance that decisions about such matters will be made at a local level in future?

My hon. Friend is right to raise this, and it is right that decisions should be made locally. We want to make sure that all the latest technology for alternatives to incineration is considered, so that we can make sure that we are using the best ways to achieve a green approach.

We were very concerned this morning to read reports that as a result of the right hon. Gentleman’s Budget, 1.3 million jobs will be lost. Can he confirm that this was an estimate produced by Treasury officials?

The right hon. and learned Lady should know—[Interruption.] I will give a surprisingly full answer if Opposition Members just sit patiently. This morning the Office for Budget Responsibility produced the full tables for the Budget for employment in the public and the private sector. That never happened under a Labour Government, right? As shown in the Budget, unemployment is forecast to fall every year under this Government, but the tables also show public sector employment. It is interesting that from the tables we can see the effect of Labour’s policy before the Budget and the effect of our policy after the Budget. What the figures show is that under Labour’s plans, next year there would be 70,000 fewer public sector jobs, and the year after that, there would be 150,000 fewer public sector jobs. We have had the courage to have a two-year pay freeze. I know we have all been watching the football, but that was a spectacular own goal.

I know that the right hon. Gentleman has published some new figures today, but it is the figures that he has not published that I am asking about—the figures that show that 1.3 million jobs will be lost. Why will the Prime Minister not publish those Treasury documents? Why is he keeping them hidden?

The forecasts that are published now are independent from the Government. That is the whole point. [Interruption.] It is no good Opposition Members chuntering about that. They now support the Office for Budget Responsibility, completely independent of Government. The right hon. and learned Lady’s approach is extraordinary. Before the election the shadow Chancellor, the then Chancellor, was asked on BBC radio on 23 April 2010, and the transcript says:

“‘Will you acknowledge that public sector jobs will be cut?’ Darling: ‘It’s inevitable.’”

But even the OBR says that under the Prime Minister’s Budget, unemployment will be higher than it would otherwise have been. It says that on today’s figures and it said that on last week’s figures. Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the secret Treasury analysis shows that under his Budget, 500,000 jobs will be lost in the public sector, but even more will be lost in the private sector?

The figures published today show 2 million more private sector jobs. They show 1.4 million more people in work at the end of this Parliament. They show unemployment falling every year. It is not really any surprise that the former Labour Minister, Digby Jones, after the Budget said—[Interruption.] Why not listen?

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the Prime Minister. I must ask hon. and right hon. Members to listen with some restraint. I want to hear the answers.

The Opposition gave him a peerage. They might as well listen to what he had to say. He said:

“I think that sign has gone up around the world saying Britain is serious about sorting out its economic mess”.

He is right. It is a pity he did not say it when he was in office.

The right hon. Gentleman has not answered the question about the 1.3 million. He has not agreed to publish those documents. He should know what abject misery this unemployment will cause to individuals, to families and to communities. Can he tell us now how much extra it will cost in unemployment benefits?

The right hon. and learned Lady does not seem to understand. Unemployment will be falling during this Parliament. We have published the full figures, but it is not now us publishing the figures, it is the Office for Budget Responsibility. She must understand that this is something the Labour party now supports. Let me repeat: the figures show that unemployment in the public sector would be higher under Labour’s plans next year and the year after. When she gets to her feet perhaps she will tell us whether she now supports the pay freeze to keep unemployment down?

Mr. Speaker, you can always tell when the right hon. Gentleman does not want to answer a question, because he asks me a question. He should recognise that under the OBR figures published today, unemployment is higher than it would have been because of his Budget. The same is shown in the OBR report last week. He will not tell us how much more the Treasury will have to pay out in benefits to people without work as a result of his Budget. Will he tell us how much less will be coming in in taxes as a result of fewer people in work because of his Budget?

There will be more people in work. Like every Labour Government, the Opposition left us with unemployment rising and at the end of this Parliament unemployment will be falling. That is the difference. My advice would be to look at the figures before standing up and asking the question. If one looks at the figures one sees higher public sector unemployment next year and the year after under Labour. The right hon. and learned Lady has slotted the ball straight into the back of her own net.

We will look at the figures if the right hon. Gentleman will publish them. We know that because this Budget hits jobs, the Treasury will have less money coming in and more money going out. Does not that make reducing the deficit even harder and more painful, with bigger tax rises or even deeper cuts in public services? Why are the Lib Dems just sitting there letting this happen? No one who voted Lib Dem voted for this.

The right hon. Lady talks about reducing the Budget deficit, but we have not heard one single proposal for cutting the deficit. We all know that the Opposition left us the biggest Budget deficit in the G20—the biggest Budget deficit in our history. We have been having a good trawl for the stupidest piece of spending that they undertook, and I think we have found it. It was in her own Department, which spent £2.4 million doing up the Department, including £72,000 each on two-storey meeting pods known as peace pods. This is what they were for—[Interruption.] It is true. I am reading from her own Department’s staff magazine. Taxpayers have a right to hear where their money went. This is where it went. It was

“a 21st century…space of quality, air and light, where we can…relax and refuel in a natural ebb and flow.”

That is what has happened. They have gone from peaceniks to peace pods, and bankrupted the country in the process.

The Prime Minister will be aware that Winchester hosted the largest homecoming parade of returning troops from Afghanistan to date last Wednesday afternoon, when 650 men and women from 11 Light Brigade marched through the city’s streets in the presence of the Duchess of Cornwall. Will he join me in paying tribute to those 650 brave men and women, the 64 who did not make it home and, of course, the thousands of Winchester constituents of mine who showed their gratitude for a job well done?

I shall certainly join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to all those who served in Afghanistan. The homecoming parades that have been instituted are an absolutely excellent way of showing the whole country’s support for our armed forces. He rightly talks about those who did not come home, and we should also think of those who have come home wounded and will need our support, backing and help in terms of health and mental health services, prosthetic limbs and other things of a really high quality for the rest of their lives. I am determined that we will honour that commitment.

Q2. The leaked Treasury papers are absolutely clear that unemployment will rocket by 1.3 million over the next five years. Does the Prime Minister not realise that millions of people watching this who face unemployment over the next few years will think that his comments are tinged with contempt in his refusal to answer perfectly straightforward questions from the Labour Front Bench? (4721)

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. We are publishing the figures, and they show exactly what will happen in terms of private sector employment and public sector employment. As the previous Government accepted, there will be reductions in public sector employment, but according to the Office for Budget Responsibility, which is independent of the Government, the growth in the private sector more than makes up for that. After he has left this room, he should maybe spend some time in a peace pod, wander to the Library and have a look at the figures, where he will see the Office for Budget Responsibility showing unemployment falling every year of this Parliament.

Q3. Following last week’s much welcomed Budget announcement, does the Prime Minister agree that correcting our deeply unbalanced economy will require fresh investment and enterprise in many northern cities, such as my own of York, which for so long was neglected by the Labour Government? What assurances can he give to me and my constituents that the coalition will do all it can to encourage the economic growth— (4722)

My hon. Friend is quite right to raise that point, because during the past decade the disparity between regions actually got worse. Regional policy has for the past decade been a complete failure, and that is why we are right to cut rates of corporation tax, to say to new businesses, “You can set up without having to pay national insurance on your first 10 employees,” to bias that policy in favour of parts of the country where the needs are greatest and to have a £1 billion regional growth fund that can help parts of the country such as the one that he represents.

Does the Prime Minister accept that one consequence of a prison sentence is that those serving them are unavailable to reoffend?

Yes, absolutely—I mean, that is absolutely right. That is why prison is there. I believe that prison can work; the fact is that it is just not working properly at the moment. When we have got those reoffending rates, the cost of each prison place and the appalling problem of drugs in prison, we have got to reform. If the Labour party wants to put itself on the side of the argument of simply defending the status quo, it is making a great mistake. If ever there were a part of our public services that needed radical reform to make sure that prison does work, then now, that is it.

Q4. Given the Chancellor’s recent comments stating that the UK is open for business, I should like to ask my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister why foreign students who come here to study at English language schools for a period greater than six months and contribute an estimated £600 million a year to that vital industry must now already be able to speak English before they can obtain a visa. Will the Prime Minister arrange for me and a delegation to meet the Immigration Minister to sort that out and show that our Government really are open for business? (4723)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: we want to make sure that this country is open for business, and we are taking steps to do that. The point about people coming here to learn English is that, if they come to learn English for less than six months, that is permitted, but clearly there are problems, as everybody knows: too many bogus colleges and too many people pretending to come and study, when really they are coming for work. I shall certainly organise a meeting between my hon. Friend and the Immigration Minister to discuss that, but it is right that we have to deal with the problem of bogus colleges, where there has been so much abuse in recent years.

The Prime Minister has said that he wants to see more companies owned by their workers—the so-called John Lewis model. Sheffield Forgemasters is one of those companies. Will the Prime Minister therefore now accept that he was wrong to criticise its shareholders for seeking a loan from the Government? They were not seeking to line their own pockets; they have not yet taken a penny in dividends. What they were seeking to do was ensure the future of that company and other jobs in the UK.

The hon. Lady talks about the importance of firms being owned by their own employees; I am looking forward to her support and the support of every Labour Member when we make sure that the Post Office has that sort of ownership model and we get the investment going as well. [Interruption.] I will take that as a yes, then.

Q5. About 5,000 young people a year leave local authority care, and without parental support many of them end up on the streets or in our prisons. Do the new Government have any plans to intervene more effectively in the lives of that very vulnerable group, to try to improve their life chances? (4724)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this. We really do need to do better as a country. The fact is that around 0.6% of children are in care, but 23% of adult prisoners in our prison system were in care. We have to do better. One of the problems is that, unlike other 18-year-olds, children leaving care aged 18 have nowhere to go and no one to help them. We have to do better. We are looking at this area and I recognise that dealing with the scandal of the poor outcomes for children in care is something, frankly, that everyone in this House ought to support.

Homecoming parades for our very brave soldiers in Afghanistan are incredibly important, but so is an exit strategy from Afghanistan. Given the growing agreement that there is no military solution to the crisis there and that the head of the Army himself has said that we should start talking to the Taliban soon, would the Prime Minister not agree that we should start talking now, so that we can save more lives on all sides and bring our troops home?

May I first of all welcome the hon. Lady to the House? Winning her seat was an incredible achievement for her party, and I know that she will make a huge contribution during this Parliament.

We discussed Afghanistan at quite some length in the House yesterday. Of course there is no purely military solution; very few insurgencies are ended by purely military means. But I think it is important to continue with the strategy this year of the military surge, to put pressure on the Taliban—and, of course, there should be a political track. But as I said yesterday in the House, we have to recognise that there is a difference between the Taliban linked to al-Qaeda, who want to do so much harm not just in Afghanistan but across our continent as well, and those people who have been caught up in an insurgency for other reasons. Should there be reconciliation and reintegration? Yes, of course; there is, and we can go further. But I think that the things that the hon. Lady is talking about would not be advisable.

Q6. As we pay tribute to the members of our armed forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, it is worth remembering that for every life lost there, six more are changed for ever through the loss of one or more limbs. Sometimes there are things that money cannot buy, but I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement of an extra £67 million to try to help to counter improvised explosive devices. Will he explain to the House how that money will be spent? (4725)

I thank my hon. Friend for his question and pay tribute to him as a member of our Territorial Army reserve. He is himself a bomb disposal expert who has served in Afghanistan. What the bomb disposal and IED teams do is beyond brave. I saw for myself in Camp Bastion their training and instruction. They do a really extraordinary thing for our soldiers and our country. We announced an extra £67 million to give proper protection; £40 million of that is for more protected vehicles. We will also be doubling the number of teams. All the time, we have to keep up with the technology that our enemy is using.

My hon. Friend mentioned people coming home having lost one limb or two. These are young people, who do not just want to have a new limb and a quiet life—they want to run marathons and to climb Everest. They want to have fulfilled lives. We have to make sure that the support and the very best prosthetic limbs are there for them so that they can lead those lives.

Q7. In light of the earlier exchanges about employment and job losses, does not the Prime Minister think that the announcement this week of a further 4,000 full-time-equivalent staff being cut from Jobcentre Plus by next March amounts to a false economy? (4726)

First, I welcome the hon. Lady to the House. Not everyone will know that she was head of the Child Poverty Action Group, which has done incredible work in our country over many years. I pay tribute to her for that.

Let me just repeat: the forecasts show employment rising—that is the key—and employment is the best way of tackling poverty. Of course there are going to be public sector job losses, and of course there are going to be cuts in some programmes—that would have been true under a Labour Government, and it is true under our Government. The key, though, is gripping this problem so that we start to get confidence and growth in our economy and so we start to get the recovery. I say to Labour Members that they have got to engage in this debate rather than play this pathetic game of pretending there would not have been cuts under Labour. There would have been—they announced them, they just never told anyone what they were.

The campaign of the right hon. Member for South Shields (David Miliband) is so confused these days that he is seeking support from Conservative MPs. He says that the Budget was avoidable. Can I ask the Prime Minister whether it was avoidable or—[Interruption.]

Order. It is a good idea to start with a question that directly relates to the policy of the Government, but unfortunately this one does not.

Q8. The paediatric cardiac unit at Glenfield hospital in my constituency provides outstanding care, not only in terms of the quality of surgery but of the excellent nursing, aftercare, and facilities and support for parents. Will the Prime Minister confirm that all aspects of care will be considered as part of the Government’s review of children’s heart surgery; and will he agree to visit the Glenfield’s unit before the review makes its recommendations to see for himself the excellent care it provides? (4727)

I quite understand why the hon. Lady raises this question. A national examination of children’s cardiac services was started under the last Government, and it will continue under this Government, because we have got to make sure that standards are as high as they can be in this incredibly difficult and technical area. We all have our interests to defend—obviously, I have the John Radcliffe hospital, which does a great job as well, next to my constituency—so she is right to stand up for her constituents in that way. The examination needs to take place. However, one of the keys is going to be protecting, as we believe is necessary, spending in the NHS over this Parliament, with modest, real-terms increases each year. That is our policy; it is no longer the policy of the Labour party. So when difficult decisions have to be made, it would be worse if we were adopting the Labour policy of cutting the NHS.

Q9. Will the Prime Minister join me in welcoming the fact that through protecting investments in health care, the coalition Government have been able to approve the £40 million hospices capital grant, £600,000 of which will go towards the expansion of St Richard’s hospice in Worcester, which will benefit at least hundreds of patients a year, with community care, and hundreds of families and care workers across Worcestershire in the years to come? (4728)

My hon. Friend is right to raise the hospice movement, which has been one of the great successes of the big society that we have in this country. I think we all cherish what the hospice movement does.

May I take this opportunity, on behalf of the whole House, to pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s father, who served in Parliament for 49 years? He gave great service to this country, and he gave great service in Wales. He had many achievements in his long career. If politics is about public service in the national interest, and things that can change people’s lives, his pioneering reform of selling council homes to their tenants is something that I think has greatly improved our country.

I wonder whether the Prime Minister could tell us who he considers to be right on short prison sentences—the Secretary of State for Justice or the leader of his party in the Scottish Parliament.

The point here is straightforward. We all know we have to keep short sentences for some purposes; I have said that, and the Lord Chancellor has said that. Of course we need to have that in some circumstances, but do we benefit from lots and lots of very short sentences? I think it would be better if we could improve community sentences so that they were tough. One of the problems of the appalling inheritance that we have from the past 10 years is that no one has any faith in the community sentences that ought to be a good alternative to prison.

Q10. May I urge my right hon. Friend to ignore Simon Heffer when, in The Daily Telegraph today, he advocates the complete abolition of the Department for International Development on the basis that charity begins at home? Will he take this opportunity to tell those sections of the Poujadiste press that keep on having a crack at the Government’s commitment to international development that our national interest, security stability and sense of humanity very often begin overseas? (4729)

My hon. Friend is entirely right, and he has a record as a Minister for Africa and a Development Minister in a previous Government. The fact is that we have made a commitment, both nationally and internationally, to increase our aid spending, and I think Britain should be a country that sticks to its word. I have to say, even to those who take a more hard-headed approach to these things, that overseas aid is in our domestic interest. When we think of the problems that world poverty causes, we see that it is in our interest and that of our national security to deliver that aid. Above all, Britain sticking to its word, as I found at the G8 and G20, gives us the opportunity to have some moral authority and moral leadership on this vital issue.

How can the Prime Minister justify the fact that hundreds of thousands of public sector workers, the victims of the financial crash, will unquestionably lose their jobs because of the huge public service cuts to come, when the bankers and super-rich, the architects of the financial crash, whose wealth grew by £77 billion in this last year according to The Sunday Times rich list, stand to lose neither their jobs, their income nor their wealth? Is that what he means by everyone being in it together?

The right hon. Gentleman fought the last election on £50 billion of unspecified cuts. That is why the figures published today show that public sector job losses would be higher under Labour in the next two years. He can say all he likes about bankers; the fact is, his party would not introduce a bank levy until the rest of the world had decided to do it. We have done it in seven weeks.

Q11. My constituent Milly, aged five, wrote to me recently asking why there are special days for mothers and fathers and not for children—[Interruption.] (4730)

Will the Prime Minister commit to working with voluntary organisations to raise the profile of our children’s day on 20 November, to celebrate the United Nations convention on the rights of the child and indeed to celebrate the achievements of all our children, whether they be rich or poor?

The hon. Lady has a long record of supporting children’s day and the United Nations convention, which was signed in 1990. I think we should raise the profile of the day, and I know she will be pleased to note that the coalition is making good progress on that. Only this morning the Minister of State, Department for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for Brent Central (Sarah Teather), held a seminar about special needs children and how we must ensure that their needs are properly protected under this coalition Government.

Q12. The Prime Minister might have noticed that the people of Scotland did not choose his party, except in one seat out of 59, and they did not choose the Conservatives’ poodles, the Liberal Democrats, either. Can he assure the House, as an absolute chill runs through Scotland at the 1.3 million hidden job losses that he did not publish, that any proposals for cuts in public services and expenditure in Scotland, and any Barnett formula cuts, will be brought before the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs—[Interruption.] (4731)

I am well aware that the Conservative party did not sweep Scotland, and I thank the hon. Gentleman for reminding me of it.

What I said I would do if we formed a Government was to go straight to Scotland and Wales to meet the First Ministers and have—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman has asked a question; he might as well listen to the answer before he starts shouting at me. I said that I would have proper meetings and have a respect agenda in which we respected the devolved Assemblies. I have to say that under the last Government there was a whole year during the financial crisis when the Prime Minister of our country did not even meet the First Minister of Scotland. That will not happen under this Government—we believe in respect.

Q14. May I tell the Prime Minister how pleased my constituents were when he found £50 million to help further education colleges that were promised funding but left high and dry by the previous Administration? Will he ensure that the application for an FE college in Haverhill in my constituency is given the attention it deserves, so that Haverhill can get the FE college that it is promised? (4733)

My hon. Friend makes a very good public spending application, and I am sure that the Treasury will have been listening carefully. He also makes a very good point: even in a difficult Budget, when reductions had to be made, we have boosted spending on FE colleges and increased the number of apprenticeships, after the shambles left by the last lot.

Q13. The Local Government Chronicle has listed my constituency as the one that has received the biggest cuts in Britain—nearly £3 million at district level. As the Prime Minister will be aware, it is an area of poor health, low incomes and some of the worst housing in Britain. In fact, at the weekend the Liberal Democrat leader of Burnley borough council, the neighbouring council, said:“The cuts announced by the Government are hitting deprived areas like Burnley much harder than the more affluent areas.”Does the Prime Minister agree with his colleague in the Liberal Democrats? (4732)

Of course there will be difficult decisions in the Budget and on public spending reductions. Everybody should know that and should be honest about it rather than pretending that they would not have happened if we had had a different Government. What we will do is help areas of need through the tax changes we are making and also through the regional development grant of £1 billion, for which areas such as Hyndburn are able to bid to ensure that they get an increased private sector, to try to get the motor of our economy going again. That is absolutely vital.

Speaker’s Statement

On Monday the shadow Home Secretary, in exchanges across the Floor of the House, and the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), in a subsequent point of order, complained that details of a Home Office statement on non-EU migration had been passed to the media before the statement itself was delivered to the House. I undertook to look into the matter and to report back to the House. Having made inquiries, I am now able to update the House.

I have established that at a Home Office press briefing on Monday morning, copies of a statement were made available to journalists—[Interruption.] Order. The content of that statement was very similar to that delivered orally in the House by the Home Secretary on Monday afternoon. As Members know, I am concerned that Ministers should make key statements to the House before they are made elsewhere. In this case the opposite happened, and this was a discourtesy to the House. The Home Secretary is present, and will wish to take this opportunity to say something.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I deeply regret the fact that on Monday, in my attempt to assist the House by changing from making a written ministerial statement to making an oral statement, the copy of the statement that would have been made in writing to the House was handed out to the press before I made my oral statement. I take full responsibility for that, and I have no hesitation in apologising to the House and in assuring the House that I will ensure that it will not happen again.

I am grateful to the Home Secretary for what she has said, and I will take—[Interruption.] Order. I will take no points of order on that matter.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On Tuesday 22 June the Deputy Prime Minister told the House that he was due to meet with the chief executive of Sheffield Forgemasters the following Friday. I understand that no such meeting took place. Can you inform me how the Deputy Prime Minister can set the record straight?

It is not a responsibility of the Chair—[Interruption.] Order. The House really must calm down; otherwise it gives a very bad impression to the public who take an interest in our proceedings. A commitment may or may not have been made. The matter is important and the hon. Lady has registered her concern forcefully on behalf of her constituents. The matter is on the record—and I suspect that she will pass copies of the record to those in her constituency interested in it—but it is not a matter for the Chair.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. You have recognised that it is an important issue. It is all the more important because the Deputy Prime Minister and many Ministers from his party in the coalition have been so disrespectful and have made suggestions about the personal motivation of the chief executive, whom he was due to meet, that have to be repudiated. I am grateful, therefore, that you took this matter seriously, sir.

I take all matters seriously, but I genuinely do not think that this is a point of order for the Chair. I have the very highest respect for the hon. Gentleman, who has long service in the House, but it is difficult for me to see how he can have a point of order further to a point of order that I have just ruled is not a point of order. However, he has raised his point, even if it is not a point of order, and he has registered his views firmly upon the record.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have often said that you are here to protect the House and to allow it to do its business in holding the Government to account. Will you take up with the Government the fact that although we have had a European summit and a number of European Council meetings, and although five stalwart Labour Members have already volunteered for the European Scrutiny Committee, we have no such Committee to scrutinise the Government’s behaviour in Europe? This is the latest that that Committee has ever been set up.

I am afraid that that is not a task for the Chair—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman will not be too disappointed if he waits. He was looking uncertain, but I am trying to allay his uncertainty. He should be grateful to me.

Order. I do not want sedentary gestures from the hon. Gentleman. I am trying to help him. The matter is not one for the Chair. The information is now firmly in the public domain. Of course we are all in favour of the speedy composition of Committees with important scrutiny work to do, and the Committee to which he refers, which he has himself chaired with distinction, is an important case in point.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that you are very keen that Members of the House should always be factually accurate. On Tuesday 22 June, in answer to questions, the Deputy Prime Minister cited my constituency and said that it had an electorate of 52,000. In fact, on 6 May the electorate was 72,920. I would hope that you, Mr Speaker, would remind Government members of the importance of being factually accurate, when they have all the resources of Government to enable them to quote accurate figures, not figures plucked from the tops of their heads.

My response to the hon. Lady’s point of order—I respect her for raising it—is that, as the Speaker, I am keen on accuracy, but it is not my responsibility, from the Chair, to enforce it. However, she has registered her views—which, I sense, was an important part of her purpose.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Honestly, this is not about the previous matter, although it is slightly allied. I am glad that you are being short with Ministers these days—and there have been other instances, I am afraid, in which Ministers have continued to brief the papers very substantially. I think that we heard another example of it from the Prime Minister today. He referred to plans for Royal Mail that have not been explained to the House, but which have been substantially trailed around the newspapers. Will you investigate that issue as well?

The hon. Gentleman suggests that I have been short with Ministers. I am not sure about that, but I would say to him, and the House, that I have always been short—and I am entirely untroubled by the fact, which is probably just as well. On his point of order, I would say it was a good try, but he needs to explore the matter in other ways. Knowing his indefatigability, I feel sure that that is what he is about to do.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You related a specific instance concerning the Home Secretary, and we have now had two apologies from Ministers in the past 24 hours. Will you discuss with the Leader of the House how we can train and encourage Ministers to have due respect for the House and its Members?

I think that the hon. Gentleman is seeking to continue the debate. What I have said on this matter is very explicit. Today’s exchanges speak for themselves, but again, as a committed constitutionalist, he has put his concerns on the record, as he was perfectly entitled to do.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could you advise the House on how we can stop the danger of Prime Minister’s Question Time slipping into Opposition statement time?

The hon. Gentleman will accept that that is a matter for the Chair, and I hope that he will be comfortable that I will discharge my obligations to the House appropriately.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. At 11.24 this morning I went to the Vote Office to ask for a copy of the second report by the independent Committee on Climate Change, on energy. I thought that appropriate, as this afternoon’s debate is about energy efficiency. Unfortunately, the Vote Office informed me that the report had not yet been made available to it, and that this followed a pattern from last year. Can we ensure that in future the reports from the independent Committee on Climate Change are made available to the Vote Office promptly?

It is important for the House and its opportunity to debate matters of public policy properly that relevant documents be made available in the Vote Office in time for debates. The hon. Gentleman has registered his point with his characteristic force. It is on the record, and those on the Treasury Bench—including appropriate Ministers—will have heard it.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether you could perhaps encourage the promotion of the report of the Committee on Climate Change by Parliament—because it is a report to Parliament—rather than its being launched elsewhere.

I fear that that is somewhat outwith the scope of the Chair. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her confidence in my capacities, and her desire to extend my agenda, but I am not sure that I can agree to her request on this occasion.

Members have been waiting patiently and we are grateful to them, but if there are no further points of order, we come now to the presentation of Bills.

Bills Presented

Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

John McDonnell, supported by Kate Hoey, Tony Lloyd, Mr David Anderson, Michael Connarty, Austin Mitchell, Mr Frank Doran, Kelvin Hopkins, Jim Sheridan, Mr David Crausby, Ian Lavery and John Cryer, presented a Bill to amend section 232B of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 to extend the circumstances in which, by virtue of that section, industrial action is not to be treated as excluded from the protection of section 219 of that Act.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 22 October, and to be printed (Bill 4) with explanatory notes (Bill 4-EN).

Sustainable Livestock Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Robert Flello, supported by Andrew George, Mr Philip Hollobone, Caroline Lucas, Alun Michael, Zac Goldsmith, Martin Horwood, Hazel Blears, Henry Smith, Mr Michael Meacher and Peter Bottomley, presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to improve the sustainability of the production, processing, marketing, manufacturing, distribution and consumption of products derived to any substantial extent from livestock; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 12 November, and to be printed (Bill 5) with explanatory notes (Bill 5-EN).

Public Services (Social Enterprise And Social Value) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Chris White presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State and local authorities to publish strategies in connection with promoting social enterprise; to enable communities to participate in the formulation and implementation of those strategies; to require that public sector contracts include provisions relating to social outcomes and social value; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 19 November, and to be printed (Bill 6).

Daylight Saving Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Rebecca Harris, supported by Joan Walley, Mr Tim Yeo, Mr Frank Field, Mr Greg Knight, Caroline Lucas, Stephen Phillips, Mr Adam Holloway, Stephen Pound and Zac Goldsmith, presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to conduct a cross-departmental analysis of the potential costs and benefits of advancing time by one hour for all, or part of, the year; to require the Secretary of State to take certain action in the light of that analysis; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 3 December, and to be printed (Bill 7).

Estates of Deceased Persons (Forfeiture Rule and Law of Succession) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Greg Knight, supported by Sir Alan Beith, Kevin Brennan, John Hemming, Mr William Cash, Mr Gary Streeter, Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger, Chris Bryant, Mr Christopher Chope, Mr Alan Meale, Richard Ottaway and Philip Davies, presented a Bill to amend the law relating to the distribution of the estates of deceased persons; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 21 January, and to be printed (Bill 8) with explanatory notes (Bill 8-EN).

Anonymity (Arrested Persons) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Anna Soubry presented a Bill to prohibit the publication of certain information regarding persons who have been arrested until they have been charged with an offence; to set out the circumstances where such information can be published without committing an offence; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 4 February, and to be printed (Bill 9).

Legislation (Territorial Extent) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Harriett Baldwin, supported by Mr David Davis, Tracey Crouch, Bob Stewart, Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey, Damian Hinds, David Tredinnick, Mr Peter Bone, Chris Heaton-Harris, Richard Graham and Mr Charles Walker, presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State, when preparing draft legislation for publication, to do so in such a way that the effect of that legislation on England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is separately and clearly identified; to require the Secretary of State to issue a statement to the effect that in his or her view the provisions of the draft legislation are in accordance with certain principles relating to territorial extent; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 11 February, and to be printed (Bill 10).

Gangmasters Licensing (Extension to Construction Industry) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr David Hamilton, supported by Sandra Osborne, Mr Jim Hood, Mr David Anderson, Jim Sheridan, Alun Michael, John Robertson, Jim McGovern, Ian Lavery, Mr Stephen Hepburn and Jack Dromey, presented a Bill to apply the provisions of the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 to the construction industry; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 3 December, and to be printed (Bill 11).

Public Bodies (Sustainable Food) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Joan Walley, supported by Mr Adrian Sanders, Alison McGovern, Martin Caton, Caroline Lucas, Mark Lazarowicz, Peter Bottomley, Mr Mike Hancock and Annette Brooke, presented a Bill to make provision for the creation of a Code regarding the procurement of sustainable food by public bodies; for the review and development of the Code; for the regulatory enforcement of the Code by public bodies; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 12 November, and to be printed (Bill 12).

Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mrs Sharon Hodgson, supported by Mr Tom Watson, Chris Bryant, Paul Farrelly, Mr Russell Brown, David Wright, Mark Tami, Lyn Brown, Roberta Blackman-Woods, Mary Creagh, Rachel Reeves and Catherine McKinnell, presented a Bill to regulate the selling of tickets for certain sporting and cultural events; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 21 January, and to be printed (Bill 13) with explanatory notes (Bill 13-EN).

Fire Safety (Protection of Tenants) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Adrian Sanders, supported by Sir Menzies Campbell, Martin Caton, Annette Brooke, Peter Bottomley, Stephen Williams, Jonathan Edwards, Dr John Pugh, Mr Tom Watson, Mr John Leech, Paul Flynn and Lorely Burt, presented a Bill to require landlords to provide smoke alarms in rented accommodation; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 19 November, and to be printed (Bill 14).

Planning (Opencast Mining Separation Zones) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Andrew Bridgen, supported by Heather Wheeler, Nigel Mills, Paul Murphy, Nigel Adams and Mark Pritchard, presented a Bill to require planning authorities to impose a minimum distance between opencast mining developments and residential properties; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 11 February, and to be printed (Bill 15).

Coinage (Measurement) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mark Lancaster, supported by Mr Adam Holloway, Mr Stewart Jackson, Mr Lee Scott, Mr Brian Binley, Mr Tobias Ellwood, Alec Shelbrooke, Julian Sturdy, Iain Stewart, Chris Heaton-Harris, Mr Ben Wallace and Mr Rob Wilson, presented a Bill to make provision about the arrangements for measuring the standard weight of coins.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 4 February, and to be printed (Bill 16) with explanatory notes (Bill 16-EN).

Sports Grounds Safety Authority Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Jonathan Lord presented a Bill to confer further powers on the Football Licensing Authority and to amend its name; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 22 October, and to be printed (Bill 17) with explanatory notes (Bill 17-EN).

Wreck Removal Convention Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Dr Thérèse Coffey, supported by Mr Matthew Offord, presented a Bill to implement the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks 2007.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 19 November, and to be printed (Bill 18) with explanatory notes (Bill 18-EN).

Financial Services (Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Lorely Burt, supported by Simon Hughes, Mr Lee Scott, Richard Burden, Stephen Williams, Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger, Mr George Mudie, Mr Mike Hancock, Heather Wheeler, Meg Munn, Mr Andrew Love and Jack Dromey, presented a Bill to ensure that ancillary pricing terms in personal financial services contracts can be assessed for fairness; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 12 November, and to be printed (Bill 19).

Face Coverings (Regulation) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Philip Hollobone presented a Bill to regulate the wearing of certain face coverings; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 3 December, and to be printed (Bill 20).

Protection of Local Services (Planning) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Nigel Adams, supported by Jonathan Reynolds, Greg Mulholland, Stuart Andrew, Gordon Henderson, Andrew Percy, Mike Weatherley, Andrew Stephenson, Stephen McPartland, Priti Patel, Philip Davies and Henry Smith, presented a Bill to enable local planning authorities to require planning permission prior to the demolition or change of use of premises or land used or formerly used to provide a local service; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 21 January, and to be printed (Bill 21).

Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims (Amendment) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Sir Paul Beresford presented a Bill to amend section 5 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 to include serious harm to a child or vulnerable adult; to make consequential amendments to the Act; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 21 January, and to be printed (Bill 22) with explanatory notes (Bill 22-EN).

Secured Lending Reform Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

George Eustice presented a Bill to make provision regarding the rights of secured debtors; to reform the rights of certain creditors to enforce their security; to make other provision regarding secured lending; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 22 October, and to be printed (Bill 23).

Energy Efficiency

I beg to move,

That this House has considered the matter of progress and prospects in energy efficiency.

Within the first days of taking office, the Prime Minister pledged to make this new coalition the greenest Government ever, and we are determined to deliver on that promise. Energy efficiency, the subject of today’s debate, is at the very heart of our greening programme. Better energy efficiency offers a genuine win-win, because it not only enhances the competitiveness of our economy, but is good for the environment in cutting carbon emissions. It is good for energy security in reducing our reliance on imported fossil fuels, and it is good for hard-pressed families, saving them money currently wasted heating inefficient and cold homes. Energy efficiency is not just a means to an end; it is a great thing in itself. In these times of rising bills and tight family budgets, there is one overarching simple truth: the cheapest energy we all have to pay for is the energy we do not use.

President Obama has gone even further. He recently said:

“Insulation is sexy stuff...Here’s what’s sexy about it: saving money”.

In our own way—a more modest way—we are determined to make it sexy too, because for too long, energy efficiency has been the poor relation of British energy policy. Too many politicians have talked the talk, but failed to deliver. Energy efficiency has too frequently been relegated to the fluffy optional extra end of the energy policy agenda. Energy efficiency, however, is the key benchmark of a globally competitive 21st century economy.

Yet on the key test of energy efficiency, the UK currently trails behind most of our European competitors and risks slipping even further behind. If Members pardon the pun, we lag behind Germany, Holland, Spain and Italy, to name but a few. The average British home uses more energy than a home in Sweden—a country partly within the Arctic circle. One in five of our homes still has the lowest energy-efficiency rating.

On the point of energy efficiency in comparison with Sweden, I understand that there is considerable use of heat pumps—both ground source and air source heat pumps—in Sweden. The previous Government gave assistance for the installation of heat pumps; will this Government continue in that vein?

We are very keen on heat pumps, but those pumps are not an energy-efficiency device; they are a renewable-energy device. Today, we are obviously concerned primarily about energy efficiency, but I take the hon. Gentleman’s point on board, and we are certainly keen to encourage the use of a diverse range of new renewable technologies.

Using 1 kW of electricity, an air source heat pump can generate 2.5 kW of heat and a ground source heat pump can generate up to 4 kW of heat. I would argue that that is quite an efficient use of energy.

And the hon. Gentleman would be absolutely right to do so.

Looking beyond homes, about one in 10 of our businesses and public buildings has a G rating and fewer than one in 100 has an A rating. Something must change, and it has got to change big and change now. But here is the good news: the UK has the potential to lead the way on energy efficiency, and our transformational agenda is a huge commercial opportunity worth billions of pounds for British business, with the potential for new jobs, technology and innovation in every single part of the UK. The challenge for our new Government is to spur consumers and businesses to take action, because, to date, successive Government programmes have simply failed to engage on the scale that we need. Some progress has been made in recent years, and I do not belittle the good intentions of the previous Administration, but despite some interesting initiatives, nothing we have seen so far has been commensurate with the enormous size of the challenge we face.

I have received a letter from Mr Cameron Holroyd of Kingspan Solar in my constituency, which manufactures solar panels. He is very concerned that the new Government have not yet stated publicly whether they intend to proceed with the renewables heat obligation. Can the Minister tell us when he will respond to the recent consultation, and thereby give firms in my constituency, and consumers who may be planning to invest, some sort of comfort that that support will go ahead?

Renewable heat is a renewable form of generation; it is not equivalent to energy efficiency. However, we are committed to an ambitious renewable heat agenda. We have a challenging renewable energy target and renewable heat will be a key part of that. We will be looking at how to move forward and at having the right incentives in place. Because we are aware of the concerns of businesses, such as the one the hon. Lady mentions in her constituency, we will be making an announcement on this as soon as possible.

I welcome the Minister to his position. He has taken a long and careful interest in the matters for which he has responsibility, and I welcome his enthusiasm. So far in this debate, however, he has been quick to parry any questions that are not specifically about energy efficiency and has responded in a very constrained manner. If we are to have the debate that all of us would wish this afternoon, we need to be able to discuss the energy context in which it takes place and the broader financial measures that will be available to the industry in the future, in order to consider the wider aspects of the green deal the Minister has talked about.

Obviously, I take on board the hon. Gentleman’s comments, and he is an expert in this field, but the key point I made at the beginning of my speech is that energy efficiency has always been the poor relation and that all too often people leap to discuss other, perhaps more sexy, matters such as heat pumps, the renewables heat incentive or renewable energy. While I want a full debate—and, of course, I will answer the hon. Gentleman’s questions as best I can—I also want to focus the discussion on energy efficiency, because it is the most important and the best value-for-money consideration in terms of saving carbon.

Can the Minister confirm that the coalition parties will agree to implement the previous Government’s commitment to ensure that all new homes are carbon-neutral by 2015?

That is an important target. We are committed to carbon neutrality, and I know that my colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government are looking to see if there is any room for making the target more effective. Perhaps I may write to the hon. Gentleman with the very latest on that?

The Minister and I served together on the Environmental Audit Committee a few years ago. Will he comment on the future of the boiler scrappage scheme, a tremendous energy-efficiency measure that has been very successfully delivered, and will he look at the possibility of extending the scheme to cover gas fires? A company in my constituency produces very energy-efficient gas fires. If we were to support it, we would see real progress not only in boiler scrappage, but in the scrappage of other lower performing products such as wasteful gas fires.

The hon. Gentleman is right: the boiler scrappage scheme was highly effective. Although it was not a large scheme, it was both very good and very timely, and I will be closely examining whether we ought to take it further. I know that the hon. Gentleman has expertise on this, and if he would like to talk to me about it, I would be very grateful for the opportunity to pick his brains.

Order. May I interrupt the Minister to try to help a new Member? I very gently say to the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) that whatever gifts and traits the Minister possesses, he does not have eyes in the back of his head, so if the hon. Gentleman wishes to intervene, it is not enough simply to stand; he must make himself audible.

Thank you for your advice, Mr Speaker.

My hon. Friend has talked about energy saving on the continent, and one thing that they do very well there is install central boilers for different sorts of energy generation when constructing new housing developments. That must be done at the planning stage, of course, so that the amount of hot water going to each house can be metered and households can then pay for their own supply, but central boilers can produce savings of up to 50%. Will my hon. Friend the Minister consider that option?

Absolutely. My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. I am very interested in such matters, and think there is far greater scope for us to be much more ambitious in terms of community combined heat and power. Such a decentralised energy agenda offers huge scope in Britain. However, for a variety of reasons, both local as well as central Government ones, we have not pushed it. In countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark, however, community combined heat and power make up a substantial part of energy output. As my hon. Friend says, it is much more efficient and I assure him we are looking into it.

As I have said, despite some interesting initiatives in recent years, nothing is commensurate with the enormous size of the challenge we face. The reality is that we still have a multi-billion pound investment gap. It is hardly surprising, however, that progress has been patchy. Since 1997, we have had a veritable alphabet soup of acronyms, schemes and quangos, leaving both the consumer and business somewhat bewildered: EEC, CERT, CESP, LCIF, EST, LCCC, CT, ETF, CRC and CCA. The list goes on and on, and each scheme is accompanied by new pamphlets, advertising and messages, further complicating the landscape for confused consumers and businesses. Individually, all those schemes have merit, but taken together they have failed to deliver on the scale that we need. The fact is that we need to pick up the pace dramatically if we are to reach the remaining 14 million households in the UK within a meaningful time scale.

It is clear that in these difficult times, with a record deficit, the current model is simply not up to the scale of the task. We need a game changer. We must remove the blinkers that have constrained previous policy thinking. We need to bring in new models of installation, innovation to drive down costs, new financing methods and new players to the market to deliver on a far more ambitious scale.

On innovation, the Minister will respect the fact that coal remains a vital part of our energy requirement for the future. When the Prime Minister was Leader of the Opposition, he promised to create four carbon capture and storage-equipped power plants. Will the Minister give us a quick update on progress, and perhaps a timetable for that, because it plays a major part in the objectives he wishes to reach?

My hon. Friend is an expert in this field. He is chair of the all-party group on clean coal, so I speak with respect for his expertise. He is right to say that the coalition Government are committed to carbon capture and storage, which will be a major plank in our efforts to decarbonise our energy supply by 2030; we are committed to the generation of 5 GW of CCS by 2020. We see the potential of CCS, not just for our domestic use and as part of our plan to decarbonise the economy, but as a huge potential export industry for the UK in which we can not only capture new markets for British jobs, but help the world in striving to decarbonise the global economy.

My hon. Friend talks about game changers, so may I recommend another important one, which will cost him not a penny? We could move our clocks forward by one hour to take advantage of the last bit of energy that we have in this world—the sun. It seems completely wrong that our working day is out of alignment with that free energy source. I am happy to provide him with a copy of a study showing the benefits, which would include Scotland too.

That is a very interesting point. I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Rebecca Harris) will be introducing a private Member’s Bill to that effect, in order to test the opinion of the House on this matter. I do not believe that that subject was covered in the coalition agreement, so I am sorry but I cannot give any commitment on it.

I shall make a little progress before I take further interventions.

The Government want to end short-term, stop-start schemes. We need a bold long-term approach that will deliver certainty and stability, and will unlock private capital and trigger green investment right across the economy. We must give businesses the confidence to invest, not just in the infrastructure of our buildings, but in developing new skills and training programmes in order to help create the thousands of new jobs that could follow. These would be jobs that could provide decent salaries to support families and build careers of which people could be proud. We must empower British business, not burden it. We must use smart legislation to incentivise the wealth creators and the innovators. Local firms and enterprising local communities must be encouraged to be part of the new solution.

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way to me for a second time. On his point about innovation and local firms, may I say that Logicor Ltd, a firm in my constituency, has developed a plug that automatically turns off after a set period of time? When people iron for three quarters of an hour or an hour—or, in my case, five minutes—the plug will then automatically turn off, so there is no danger of someone forgetting about the iron, leaving it on and potentially setting their house on fire. Such appliances have huge potential to make energy and financial savings for homes, be it through turning off the light on someone’s microwave or the light on their dishwasher—those devices also use energy. Small companies face the problem of obtaining certification through the carbon emissions reduction target—CERT—scheme and huge issues relating to cash flow, because if they are going to manufacture in China, they have to save, pay the bills up front and then get the money back. How does the Minister propose to provide real help on this? Will he work with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to ensure that small companies such as Logicor Ltd can be given the financial support to deliver these energy-efficient products to the nation?

Order. May I gently suggest to the House that we also require efficiency in interventions, which are gradually becoming a little longer?

That is an excellent subject for an Adjournment debate, but perhaps we have just had it. I entirely accept the hon. Lady’s point, but ultimately the private sector is the best engine of ingenuity and growth, and it is not the role of Government to pick winners such as that company and give them special treatment. However, I agree that there is a role for Government in creating an enabling, encouraging and supportive framework for enterprise. I can assure her that increased cross-cutting work has been taking place across Government, involving colleagues from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Treasury and the Department for Education, to ensure that the right frameworks and the appropriate support are in place.

I shall now draw the House back to my speech. What needs to change? As a first step, I am announcing today my intention not only to extend CERT, but to refocus it radically. It obliges energy companies to carry out energy-efficiency measures in people’s homes and it has historically involved a range of other things too. CERT will be extended until the end of 2012, but the original scheme has not been without criticism, much of it justified. So CERT will be refocused on those most cost-effective measures that can make a real difference to the energy efficiency of our constituents’ homes, the most obvious being insulation.

Over the new extension period we will require the big energy companies to deliver far more insulation than originally planned, and the new target on lagging lofts alone will be the equivalent to covering Wembley football pitch more than 35,000 times. The new extension of CERT will work in tandem with the roll-out of our pioneering green deal. In order to bring greater focus to the project, I will insist that more than two thirds of this new carbon target must be delivered through approved, professionally installed loft, cavity wall and solid wall insulation. We will act to stamp out the mistakes of the past. We will introduce a complete ban on the subsidy of compact fluorescent lighting, thereby ending the farce of people having cupboards full of light bulbs which save no energy at all. We will go further. We are actively talking to industry about similar restrictions on other low-value gadgets and appliances. There will be no short cuts or get-outs for the big six under this Government.

I welcome the Minister to his responsibilities. On low-energy light bulbs, he is right to criticise aspects of the CERT scheme, but one promising new development was the inclusion of the replacement of halogen lights, which are extremely energy-inefficient, with new, more efficient forms of technology. I declare an interest, because two companies in my constituency promote alternatives to halogen lighting.

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that some very exciting developments are taking place in lighting, not the least of which will be light-emitting diode—LED—technology in the longer term. However, we must be brutal and realistic in the use of CERT; we must opt for the most effective, most value-for-money carbon abatement schemes. That means opting for loft insulation, because any exercise that one chooses to undertake shows that key insulation delivered to our constituents’ homes offers the best value for money and the best use in terms of carbon abatement. We have to be far more focused on that. I checked how many light bulbs had been distributed as a result of the previous CERT scheme and I found that the answer was a phenomenal number. This begs the old question of how many light bulbs it takes to change a Labour Government—the answer turned out to be 262 million.

A vast number of light bulbs were sent out, but does the Minister deny that that was an appropriate action to take at a time when the low-energy light bulbs on the supermarket shelves were far more expensive than ordinary light bulbs and consumers were very resistant to change? We encountered all forms of resistance but, despite that, by sending those low-energy light bulbs out we got them into people’s homes, which saved people money and saved energy and carbon emissions.

The right hon. Lady is right and, of course, this is not a black and white issue. However, the bottom line is that if one has a finite pot of money to spend, light bulbs do not represent the most efficient way to save energy or carbon. As she knows, the most efficient way of doing that is to insulate, particularly given that we need to do so much more for the fuel-poor and there is so much more that we need to do overall. We must be focused, given the finite pot of money available. I do, however, take her point.

I welcome the Minister to the Government. I was delighted by his announcement the CERT scheme will be extended and will concentrate on insulation, but I am sure that he is aware that the National Insulation Association has expressed concern that it is so heavily dependent on the CERT scheme that unless the scheme is extended very soon, its members could well run out of work over the summer. The NIA has asked for the regulations to be passed before the start of the summer recess, so I hope that the Minister will be able to lay these regulations before Parliament before then.

Obviously my announcement is effective today. We hope to lay the regulations before Parliament before we rise for the summer, because I am fully aware that there has been uncertainty in the market, and that is what we aim to eliminate.

Usually, house construction is a great battle between insulation, as the Minister has mentioned, and ventilation. The part of the world that I come from suffers from having to have the same ventilation standards as an urban area in Kent; the rural west coast of the Outer Hebrides certainly does not need the same amount of ventilation as might perhaps be needed in Kent. However, we are stuck with that and the result—I am sure that the situation is the same in other places in the country—is that once the completion certificate is achieved and received, the house builder goes round with a tube of mastic or silicon and blocks off the vents that have been placed unnecessarily. Perhaps ventilation could be seen as part of the argument for energy efficiency, too.

That is a very good point. I think that my colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government would have direct ministerial responsibility for that point, but it is worth while, and if the hon. Gentleman would care to write to me about it I would be happy to take it up.

We will go further. We are also talking to industry about similar restrictions on other low-value gadgets and appliances. All these new measures are specifically designed to do more for the fuel-poor, because we fully recognise that fuel poverty is a growing challenge, with the number of households in fuel poverty having risen every year since 2004, to 4.6 million households in England alone in 2009. Given that legacy of rising fuel poverty, we are creating a new CERT category of those who have the greatest need, in addition to the priority group of vulnerable households, which will already account for at least 40% of the total CERT extension measures. Pensioners, people with children and the disabled will form a super-priority group on whom at least 15% of the new programme must be targeted. That means that more than £400 million will be focused over the next 18 months on the poorest and most vulnerable.

Would the Minister be good enough to clarify whether, when he says families with children, he means all families with children or whether he is talking about families that are in receipt of working families tax credit and so on? Is it targeted specifically at the poor or will it include all families with children?

It is targeted at all people with children—that is, at all households where there are young children and where income is low. I would be happy to write to the hon. Gentleman with further details. We will need to bring these measures to the House, and perhaps we could debate that point then.

Yes indeed. I think I mentioned pensioners in my speech and I can give the hon. Lady that assurance.

Does the hon. Gentleman intend to provide any additional facilities for ensuring that the extra categories that he has mentioned that will be a part of CERT can be identified by those energy companies that are required to identify them to and take action, or is the 15% target that he has suggested an approximation based on what the energy companies actually do?

The hon. Gentleman will know that data sharing is a very difficult issue, to which there is no easy ready answer. I do not underestimate it—any attempt to focus in such a way is in some way problematic, given the sometimes limited tools that we have and the restrictions on sharing data. We are considering that project in the Department, because we realise that data sharing poses real challenges. All I can tell the hon. Gentleman is that we will use our best endeavours and, if he has interesting and innovative ideas on how we can make it effective, we will try to frame them in the regulations that we will table before the House rises. I fully take his point on board; data sharing to ensure that we target the most vulnerable is a challenge.

Will the Minister outline whether people in receipt of the higher disability living allowance, who often have impaired mobility, will be included in the super-priority group that he has just mentioned, as they often have a greater need of heating?

I am very happy to confirm that for my hon. Friend, who takes a keen interest in these matters. I can also confirm, in response to the question that I was asked earlier about children, that we will focus on those in receipt of child tax credits whose income is less than £16,190.

Given the importance that the Minister rightly attaches to fuel poverty and the categories that he has said should be prioritised, does he believe that 15% will be adequate? If, in the context of spending pressures, the budget for the overall programme is cut, will he enhance their prioritisation by going above 15% of his residual budget?

Of course, CERT is an obligation on the fuel companies and is not part of the Treasury tax and spending regime as such. It will not be included in the comprehensive spending review. I share the hon. Gentleman’s concerns, given that we want to focus on the fuel-poor and that 15% seems a relatively limited amount of money. That is why, as I am going to say—he is pre-empting my speech—when we come to consider the long-term basis for the right form of supplier obligation when CERT ends at the end of 2012, we will need to ensure that it is effectively focused on the most vulnerable households and on the fuel-poor. That will be the key consideration when we are looking to frame a new and appropriate supplier obligation.

As I have said, the green deal is a real game changer. It takes policy out of Whitehall and on to the high street. The green deal is a dramatic change from the status quo. The green deal, we believe, will fundamentally alter the scale of delivery. In terms of scale, to put it in context, the green deal is even more ambitious than Mrs Thatcher’s sale of council houses in the 1980s. Whereas that transformed the lives of about 2 million families, the green deal has the potential to touch more than 14 million homes around the country. Now, there can be no one-size-fits-all model. Our green deal legislation must promote the emergence of a new and dynamic market, working for the incredibly diverse mix of homes in the UK. There must be greater consumer choice, but with a recognition of the need for fairness and, in particular, of the urgent and pressing challenges of fuel poverty.

The green deal will, we believe, unlock billions in new private capital to support energy efficiency, but that will not work effectively without the engagement and support of local communities. Local communities have a key role in driving this ambitious change. We have seen that in Kirklees, where community engagement has been vital for a universal take-up.

The Kirklees example is an excellent one, and Green councillors have been instrumental in that. They were rolling out free insulation—that was the difference; it was free. Where does the hon. Gentleman think that the money will come from for the Government to be able to roll out such a scheme? Does he agree that we ought to be considering mechanisms such as levying a windfall tax on the energy companies, given that they will be getting windfall profits from their involvement in the emissions trading scheme—at least until 2013? Should we not be using money like that to enable such a scheme to be rolled out to everybody rather than depending on people in poor households having to take out what looks like a loan?

First, I welcome the hon. Lady to the debate. I am sure that she will be a key—and welcome—feature of such debates for the rest of the Parliament. Of course, CERT is already a levy on the energy companies and we have a clear idea of where the money is coming from. She mentions that in Kirklees the scheme is free, and that is an important point. We simply cannot afford to give free insulation to the whole country, even though it worked extremely well in Kirklees. However, through legislation and opening up new markets with new regulation, we can ensure that there is no cost up front to every single householder. Unlike other pay-as-you-save schemes that were trialled by the former Government, there will be no reference to the credit score of the household. It will not be a personal loan, a green mortgage or a charge on the property.

What will happen is that the right interventions for that particular property will be delivered and the costs of those interventions will be rolled up in their entirety and repaid through the energy bill for that property over 25 years. If that owner moves away, the cost will simply transfer to the energy bill of the next occupant. If the occupant changes energy company, the cost will simply transfer to the new energy company. We will make sure, through legislation, that it is impossible for a new energy provider to come in and provide energy without taking on the costs associated with the green deal finance. There is a real golden rule.

If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I shall continue. I am risking scrambling my speech by jumping ahead, but this is a really important point.

I will give way.

We cannot guarantee that this will be the case in all instances, because behaviour change is also relevant, but the guiding principle is that the savings in every household that receives such interventions on the pay-as-you-save model must always be greater than the financing costs. The householder, be they in rented or private accommodation, should see not only an increase in the insulation in their home, a reduction in their carbon emissions and an increase in warmth and quality of life for them and their family, but—and this is an important point—a reduction in their total energy bill. That needs to be put clearly and fairly on the bill. We must scotch the idea that the green deal is a loan, a mortgage or a charge, because it is not, and it is really important, in order to get consumer confidence, that we communicate that message.

I thank the Minister for giving way. I hear what he says, but is not the danger, as the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) has said, that this will be seen as a loan? Will the most vulnerable people, in particular, who find themselves indebted from a whole range of loans, not see it at as one more loan and choose not to take it?

No; I hope that by the time we have finished explaining it properly and getting over this new paradigm, it will not be seen as a loan because it is not a loan. I hope that the hon. Gentleman—and, indeed, all Members—will join me in explaining that to our constituents. This is a really fundamental point, because he is absolutely right that if people perceive it as a loan, which it is not, there will be a reluctance to take it up, particularly in the current environment. There is another element. We accept that for the poorest in society, who cannot make the savings because they do not have the cash to heat their homes in the first place, there will be a need for direct subsidy or intervention. It is on those people and the hard-to-treat homes that we want to focus the ongoing obligation on the energy suppliers.

The final point that the Minister made is particularly important, but let me go back to the main point about the up-front funding costs of installing the energy-efficiency measures. Will he confirm that although those costs will be met through the energy companies, the Government will none the less have to guarantee those costs? Will he confirm that the cost of that guarantee to the public finances could be in the region of £162 billion if every family in the country took up the Prime Minister’s offer of the £6,500 limit?

I am happy to reassure the hon. Gentleman that no such guarantee is involved or required. I have had extensive meetings not only with the chief executives of energy companies, but with very senior members of the banking community, active participants in the capital markets and retailers such as Marks and Spencer, B&Q, which has been extremely supportive, and others, including installers. Across the industry—in financing, instalment and retail—there is universal acceptance of this model and there will be innovation in the capital markets. Some companies will choose to take the charge on to their balance sheets, but others will choose to participate in partnership with a financing company. I think there will be a real appetite among UK institutions—this is the game-changing element—to purchase what will in effect be a form of bond with a 25-year life. I think they will be securitised together and parcelled up, and will then make attractive investments for UK pension funds, which currently suffer from a relatively limited choice of secure, long-term investments from which to fund their annuities. I can guarantee for the hon. Gentleman that, just as the green deal is not a personal loan, mortgage or charge, nor will it sit on the Government balance sheet or require a Government guarantee.

To make sure that the customer makes a net profit out of green deal investment, the Minister will presumably have to categorise what will be admissible for green deal insulations. If he categorises any form of microgeneration as admissible, as increasingly it is under Warm Front, he will have to make those calculations in the green deal programme in respect of any incentives that might be given for the use of that heat, in particular for insulation such as solar-thermal. Has he therefore excluded microgeneration from the green deal programme? If so, does that mean that the net amount per household that he would imagine being used with the green deal is much lower than the £6,500 suggested prior to the election?