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Business of the House

Volume 516: debated on Thursday 21 October 2010

The business for the week commencing 25 October will be as follows:

Monday 25 October—Proceedings on the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill (Day 5).

Tuesday 26 October—Second Reading of the Savings Accounts and Health in Pregnancy Grant Bill.

Wednesday 27 October—Second Reading of the Postal Services Bill.

Thursday 28 October—General debate on the comprehensive spending review.

The provisional business for the week commencing 1 November will include:

Monday 1 November—Remaining stages of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill (Day 1).

Tuesday 2 November— Remaining stages of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill (Day 2).

Wednesday 3 November—General debate on the report of the Bloody Sunday inquiry.

Thursday 4 November—General debate on the strategic defence and security review.

Colleagues will also wish to know that, subject to the progress of business, the House will rise for the February recess on Thursday 17 February 2011 and return on Monday 28 February 2011. The House will rise for the Easter recess on Tuesday 5 April 2011 and return on Tuesday 26 April 2011. The House will rise for the Whitsun recess on Tuesday 24 May 2011 and return on Tuesday 7 June 2011. The House will rise for the summer recess on Tuesday 19 July 2011 and return on Monday 5 September 2011. The House will rise for the conference recess on Thursday 15 September 2011 and return on Monday 10 October 2011. The House will rise for the Christmas recess on Tuesday 20 December 2011 and return on Tuesday 10 January 2012.

I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 4 November will be:

Thursday 4 November—Impact of the comprehensive spending review on the Department for Work and Pensions.

I thank the Leader of the House for his statement and the recess dates, but when will we know the dates for the rest of the Session?

Last week I raised with the Leader of the House the fact that major Government announcements were appearing in newspapers before they were made to the House. This week—one of profound importance for the country—we find that exactly the same thing has happened again. Details of Tuesday’s strategic defence and security review were in the newspapers over several days leading up to it. In other words, journalists got lots of advance information, whereas the Leader of the Opposition got the Prime Minister’s statement only 15 minutes before it was made, and in recent days much of the comprehensive spending review has been leaked before the Chancellor got around to telling us about it yesterday.

It seems pretty clear now that Ministers believe that those who report on Parliament are much more important than those who are actually Members of Parliament. It has got so bad that the Conservative former parliamentary candidate and blogger Iain Dale has urged you, Mr Speaker, to take the Government to the cleaners over what has been going on. I wonder, therefore, whether the Leader of the House has plans to clean up this mess. He did not explain last week, but perhaps he can do so now.

On the rights of Members, and following our exchanges last week about the amount of time we will have to debate the CSR, will the Leader of the House now recognise that one day for debate is simply not enough, and that denying the House the opportunity to vote on what is a reckless gamble is simply not good enough either? Will he find more time so that we can debate why Ministers, who have just got jobs, were cheering at the end of yesterday’s statement when other people are about to lose their jobs? Will he also find time to debate the inability of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on television yesterday to explain why the poorest 10% in society will be forced to pay more to reduce the deficit than almost anybody else, when his boss claims that the spending review is anchored in fairness? If the Chief Secretary cannot manage to find the words, perhaps he could walk into the Chamber carrying his briefing folder so that we can take a photograph of it and put a copy in the Library.

Will the Leader of the House find more time so that we can debate why families with children will have to pay more than twice the amount that the banks, which caused the problem, are being asked to contribute? And how exactly will making nearly 500,000 people in the public sector lose their jobs help the economy to recover and create new jobs?

All of this will require time, especially given that we know from last summer’s emergency budget that the truth has a habit of seeping out once the fine print starts to be examined. So can the Leader of the House now give the House the assurance it is looking for from him that Members will have the chance to debate the CSR properly, and to vote on it?

Finally, this week we have been debating the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill on the Floor of the House. On Monday about 100 pages of amendments were tabled. We are now told that there will be a number of statutory instruments to allow for a combination of polls, with even further amendments to follow. The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, the hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) told the House:

“I am very keen that on matters to do with elections this House should get to pronounce before the Bill goes to the other place…we will seek to achieve that.”—[Official Report, 18 October 2010; Vol. 516, c. 653.]

As far as I can see, the only way to do this is to reschedule either the fifth day of the Committee stage or the remaining stages that the Leader of the House has outlined this morning. Otherwise the House, which has already been unable to discuss very important parts of the Bill because of the speed at which it is being rammed through, will not be able to consider the amendments before they go to the other place, and the Minister’s pledge will not have been met. Will the Leader of the House make a statement on this matter?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his questions. I have already announced the dates of the Christmas recess, so I am not quite sure which further dates in this Session he was asking about.

May I return to the right hon. Gentleman’s question about a second day for debate on the CSR? The last time this House heard a comprehensive spending review was in 2007, under the Government of whom he was a member. All we had then was a statement, and—at a time when the Government were in total control of the parliamentary timetable—there was no debate whatever. Indeed, so badly did the previous Government behave that the Liaison Committee said about their performance:

“It is absurd that the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review was discussed for only an hour and a half in the Chamber, and makes a mockery of the House’s right to scrutinise government expenditure.”

That is what happened last time there was a CSR.

In the meantime we have had the Wright Committee report, which recommended transferring to the Backbench Business Committee responsibility for fixing debates, and made it absolutely clear that debates on spending reviews were a matter for the House, not for the Government. Notwithstanding that, the Government have found a day out of their own time to debate the CSR, and that is what we will do next Thursday. The right hon. Gentleman may want to restore his party’s reputation on the matter, and when the Opposition are given an Opposition day, which I hope to announce quite soon, it will be perfectly open to them to use that day for a second day of debate on the CSR.

The right hon. Gentleman then asked me about the leaks. I was slightly surprised to hear Opposition Members having the chutzpah to complain about leaks and pre-briefing, when for 13 years this House was deliberately and systematically sidelined by professional spinners and manipulators in No. 10. I listened to the Chancellor’s statement, and the reason why my colleagues waved their Order Papers was that it was an outstanding parliamentary performance. When the shadow Chancellor sat down, he did not get the same response from his Back Benchers.

On the question of leaks, I listened to the CSR statement, and the vast majority of the CSR was announced first to the House, including the housing benefit reforms, the child benefit changes and the replacement of the education maintenance allowance. But, as with any major announcement, there is inevitably speculation in the press and in the media, and hon. Members should not believe everything that they read in the press. For example, I read that the cold weather payments were going to be abolished, and they were not.

Order. A very large number of right hon. and hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye and there is some pressure on time, so I appeal, as always, for single, short supplementary questions and, of course, to the Leader of the House to exercise his characteristic pithiness in reply.

On the eve of European health and safety week, is the Leader of the House aware of the excessive bureaucracy that Essex county council highways department has imposed upon the village of Coggeshall in my constituency just to put up its village Christmas tree and lights? Can he please reassure my constituents that he will work across Government to ensure that the over-zealous bureaucrats at the highways department do not kill Christmas in Coggeshall?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. But first, I should have answered the question that the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) asked about the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill. I must say that if the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) did not speak for quite so long—he spoke twice for 50 minutes—we would have more time to reach other parts of the Bill. We have allowed five days for Committee, which is a generous allocation, but it is up to Members to respond intelligently to the extra time that we have allocated.

On the specific issue that the right hon. Gentleman raised, I am aware of the discussions that took place, and the Minister said that the Government would seek to ensure that amendments to the Bill following the territorial elections statutory instruments would be made in this House. On 18 October we tabled an amendment to the Bill providing for a combination of the referendum with other elections in order to allow the issue to be debated in Committee, and we expect the territorial orders to be laid before Report. We will then make any necessary further amendments to the combination provisions.

I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel) that we are in favour of Christmas; indeed, we are in favour of Christmas in Coggeshall. My noble Friend Lord Young—no relation—has published his report, “Common Sense, Common Safety”, and we are committed to that. We need some proportionality in all such matters, and Lord Young has recommended that officials who ban events on the grounds of health and safety should put their reasons in writing, and that citizens should have a right to challenge such decisions. If my hon. Friend gives me further details of the incident to which she has referred, I shall take it up with the appropriate Department.

My right hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House referred to the many amendments tabled to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, of which some relate to Scotland. Will the Leader of the House say whether consultations with the Scottish Government have taken place? Will he also let the House know whether a Sewel motion relating to the legislation is needed? It would need to be considered by the Scottish Parliament before issues are discussed in this House.

My hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House, who is taking an active part in proceedings on the Bill, has noted the hon. Gentleman’s point. To answer his first question—yes, there were consultations and discussions with the Scottish Parliament in relation to those provisions of the Bill.

The Government made clear yesterday their desire to see the private sector grow, increase employment and rebuild the economy. My constituency has the world centre of excellence for subsea engineering that supports the global oil and gas industry—an industry that needs to meet contracts at short notice anywhere in the world. Can the Leader of the House arrange for a ministerial statement to reassure investors in that industry that they will be able to continue to locate in this country, and still be able to move key skilled people in and out of this country at short notice?

I understand the importance of that industry to those who work in my hon. Friend’s constituency. I will raise with my hon. Friend the Minister for Immigration the question of the cap on non-EU work permits, if that is the specific issue that my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Sir Robert Smith) is raising. There will be a further opportunity to raise the matter on the Floor of the House at Home Office questions on 18 November.

May I return to the important constitutional matters in the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill that there has not been time to debate on the Floor of the House? One of them relates to Wales. The main clauses relating to Wales were debated yesterday, but we did not get to the critical clause—clause 11, which relates specifically to the National Assembly—although the Secretary of State for Wales stated in a letter to all Welsh Members that that clause would be debated. Indeed, that was the very reason why she denied our request for a sitting of the Welsh Grand Committee. May I therefore ask the Leader of the House to make urgent representations to the Secretary of State for Wales on the pressing need to reinstate the Welsh Grand Committee, so that we can debate that critical matter for the people of Wales?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but I cannot accede to that request. When I came into the Chamber to listen to the debate yesterday, Wales was being discussed most of the time, so the notion that it has not been possible to discuss matters relating to Wales simply does not stand up. There will be opportunities on Report to debate the parts of the Bill that were not reached in Committee—but I have to say that if hon. Members want to reach the necessary clauses they should exert some self-discipline, and not speak interminably on certain matters so that key parts of the Bill are not reached.

Mrs Jan Berry, the independent Reducing Bureaucracy in Policing Advocate, has recently reported that it takes up to 10 police officers to investigate a single burglary. Constituents of mine in Bury St Edmunds, and Stowmarket in particular, are fed up with antisocial behaviour and want to see more police on the streets, not behind their desks. Given that, will my right hon. Friend allow an urgent, and in my opinion long overdue, debate on slashing police red tape?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and agree entirely with what he says. Jan Berry has indeed produced a report, and we are grateful to her for her work on identifying some of the root causes of the sort of red tape that stops officers getting out on the streets, where people want to see them. Police officers should be crime fighters, not form writers, and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is determined to reduce bureaucracy and improve efficiency, so that resources are not wasted and can reach the front line.

The Leader of the House announced earlier that the subject for debate in Westminster Hall selected by the Backbench Business Committee is the effect of the CSR on the Department for Work and Pensions. May I take this opportunity to remind right hon. and hon. Members that the next open public session for representations to the Backbench Business Committee is next Monday at 5 pm in Committee Room 15, when we will welcome bids for debates on the CSR and its impact on different Departments? May I also invite the Leader of the House to attend the sitting and witness that innovation for himself?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady, and I will be attending her salon next Monday to see how this important innovation in how the House works operates in practice. She makes a serious point: the Chamber is not the only forum in which the Government can be held to account. There is also Westminster Hall, and there are the Select Committees. We need to put the debate on the CSR in that broader context, looking at all the opportunities to hold the Government to account.

On 1 October the Government reversed the planned changes to legislation on houses in multiple occupation without giving Members a chance to debate the changes. As 92% of respondents to last year’s consultation said that there should be change, will the Leader of the House ensure that Members on both sides of the House have the chance to debate this important matter?

I understand the hon. Gentleman’s concern. My recollection, as a former Housing Minister, is that with HMOs over a certain size there is an obligation for the local authority to inspect and license them. With HMOs below that size, the local authority has all the powers it needs to intervene on a discretionary basis if it thinks that is right. However, I shall raise this issue with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Local Government and ask him to write to the hon. Gentleman.

The Leader of the House will know of the interest in and passionate support for Sure Start children’s centres that I and many other hon. Members have. Many of us feel betrayed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s remarks yesterday that there will be savage cuts to those children’s centres in this country. What does the Leader of the House have to say about that issue, and when can we debate it?

I believe that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor said in the CSR statement that there would be a steady cash settlement for the Sure Start programme, and that there would not be any cash reductions.

Mr Speaker, you were kind enough to grant me a debate in Westminster Hall yesterday on the regulation of independent financial advisers, which was extremely well attended by colleagues and generated an enormous amount of interest nationally. Will the Leader of the House consider holding a debate on the important topic of the regulation of the Financial Services Authority, and its performance against statutory objectives?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on her well-attended debate yesterday. The Government will be introducing legislation to reform the FSA, as she knows, and that will provide the House with an opportunity to debate the issues she has touched on.

In the first five years of the Afghan war, only two British soldiers died in conflict. As a consequence of the incursion into Helmand province that figure is now 341. When can we debate the report of the Public Administration Committee that shows the appallingly trivial reasons why that decision was taken, which proves that the incursion into Helmand was a blunder on the scale of the charge of the Light Brigade, but with three times as many British deaths?

Obviously, I regret any loss of life in Afghanistan. I believe that the House debated this issue, on a motion tabled by the Backbench Business Committee, in September. The new Government will respond formally in due course to the Select Committee report, which welcomed their aspirations to think more strategically through the National Security Council.

The killer of my constituent’s sister is due to be released at weekends, despite having been sentenced barely 12 months ago to eight years for manslaughter. Can we have a debate to ensure that the Government’s drive for greater honesty in sentencing covers the decisions of judges, the Parole Board and prison governors, and also encompasses offences of homicide, because the families of victims often feel let down, shut out and deceived by the criminal justice system?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and my sympathies go first and foremost to the victim’s family. As in all criminal cases, it is for the court to decide what sentence is appropriate—but the sentencing assessment currently being conducted by the Lord Chancellor is now considering the sentencing framework as a whole. In response to my hon. Friend’s specific point, we intend to publish proposals for the reform of sentencing and criminal justice in the autumn, and I am sure that there will be an opportunity thereafter to debate them.

I am holding in my hand the most recent paper from the Library about the hours of the House. It claims that the House adjourns at 10 pm on Monday and Tuesday, at 7 pm on Wednesday and at 6 pm on Thursday. The right hon. Gentleman will have noticed that last night we did not move to the Adjournment debate until 3 minutes past 10. What is he going to do to make the hours of the House more predictable and family-friendly?

One has to put the hon. Lady’s request in the context of the earlier request for more time to debate the constitutional measure currently going through the House. The events of this week and last week are unusual, in that we are debating a constitutional Bill on the Floor of the House and we have allowed injury time for statements that we knew were going to take place. That will not be the normal pattern of sittings, and I hope that normal service will be resumed quite soon.

Following yesterday’s vote in the European Parliament to increase the costs of maternity leave, can we find time for a debate on the impact of the additional burdens being imposed on British businesses by the European Union?

I am disappointed by the outcome of yesterday’s vote in the European Parliament, but that is not the end of the process. The UK will work hard in Council to oppose the imposition of a requirement for fully paid maternity leave, and we expect other member states to join us. [Interruption.] If Opposition Members look at the details of the directive, they will see that it is entirely regressive, as the greatest benefits would be obtained by those earning the most.

Can we have a debate on the so-called fairness of the CSR? May I draw the right hon. Gentleman’s attention to early-day motion 862, which effectively calls on the top 10%—the wealthiest people in the country—to make a significant financial contribution to the country’s deficit?

[That this House agrees with Professor Greg Philo, research director of Glasgow University Media Group, that the UK's current financial deficit could be significantly reduced if the richest 10 per cent. of Britain's citizens paid a one off tax of just 20 per cent. of their personal wealth, which would not have any immediate impact on their quality of life; notes that 74 per cent. of the British public polled recently agree with this proposal; further notes that if this were to happen there would be no need for drastic cuts to public services and armed forces, and there would be less need for major job losses; and therefore calls on the Government to explore how this objective could be achieved, either on a voluntary basis or by legislation if necessary.]

That money, which those people will never spend, would make a significant contribution to reducing the deficit and alleviating the anxieties of UK citizens.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have announced when the CSR will be debated, and those points can be made then. If he looks at the tables in the back of the paper published yesterday—tables B4, B5 and B6—he will see that the top 10% are bearing a disproportionate part of the burden, and rightly so.

As has been highlighted by both the Burton Mail and the Federation of Small Businesses, small businesses in Burton and across the country are suffering as a result of larger firms unilaterally extending payment terms from 30 days to 60 days—or to 90 days in some cases. Given that those firms are struggling as a result of difficulties in accessing finance from the banks, can we have an urgent debate to see what we can do about that double whammy, and to support small businesses across the country?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He will know that the Government are taking steps to help small businesses by, for example, requiring that a certain percentage of contracts be put out to be bid for by small and medium-sized businesses. On whether there should be a statutory requirement to settle a bill within a finite number of days, the House has discussed this issue and has so far resisted legislating on it. However, I shall certainly draw his concerns to the attention of my colleagues at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to see whether this is an issue that we might reconsider.

Yesterday the coalition Government announced huge projected increases in unemployment. How high will unemployment have to rise before the Government change their economic strategy? Can we have a statement please?

I am not aware of any forecast increases in unemployment. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the figures that the Office for Budget Responsibility published after we made clear our intention to tackle the deficit and take £83 billion out, he will see that for every year in the coming four years, it predicted a fall in unemployment and a rise in employment. In the second quarter of this year about 300,000 jobs were created, so we need to put all that in a slightly different context.

On Second Reading of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill there was not time for every hon. Member who wished to contribute to speak—and that includes me. During last night’s Committee deliberations the guillotine fell before we got to the debate on the contrast between the Government’s benchmarking of constituencies except for the Western Isles—or Na h-Eileanan an Iar—and the situation for my constituency. The Western Isles constituency has only three islands, whereas mine has 13, which can be reached only by sea or air. The Western Isles has an electorate of 22,000, whereas Argyll and Bute has 67,000 and has double the land area of the Western Isles. Can we have a debate on that important issue on Report?

I am sorry that because of the verbosity of certain Members we did not reach as many stages of the Bill as we would have liked. However, I agree with the hon. Gentleman that those issues are important, and I hope that, within the constraints that he will understand, it will be possible to debate them on Report.

Bearing in mind that the Foreign Secretary hosted a visit by the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister this week, may we have an early debate on the situation in Sri Lanka so that Members can ask whether robust statements were made about that island regarding the continuing detention of people, the human rights position, the freedom of the media, and the imprisonment of people who stood in elections?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that question, and I will pass his comments on to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. In addition, on 16 November he will have an opportunity to put those points to Foreign Office Ministers when they are at the Dispatch Box.

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the future of the politically correct Equality and Human Rights Commission? In a recent parliamentary answer to me, it emerged that in the past four years the commission has had 25 complaints from its own staff about sex discrimination, race discrimination or disability discrimination. Is it not ludicrous that it is given so much public money to stamp out discrimination across the workplace when it has such a bad record itself, and is it not time that this ridiculous body was abolished?

As always, I welcome my hon. Friend’s robust comments. We will shortly introduce a public bodies Bill following the statement that my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office made last Thursday. If my hon. Friend catches Mr Speaker’s eye during the Second Reading of that Bill, he may find an opportunity to develop at greater length the points that he has made.

The Leader of the House made the very welcome statement that the statutory instruments will be laid before the Report stage of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, but he left two things out. First, can he confirm that he will be using the affirmative procedure for those statutory instruments? Secondly, given that they are statutory instruments consequential to a constitutional Bill about elections, will he be taking them here on the Floor of the House?

Earlier this year, the Chancellor made a welcome announcement about proposals to look into growth hubs. Staffordshire university in my constituency, and Keele university in the constituency of the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly), are both looking at the possibility of forming such a growth hub. These are extremely important in enabling new, high-growth-potential businesses to get going, so may we have debate on the subject?

I welcome my hon. Friend’s interest in this, and I agree that it is important that we have a debate. He could apply for a debate in Westminster Hall or an Adjournment debate, or he could come along with me to the Backbench Business Committee on Monday and make a bid for a debate in Back-Bench time.

First, I thank the Leader of the House for his assistance in seeking answers from the Ministry of Defence on the issue of nuclear test veterans.

May I draw the Leader of the House’s attention to column 638W of Tuesday’s Hansard, where the Home Office confirmed that almost 5,000 children hold shotgun licences, including 26 10-year-olds, 72 11-year-olds and 134 12-year-olds? Will he ask the Home Secretary to contact the Association of the Chief Police Officers to find out why there are so many licences and whether the rules should be checked again, and then come to the House to make a statement?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and commend his energy in finding these important pieces of information. The Government are committed to a debate on our gun laws following the tragic shootings in Cumbria in July. That debate will be an opportunity to consider all aspects of gun legislation, including the age limits that he touched on.

Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the kite mark standard for British car garages, which I raised in my early-day motion 376?

[That this House believes that the British Standards Institution (BSI) Kitemark for Garage Services is a good step forward in supplying formal recognition of the good workmanship of some garages and their value for money; notes research which shows that 58 per cent. of people who have had a car serviced in a garage before are not totally confident that the work they have paid for has been carried out; further notes that the BSI is an independent body that owns and operates the Kitemark scheme, and has done much to improve consumer confidence in the quality of a good or service; and therefore calls on the Government to support the BSI Kitemark for Garage Services as a demonstration of compliance to a known national standard.]

Six out of 10 people who have their car serviced in a garage are not confident that the work has been carried out properly. Does my right hon. Friend agree that motorists should be assured of getting the proper service they deserve?

Of course motorists are entitled to a high-quality service. I should like to raise with the Secretary of State for Transport the proposition that my hon. Friend has put forward and get a response. He may have an opportunity to develop his argument at greater length in an Adjournment debate or in Westminster Hall.

My question is about the continuing disastrous handling of the Building Schools for the Future programme and the savage cuts to it. When I asked the Secretary of State for Education a very simple question—how much money was allocated to two schools in my constituency, The Grange and Wade Deacon, which had been given the go-ahead and which the Government had made great play about—I got a holding answer suggesting that he does not have a clue about what money is available for those schools. Is that not a disgraceful situation? Can the Leader of the House arrange for an urgent statement to be made to this House by the Secretary of State?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his questions. If there has been any discourtesy, I apologise for that. I will contact the appropriate Department and see whether we can expedite an answer to his specific question about the costs in those two schools.

Job creation in British small businesses is vital to the economic recovery. As well as a debate on European Union employment legislation, can we have a debate on the coalition’s proposals for further employment legislation in the coming months?

I agree with my hon. Friend that that is an important issue. It may be possible for him to raise those important issues in the debate on the CSR that I have announced and get a response from my hon. Friends.

The right hon. Gentleman, who is a former Housing Minister, may have noticed these comments by the chief executive of Shelter on the CSR:

“The government is denying responsibility for an entire generation’s ability to access affordable housing”.

Given the near-market rents for new social tenants, the lack of security, the 16% cut in capital funding and the cuts in housing benefit, when can we have a full debate on the Floor of the House on housing for a future generation, for which this Government are the first to abdicate responsibility?

We have just had Communities and Local Government questions, when the Housing Minister said that during the 13 years of Labour Government there was a net gain of 14,000 affordable homes over 13 years. If one sets that against the 150,000 affordable homes which, following the CSR, we hope to provide over the next five years, that puts a slightly different gloss on the hon. Gentleman’s point.

The Leader of the House has announced a full day’s debate on the comprehensive spending review. I am not sure whether he will be in a position to do this, but can he clarify who will speak on behalf of the Government, as that might be helpful for Members preparing for the debate? Who else, in an ideal world, would he like to see speaking in that debate?

My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary will open the debate and my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary will respond. Who else takes part is a matter for Mr Speaker. However, I think it would be helpful if the former Prime Minister were able to come along and explain what steps he would have taken to address the deficit that he has left us with.

On the constituencies and boundaries Bill—the Parliamentary Voting and Constituencies Bill—the Leader of the House mentioned the importance of a variety of means of scrutiny. First, will he ensure that the recommendations of the Welsh Affairs Committee, which are to be published next week, will be taken seriously by him in his deliberations and by the Government? Secondly, will he confirm that the SIs will be dealt with before Report? Finally, will he ensure that the Welsh Assembly is properly consulted?

Order. In future, Members should avoid asking three questions. It is a bit cheeky and rather unfair on colleagues.

I will choose to answer one of them. The Welsh Affairs Committee report will be available to the Government before the Report stage, and it will therefore be possible to take it on board before we reach the final stages of the Bill.

When the House introduced experimental sitting hours in 2003-05, whereby we sat from 11.30 am to 7 pm on a Wednesday—as we do now—and also on a Tuesday, it was never intended that the House should sit in the morning and then through the evening until 10 o’clock, as we did yesterday. Will the Leader of the House consider reintroducing Tuesday morning sittings? Is he aware that we have sat later hours in this Parliament than we did on any night in the 2005 Parliament?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who raises the broad issue of the parliamentary calendar and whether we should change Tuesday hours back to ending at 7 o’clock instead of 10 o’clock. The Procedure Committee will examine the sitting hours and the whole parliamentary calendar, and following its inquiry I understand that it will put a range of options before the House. I agree that it is right that the House revisit the issue, because there has been a substantial change in membership since we last visited it. There will be an opportunity to look more radically at how we operate.

On my hon. Friend’s specific question, as I said in response to the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), the last two weeks have been unusual, partly because this Government want to allow adequate time to scrutinise Bills, particularly important constitutional measures. However, we do not envisage the regime that we have had for the past two weeks being the normal pattern.

One of my constituents is serving a tariff of five years, which will come to an end in December. He has been told that he will not be released unless he undertakes a number of courses. He has undertaken 25 so far. May we have an urgent debate about why those who have paid their debt to society are further punished due to a lack of funds?

I understand the hon. Lady’s concern on behalf of her constituent. If she would be good enough to give me the details, I will raise them with the Lord Chancellor and see whether we can get a direct response.

This new Government have shown themselves willing to put themselves up for scrutiny, especially from Members on their own side of the House—the Opposition seem to have given up. May we have a statement from him on whether we could go slightly further and look into having confirmation hearings for new Cabinet Ministers?

My hon. Friend introduced a ten-minute rule Bill on Tuesday proposing the abolition of the Whips Office. I am not sure that it was an intelligent career move. The notion of confirmatory hearings for Cabinet Ministers is a novel constitutional innovation, because responsibility currently rests with the Prime Minister. Whether he would want to share it with my hon. Friend and others is a matter for him, so on this particular issue my hon. Friend will just have to hold his breath.

The Leader of the House must understand that the comprehensive spending review is unprecedented. It will make 500,000 public sector workers unemployed, cut investment in housing by half and make families pay more towards cutting the deficit than the bankers who created the problem in the first place and who still pay themselves excessive bonuses. We need extra time to scrutinise all that, and Opposition Back Benchers need to be able to hold the Government to account for what they are doing right across the public sector as a result of the comprehensive spending review. Comparing the situation with what the previous Government did will not wash. We need more time to discuss the CSR, in Government time.

The hon. Gentleman should read what the Wright Committee report said about debates on spending reviews. It made it absolutely clear that they were a matter for the House.

I simply do not agree with what the hon. Gentleman says about who will pay for the CSR. For the first time, we have produced and published distributional analyses of the impact of the spending review. They show clearly that those with the highest incomes will shoulder the greatest burden, and rightly so. It is not the case that families with children will pay more than twice the amount that banks are being asked to contribute. The child tax credit provision introduced yesterday will protect the least well-off families. I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s premise, but he will have an opportunity to debate the matter in the time that we have made available to debate the CSR, which strictly speaking we need not have. My right hon. and hon. Friends will rebut all his propositions.

The Leader of the House will know that in 2007 Hull was one of the areas that were very badly flooded. Ever since, it has been very difficult for my constituents to get reasonably priced insurance, or indeed insurance at all. In the light of the cuts that were made yesterday to the available flooding protection money, may we have a debate in Government time to discuss the direct impact on my constituents, who will now have sky-high insurance premiums, or whether insurance will be withdrawn from the city of Hull altogether?

I understand the problem of those who find it difficult to get insurance because of either past floods or the prospect of floods. There will be an opportunity on 4 November to raise the issue with Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Ministers, but in the meantime I will write to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to share the hon. Lady’s concerns and see whether we can take any measures in consultation with the Association of British Insurers and others to ensure that householders get the insurance they need at an affordable price.

International research has been cited in The Observer showing that black people are 26 times more likely to be stopped and searched in England and Wales. The researchers said that that was the most glaring example of racial profiling that they had seen. That figure is shocking, and I say to the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), who appears no longer to be in his place, that it is precisely why we should retain the Equality and Human Rights Commission. May we have an urgent debate on the matter, to discern whether the police in England and Wales are using their powers of stop and search appropriately?

I think those powers were extended to the police by the previous Administration. We are not abolishing the EHRC, and we are against any racial profiling when it comes to stop and search. I will raise the issue with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and ask her to respond.

I am grateful to the Leader of the House and to colleagues for their economy, which has enabled everyone to get in within a pretty reasonable time frame.