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Business of the House

Volume 523: debated on Thursday 17 February 2011

The business for the week commencing 28 February will be as follows:

Monday 28 February—Motion relating to the big society. The subject for this debate was nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.

Tuesday 1 March—Second Reading of the Protection of Freedoms Bill.

Wednesday 2 March—Estimates day (2nd allotted day). There will be debates on Sure Start children’s centres and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the details of which will be given in the Official Report, followed by a motion to approve the draft Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (Continuance in force of sections 1 to 9) Order 2011.

At 7 pm the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.

[The details are as follows: Sure Start Childrens Centres: 5th Report from the Children Schools and Families Committee of session 2009-10, HC 130; Government response4th Special report from the Education Committee of session 2010-11, HC 768; and HMRC: Oral evidence taken before the Treasury Sub-Committee on 8 February 2011, HC 731-ii, and 19 January 2011, HC731-i; oral evidence taken before the Treasury Committee on 15 September 2010, HC 479; 7th Report from the Treasury Committee of session 2009-10, Administration and Expenditure of the Chancellor's Departments 2008-09, HC 156, and Government response, Cm 7917; 8th Report from the Treasury Committee of session 2006-07, The Efficiency Programme in the Chancellor’s Departments, HC 483, and Government response, 1st Special report from the Treasury committee of session 2007-08, HC 62”.]

Thursday 3 March—Opposition day (12th allotted day) (half-day) (first part). There will be a half-day debate on a Democratic Unionist party motion, subject to be announced, followed by proceedings on the Consolidated Fund Bill.

Friday 4 March—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 7 March will include:

Monday 7 March—Consideration in Committee of the Scotland Bill (day 1).

Tuesday 8 March—Remaining stages of the European Union Bill.

Wednesday 9 March—Second Reading of the Welfare Reform Bill.

Thursday 10 March—There will be a debate on a motion relating to UN women. This debate was nominated by the Backbench Business Committee, followed by a further debate on a subject to be nominated by that Committee.

I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 17 March 2011 will be:

Thursday 17 March—A debate on articles 9 and 13 of the Bill of Rights and the role of Parliament in dealing with all grievances and the importance of freedom of communication between constituents and Members.

I am grateful to the Leader of the House for that reply. I thank him for his clarification this week on the Scotland Bill, although the publication of the Scotland Bill committee’s report at Holyrood is, of course, only part of the legislative consent motion process, as the Scottish Parliament then has to debate the report and the legislative consent motion and vote on them. Given that the Secretary of State for Scotland has described this as the biggest transfer of fiscal powers since the Act of Union, we should wait until the process has been completed in Holyrood before proceeding with Committee stage here.

In the light of the significant developments in the middle east, do the Government have plans for a debate?

On police numbers, will the Leader of the House ask the Home Secretary to come and explain why she is now three weeks late answering a named-day question tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper)? Is it because the Home Secretary cannot think of a way to square her commitment not to cut officers from the front line with the 1,500 police officers and staff who will go in West Yorkshire, the 480 in Merseyside, the 1,500 in Kent and the more than 1,000 in Devon and Cornwall? When senior officers are describing these as the

“biggest budget cuts for a generation”,

I think that my right hon. Friend—and the public—deserve an answer to her question.

It has been another very bad week for the Government. Youth unemployment is now at its highest level since 1992—the last time we had the misfortune of a Tory Government. One in five young people are now without work, and we discover this week that the Tories’ latest scheme for helping the young unemployed is to flog off internships with top banks at £3,000 a time at a ball to raise funds for the Conservative party. That is not so much social mobility as upwardly mobile socialising.

May we have a debate on the quality of ministerial decision making and briefing, as it has also been a very bad week for Ministers? The Prime Minister claimed yesterday that the Government are running the biggest back-to-work scheme since the 1930s—funny that, because, as historians will point out, Britain did not have any Government employment schemes worthy of the name at the time. The Education Secretary was bang to rights in court for an “abuse of power”, the Defence Secretary had to apologise to front-line soldiers for sacking them by e-mail, and the Environment Secretary has been put in special measures by the Prime Minister over the forest sale fiasco.

I welcome the statement that we are about to hear following the Prime Minister’s decision yesterday to take an axe to his own policy. I did say to the Leader of the House that the Government would have to change their mind. I wonder whether coalition Members feel any sympathy for the Environment Secretary, given that she has been briefed against this morning by No. 10 for a crazy policy that I suspect was foisted on her by the Treasury. There she was two weeks ago, racing ahead doing what she thought was wanted, and then last week she got nervous and started to apply the brakes. Now the Prime Minister has grabbed the steering wheel, and the sound of crunching gears can be heard all over Whitehall as reverse is engaged. At least we will be spared a new regulatory body to deal with privatised forests: presumably, it was to be called Ofcut.

May we have a debate on the latest bank bonuses? Last week the Chancellor trumpeted his bonus deal and called for an end to banker bashing. A couple of days later, the Business Secretary contradicted him—not for the first time—when he railed against the

“extraordinarily large bonuses which most people cannot understand”

as being


No wonder—this week we saw reports that the bonus pool at Barclays is going up. There we were thinking Project Merlin was named after a wizard: now we learn it was a bird. Presumably the Chancellor had an image of himself swooping down, talons extended, to seize offensive bonuses from the mouths of greedy bankers. Now we know that he was just dropping them off. When it comes to being tough on bankers, the Chancellor is not so much a bird of prey as a great bustard flush.

Finally, will the Communities and Local Government Secretary come and explain why he criticised local government for a 78% increase in chief executives’ pay when it now turns out that this figure was actually for pay rises for chief executives in FTSE 250 companies? If the Secretary of State cannot even get the simplest facts right in his vendetta against local government, is it any wonder that local government has completely lost confidence in him?

I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman’s response, although I hope that he managed to clear all his questions in advance with the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Chancellor, as the latest leaked memo from Labour HQ has revealed is required of him and every other member of the Opposition Front-Bench team.

On the legislative consent motion, as the right hon. Gentleman said, I wrote to him and the hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie) following our exchanges last week, and I placed a copy of the letter in the Library. It is our understanding that the Scotland Bill committee in the Scottish Parliament will publish its LCM in the week commencing 28 February. Today’s business statement has provisionally allocated 7 March for day one of the Scotland Bill.

On police numbers, the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) is entitled to a reply to her named-day question. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the former Home Secretary had said that he could give no guarantee that there would be no reduction in police numbers were Labour to be re-elected.

On youth unemployment, I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) said in 1995:

“Our plan is nothing less than to abolish youth unemployment.”

They left government with youth unemployment 240,000 more than when they came in. So we will have no more of that.

On internships, I welcome the announcement by you, Mr Speaker, that—with support from the Commission—an internship scheme will be initiated in the House. I encourage all hon. Members to take part in it. It is right to encourage internships and to give access to internships to those from all income groups.

On bonuses, I remind the right hon. Gentleman that there was no bonus regime under his Government. Indeed, they signed a contract with one of the banks that obliged it to go on paying bonuses at market rates. It was this Government, not his, who introduced a regime and a deal with the banks. So we will have no more on that.

As the right hon. Gentleman anticipates, we will shortly have a statement on forests.

On the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, I understand that a press statement was put out by his Department on the matter.

It has been a challenging week for the Government, but it is the week in which we have established the big society bank, with several hundreds of millions of pounds to underpin charities. It is a week in which we have put a major constitutional reform Bill on the statute book. It is also a week in which we have published the Welfare Reform Bill, the biggest reform of the welfare state for 60 years. So the coalition Government are determined to make progress with our social, economic and constitutional reforms and we will not be deflected from that task.

May we have a debate to discuss the relationship between the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Department of Health? I ask specifically for this because two members of staff from the Department are sitting on a working group looking into the emotive issue of the care of women during abortion, and if the findings of that group are to be credible, its manner of operations should be above reproach. It is not adhering to Government guidelines on consultation, and that is causing huge concern.

I understand my hon. Friend’s deep concern on the subject, which she has made one of her special interests. My understanding is that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is a professional body independent of Government, and it has set its own consultation periods. There is a consultation period of four weeks—as is standard for the college—and it ends tomorrow, although any responses received by 25 February will be accepted. However, I will, of course, pass on her comments to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health.

May we have a debate on ministerial responsibility? Following the education maintenance allowance debacle, the U-turn on school sports and the Building Schools for the Future debacle, we now learn that Building magazine is to publish an article calling into question figures that the Education Secretary used just this week in the House about his new pilot scheme. Would it not be appropriate for him to join the Environment Secretary in special measures as a failing Minister?

Certainly not. On Building Schools for the Future, my right hon. Friend the Education Secretary made a statement to the House earlier this week, and on that issue the judge agreed that my right hon. Friend behaved rationally and that his decision was not open to legal challenge on that basis. So I reject the hon. Gentleman’s assertions of the criticism of my right hon. Friends in the Cabinet.

The Government’s tobacco control strategy is at an advanced stage of preparedness and I understand that it will be published shortly. Given that smoking is still the biggest killer and cause of preventable early death, will the Government ensure such an important debate, in their time, on public health and in particular tobacco control?

I commend my hon. Friend’s work as chair of the all-party group on smoking and health—a group of which I used to be an active member. He is right to draw attention to the importance of making further progress on smoking, which causes some 100,000 premature deaths each year. It is right at the heart of our public health strategy. I cannot promise a debate in Government time, but there may be an opportunity at some point in the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill to debate that important aspect of public health.

This week, the Deputy Prime Minister published a written ministerial statement on public reading stages during Bill Committees. As the Leader of the House knows, my commitment to public engagement in the legislative process is absolute, but not at the expense of a Back Bencher’s ability to scrutinise legislation and hold the Government to account. What is the evidence base for this policy? What assessment has been made of its impact on a Back Bencher’s ability to scrutinise legislation? Just between these four walls, can he say what consultation the Government had with him? They certainly had no consultation with Back Benchers.

I welcome the hon. Lady’s commitment to the House getting more engaged in the legislative programme. It is our intention to publish more Bills in draft. We will publish more in this Session and even more in the Session that follows. The hon. Lady was a member of the Wright Committee, one of whose recommendations was that there should be more engagement between the public and the House on the legislative programme. The Deputy Prime Minister’s written ministerial statement was a further step down that road towards a public reading stage. We have invited their with comments on the Protection of Freedoms Bill to log their comments on the Government website, which will then be moderated and made available to the Public Bill Committee. I hope that that will enrich and inform those who participate in Committee.

I want to engage with the hon. Lady, the Procedure Committee and the Liaison Committee before we move to the fulfilment of what is in the coalition agreement—a commitment to a proper public reading stage. I hope that at that stage the House will take ownership of the process, rather than its being led exclusively by the Government.

May we have a debate on the tailored support needed to get people back into work? It is clear that only with tailored support built on individual needs, as envisaged by the Government, will we start to see people returning to work in the numbers that we all want.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We need tailored individual support to get people back into work. Under the Work programme, to be introduced later in the year, we will have payment by results. Providers, whether from the independent sector or the private sector, will be remunerated when people are in sustainable, long-term employment, rather than as with previous programmes, where payment was simply to get someone off the register for six months. Sadly, over half of those people were back on benefits by the seventh month. I hope that the structure of our Work programme will have the results that my hon. Friend wants.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government was asked on the BBC “Today” programme about having debates on senior pay in council chambers, which he is insisting on, but not on senior pay in Whitehall in this Chamber. He said:

“I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t have this kind of debate in the House of Commons.”

We have heard that the Secretary of State gets confused about which sector he is talking about, so can the Leader of the House tell us whether he has any plans for a debate in Government time on senior pay, and will he extend it to low pay, which Opposition Members think is just as important?

Of course low pay is important, but the hon. Lady’s question focused on what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government said. As far as civil servants are concerned, Select Committees have adequate opportunity, particularly when they look at the accounts of individual Departments, to hold the Minister to account on the salaries that are paid in the Department, and it is always open to have debates on the Floor of the House about the structure of salaries in the civil service. Of course, there is a defined salary structure in the civil service, whereas there is slightly less clarity in relation to local government and the chief executives, so I do not think it is an exact parallel.

Having given reasonable time for the Committee stage of the European Union Bill, will the Leader of the House be good enough to ensure in programme motions or whatever that we have adequate time to discuss the Bill properly on Report and Third Reading in the light of any amendments that may be tabled? Perhaps he would be kind enough to have a word with me about it, too.

As my hon. Friend knows, I am always ready to have a word with him. I have announced that we shall be having the final day of—I think—seven days on the European Bill. We actually added an extra day in the light of representations, and we have allocated a whole day for the final stages. I very much hope that that will be adequate.

I thank the Leader of the House for confirming in the Chamber today that the first day of the Scotland Bill Committee will not now be until 7 March, and I thank him for his letter yesterday. However, will he confirm that, given the other provisional business that he has laid out, the second day of Committee cannot be until 13 March at the earliest; that the programme agreed on 27 January still applies; and that the debates on the borrowing and fiscal powers can also therefore not commence until the second day, on 13 March at the earliest?

I have announced the provisional business for the second week back. I have not got as far as the business for following weeks in March, but I will certainly take the hon. Gentleman’s points on board. Of course it is a very important Bill for the Scottish Parliament, but we published the Bill in November, on St Andrew’s day, and we are not dealing with the Committee stage until March—a larger than usual gap between publication and Committee. I hope that that will give the Scottish Parliament an opportunity to consider the necessary legislative consent motion. I can confirm that we are adhering to the principle that the House will have an opportunity to amend the Bill if the legislative consent motion requires any amendment.

As I cannot without massive inconvenience to others be present for the upcoming statement on forests, may I unreservedly welcome the Prime Minister’s sensible and timely initiative on that matter? Given that the Government are responding so well to the views of the public on that issue, may we have a statement from the Minister for Housing and Local Government on fluoridation in the Southampton area? A court has held that the soon-to-be-abolished strategic health authority has the legal right to proceed with fluoridation despite the opposition of three quarters of the population; nevertheless, if we are down for localism, surely the matter should be for elected local government to decide.

My hon. Friend is right that the High Court rejected an application for judicial review of the decision by the South Central strategic health authority to apply fluoride to the water for his constituents, and indeed many others. It is now considering what next to do. I have some—hopefully—encouraging news for my hon. Friend. Under the reforms envisaged in the Health and Social Care Bill, the South Central strategic health authority will be abolished, and its public health responsibilities will be passed to local authorities, which will give my hon. Friend the control that he seeks. The Government are now, in the light of that court decision, working out how best to apply the regulations to take the fluoridation policy forward.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that the Gangmasters Licensing Authority will be abolished or merged with another department. Either option would be deeply regrettable, given the good work that the authority does to protect migrant workers from exploitation and ensure that they are here legally and paying taxes and insurance. Will the Leader of the House explore the future of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and identify the good work that it does?

It does indeed do good work, and I can confirm that the Government have no plans to abolish that body.

Will the Leader of the House update us on what has happened on moving private Members’ Bills away from Friday? I have written to him on the subject, especially in light of the Sustainable Livestock Bill, which received great support from members of the public, environment groups and 172 MPs, but received fewer than 100 votes on the day that it was considered in the House. It seems a shame that MPs, particularly those outside London, should have to choose between voting on legislation that is important to their constituents and constituency commitments.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the matter, and I think I have written to her on the subject. The Procedure Committee will shortly start an inquiry into the parliamentary calendar, including the problem that she outlines of private Members’ Bills taking place on a Friday, and it will consider other options. We have tried to give the House certainty by agreeing, early in the Session, the dates of the 13 sitting days up to June this year. If a private Member’s Bill has a lot of support, it is still possible to get it through on a Friday.

May I press the Leader of the House further on the Scotland Bill? Will he confirm that its Committee stage will not commence until after the Scottish Parliament has agreed the legislative consent motion? Does he accept that, in order to scrutinise the Bill properly, it is appropriate that the express views of the Scottish Parliament are known?

I understand the hon. Gentleman’s interest in the Bill. As I have said, it will be perfectly possible for the Committee stage of the Bill to consider amendments in the light of the LCM. It has never been the policy of the House to put a Bill on hold while the LCM is addressed. I can, however, commit myself to giving the House the opportunity to amend the Bill in Committee after the LCM has been processed.

Will the Leader of the House ask the Minister with responsibility for the Olympic games to make a statement to the House regarding the number of contracts and subcontracts awarded to local or, indeed, British companies against foreign companies?

I understand my hon. Friend’s interest in the multiplier effect of work on the Olympic games. My understanding is that 12,000 workers currently work on the Olympic park and village, and that 21% of the Olympic park work force live in the five host boroughs. In addition, 330 apprentices are on site, and a large number of previously unemployed people have been placed in work through the brokerage of the Olympic Delivery Authority. I hope that my hon. Friend welcomes such an impact in his constituency and is convinced that there is local benefit.

Has the Leader of the House yet had time to read the National Audit Office report, which raises a series of concerns about progress on the Olympics, especially around the regeneration of east London and the economic, social and sporting legacies of the Olympic games? Will he consider the possibility of a debate in Government time about how we can get those promises back on track, so that we can deliver the full potential of the Olympic games in those key areas?

The short answer is no, I have not had time to look at the NAO report. In due course, that report will go to the Public Accounts Committee, which will produce its report, which would then be eligible for a debate in the House. In any event, the Government would want to respond to any PAC recommendations. That is the right way to address the important issues to which the hon. Gentleman refers.

With regard to the upcoming debate on the importance of MPs communicating with their constituents, has my right hon. Friend noted the remarks made last week by the chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, that the extreme complexity of the present MPs’ expenses system was militating against family life and making it hard for MPs to do their job properly? Does he understand the increasing consensus in the House that we need to move towards a much flatter, less bureaucratic system to enable MPs to get on with their lives and support their constituents?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, not least for the work that he is doing on the liaison committee that has recently been set up. I did read Sir Christopher Kelly’s submission, which reinforced points that you, Mr Speaker, I and the shadow Leader of the House had made. I hope that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority reflects on the strong views expressed during the review and makes proposals that are acceptable to the House.

Given that we have not had a statement from the Minister responsible, despite revelations of further serious security breaches at Ford open prison, may we have a debate on security in Her Majesty’s prisons, or is it now the policy of the Government to equip prisoners with a freedom pass as well as a ballot paper?

The short answer is that the Government have no plans to provide such a debate, but if the hon. Gentleman presents himself on a Tuesday morning to the Backbench Business Committee, he might find that he is successful in securing a debate in Back-Bench time on the important issue of security in our prisons.

On the issue of police numbers raised by the shadow Leader of the House, the Mayor of London’s draft budget proposals increase investment in front-line policing, allowing the Met to recruit again, with the result that London will have more police officers in 2012 than were inherited from the previous Mayor. May we have a debate on how to deliver protection for front-line services while reducing spending?

I hope that the rest of local government will note what the Mayor of London has been able to do. At a time of fiscal stringency, he has put more resources into front-line policing, and if that can be done in London, it can be done elsewhere.

May we have a debate on the inability of Ministers to make decisions? The north-east of England has been waiting since July last year for a decision on the intercity express programme, which, if it goes ahead, will create 800 jobs in my constituency and 1,000 jobs in the supply chain. In November, the Secretary of State for Transport stated that we would have a decision in the new year. When the House returns, it will be the beginning of March. When can we expect a decision?

There will be an opportunity on 10 March for the hon. Gentleman to put that question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. In the meantime, I will raise the issue with him, and see whether we can get an answer before that.

May we have a debate on the Government’s Work programme, so that everyone in the House can better understand why the 5 million-odd people who have been trapped on benefits for the best part of a decade will be better off under this Government’s approach than under Labour’s approach, which simply did not work?

Under Labour, roughly 1.5 million people spent most of the last decade on out-of-work benefits, and that benefit system cost every working family some £3,000. The Work programme will focus on encouraging people to get into work and reforming the welfare system, and it will have much better results than the programmes that preceded it.

Earlier this week, Dave Morgan, a 75-year-old man, was seriously injured in my constituency after heroically dragging an out-of-control illegal dog away from an eight-year-old boy it was attempting to savage. Yesterday, a young person had a dog set on him in Picton, also in my constituency, in front of his youth workers. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ consultation on dangerous dogs ended eight months ago, and the Government have so far done nothing. May we please have an urgent debate on the performance of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the complacent attitude of her Ministers on this matter?

I was sorry to hear of the incident in the hon. Lady’s constituency. I will contact my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and see when she plans to respond to the consultation exercise. Of course, I understand the urgency of making progress.

The recently published ombudsman’s report, which revealed a worryingly unacceptable level of neglect of older people in the NHS in 2009-10, shows that such problems continue. May we have a statement from a Department of Health Minister on what the Government are doing to tackle this serious issue?

The whole House would have been dismayed by the 10 incidents, to which the health ombudsman referred in her recent report, showing neglect of elderly people. It would be wrong to generalise, because high-quality care is provided in much of the NHS, but the instances of poor discharge policy, poor end-of-life policy and poor nutrition policy were deeply worrying. I hope that some of the reforms in the Health and Social Care Bill will improve the position, not least through the creation of local healthwatch organisations to give patients more power to ensure that there is feedback, that complaints are heard and that local services are held properly to account.

Will the Leader of the House grant an urgent debate on Liverpool’s local government settlement from central Government, given the misleading statistics about funding levels used—inadvertently I am sure—by both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Housing in recent weeks?

We have debated the local government settlement within the last fortnight, and that would have been the opportunity for the hon. Gentleman to raise the grievance to which he refers. I am afraid he will have to wait another year before that opportunity comes round again.

The Leader of the House will be aware of a Channel 4 programme that went out last Monday evening, showing several children from my constituency being kicked and beaten in a mosque. Will he ask the relevant Secretary of State to make a statement on how we can protect children who attend mosques and madrassahs, and how we can support members of the community who are afraid to complain to the police about what has happened?

I understand the concern arising from the “Dispatches” programme, which included such comments as men should be trusted only if they had substantial tufts of hair on their face. It would be appropriate for my hon. Friend to refer to the police any allegations of abuse or harm to children. All school inspections are carried out by trained and qualified inspectors, and he might like to raise the incidents in his constituency with the appropriate inspectors.

May we debate the extraordinary and anachronistic Advisory Committee on Business Appointments? It is made up of five lords and two knights, almost all of whom have business appointments themselves. It cannot be a watchdog because it never follows up its recommendations. Is it not about time we reformed this establishment pussy-cat that just looks after the establishment?

I understand that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the body that gives advice to ex-Ministers as to whether it is appropriate for them to take on employment. It is important that that job is done. I have no particular view on why it cannot be done appropriately by five lords or two knights; the important thing is to have the right people to do the job. It may be that the right people to do that job have the adornments to their names that the hon. Gentleman has just mentioned.

As a coalition Government, we are committed to making sure that money is spent in the national health service on the front line. Two weeks ago I mentioned two trusts that were consulting about merging; I now understand that that will take three years and cost £1.5 million. Now I highlight what is going on with the Care Quality Commission and dentists throughout the country, who are required to print and display 75 individual policies in their surgeries, totally unnecessarily.

Dentists in my own constituency are complaining about the approach of the Care Quality Commission. If my hon. Friend would like to approach the Backbench Business Committee, it might feel it appropriate to arrange a debate. I shall raise the issue of the mergers of NHS trusts in my hon. Friend’s constituency with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health.

Given the doubts expressed today by health experts about the Government’s minimum alcohol pricing policy, may we have a debate on what the policy will actually mean, and whether it is anything other than a fig leaf for big commercial interests?

We have not announced the details of that policy, but this is the first time that a Government will have a policy on minimum alcohol pricing, linked to the related policy for a special tax on high-strength drinks. The Budget may be the appropriate time for a debate on those issues.

May we have a debate about spending so that we can contrast the coalition Government’s policies and plans for the economy with those of the shadow Chancellor, who asserts that we should be spending a lot more money that we do not have? The policy of spend, spend, spend is what got us into this mess in the first place.

My hon. Friend is right. The spending reductions that we are planning for next year, of some £16 billion, are only £2 billion more than the figure pencilled in by the outgoing Chancellor of the Exchequer.

There is growing concern about the future of Remploy factories, which provide supported jobs for people with disabilities. Will the Leader of the House consider an urgent debate on ensuring that all public bodies include Remploy in their procurement policies for office furniture and other products, to support workers with disabilities and provide a level playing field for trade?

I understand the hon. Gentleman’s concern. The matter was raised at business questions last week, and I wrote to one of his hon. Friends about Remploy. I should like to send him the same letter. The Government have maintained support of some £555 million to Remploy to help it through the five-year modernisation programme, but I should like to write to the hon. Gentleman about the particular issue that he raised concerning public sector procurement.

Tomorrow is Go Orange day on the Isle of Wight—a celebration of three independent lifeboats and the fundraising efforts to keep them afloat. Each service costs more than £25,000 a year. Will the Leader of the House join me in thanking the brave men and women who man the service, and in sending them good wishes for the success of Go Orange day?

I welcome my hon. Friend’s initiative at business questions in giving the service the publicity to which it is entitled. The whole House will endorse the good wishes that he has just mentioned.

This week Oxfordshire joined the growing list of local authorities that are closing their youth services completely. In view of the gravity of the situation, and as there is a statutory duty to provide youth work, may we have an urgent debate in the Chamber on the issue?

Again, I say to the hon. Lady that there was an opportunity to debate the situation two weeks ago when we discussed the revenue support grant. Those decisions have now been taken. I will draw her concern to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and ask him to write to her.

In my constituency the video games industry is a major employer, but recently there have been reports about potential job losses. That is a particularly worrying development given the importance of the creative industries to our economic recovery. Will the Leader of the House provide Government time for a debate on how we can best support our creative industries, such as video games, to boost exports and create new jobs?

My hon. Friend is right; we need a stake in the digital and creative industries, and we have many market leaders in this country. I cannot promise a debate, but I will draw his remarks to the attention of both the Chancellor of the Exchequer as he prepares his Budget, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.