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Business of the House

Volume 532: debated on Thursday 15 September 2011

The business for the week commencing 10 October will be:

Monday 10 October—Remaining stages of the Protection of Freedoms Bill (day 1).

Tuesday 11 October—Remaining stages of the Protection of Freedoms Bill (day 2).

Wednesday 12 October—Opposition day [unallotted day]. There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.

Thursday 13 October—Motions relating to the use of hand-held electronic devices in the Chamber and Committees (HC 889), improving the effectiveness of parliamentary scrutiny (HC 800) and ministerial statements (HC 602), followed by general debate on High Speed 2.

The subjects for these debates were nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.

The provisional business for the week commencing 17 October will include:

Monday 17 October—Motion relating to MPs’ pensions, followed by motion relating to disclosure and publication of documents relating to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. The subject for this debate was nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.

Tuesday 18 October—Remaining stages of the Pensions Bill [Lords].

Wednesday 19 October—Opposition day. There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.

Thursday 20 October—Consideration of Lords amendments.

Friday 21 October—Private Members’ Bills.

I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 13 and 20 October will be:

Thursday 13 October—A debate on responses to the riots.

Thursday 20 October—A debate on scrutiny of arms export controls (2011): UK strategic export controls annual report 2009, quarterly reports for 2010, licensing policy and review of export control legislation (HC 686).

Finally, on 12 July, the House was able to convey its gratitude to Sir Malcolm Jack on his retirement from the office of Clerk of the House. As today is the last sitting day before the Clerk retires, may I take this further opportunity on behalf of the House to reiterate our gratitude and to send him our warmest wishes for the future?

I am grateful to the Leader of the House for that reply. On behalf of the Opposition, may I join him in expressing again our thanks to Sir Malcolm for everything that he has done in the service of the House and of our democracy, and in wishing him all the best for the future?

May we have a statement from the Prime Minister on why, at Prime Minister’s questions, he keeps saying things that simply do not accord with the facts. Yesterday, he told the House:

“Bank lending is actually going up.”——[Official Report, 14 September 2011; Vol. 532, c. 1034.]

Wrong. The Bank of England’s most recent data show that overall lending to businesses is falling. Yesterday he also claimed that private sector employment has increased by 500,000. Wrong. The Office for National Statistics confirms that private sector employment increased by only 264,000 in the year to June 2011. In answering a question about growth in the European Union by trying to talk about America instead—curiously, as America has not been part of Europe for nearly 250 years—he claimed that the UK is growing faster than the United States. That was wrong too. The US economy has grown by 2.6% over the past year to the end of the second quarter, while the UK has grown by only 0.7%.

The Prime Minister takes the most important decisions, and he has a responsibility to do so on the basis of accurate facts, yet it is now clear that he is repeatedly getting things wrong. It might be incompetence—he might actually believe all this stuff—but either way, it is no wonder that the public are losing confidence in the Government’s economic policy.

May we have a debate on the recommendations of the Boundary Commission for England? The Leader of the House will be aware of the deep disquiet, not to say anger, about the proposals, which, in places, will divide communities and destroy relationships that have been built up over many years between constituents and their Members of Parliament, and all in pursuit of an over-rigid mathematical formula. For example, there is a proposed constituency for Gloucester minus the cathedral that makes it a city, and one for a new seat called the Mersey Banks, covering three different local authorities, where one would have to leave the constituency three times and go over a bridge to get from one end of it to the other. It is no wonder that words such as “muddle”, “utterly random” and “barking” have been heard this week. Even the mild-mannered Business Secretary has complained.

This is only the beginning because, as the House will be aware, the same inflexible formula will be applied every five years from now on, so we can expect further regular disruption, with MPs and their constituents not knowing who will be representing whom next. Given the disruption that the changes will bring, I suspect that quite a few Members who voted for the Bill that led to the proposals will now be saying to themselves, “What have we done?”

May we have a statement on reports that the Government propose to ask bereaved relatives, including those on low incomes, for payment when they go to register the death of a loved one? The charge, estimates of which vary from £100 to £180, is apparently intended to pay for a new system to check on causes of death, but the cost, which is no longer to be hidden in funeral directors’ charges, will be collected when families turn up, often in a distressed state, at the register office, or they will be sent an invoice later. Given that the Conservative party made such a fuss at the last election about a so-called death tax, will a Minister explain at the Dispatch Box why they now plan to impose one?

Finally, having mentioned Mr Steve Hilton last week, this week we have been helpfully provided with a restricted memo from his comrade at No. 10, Mr Andrew Cooper. Headed, “The problem”, it reveals that women voters just do not like this Government. In a damning section, it says that

“we are clear that there are a range of policies we have pursued as a Government which are seen as having hit women, or their interests, disproportionately, including: Public sector pay and pensions…Tuition fees, Abolition of Child Trust Funds, Changes to child tax credit and the childcare element, Changes to child benefit.”

Mr Cooper is clearly a man who can get his judgment and his facts right. We wish him well in trying to persuade his boss to do the same.

Yet again the right hon. Gentleman has made no substantive criticism of the business the Government have laid before the House for the next two weeks. He will have noted that we have allocated two days for the Report stage of a Bill, which was virtually unheard of in the Government of whom he was a member.

On statistics, may I say to the right hon. Gentleman that he should look carefully at the dates to which the statistics that he read out apply. He might well find that the Prime Minister’s statistics were perfectly accurate, and that the ones that he used were also accurate. The period over which one takes statistics is crucial, and ‘twas ever thus.

On the Boundary Commission, it is indefensible that a constituency such as Arfon currently has some 40,000 voters, whereas East Ham has more than 90,000. That is the position that the boundaries Bill, which is now on the statute book, was set to address. We are also reducing the numbers of Members of Parliament. This House is the largest directly elected Chamber in the whole of Europe, and we believe that Members can perfectly adequately represent 77,000 people, and many already do. I am sorry if the right hon. Gentleman has been inconvenienced by the proposals. I understand that there might be an interesting discussion between him and the shadow Chancellor, and my sympathies are entirely with him. He knows better than anybody that the place to make such representations about boundaries is not in the House, but to the Boundary Commission.

This is my fifth boundary review. I have been expanded, reduced and abolished. These reforms have no surprises.

The right hon. Gentleman raised a serious issue about the fees that are payable on the registration of a death. The issue may arise from the coroners legislation, and I will ask the Lord Chancellor to write to him with a response.

The right hon. Gentleman ended with a reference to Mr Hilton. Last week, the right hon. Gentleman bombarded me with seven requests for debates, and I assumed that the Opposition would choose at least one of them for the Opposition day on Tuesday, but not one of the subjects that he felt were so important last Thursday appeared on the agenda. I think we have rumbled him. For him, these sessions are just as much opportunities to display his great sense of humour as to make serious bids for debates.

May we have a debate on social mobility and aspiration? I am sure that many people were touched by the report in The Sunday Times of an 11-year-old girl, Aliyah Tribak, who was desperately trying to raise funds to go to the independent school that she wanted to get into but could not afford, as she is from a deprived background in Tower Hamlets. If the Government are serious about social mobility and allowing people to meet their aspirations, surely it is time that we reintroduced the assisted places scheme, so that the best schools in the country are available to the poorest and not just the preserve of the rich and privileged.

I understand the forceful case that my hon. Friend makes for the restoration of assisted places. Our view is that the best way to make progress is to pursue our policy on free schools, which inevitably have a much broader catchment area than those of the independent sector, and to drive up standards for all children in all schools, which is the thrust of my right hon. Friend the Education Secretary’s policy. I hope that that will achieve the objectives of social mobility and aspiration that my hon. Friend has just enunciated.

May I add my thanks to Sir Malcolm Jack and wish him every success for the future?

In his business statement, the Leader of the House mentioned a couple of Back-Bench debates, one on Hillsborough and the other on the riots, both of which arguably started as a result of an e-petition that reached 100,000 signatures. At Tuesday’s meeting of the Backbench Business Committee, we discussed the best way to proceed with e-petitions, and decided that in the short term we were only able to hear proposals involving e-petitions directly from Members as part of a bid, which we would consider on their merits as we would for normal bids. The Committee will continue to discuss the matter to find a long-term solution for dealing more satisfactorily with e-petitions and to ensure that, rather than becoming gimmicks, they are meaningful. Until we find such a long-term solution, will the Leader of the House commit to giving the Backbench Business Committee additional time to accommodate the new e-pressures that the Government have put on us?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady and her Committee for finding time to debate the two e-petitions that had crossed the 100,000 threshold. We note her public service announcement that e-petitions will be debated only if they are picked up by a Member and then formally presented to her for debate.

The hon. Lady asked about time for her Committee. As I have said on earlier occasions, we will honour the commitment to a minimum of 35 days in a Session, and because the current Session is longer, more than 35 days will be provided. Now that the bulk—although not all—of the legislative programme has been completed in the House of Commons, I hope that in the months and weeks ahead it may be possible to find more headroom for Backbench Business Committee debates. As is clear from the business that I have just announced, there will be more time for the Committee than there has been in recent weeks.

Very tragically, a toddler was killed last year in a house fire in my constituency. The inquest has now reported that the fire was caused by another child playing with matches, which then ignited a highly flammable mattress. Could time be found for a debate on fire safety, which would include advice on preventing access to flammable materials and on the use of flame-retardant furnishings to help reduce the risk of such tragic events happening again in the future?

The whole House will have been sorry to hear of the loss of life of the toddler in my hon. Friend’s constituency. I believe that there are restrictions on the materials that can be used in many items of furniture. However, I will raise the instance that the hon. Gentleman has given with the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr Davey), who is responsible for consumer affairs, and see whether there are any further steps that we can take to avoid a repetition of the tragedy.

The Government have proposed the most fundamental changes to our planning system for 64 years. Widespread concern has been expressed about the fact that the national planning policy framework fails to strike the right balance between growth on one hand, and the protection of our natural environment and ensuring a real say for local people on the other. Do the Government intend to put the final draft of the framework to Parliament, following full consultation, so that both Houses can vote on it?

The hon. Gentleman will know that there is a period of consultation on the draft national planning policy framework. The Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark), who has responsibility for planning, has on many occasions sought to reassure both the House and the country as a whole that our policies—unlike some designed by our opponents—will create sustainable growth, but not at the expense of the environment and the green belt. The framework does not override local plans, and it protects the green belt, areas of outstanding natural beauty, sites of special scientific interest and the rest. I personally would welcome a debate at the end of the process, so that the House could have an opportunity to let its views be heard on this important issue.

May we have a debate on the relative merits of unilateral and multilateral approaches to the taxation of banks? This Government introduced a unilateral tax on bank balance sheets. We could discuss whether that is a better approach than waiting for a global tax, which I think would still not have come about.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: we would still be waiting for the global tax if it had been necessary to secure universal agreement before it went ahead. She is also right to remind the House of the unilateral bank levy that we introduced, which will raise almost £10 million during the current Parliament. The one-off bonus tax proposed by the Labour party has real disadvantages, not least the fact that the person who designed it says that a permanent tax would not work.

In my constituency, which adjoins Newcastle, four young people have died in recent months after taking cocktails of substances including legally dispensed methadone which has been sold on to them. May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Health about what he will do to try to prevent such tragic events from occurring again?

The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to put those questions to the Secretary of State for Health on Tuesday 18 October. In the meantime, I will write to the Secretary of State asking whether any further steps are possible—in addition to those that we have already taken—to stop the unnecessary loss of young life among those who are taking these concoctions.

Could time be found for an urgent debate on a new European Union directive which, according to the charity Diabetes UK, will result in up to 1 million people with diabetes having their driving licences taken away? It would appear that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is applying the directive far more swiftly than it is being applied in other countries. The ban is due to be introduced next month, so may we have that urgent debate?

I understand my hon. Friend’s concern. I do not know whether he was present for Transport questions earlier today and had an opportunity to raise the issue with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, but I am aware of the draft directive, and will raise it with my right hon. Friend and ask him to drop the hon. Gentleman a line.

I think it is generally agreed that the Select Committee system is increasingly showing its worth, but the Leader of the House will be aware of two emerging difficulties: the refusal of witnesses to attend, and the level of veracity of the evidence given. Will he arrange a debate to explore possible remedies, or undertake to consider the issues and report back to the House?

I understand the right hon. Gentleman’s concern, but I think the issue would be best explored in the first instance through an informal meeting between me and the Liaison Committee, as I imagine that it affects a number of Select Committees. I should be more than willing to engage in such a discussion to establish whether any further steps are necessary.

My constituency contains the villages of Irchester and Wollaston, which are separated by some beautiful countryside. I have been contacted by residents who fear that the Government’s planning proposals will lead to the land being concreted over. Further to the question asked by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), may we have a debate that would expose the myth that the Government’s planning legislation will concrete over the whole of the countryside?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the role that he is playing in demolishing such myths. I said earlier that I would welcome a debate on the draft national policy framework, but if there is a local plan, local people can protect that piece of land from development. I think the message conveyed by my hon. Friend’s question is that it is important for each local authority to have an up-to-date local development plan, informed by local opinion, so that any development that takes place has a local consensus behind it.

The Leader of the House will be aware that the public service workers are to be balloted on industrial action aimed at protecting their pensions—industrial action that the workers do not want and the country does not need. Even at this late stage, can the Leader of the House use his good offices to ask the Government to demonstrate, not with warm words but with action, that they are taking the negotiations seriously?

With the greatest respect to the hon. Gentleman, I wonder if I could put the same question to him. Can he use his good offices to persuade the relevant unions to call off the action? It is unnecessary, it would damage economic growth and recovery, and many of us consider it to be wholly premature.

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the House can vote before Christmas on our sitting hours? The Procedure Committee is considering both sitting hours and the calendar of the House, but would it not be best for us to have a report on sitting hours? I think that there is a strong wish to return to the earlier start on Tuesdays that operated between 2003 and 2005.

My hon. Friend will know that the Select Committee on Procedure is conducting an inquiry into the parliamentary calendar, and I understand that some eight hon. Members gave evidence to it yesterday. I am not sure that the Committee is planning to report within the time scale that my hon. Friend has suggested, but certainly any change in the sitting hours will be subject to a vote in the House, which I suspect will take place some time next year.

Before the election the Prime Minister promised to take tough action against people who are involved in knife crime, but we know from the latest figures that people who are involved in such crimes are now less likely to go to jail. May we have an urgent debate on the matter?

We have had an opportunity to debate the Government’s proposals on legislation. We have taken a much tougher approach to those who carry knives and then engage in aggressive behaviour, who are now more likely to end up in prison than was the case before.

On hearing threats of industrial action emerge from the TUC conference, my constituents are understandably concerned about the impact on their children’s education and the emergency services, for example. Can the Leader of the House find time for a debate on industrial relations, so that Members can express their views on whether we need to strengthen the laws governing strike ballots?

It is very disappointing that there have been proposals for ballots on industrial action while negotiations are still going on between the Government and the unions. Any such action would be premature. We have no plans at this stage to change the legislation on industrial action, but we will monitor the application of the law in that important area, particularly if strike action takes place, and we will bear all views in mind if it does prove necessary to reassess the legal framework.

I am very pleased that the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills have now said that bringing Siemens to Hull is a key priority for the Government, but may we have a debate so that we can learn whether Department of Energy and Climate Change Ministers have a long-term commitment to the offshore wind energy sector?

I understand that such commitments have already been given in broad terms by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. There will be an opportunity on 20 October to press him further on these issues; in the meantime, I will share the hon. Lady’s concern with him.

Will the Leader of the House grant an urgent debate on the future of my local hospital, Chase Farm, not least because before the general election my constituents were joined by the Prime Minister on their “Save our A and E” campaign and given assurances, and unsurprisingly they and I feel utterly let down?

I understand my hon. Friend’s disappointment. We said before the election that there would be a moratorium on such closures, and there was a moratorium. That case was re-examined in light of the four criteria set out by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health. He asked the borough council to see whether an alternative configuration could be developed, but that was not the case, and an independent review showed there were real safety issues in the current configuration. Against that background, difficult decisions were taken, but I understand that those decisions have the support of local doctors.

After lots of time, effort and money, the Department for Work and Pensions central complaints champions have come up with, and circulated to all DWP outlets, the groundbreaking formula that a complaint

“is an expression of dissatisfaction about the service”

received. Please will the Leader of the House inquire of his DWP colleagues what this exercise has cost? Would not the money have been better spent on staff and on the pensions of the people working in benefits offices, who are delivering the service to those who have been made unemployed by this Tory Government, with unemployment now at levels not seen since the ’80s?

I am sorry to hear the hon. Gentleman’s account of that incident. I will ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to write to the hon. Gentleman about it.

Will the Leader of the House grant us a debate on banking and specifically the Vickers report, so that we can discuss why the Labour party continues to oppose real reform and instead supports the failed system?

My hon. Friend will have heard the Chancellor’s statement earlier this week. The Government are now examining the report in detail and we want to keep the House updated on its implementation. We welcome the report and have given our support to its central recommendations. An initial response will be given by the end of the year. We were all pleased, if somewhat surprised, to hear the shadow Chancellor apologise on Tuesday for being partly responsible for the failed system of regulation under the previous Government.

May we then have a debate on bank charges, following the news this morning that both RBS and Clydesdale bank are, for the first time in their history, to charge credit unions for banking services, so that we can make our view clear that banks should not pass on their charges to vulnerable organisations and customers in the current circumstances?

I understand the hon. Gentleman’s concern. One of the Vickers report’s recommendations is that it should be much easier to switch accounts from one bank to another. I therefore hope that if a bank raises its charges, it will be easier for people to transfer their custom to a bank that offers a more competitive service.

Will the Leader of the House grant a debate on the independence of British newspapers? Yesterday while perusing his copy of the Morning Star, he may have read, beneath the headline “Could You Be Any More Wet”, the TUC’s reaction to the Leader of the Opposition described as “heckling, derisive laughter” and “deflation”. Given that dramatic about-turn, may we have a debate on that, too?

I am afraid that I did not read yesterday’s Morning Star, but I am grateful to my hon. Friend for providing me with an abbreviated edition. The ownership of newspapers was the peg on which he hung his question, and that is a matter for the Leveson inquiry.

May I associate myself with the tributes to Malcolm Jack? Not only has he been a brilliant, innovative, modernising Clerk, but he shares with me the privilege of having graduated from the London School of Economics.

On our return after the recess, may we have an urgent debate on what is going on in Iceland? It still owes this country billions of pounds, which it refuses to pay to local authorities and individuals, and it is becoming quite a rogue state in that it is colluding with Japan in killing minkes and other whales and is now making arrangements with the Chinese Government to exploit the natural resources that are the inheritance of us all.

The hon. Gentleman, using some fairly stark language about Iceland, has raised a number of issues, some of which fall to the Treasury, while others, I suspect, fall to the Department of Energy and Climate Change. I will raise them with my colleagues. I am unsure whether there is any direct action that we can take on any debts of the Iceland Government, but he will know that there are some consequentials from the failure of the Kaupthing bank.

Agriculture and food processing industries play a vital role in Staffordshire and exports from these sectors are increasing year on year. May we have a debate on the contribution they can and will make to growth and employment, provided that that is not impeded by unnecessary regulation, of which we see more looming across the channel?

I have every sympathy with my hon. Friend’s request. He might like to present himself to the salon of the Backbench Business Committee to suggest such a debate. We will support British farming as much as we can and encourage sustainable food production, so that we can have a secure, environmentally sustainable and healthy supply of food with improved standards of animal welfare.

Sadly, the number of assaults on NHS staff appears to be on the increase. May we have a debate about how we might ensure the safety and security of health workers?

I deplore any assaults on those who work for the NHS. In the first instance, it would be for the local NHS trust to take up any such problems and improve security. If the hon. Gentleman can pass on to me specific examples from his constituency, I will raise them with my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary and see whether there is any role for the Government to play in reducing the number of attacks.

My right hon. Friend will be pleased to see that the Backbench Business Committee has scheduled two e-petitions debates, one on the Hillsborough disaster and another on the response to the riots. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is a golden opportunity to show due courtesy and respect to the hundreds of thousands of petitioners by setting a precedent and having a Cabinet Minister present to respond to both debates?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that subject. As I have said before, there have been occasions when a Cabinet Minister has responded to a debate in Westminster Hall. I will certainly pass on to the relevant Minister my hon. Friend’s specific request for the debate on Hillsborough, so that he is aware of the feeling in the House that it would be appropriate for him to respond.

On 9 June, the Leader of the House agreed to use his considerable influence to seek a decision about the Pingat Jasa Malaysia medal, as we were then awaiting the decision of the medals review. I was told that it was hoped that there would be a decision by the summer, but the summer has come and gone and my questions are being bounced between the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office and the Cabinet Office, leading me to wonder if the “Circumlocution Office” is again operating. May we have a statement immediately after the House returns in October on what is happening in that medals review and when we can expect the brave veterans concerned to be able to wear their medal with pride?

I understand the hon. Lady’s impatience to get a decision, but the summer has not, I hope, entirely gone—some of us have lingering hopes there might be a few days of sunshine left. I will, however, raise the issue with the relevant Minister and see whether we can expedite a decision, as I know the process has gone on for quite some time.

Order. We are short of time. May I appeal to colleagues to ask single, short—one sentence—business questions of the Leader of the House? This would be a dramatic breakthrough and of benefit to the House as a whole. I know that a fine example will be set by the hon. Member for New Forest East.

I was afraid that you were going to pick me, Mr Speaker. May we have a debate on the importance of in-patient beds in acute mental health facilities, given that those at Woodhaven hospital in my constituency face the possibility of closure, unless people write in urgently to the consultation that is under way?

I understand my hon. Friend’s concern. As he says, a consultation process is under way to which I urge him to respond, although I am sure that he has already done so. I know that others will have heard our exchange and that if they share his concern, they also will write to the NHS trust.

I am pleased to say that they will also have heard the single sentence from the hon. Member for New Forest East, and I feel sure that they will have appreciated it.

Last week, on a visit to my local Remploy factory in Wishaw, I met some disabled people who are genuinely terrified that they are about to lose their jobs and see their factory close. Will the Leader of the House give time for a debate on that very serious subject?

Of course I understand the concern of anybody who is confronted with the possible loss of their job. I will raise the matter with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and ask him to write to the hon. Gentleman.

In the light of the Prime Minister’s renewed commitment to strengthening families and the fact that the Northamptonshire Parent Infant Project has now opened in my constituency, may we have a debate on the crucial importance of the foundation years and early intervention in families who are struggling to bond with their new babies?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I hope that she will apply for an Adjournment debate, where we might be able to debate the matter at more length than the Speaker is likely to allow me now.

May we have a serious debate on the boundary changes? We have no intermediate levels of government in our country, we are reducing the number of elected people and we are increasing the power of unelected officials from Brussels, from Whitehall and from town halls. We are taking away the voice of the citizens of Britain. This is a serious diminution of parliamentary democracy.

What the right hon. Gentleman proposes would be totally irregular. It is for the Boundary Commission to decide our boundaries. The matter will be debated at the end of the process, when the order comes before the House.

May we have an urgent debate on controlling the deficit? The Government have clearly set out their spending plans, but such a debate might allow us to clarify how they compare with the plans of the Labour party, which in government did so much to create the deficit we inherited.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. It is worth reminding the House that the reductions in public expenditure this year are only £2 billion more than what was planned by the outgoing Labour Government.

May I ask the Leader of the House to use his good offices to encourage the relevant Minister in the Department responsible for social inclusion to have a debate on the human rights of the deaf community in the UK, instead of leaving it to the Minister responsible for culture and communications when deaf people are denied access to video relay and use of British sign language?

I understand the concern, I will raise it with the appropriate Minister and ask that the hon. Gentleman be sent a written reply.

May we have an early debate on the Government’s planning proposals, to give us all the opportunity to dispel the inaccurate myths being promoted by the Campaign to Protect Rural England and some other organisations, and to make it clear to the country that the Government’s planning proposals will substantially enhance the ability of and opportunity for local councillors and local people to affect what happens in their own areas?

Indeed, for four years. He therefore has some insight into the planning process. I indicated earlier that I would welcome a broader debate on planning policy so that the myths can be laid to rest.

Will the Leader of the House set aside time every week for “PMT”? As I understand it, his defence of the Prime Minister is that when the Prime Minister says something, for us to understand the statistic we just need to know the timeline he is applying to it. If the Prime Minister had a “Prime Minister’s Timeline” session every week, we would be able to understand that when he says, “Growth in the UK is bigger than in the United States of America”, he means that that was so under a Labour Government.

In 2004, the Wood report said that many British companies were at a disadvantage because of European Union procurement laws. Bearing that in mind, and given the disastrous procurement by the previous Labour Government of the Thameslink rolling stock contract, may we have a debate to address that, so that we can really have British jobs for British people?

I hear what my hon. Friend has said. That matter was raised in Transport questions. We are reviewing the procurement rules to see whether British companies can compete on a level playing field with others when such contracts come up again.

Just in case I was unclear earlier, I ought to say that at no stage has there been anything wrong, irregular or in any way objectionable about the length of the Leader of the House’s replies. I was referring purely to the questions.

May we have a debate on the “Review into the Needs of Families Bereaved by Homicide” report issued by the Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses, so that this House can consider how its recommendations should be dealt with?

We are grateful to Louise Casey for producing the report and we all applaud the work of victim support schemes in our constituencies. I would welcome such a debate. I remind the House that, following the report’s publication, we have made £500,000 available to take forward some of the immediate recommendations.

May I ask for a debate on the criteria used by the Boundary Commission in its review and the inherent instability built into the system for the future? A city such as Sheffield has wards of 14,000 people, so only a small amount of house building in a new constituency such as mine is likely to mean that in five years’ time, there will be a knock-on effect in Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley, because the ward size in Sheffield is such that it will not be possible to carry out further reorganisation there. This complete reorganisation is bad for democratic accountability.

I repeat what I said earlier: it would be quite wrong of this House to get involved in the detailed boundaries that will be set out under the review process. The place for the hon. Gentleman to make his representations is not here; it is to the Boundary Commission.

May we have a debate on attempts by the EU High Representative for foreign affairs and security policy to force through the creation of a permanent military headquarters for the European Union, using the artifice of permanent structured co-operation under the Lisbon treaty and contrary to the wishes of this Government?

If it is contrary to the wishes of this Government, I very much hope it will not happen. There will be an opportunity at the next Defence questions to raise the matter, but in the meantime I will share my hon. Friend’s concern with the Secretary of State for Defence.

I have evidence that Scottish Enterprise, Scotland’s economic development agency, is behaving in a manner and using practices that may damage sustainable economic growth in my constituency—that evidence has been brought to me by constituents. In addition, it would appear to suggest that connected, highly questionable planning practices are also taking place within the Scottish Government, which could also damage economic development in my constituency. I brought those matters to the attention of Sir Peter Housden, the permanent secretary to the Scottish Government, and reminded him of his responsibilities under the civil service code. I have also called for an independent inquiry into these matters, but all I have had in response is obfuscation, diversionary tactics and a point-blank refusal by a senior civil servant to look into my evidence and complaints—

It sounded from the question as though this is a matter that has been devolved to the Scottish Government. None the less, I will raise the issue that the hon. Gentleman has just touched on with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to see whether there is a role for the Westminster Government to play.

A number of my constituents and 20,000 others across the United Kingdom have lost significant sums in the Arch Cru investment fund as a result of improper regulation. Will the Leader of the House agree to a debate on this subject, so that they can hear the issues being aired and, I hope, demand compensation?

I commend the campaign being run by my hon. Friend. Many MPs have received letters from constituents who have been affected by that failure. As he may know, the Financial Services Authority is investigating the case, but I will raise his concerns with Treasury Ministers. Although I cannot promise a debate, I hope that I can promise him a letter.

For the third time in a year, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning), has withdrawn proposed regulations on ship-to-ship oil transfer in British waters. Given that the reason for the latest delay appears to be a wish to comply with Government policy on simplifying regulation, will the Leader of the House intervene to cut the red tape and help the Minister, if necessary by providing time in which legislation can be brought to the House, so that we can resolve this matter on which we have been waiting for action for almost two years?

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman had an opportunity to raise that issue just now in Transport questions, but I will raise it with the Secretary of State and see whether we can cut through the red tape.

May I join my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) in asking for a debate on the proposed trade union strikes, so that the public have an opportunity to see where this House, including the shadow Chancellor, stands—on the side of the British public, or on the side of the trade union barons who are intent on disrupting our public services and damaging our economy?

I would welcome such a debate, but I cannot provide the time. My hon. Friend will know that the basis for the discussions between the Government and the trade unions is the report Lord Hutton produced earlier this year, which proposes a fairer balance between, on the one hand, the beneficiaries of public sector pensions and, on the other hand, taxpayers. Further discussions are due to take place next Tuesday. I hope the trade unions will respond, and in the meantime I think that it would be quite wrong to go ahead with industrial action.

Given that Harrow council has issued a tender document for the procurement of bailiff services that requires the successful tenderer to pay back to the council 10% of the fee they obtain from the person from whom they collect the debt, may we have an urgent debate on the use of bailiffs, the services provided and the fees allowed, so that this House can express its view on such unfair practices?

The Government have given a commitment to provide better protection against aggressive bailiffs, so I can offer some encouragement on that part of my hon. Friend’s question. On the first part, I will ask Department for Communities and Local Government Ministers whether there is any irregularity in Harrow council seeking a kick-back from any contract that it lets.

The Leader of the House will no doubt have been shocked as I was to hear that two senior members of the Ulster Unionist party have been summoned to Orange Order disciplinary proceedings after they attended the funeral of the murdered Catholic police officer, Ronan Kerr. May we have a short debate in which all Members of this House can demonstrate our support for Tom Elliott and Danny Kennedy and recognise the responsible way in which they have offered leadership to that community?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this matter. I cannot provide time for a debate but I will draw to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State both my hon. Friend’s remarks and the support that he had from other hon. Members in the House.