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Business of the House

Volume 535: debated on Thursday 10 November 2011

The business for the week commencing 14 November will be:

Monday 14 November—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Education Bill.

Tuesday 15 November—Motion relating to fisheries, followed by motion relating to fuel prices. The subjects for these debates were nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.

The business for the week commencing 21 November will include:

Monday 21 November—General debate on the 2010-2011 annual report from the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Tuesday 22 November—Opposition day [12th allotted day] [half day] [second part]. There will be a debate on a Democratic Unionist party motion. Subject to be announced, followed by motion to approve a European document relating to Croatia and European Union enlargement, followed by motion to approve a money resolution relating to the Daylight Savings Bill.

Wednesday 23 November—Opposition day [un-allotted day]. There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.

Thursday 24 November—Business to be nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 25 November— Private Members’ Bills.

I should like to remind the House that we will meet at 11.30 am on Tuesday 15 November.

I should like also to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 1 December 2011 will be:

Thursday 1 December—A debate on “Keeping the UK moving: the impact on transport of the winter weather in December 2010”, the fifth report from the Transport Committee, followed by a debate on “Bus Services after the Spending Review”, the eighth report from the Transport Committee.

I thank the Leader of the House for that statement.

Ahead of Remembrance Sunday, it is only right that this House records its deep debt of gratitude to the brave men and women who have served and continue to serve in our armed forces. We will remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in services up and down the country this weekend, and we will all wear our poppies with pride.

In normal circumstances, the House rises at this time of the year for practical reasons, to make way for the beginning of a new Session and the State Opening of Parliament, but even though that has been put off until next year, we are still to have a short recess now. During the summer recess, Parliament had to be recalled the day after it rose in order to deal with the phone hacking scandal, and then it had to be recalled a second time to deal with the riots. With no Government in Greece and contagion spreading to Italy, does the Leader of the House think that it is right for Parliament to take a break just as we face the biggest economic crisis of our lifetimes—

It was voted for before those events. Is the Leader of the House making contingency plans for a recall to deal with the worsening economic and political situation in Europe?

Given that the right hon. Gentleman has already helpfully announced all the recess dates for next year, will he now tell us the date of the rearranged Queen’s Speech? With crucial elections taking place countrywide on 3 May 2012, and with the Easter recess taking place between 27 March and 16 April, I am sure that he would not wish to put Her Majesty in a position where the ceremony of a State Opening runs up against election purdah. Our Head of State should not be used in a pre-election stunt by this Government, especially in her diamond jubilee year, so I hope that the right hon. Gentleman can reassure me on that important point.

The fact is that there should be a new Queen’s Speech next week, not next year. If one were happening now, the Government could start by admitting that they will have to revise their economic growth forecast down for the fourth time in 18 months, as unemployment and inflation soar and growth stalls. They ought to abandon their disastrous top-down reorganisation of our NHS and get to grips with the fiasco engulfing Britain’s border controls, and if the Chancellor had any sense he would swallow his pride and unveil a plan B to rescue our stagnating economy.

On the shambles at our borders, will the Leader of the House confirm to the House that the information given to the three inquiries that the Home Secretary has announced so far into those events will be published, so that we can get to the truth of what happened? Does he agree that that is especially important given that the former head of the border force has directly contradicted the account that the Home Secretary gave to the House and to the Home Affairs Committee?

The Rio plus 20 summit, the biggest meeting on the environment in 20 years, has been moved to avoid a clash with the diamond jubilee celebrations and to allow the attendance of all 54 Commonwealth leaders, but, despite the Prime Minister’s pre-election pledge to lead the “greenest Government ever”, we hear this week that he does not plan to attend. Does the Leader of the House agree that, by not attending, the Prime Minister is failing to show any leadership at all on climate change, despite his pre-election posturing and husky-hugging photo calls? Is it not now clear that the Government’s green credentials are being put in the bin quicker than the constituency correspondence of the Minister of State, Cabinet Office, the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr Letwin)?

Speaking of privacy, I note that in the run-up to James Murdoch’s second appearance before the Culture Media and Sport Committee this morning, it has become clear that at least one Committee member has been subject to covert surveillance by News International. We know also from the comments of former members of the Committee that they were initially reluctant to pursue the phone hacking scandal with full rigour because they feared that they would be targeted in exactly the same way. Did the Prime Minister know about that when he decided to give Andy Coulson a job at the heart of Downing street? If not, why not? Given those extremely disturbing developments, which touch directly on the rights of Members of this House to pursue the truth without fear of intimidation, can we have a debate on Select Committee powers?

I endorse what the hon. Lady said at the beginning of her remarks. Many of us will be at Remembrance day services on Sunday, and I am grateful to the House for enabling a portcullis to be prepared that Members of Parliament can insert in the wreath. I commend the Royal British Legion for its work in making that facility available.

On next week’s business, discussions took place through the usual channels on the Adjournment of the House on Tuesday and the House has voted on the matter. I say to the hon. Lady that if she compares the first two years of this Parliament with the first two years of the previous Parliament, she will find that we are sitting longer than our predecessor. It is also the case that we are regularly sitting in September. We sat in September last year and this year and we will do so next year, whereas we did not sit in September in the previous Parliament, so it is not the case that the House is not sitting as long as it has done.

I announced the dates of the Easter recess well in advance. We did not get the date of the 2010 Easter recess until a fortnight before it happened. The Queen’s Speech will be announced in the usual way. I hope that the hon. Lady will encourage good progress to be made in the other place with the Government’s legislative programme. I made a statement, I think, last year on the fact that the Queen’s Speech will be held in May to coincide with the fixed election dates of every five years, so that matter has already been dealt with. The Chancellor will make his statement on November 29, which will include the Office for Budget Responsibility’s updated forecast.

The hon. Lady asked about the reports referred to in yesterday’s debate. The chief inspector’s report will be made public, as the Home Secretary confirmed yesterday. The other two reports have data protection issues concerning disciplinary matters and will not be made public. On the related matters of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Leveson, it makes sense to await the outcome of the Leveson inquiry and the current DCMS report.

On Select Committee powers, we are committed to publishing a draft privilege Bill, which will be an opportunity for the House to consider issues of privilege. I anticipate that Select Committee powers will be embraced in that draft Bill.

I did not support next week’s closure of Parliament, but I suggest that the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) did. Given what is happening in the eurozone and the fact that interest rates are very high for Italian bonds, it appears that the euro is on its last legs. If the euro collapses next week, will the Leader of the House recall Parliament so that we can debate that joyful occasion?

My hon. Friend will know that the Prime Minister made a statement following the G20 meeting earlier this week. The House normally requires two days’ notice to be recalled, and as we are not sitting for only two days, I am not sure that I can respond positively to his request.

The Leader of the House will not be surprised to hear that I am going to raise the matter of e-petitions again. Many e-petitions are being started by national newspapers and, as a result, are breaching the 100,000 signature threshold in under a week. The fact that e-petitions are being passed on to the Backbench Business Committee means we are becoming an e-petitions committee, rather than a Backbench Business Committee. Will he consider as a matter of urgency—preferably next week—allocating time specifically for e-petitions in Westminster Hall, to give us some breathing space until the Procedure Committee makes its recommendations in a report on how to deal with e-petitions in the long run?

I believe e-petitions have been a success in building a bridge between people and Parliament and in ensuring that the House’s diet reflects the interests of those outside. I welcome what the hon. Lady’s Committee has been able to do so far in finding time to debate e-petitions and I recognise that the success of e-petitions has increased pressure on it. We are committed to a review of the Backbench Business Committee, and concurrently there is a review of the calendar of the House. That is the right context in which to visit the issue she rightly raises of the increased pressure on her Committee to find time for debates.

Can we have a statement on the rate of interest we will be charging on the first tranche of the loan to Ireland? Some £400 million was paid to Ireland on 14 October. In an answer to a parliamentary question, I have been told that we have not yet agreed on the rate of interest, but that it will be significantly lower than it was at the time we discussed the matter in the House, earlier in the year, despite the fact the Irish Government bond rate is still well over 8%.

I point out to my hon. Friend that we are debating related issues—the International Monetary Fund and the eurozone crisis—in Westminster Hall next Tuesday, when I expect a Treasury Minister to be responding. There will an opportunity for my hon. Friend to raise that question in that debate, which I am sure he will want to attend. I will ensure that the Treasury Minister is forewarned about where he is coming from.

As you know, Mr Speaker, there will be presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the 28th of this month. Substantial evidence, which I have here, is emerging that a named individual, in collusion with some senior politicians in the DRC, is extracting billions of dollars of value, probably unlawfully. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on that subject?

If there is any question of criminal activity, the appropriate authority is the police. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has taken the necessary steps to draw the matter to their attention.

The Mayor of London has worked hard to champion the effect that financial services and the City have on the overall UK economy. May we have a debate on how we can help in a positive way and work with the City to create jobs and growth for the future?

My hon. Friend is right to remind the House that financial services make a substantial contribution to Government revenues. With London as a financial service centre, we have a competitive advantage over many other countries. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has that matter at the front of his mind, and I suggest she awaits his statement at the end of the month.

As hon. Members on both sides of the House would agree, some good progress has been made towards the changing structure of British Waterways and our fantastic canal network; however, discussions are ongoing on the transitional funds for the new trust. Can we be assured that there will be a debate in the House to deal with those important questions before any irrevocable decisions are taken?

I understand that the matter may be subject to the Public Bodies Bill, which is still going through Parliament. I will bring the hon. Gentleman’s concern to the attention of my right hon. and hon. Friends at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and seek to get the assurance he wants about the assets that are about to be transferred.

May we please have a debate on the growth of academies? Nationally, under the coalition, the number of academies has grown sixfold, but in my constituency almost half the schools have become academies in just the past few months.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing attention to the sixfold increase in the number of academies since this Government came to office. Standards have increased in those schools, and in many cases, academies are linked to other schools in the same area and are driving up standards broadly. I would welcome such a debate, but I cannot promise one in the coming fortnight.

The right hon. Gentleman will know that a report issued by PricewaterhouseCoopers this morning shows that Wales and the north-east are suffering most from the economic downturn and his Government’s disastrous policies. He will also know that the regional growth fund is neither strategic nor large enough to address widening regional inequalities. Will he make time available to have a debate on what his Government are doing—or not doing—to address the growing north-south divide?

I am sure the hon. Lady does not want to be too dismissive of the regional growth fund, which is structured in such a way to assist those areas that have been overdependent on public employment for much of their job creation. We have taken other initiatives, such as enterprise zones and the investment in apprenticeships. I repeat to her what I said to an earlier questioner: how we promote growth is at the forefront of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor’s mind, and I urge her to await his statement at the end of the month.

May we have a debate on renewable energy to discuss whether the time has come to follow the Danish model wherein local communities, which often see no direct benefit from wind farms, are compensated by developers should there be a loss of local amenities and a reduction in house prices?

I will bring my hon. Friend’s suggestion to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. My hon. Friend will know that built into the planning system are incentives that encourage local people’s benefiting from some of the planning approvals awarded, particularly in the case of new development, and I will see whether that might be extended. My understanding is that in many cases there are benefits to the local community where, for example, wind energy is harnessed and that energy can be used in the first instance by local people.

Given the increasingly perilous situation surrounding Iran developing nuclear weapons, may we have an early debate on the subject, which should be attracting the attention of this House? Such a development would destabilise the middle east, and many of us are very worried about what the reaction of Israel might be.

I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman was in the House yesterday when my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made a statement in which he spent some time on Iran. He made it clear that, while nothing should be taken off the table, in the meantime we prefer a diplomatic approach combined with adequate pressure on Iran to see whether we can try to find a stable solution to what is, I agree, a rather dangerous position.

Today I have written to the Leader of the House to say that the European Scrutiny Committee is deeply disturbed by the lack of formal parliamentary debate on the eurozone crisis. We have taken a unanimous decision to call on the Government to give Government time as soon as possible for a full three-hour debate on the Floor of the House. We are also calling on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give evidence to the Committee in person. Will the Leader of the House grant that wish?

The House has found time to debate matters relating to Europe: we recently had a debate on the referendum, and the Government provided a whole-day debate on the Council of Europe, so it is not the case that Europe has been entirely absent from our agenda. I have announced that there will be a debate on the accession of Croatia to the European Union. I am not sure whether my hon. Friend has put his request to the Backbench Business Committee. He will know from the business I have announced today that the Government are providing time for general debates—there is one today on armed forces personnel and one on security on Monday week—so I do not rule out at some point a debate along the lines he has suggested.

Is it not obvious to all of us that the reason the House of Commons is not going to be sitting next Wednesday and Thursday is so that the Prime Minister will not have to stand at the Dispatch Box on the day the new unemployment figures come out? If we are not here next week, I will be working hard in Dudley. I am sure the Prime Minister has already booked another one of his fancy foreign holidays. [Hon. Members: “Oh!”] Conservative Members might not be interested in unemployment, which is why they all voted to skive off next week, but I would much rather be here working out how we can deal with the record levels of unemployment that this Government have inflicted on Britain.

The hon. Gentleman is obsessed by some conspiracy theory. The Prime Minister spent two or three hours before the Liaison Committee this week; he comes before the House regularly on Wednesdays; and he has made more statements than his predecessor. I think the person who will be most relieved that there is no sitting next Wednesday is the Leader of the Opposition. We take unemployment seriously. We had a debate yesterday, when the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), and my hon. Friend the Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning set out what we are doing to address the high level of unemployment that we inherited from the Labour Government.

Earlier this week, I was walking down Whitehall and a piece of paper from a gentleman called Mr Livingstone was thrust into my hand. It purported that he was going to have a fares freeze on transport in London. Imagine my surprise when I got back to my office and looked at the history, only to discover that last time he promised to do that, when elected he put up fares by 10%. May we have a debate on transport in London so that innocent Londoners can be made aware of the outrageous claims of this man?

I would welcome such a debate. Of course, if fares were cut, that might have a read-across to the capital programme, including Crossrail and the tube upgrades. I am sure that Londoners are far too sophisticated to be misled by the sort of piece of paper of which my hon. Friend was the recipient earlier this week.

The “Not in my Cuppa” campaign by the World Society for the Protection of Animals was successful in defeating a mega-dairy proposal in Nocton, Lincolnshire, but we now discover that a vote by six councillors in Powys, against officers’ advice, means that one may be built in Wales. May we have a debate on protecting animal welfare and resisting these mega-dairies?

I think that that is more a matter for Ministers at the Department for Communities and Local Government or, if it is a delegated matter, for the Welsh Assembly. I will draw the hon. Gentleman’s concern to the attention of the relevant Minister, but we are anxious to devolve decisions and we believe that most of those decisions are best taken at local level rather than here in Whitehall.

Now that this House has voted to bring an end to the racketeering that is clamping on private land, we should not lose sight of the fact that until April next year many, often vulnerable, people will still be caught out by unscrupulous firms. May we have a statement to set out what can be done for my constituents who have had tickets issued by City Watch for cars they do not own, when they were at home, or before they arrived in the car park, or who have been clamped while administering emergency first aid to a fellow patron? Perhaps most disgracefully, the vehicles of the elderly and disabled have been towed away and they have then been issued with four-figure fines.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. She will know that the Protection of Freedoms Bill, which is currently in another place, bans the clamping of vehicles on private land. In the meantime, I applaud what she is doing to protect vulnerable people from the activities of clamping authorities. I commend all Members of Parliament to do what she has done and, where appropriate, if they cannot reach a resolution with the clamping company, to raise cases with the Security Industry Authority or the British Parking Association. She reminds the House of how important it is that that Bill should reach the statute book and that such abuses should not take place again.

May we have a debate on the child protection implications of the Government’s policy of increasing to 35 the age of those who will receive only shared accommodation housing benefit? Crisis estimates that 50% of those affected have regular contact with their children. Where are these children to sleep on overnight visits to their separated parent? Are they to sleep in their parent’s room or on the sofa in the shared accommodation? Are there to be enhanced disclosure checks on the other residents in the shared property to ensure the protection of these children? Can we debate the implications for children placed at risk by this Government policy?

The hon. Lady will know that there have been some broader changes to housing benefit regulations whereby people of an older age are expected to continue to share with their parents, but I am not sure whether that is the issue she has in mind. If she is concerned about child protection, then yes of course I will raise that with relevant Ministers and make sure that we do not put children unnecessarily at risk because of the changes.

I am getting e-mails from people who think that the fair fuel motion on the Downing street website is what we are debating next Tuesday, but of course we are debating a different fair fuel motion. Is not this misleading people that they are getting something that they are not, and should not we review the whole e-petition process and perhaps the way that the Backbench Business Committee gives out business?

There is a commitment to review the work of the Backbench Business Committee, which could embrace the issue of e-petitions. It is the case that an e-petition will not be debated, either here or in Westminster Hall, unless it is adopted by a Member, and the Backbench Business Committee then has the freedom, along with the Member who has presented the petition, to decide on what basis the debate should take place; and it might then be, as my hon. Friend said, a different debate. When we review e-petitions and the Backbench Business Committee, we could see whether there should be the latitude that we have at the moment or whether an e-petition should be debated automatically, regardless of whether any Member of Parliament wishes to put the motion forward.

A speech and language therapy programme at Feltham young offenders institute that reduced reoffending from 80% to 17% has been cut to save money. Does the Leader of the House accept that that is a false economy? Will he grant an urgent debate on the use of speech and language screening before prison and before school, as well as programmes to reduce offending and reoffending and to reduce the number of those not in education, employment or training, which at 20% in Swansea is the highest in Wales?

I applaud the work that is done at Feltham with often very vulnerable and disturbed young people. We had Justice questions on Tuesday; I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman had an opportunity to raise the matter then. I will raise it with appropriate Ministers at the Ministry of Justice and see whether there is a way to protect that important programme.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner on the “total policing”, as he calls it, which saw a successful conclusion to yesterday’s protest in London? The Mayor of London is on target to put an extra 1,000 police officers on the streets of London by the end of this term of office. May we have a debate on the effective deployment of police officers when tackling public disorder and protest?

I am delighted that yesterday’s protest went off peacefully. I commend the work of the Mayor of London on reducing crime in the capital and ensuring that there are more police patrols, for example by having single patrolling. I am sure that Londoners will recognise the wisdom of his administration when they go to the polls next year.

Two weeks ago, the Chancellor told me and this House that he had no intention whatsoever of bailing out the euro. We now know that he will use the International Monetary Fund to put billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money into bailing out the euro. May we have a debate or a statement on this issue?

We have had a statement on that issue. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was at this Dispatch Box a week ago and he answered the precise question that the hon. Gentleman has put. I refer him to Hansard.

In the past year, a £3.5 million rebuild of Whitefield infant school in Nelson and a £4.2 million total rebuild of Laneshawbridge primary school in Colne have been agreed. However, last Friday I visited Barnoldswick Church of England primary school, which has very cramped buildings. A rising birth rate in the area means that there is a lack of school places in the town. A total rebuild of the school is long overdue. May we have a debate on Government funding for additional school places?

I will draw my hon. Friend’s remarks to the attention of the Secretary of State for Education. We have put extra funding into additional school places, with a total of £1.3 billion. We have preserved the capital programme, despite the difficult decisions that we have had to take. I will ask my right hon. Friend to write to him about the school to which he referred.

May I try once again to get the Leader of the House to secure an urgent debate before 12 December on the proposed changes to the feed-in tariff regime, which will be very damaging to the economy of north Wales? I know him to be a fair man and I am sure that even he will accept that it is an abuse of this House when a policy is implemented 11 days before the consultation on that policy closes. My constituents cannot express their concerns and manufacturers will lose £12 million over the next three months because of the changes proposed by the Government before the consultation has even concluded.

I understand the concern that the right hon. Gentleman expresses. He will have had an opportunity to register that concern when the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) addressed the House on feed-in tariffs on Monday last week. He will know that the position we inherited was unstable and unsustainable. There was no mechanism for responding to increased demand and the lower cost of solar panels. If my hon. Friend had not announced those changes, there would have been an extra burden on consumers and the available sum would have run out. That is the background to the decision. I am afraid that I cannot promise a debate before 12 December.

By 2021, the number of people living with dementia is predicted to rise to more than 1 million. There is active interest across the House in how we will deal with this ticking time bomb. Will the Leader of the House consider holding on the Floor of the House a general debate on dementia so that we can discuss this issue in detail?

That is a timely request, because earlier this week we launched a campaign to raise the awareness of the early signs of dementia and to encourage people to come forward, have the symptoms treated and get the support that they need. My hon. Friend will know that we launched the national dementia strategy a year ago to drive up the quality of service that we provide. I would welcome such a debate and I can only suggest that she goes to the Backbench Business Committee or applies to Mr Speaker for a debate in Westminster Hall on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

Has the Leader of the House seen the article in The Times today which suggests that the National Memorial Arboretum is facing a funding cut? That has been denied by the Ministry of Defence. Will he arrange for an urgent statement from the MOD to set out what the funding will be in the current financial year and in future years? This is a great memorial and it is an excellent way to mark the sacrifices of our servicemen and women. I was there only a few weeks ago with Greek veterans from the second world war, when I saw for myself once again what a wonderful memorial it is.

I agree with hon. Gentleman. I assure him that there are no plans to reduce the grant in aid that we give to the National Memorial Arboretum. If he is able to stay, there will be a debate in a few minutes on related matters, during which he may have an opportunity to develop his case. The Government take this matter seriously. As he knows, we also support the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to the tune of some £45 million. We place a premium on the work of both those organisations.

Last week, following a phone call from a journalist, I discovered that a fake Twitter account had been set up by somebody purporting to be me, which I found completely unacceptable. That can happen to anyone across the country and can cause unnecessary nuisance. I ask the Leader of the House for an urgent debate on the responsibilities of social media and networking sites, and on whether one should have to provide some form of identification to set up an account.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that matter. No one has done me the flattery of setting up such an account in my name, so far as I am aware. I think that I am right in saying that social media organisations usually insist on the name being the same as that of the applicant. If there is any question of impersonation, there is a process by which they take the account down. Of course, if any fraud were involved, it would be a matter for the police. I will raise with Department for Culture, Media and Sport Ministers the abuse to which my hon. Friend has referred. I hope that no lasting injury has been done to his reputation.

Over the past few weeks, 12 Tibetan nuns and monks have set fire to themselves in protest at the treatment of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people in China. Lhamo Tso, the wife of the acclaimed film maker Dhondup Wangchen, who is currently serving six years in prison for making a film about the abuse of human rights in Tibet, is currently in the United Kingdom to draw attention to the plight of her husband, who only exercised his right to free speech under the Chinese constitution. Will the Leader of the House make time for a statement or a debate on human rights abuses in Tibet?

The hon. Gentleman makes a forceful case and rightly draws attention to the abuse of human rights. I cannot promise time for a debate, but perhaps he would like to apply for an Adjournment debate so that we can debate this issue at greater length and so that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary or another Foreign Office Minister can outline the representations that we are making to seek to end these injustices.

Following the announcement of the Olympic torch route before next year’s London games, the highlight of which will be on 31 May when the torch travels through Crewe in my constituency, may we have a debate on spreading the Olympic spirit, so that we can discuss how communities outside London can be more involved in the Olympics and how we can ensure that there is a strong Olympic legacy?

I think that 11 July is the operative day, because that is when the torch will go through north-west Hampshire. We all have a role to play in spreading the Olympic message. I know that Department for Culture, Media and Sport Ministers are anxious that all parts of the United Kingdom should benefit from the Olympic games. I would welcome such a debate and, again, I can only suggest that my hon. Friend applies for one on the Adjournment or in Westminster Hall.

Will the Leader of the House consider a debate or a statement on extending the game shooting season into February? Discussions on that matter should include the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, the Countryside Alliance, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and other shooting bodies to seek their opinion.

The hon. Gentleman tempts me from my comfort zone. The end of the shooting season has been at the end of January for some time. There may be all sorts of implications if it was extended. I will raise with the appropriate Minister, who I assume is at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether this issue ought to be discussed and whether there are good reasons for moving away from the traditional beginning and end of the shooting season.

The Leader of the House will be aware of requests from local and regional press for more accreditation for next year’s Olympic games. This week, I received a letter from the chairman of the British Olympic Association, Lord Moynihan, in which he promised to continue to lobby the International Olympic Committee to grant those requests. Can we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport to make it clear that Lord Moynihan’s commendable efforts have the full support of the Government?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that issue. Yes, I will raise it with the Secretary of State and see whether we can get the sort of assurance for which he asks.

Codsall high school is one of the top-performing schools in the country for the teaching of physics and science, which is down to the passion, dedication and enthusiasm of the staff. May we have a debate in this Chamber about how we can encourage more of our best graduates to go into the teaching of physics?

My hon. Friend will know that the day before yesterday, the Education Secretary announced a £2 million a year partnership between the Department for Education and the Institute of Physics to do exactly what he has just referred to, namely attract the best graduates to become physics teachers. About 100 scholarships, worth £20,000 each, will be available every year for appropriate graduates. I am sure my hon. Friend will draw that scheme’s availability to the attention of his constituents.

May I echo the earlier request of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones) for time for a debate on academies, and particularly the success of the academy programme under this Government? As I understand it, at the end of last month more than 1,300 schools had become academies, including Biddulph high school in my constituency.

My hon. Friend is quite right. Under the coalition, the number of academies has increased sixfold from 203 in May 2010 to 1,350 this October. Some 1,526 schools have been able to apply to become academies, and 1,031 have already been converted. As I said in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones), 116 underperforming schools have been replaced by academies since May 2010, and more than 40% of all secondary schools are now open, or in the process of opening, as academies.

May I join other hon. Members who have advocated a debate on the success of academies, especially in areas such as Sandwell, part of which I represent, where a recent Ofsted report gave four out of five academies in the borough good or outstanding ratings, compared with less than half the local education authority-run secondary schools?

My hon. Friend draws attention to a valuable part of the academy programme, namely the freedoms that academies have, which have been put to good use. The standard of education in the schools that have become academies normally exceeds the standard in those that have not, so there is evidence that we are driving up standards in our schools by taking forward the academy programme.

The Mayor of London has helped to fund additional trams for the Croydon Tramlink system and completed the extension of the East London line to West Croydon on time and on budget. May I join my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) in pressing the Leader of the House for a debate on how our public transport system in London is being transformed, and on the grave threat of Ken Livingstone’s proposal to strip £800 million from Transport for London’s investment programme?

As the Secretary of State for Transport who gave the go-ahead to the Croydon Tramlink, I particularly appreciate that reference.

I would welcome a general debate on London. My hon. Friend is right that there is a trade-off between lower fares and the investment programme. If we want to make progress with Crossrail and the upgrade of the tube lines, we need the revenue that the Mayor is currently planning to get from the fare box. If that revenue went down, there would be a knock-on effect on the capital programme.

I have recently received menacing letters from paid trade union lobbyists. May we have a debate on trade union lobbying, and particularly its influence on Labour party policy? We learned yesterday in Prime Minister’s questions and in points of order that it exerts considerable influence over Labour, and a debate would enable our constituents to learn the full extent of it.

I would welcome such a debate. My hon. Friend is right—at the moment, some 82% of the Labour party’s revenue comes from the trade unions, a figure that went up under the last Administration. I would be very happy to have such a debate. We also await with interest the report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life on the broader issue of party funding.

Does the Leader of the House agree that it is urgent that we integrate the NHS with social care, so that we can provide transparent, accountable and holistic delivery to those who require support?

I quite agree with my hon. Friend. He may know that there is a debate later today in Westminster Hall on social care and that the Health and Social Care Bill is now in another place. We want to break down the iron curtain that has historically existed between health and social care. The establishment of health and wellbeing boards and of personal budgets, to which both social services and the health service will contribute, is helping to break it down and provide a more cohesive service to those in receipt of social or health care.

As others have mentioned, the Mayor of London has committed himself to raising fares on the underground by RPI plus 2% to get much-needed investment for the underground. His Labour opponent, however, has committed himself to cutting fares by 5% and not raising them until at least 2014. That would mean London being deprived of £835 million of investment in the tube service that we desperately need. May we therefore have a debate on how we can encourage investment in public transport in London and across the country, so that we can expose the lies of the Labour party?

My hon. Friend underlines a point made by other London MPs who are concerned that the infrastructure of the capital should be improved. I commend the Mayor of London and the former Secretary of State for Transport for the agreement that they reached on a settlement going up to 2014-15, which will enable a capital programme of some size to go ahead. That capital programme would be affected if the revenue stream that the Mayor has anticipated were to be eroded, and all Londoners would suffer a disbenefit because the improvements that they are looking forward to would not take place.

This week, the Muslim festival of Eid is celebrated. I was delighted last night to accompany a Muslim community leader from my constituency to No. 10 Downing street to celebrate the festival, and to hear from the British Army’s Muslim chaplain a moving description of his months with the international security assistance force in Afghanistan, and his praise of it. Does the Leader of the House agree that the role and contribution of British Muslims in our armed forces in rebuilding Afghanistan is under-appreciated? Will he help me identify an opportunity for Members to hear from our Army’s Muslim chaplain directly?

I can accede to my hon. Friend’s request, somewhat unusually. If he stays in his place for about two minutes, he will have an opportunity to take part in a debate on armed forces personnel. I cannot think of a better debate in which he could participate in order to make the point that he has just so eloquently touched on.