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Volume 541: debated on Wednesday 7 March 2012

Order. I want the hon. Lady’s question to be heard in full with a bit of quiet and perhaps a bit of respect.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Labour-controlled Corby borough council is trying to suppress a report into the scandal at the Corby Cube. Twenty-six million pounds of Corby people’s money has been wasted, and now councillors are being threatened with disciplinary action if they blow the whistle. Does the Prime Minister agree that the council should come clean with Corby people?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend, who raises an important point. There are now proposals for total transparency in local government so that expenditure over £500 should be separately documented and so that all the salaries, names, budgets and responsibilities of staff paid over £58,000 should be published, including councillors’ allowances and expenses and all the organisational charts. We want the wind of transparency to go right through local government, Corby included.

Article 16 of the European fiscal compact says very clearly that it will be incorporated into the European treaty in five years’ time. Will the Prime Minister promise to veto that, or does he not expect to be here in five years’ time?

The treaty says very clearly that it can be incorporated only with the permission of all 27 member states of the European Union, and our position on that has not changed.

Q12. Will the Prime Minister join me, along with the thousands of families with missing loved ones, including the family of missing York woman Claudia Lawrence, in supporting the sensible recommendations in the Justice Committee’s report into missing people’s rights and the presumption of death? (98326)

My hon. Friend raises an important issue. I pay tribute to Peter Lawrence and his support for the Missing People campaign. The Justice Committee has produced an important report on this issue. We acknowledge that the current law is complicated. I recognise all the emotional and practical difficulties faced by those whose loved ones are missing. We are going to consider the recommendations very carefully, and perhaps I will write to my hon. Friend when we come up with the answer.

Q13. If the Prime Minister manages to persuade his Chancellor to remove some of the anomalies in his child benefit policy to help people earning over £43,000 a year, will he then take action to help the couples on the minimum wage who are set to lose £3,000 from April? (98327)

I think that we dealt with that earlier. Quite apart from the point about the unfairness of a single person having to work 16 hours, we are making a long-term reform with universal credit, which will mean that everyone is always better off in work, no matter how many hours they work. Labour had 13 years to put that in place; we will have it done in 18 months.

On Saturday, 2,000 of us marched through Kendal to present a petition of 11,000 people calling for radiotherapy services at Westmorland general hospital in Kendal. Will my right hon. Friend meet me, the commissioners and cancer campaigners to ensure that we bring cancer treatment to Kendal, so that local lives can be made longer and people’s journeys shorter?

I know from having visited the hon. Gentleman’s constituency how important the issue of the hospital is. My right hon. Friend the Health Secretary is fully engaged in this issue. Perhaps I can fix a meeting between the hon. Gentleman and my right hon. Friend to ensure that the issue is dealt with.

Q14. The Royal Bank of Scotland recently axed another 300 jobs, mostly in Edinburgh and London. However, the jobs have not gone completely, but have been outsourced to India. The Prime Minister and the Government act on behalf of the biggest shareholder, so when will they stand up to RBS and prevent the needless job losses in the UK? (98328)

We must recognise that the Government put £45 billion into the Royal Bank of Scotland on behalf of the country. That is £2,500 for every working family in the country. The most important thing is that we get that money back. We need RBS to return to health. It has to deal with its bad loans and the trouble that it got into, and it has to grow the rest of its business. We will then be in a position to return to people the money that they put into the bank. That is what matters most.

May I offer my sympathies to the families and friends of the six soldiers who have been killed, five of whom served in 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, the Duke of Wellington’s, with which I had the privilege to serve? I recognise and support the vital role that our troops are endeavouring to undertake, but we need to bring them back in 2015. I ask the Prime Minister to ensure that we do everything that we can to support the families of those who have been lost.

My hon. Friend speaks with considerable experience, because of his service in our armed forces. It is important that we have the date for our troops coming home from Afghanistan, which I set. We will not be there in a combat role and will not be there in anything like the current numbers by the end of 2014. It is also important to ensure that, between now and then, our troops have all the equipment that they need to make them as safe as possible. I pay tribute to the previous Government, who started putting extra money into vehicles in 2006. Since then, we have spent about £2 billion on better-protected vehicles and an additional £160 million on counter-IED equipment. He is right that we need to do more for the families of our armed forces at home. That is what the military covenant process and the Cabinet Committee, which I chaired for the first meeting, are all about.

Using Applied Language Solutions was supposed to save West Midlands police £750,000 a year, and yet last week we heard that the shortage of translators leaves the police unable to quiz suspects for weeks. Is that the kind of service we can expect when our police forces tender out services to private security companies?

I do not think that there is anything wrong with the police getting back-office functions carried out by private sector organisations. Indeed, when the shadow policing Minister was asked about that at the Select Committee on Home Affairs, he said that he was quite relaxed about it. I think that that is right. I am delighted that the hon. Lady is considering whether to become a police and crime commissioner. That will be an excellent way of calling the police to account, and I hope that many other hon. Members will consider it as a career change.

Will my right hon. Friend do all that he can to support Mayor Boris Johnson in London, who is pleading with the Pru, our biggest insurer, not to leave the City of London because of the attack by the European Union on the competitiveness of the City? I invite my right hon. Friend to block the fiscal union treaty by making an application to the European Court of Justice that it is illegal, until we get the City safeguards that he was demanding in December.

My hon. Friend is entirely right to raise the case of the Prudential, because it is an example of ill-thought-out EU legislation endangering a great British business, which should have its headquarters here in the UK. I recognise the importance of this matter. We are working extremely hard at the European level and with the Prudential to deal with it. I know that we have the full support of Boris Johnson in doing that.