The business for next week will be as follows:
Monday 10 December—Motion to approve a money resolution relating to the Financial Services Bill, followed by a motion to approve a Ways and Means resolution relating to the Financial Services Bill, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Financial Services Bill.
Tuesday 11 December—General debate on the economy.
Wednesday 12 December—Opposition Day [12th allotted day] [first part]. There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject to be announced, followed by general debate on the Church of England Synod vote on women bishops. The subject for this debate was nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.
Thursday 13 December—Motions relating to standards and privileges, followed by general debate on live animal exports and animal welfare. The subject for this debate was nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.
The provisional business for the following week will include:
Monday 17 December—Remaining stages of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill.
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 20 December will be:
Thursday 20 December—Debate on the interdepartmental ministerial group report on human trafficking.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business.
I have previously asked the predecessor of the Leader of the House about equal marriage legislation. Every piece of equality legislation since the decriminalisation of homosexuality was passed by the previous Labour Government. We fully support plans to introduce equal marriage. Couples planning their future need certainty from the Government, not prevarication. The Government’s legislative timetable is not exactly packed, so will the Leader of the House commit to bringing forward legislation in this Session?
We are grateful to the Leader of the House for arranging a debate on the Leveson report earlier this week. I congratulate Lord Justice Leveson on his report and his careful consideration of the evidence. The status quo is unacceptable; the victims of press intrusion deserve better. We welcome cross-party talks on how to implement the report, but there are clear divisions on the report between us and Conservative Front Benchers. Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore commit to making available Government time for a vote on the proposals and, if there is a majority, time for the legislation that would follow?
Will the right hon. Gentleman join me in welcoming to the House the new Labour Members, my hon. Friends the Members for Rotherham (Sarah Champion), for Middlesbrough (Andy McDonald) and for Croydon North (Steve Reed)? I have been looking at by-election history. In 2008, there was a by-election in Henley in which the then governing party came fifth. At the time, the leader of the Liberal Democrats said that showed that Labour was “finished”. In the Rotherham by-election, the Liberal Democrats managed to scrape into eighth place, behind Labour, the UK Independence party, the British National party, Respect, the Conservatives, the English Democrats and a local vicar. Can the Leader of the House say whether the Deputy Prime Minister will be making a statement on the outlook for his party after this debacle?
Yesterday we found out the full scale of the Government’s economic failure. The Prime Minister promised to balance the books by 2015, but he has broken that promise. The Chancellor promised to cut borrowing, but borrowing and debt figures have been revised up this year and for future years. The Government promised to grow the economy, but yesterday the Office for Budget Responsibility said that the economy would contract this year. The part-time Chancellor might try 4G Del Boy economics to hide his failure, but he cannot hide the truth. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, this is the worst economic outlook since the 1920s. This is the consequence of a Government who got all the big decisions wrong. In October 2010, the Chancellor said:
“What investor is going to come to the UK when they fear a downgrade of our credit rating?”
He then claimed that the rating was safe in his hands, but this morning it is clear that the Chancellor’s economic failure has put his prized triple A rating at risk.
The measures announced in yesterday’s autumn statement will, according to the Treasury’s own figures, hit the poorest half of the country hardest. Those in work on modest earnings are paying the bill for this Government’s mismanagement of the economy, and at the same time the Government are giving a £100,000-a-year tax cut to the richest 8,000 people. How is that fair? We had an explanation yesterday in a Liberal Democrat briefing :
“The only tax cuts the Tories support are ones for the very rich”.
Helpful clarification was then offered by the Business Secretary, who said:
“We have a different view to the Conservatives…on fairness”.
Does the Leader of the House not think that a debate on fairness would give the Liberal Democrats the opportunity to remind themselves that they actually voted to give a tax cut to the richest 1%, and will he allow time for such a debate?
After yesterday’s autumn statement, we know that the Government are borrowing £212 billion more than expected, that the benefit bill is £13 billion higher, that growth forecasts have been cut this year, next year and for every year until 2016, and that the Government have failed the only economic tests they set themselves. This is the price of economic failure. For all the Chancellor’s sleight of hand yesterday, the Treasury’s own figures reveal that the economy has not grown, that borrowing is up, that growth will be less, that spending will be cut and that unemployment will go up. This is the record of a Government who have made the wrong choices. This is the consequence of an economic strategy that is not working.
I am grateful to the shadow Leader of the House for her response to my statement.
There is no prevarication whatsoever on equal marriage. We have been very clear that, following the consultation, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Women and Equalities will respond before Christmas, and indeed she will. I look forward to that and I hope that it will demonstrate our further determination to secure equal marriage, which was not achieved under a Labour Government, but can now be achieved under a coalition Government.
I am grateful for what the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) said about a debate on Leveson. It reminded me that when we discussed House business this time last week, the Leveson report had not been published. Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? I say to the hon. Lady that it is a bit premature to discuss the nature of future business of the House in relation to the Leveson report while my right hon. Friends, and indeed those on her own Front Bench, are engaged in discussions among themselves and with the newspaper editors, who have taken away from the Prime Minister and others the message that they must come up with plans that meet the Leveson principles and do so rapidly. We will hear more about that, I hope, later today.
I will indeed take this opportunity to welcome the new Members of the House. The hon. Lady kindly wrapped that question with a reference to the 2008 Henley by-election. Ever since that day, the House has been graced with the presence of my parliamentary private secretary. If the new Members do half as well as my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (John Howell) has done, they will do very well indeed.
Most of what the hon. Lady had to say was about the autumn statement. She used it as an opportunity to try to restore the credibility of the Opposition’s Front Benchers after the lamentable failure of the shadow Chancellor yesterday, who had no idea what he wanted to say and was utterly confused. The truth of the matter is that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was able not only to maintain this country’s credibility in his determination to reduce the deficit—the deficit is coming down—but to say that inflation has come down, that we are making considerable strides forward in many of the emerging markets and that employment has been rising. There are 1.2 million more jobs in the private sector, and the Office for Budget Responsibility says that at least two new jobs will be created in the private sector for every job that is lost in the public sector as a consequence of the inescapable necessity to control borrowing.
I heard nothing from the hon. Lady about how the Labour party would control borrowing. Where would the Labour party’s deficit reduction plan come from? We hear nothing about that. She talked about fairness and taxes for the richest, but she will have noticed that the Chancellor’s autumn statement set out an intention to increase taxation of the richest. It is clear from the distributional consequences of the autumn statement that those with the broadest shoulders are bearing the biggest burdens. We have not heard from the Opposition whether they would go back to the 50p rate if they were ever back in government. We just do not know.
Under the coalition Government, the personal tax allowance will have gone from £6,475 to £9,440 under the plans announced by the Chancellor—within touching distance of a £10,000 personal tax allowance. Some 24 million taxpayers and their families will benefit from that and we are taking 2 million people out of tax altogether. Somebody working full time on a minimum wage will have seen their tax bill more than halve. When the hon. Lady talks about fairness, I think that we should talk about that kind of fairness too.
I did not hear from the hon. Lady, on a practical question about the business of the House, whether the Opposition will vote for or against the welfare uprating Bill when it comes before the House. [Interruption.] She says from a sedentary position that we will have to wait and see. It is just like yesterday. The shadow Chancellor and the hon. Lady do not have a clue what they would do.
Order. As usual, a great many right hon. and hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye. I remind the House that there are two further statements to follow and, thereafter, two important debates under the auspices of the Backbench Business Committee. If I am to get anywhere near accommodating the level of interest, brevity from Front and Back Benchers alike will be imperative.
Can the Chancellor come to the Dispatch Box and tell the House what consideration he has given to the impact of the rise in the pensionable age on those in receipt of permanent health insurance payments under schemes that were designed to end at the current retirement age?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. We are having a debate on the economy next Tuesday, which will present an opportunity to discuss many of the issues that have arisen from the autumn statement. I will certainly draw the attention of Treasury Ministers to this matter. It is worth noting that, not least because of the support that we are giving to the national health service, the number of people in this country who have private health insurance has gone down.
The Leader of the House may be aware that the London fire authority is looking at a plan to shut 17 fire stations across the capital, which includes cutting 50% of the fire cover in my constituency, which has some of the poorest wards in London. This is creating alarm across all parts of the House. Is it possible for the relevant Minister to give a statement or to have a short debate?
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for not remembering the precise date, but an Adjournment debate was initiated by the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) on fire stations and the fire and rescue authority. These are matters for the fire and rescue authority and the Mayor of London, but I do recall that Ministers responded to the debate. If there is anything to be added since it took place, I will ask Ministers to correspond with him.
Last week, Plymouth and Cornwall were cut off by rail due to flooding and landslips. I welcome yesterday’s announcement by the Chancellor that he will spend £5 billion on investing in our infrastructure and that part of the A30 in Cornwall will be dualled. Please can we have a wider debate on infrastructure in the south-west to discuss the railway line from Exeter to Plymouth, improvements to the A38 and the potential dualling of the A303?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Perhaps he would consider seeking an Adjournment debate on economic performance and infrastructure improvements in the south-west to see how they are linked. Having lived in Exeter for four years, I have some sympathy with him. I remember how the A303 was back in those days. It is better now than it was then, but there are still a few bottlenecks.
The Leader of the House will know that in the fog of gloom and misery that was yesterday’s autumn statement, some of us were expecting the Chancellor to make just a little announcement about how he was going to go after the big multinational companies that do not pay any tax—Google, coffee giants and water companies—and get some money for all those years that they have paid nothing. Why was there no mention of going after these people who take the profits but do not put anything back into their communities?
I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman was listening to the Chancellor yesterday. As my right hon. Friend set out, not only do the Government intend to introduce a general anti-abuse rule for the first time, but as a consequence of measures already being taken to tackle evasion and avoidance, we will bring in something like £7 billion more a year in tax revenue than under the previous Government.
Will the Leader of the House make time for a short debate to question the lack of any visible merit—and the outrageous lack of sensitivity—in the NHS in Somerset granting its management a 5% pay rise, and one individual a 6% pay rise, when the majority of front-line staff have to accept a pay freeze?
I cannot promise my hon. Friend a debate on that subject. She may recall that regional pay was the subject of an Opposition day debate and a debate initiated by the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) in Westminster Hall. From what was announced yesterday it is transparent that the Government are not proposing regional pay, and that is in line with evidence I gave to the NHS pay review body earlier in the year as Secretary of State for Health. We are pursing the path of using flexibility provided by “Agenda for Change”. I take my hon. Friend’s point, however, and if such pay restraint is applied to NHS staff generally, it should apply equally to management.
On 10 July, the then Minister for Disabled People slipped out a written statement on Remploy and had to be dragged to the House. This morning, the current Minister for Disabled People, the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for Wirral West (Esther McVey), sneaked out another statement on Remploy, announcing 875 potential redundancies—[Interruption.] The Minister might well be getting briefed as he sits there. As you will appreciate, Mr Speaker, written ministerial statements are intended to be issued on non-controversial and straightforward matters, but this issue is neither of those things. Does the Leader of the House endorse such practice by the Minister for Disabled People, and will he ask her to come to the House next week to answer questions on that statement? I say to him: please do not tell me that I can address those issues at Work and Pensions questions on Monday. The decision about Remploy requires full scrutiny.
I am sorry, but my hon. Friend the Minister for Disabled People has informed the House perfectly well and properly through a written ministerial statement. The right hon. Lady is coming awfully close to challenging the view of the Speaker on whether an urgent question would be justified.
Last week, the Government announced that they will bring forward a facility for capping interest on payday loans. However, such loans are only one part of the high-cost sub-prime sector. May we have a debate on the entire high-cost sector, and on the problems within it and ways to solve them sustainably?
My hon. Friend will recall that on Third Reading of the Financial Services Bill in another place, the Government tabled an amendment to create a power that would limit agreements that impose unacceptable charges, including interest on lenders; it would make contravention of those agreements unenforceable, which is a strong power. The Bill will return to this House and we will have the opportunity to consider the Lords amendments on Monday.
Numerous members of the Patriotic March movement in Colombia have been murdered over the past few months. Will the Leader of the House agree to a debate or statement on the support that the British Government is offering to the Colombian Government to ensure safety for all as peace talks continue?
I cannot immediately offer the prospect of time for debate. If I recall correctly, such issues were touched upon on Tuesday during Foreign and Commonwealth Office questions. Other Members will share the hon. Gentleman’s concern about this matter, and he and others may look to secure an Adjournment debate, or something of that kind, to enable their views to be aired.
Many hon. Members are concerned about the extent of cuts to the regular battalions under Army 2020, including the 2nd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, and the ability of the Territorial Army to fill the gap. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement so that the House can be updated on the progress of the TA plans?
My hon. Friend will recall that the Secretary of State for Defence recently made a statement on the reserve forces. There is a debate this afternoon on defence personnel, in which I encourage my hon. Friend further to pursue those questions. He will know from our exchanges that Ministers have completely understood the points that he and my hon. Friends have made on the 2nd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. Ministers are approaching Army 2020 in a positive way, despite the necessity to make many difficult decisions.
May we have a debate on maternity pay? In the week when we had the happy news from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, we did not hear the unhappy news yesterday from the Chancellor that he is imposing a mummy tax in the form of a real-terms cut in maternity pay. Was it not slippery not to include that in the statement, if not actually treasonous?
The Chancellor made the context perfectly clear in his autumn statement. Working-age benefits have risen by 20% over five years, but average earnings have risen by only 10%. It is therefore necessary to consider that the increase in those working-age benefits should be limited—to, he proposed, 1%. I cannot quite tell from the hon. Gentleman’s question whether he plans to support or oppose that.
The Leader of the House might be aware that Airedale general hospital in my constituency has been named as one of two runners-up in the Dr Foster hospital guide as a result of low mortality and its high clinical efficiency rating in the past 12 months. May we have a statement on high-performance hospitals, so that the Health Secretary can join me in congratulating the chief executive, Bridget Fletcher, and her staff on winning such an accolade?
I am happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating the chief executive and her staff at Airedale general NHS foundation trust, which I had the privilege and pleasure of visiting several years ago—it is a fine hospital. It has a high reputation not only locally, but nationally.
According to the same guide, there has been an increase of 13% and 17% over time in the deaths of my constituents. Given the difficulties outlined by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) on the death of Owen Roberts, may we have an urgent debate on why £3 billion has been taken out of the NHS and not used for front-line services?
I am not quite sure what the hon. Lady is saying. Hon. Members listened to the right hon. Member for Cynon Valley yesterday at Prime Minister’s questions and had the utmost sympathy with her circumstances. That is precisely why Members on both sides of the House are determined to support the leaders of the nursing profession in improving the quality of care and the care and compassion with which patients are treated—they should always be treated with dignity and respect. Frankly, that is not about resources. Resources are rising in the NHS, with the exception of the NHS in Wales, where there is an 8% real-terms cut. The hon. Lady is talking about England, but she bracketed England and Wales together. In Wales, the NHS budget is being cut; in England, the NHS budget is being increased.
Given that thousands of entrepreneurs, business people and investors have returned to this country since the top rate of tax was reduced from 50p in the pound to 45p, may we have a debate on what impact reducing the top rate to the higher rate of 40p in the pound would have, and how many more thousands of people will return to this country?
The Chancellor has made the right judgment in recognising that, in the year after the introduction of the 50p rate, the number of people reporting income of more than £1 million people halved, and the tax revenue from the richest went down by £7 billion. One must make a judgment. We cannot keep reducing the top rate of tax and hope continually to increase revenue, but it is important to support entrepreneurship and wealth creators. That is one reason why the further reduction in corporation tax by April 2014 to 21% will help put us in a very competitive position in the global race.
There will be no Division on that.
On the subject of families, can I ask the Leader of the House about the Succession to the Crown Bill? As he knows, I introduced a ten-minute rule Bill on this last year. The Deputy Prime Minister chooses to use his own draftsmen to put the Succession to the Crown Bill through the House. Does the Leader of the House have a timetable for us, because he keeps telling us it will be introduced shortly? It is important that this is done before the royal baby is born.
Can I put in my own bid to be creep of the day? It is of course the seventh anniversary of the Prime Minister’s taking up leadership of the Conservative party, so it is a chance to congratulate him too—I know which side my bread is buttered.
On the right hon. Gentleman’s question, synchronicity being what it is—[Interruption.] It is always a pleasure to have the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) here. We were unable to proceed with the Succession to the Crown Bill until all the realms of which Her Majesty is Head of State signified consent. I believe that that happened on Monday, before the Duchess of Cambridge was admitted to hospital and an announcement was made, and we are now in a position to introduce the Bill shortly.
Does my right hon. Friend share my disgust with Labour councillors on Nuneaton and Bedworth borough council who have procured political Christmas cards at the taxpayer-subsidised cost of £8 for 2,000? Can we have a debate on protecting the taxpayer against subsiding political campaigning?
Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Education came to the Select Committee on Education to answer questions on his plans to replace GCSEs. However, he did not answer questions. I do not mean that he avoided them, evaded them or gave non-answers—he point blank refused to answer questions from the Conservative Chair of the Committee and other Members. Given that the parliamentary role of the Education Committee is to scrutinise the Department for Education, is that not contempt of Parliament, and can we have a statement?
As I understand it, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was perfectly happy to answer questions on matters for which he is responsible. He was not willing to answer questions relating to the views of Ofqual, as it is an independent regulator. I think that is perfectly fair.
If there were an intention to raise the matter of a possible contempt it would have to be done formally through the Standards and Privileges Committee, so we will not dwell on that now. I simply mention that, and I thank the Leader of the House for what he has said.
Last week, the Prime Minister visited Gloucester to see at first hand the work of the unique tri-service centre, managing the most difficult floods the country has seen since 2007. Will the Leader of the House join me in congratulating the emergency services and partner agencies on their work in handling that difficult situation; in recognising the great improvements to flood defences made by the Environment Agency, Severn Trent and local councils; and in calling on the insurance sector to play its full part in making sure that every home is protected?
I join my hon. Friend on all those points. We are committed to further investment in flood defences and the benefits it will deliver, and I entirely endorse his point on insurance. Negotiations are proceeding, and I hope the insurance industry and the Government arrive at an agreement soon and provide reassurance for people.
May we have a debate on Fitch’s decision to put the UK’s triple A credit rating on negative watch following the Chancellor’s autumn statement yesterday? According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, debt will reach £1.5 trillion in 2018, while growth is estimated to be minus 0.1% for this quarter. May we have a debate on why the Chancellor might have exchanged our triple A for a triple dip?
My recollection is that, in response to the Chancellor’s autumn statement yesterday, the bond markets demonstrated that his statement reinforced the credibility of the Government’s approach, but if the hon. Gentleman wants to discuss these issues, time will be available in a debate on the economy next Tuesday.
As my hon. Friend will be aware, following the autumn statement, and bearing in mind the opportunities presented by private finance 2 as a way of approaching these investments and the consequences of the announced reductions in resource spending, the Defence Secretary will not be proceeding with an announcement on the basing review until after Christmas in order to allow the Ministry of Defence to explore further funding options and opportunities with the Treasury.
Beth Sherbourne, from Bolton West, has just won the National Apprenticeship Service award for the best higher apprentice in the UK, and for the third year running, her company, MBDA, won the manufacturing excellence award for the best company for education links as well as the award for people excellence. Other high-tech manufacturing companies, however, continue to report difficulties in recruiting apprentice and graduate engineers. May we have a debate on how to ensure that schools promote engineering and apprenticeships among their pupils?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady, and I know that the House will join her in congratulating her constituent and the company in her constituency. She makes an important point. There are 450,000—or thereabouts—apprentice opportunities each year; many of them are tremendous opportunities. I have seen in my constituency, at TWI—The Welding Institute—how people starting apprenticeships have gone through, acquired a degree and entered into the most senior positions in the company. It is a tremendous opportunity that is probably not sufficiently appreciated in schools—it is perhaps more appreciated in further education colleges—and she is right that we should encourage paying greater attention to those opportunities.
May we have a debate on the nuclear fleet? We have the technology and ability to build a lot more of these power stations quickly, but Hinkley is still taking too long to get to fruition. We need to build nuclear power stations to keep the lights on. The dash for gas is fine, but the power that nuclear power stations produce will keep UK plc going.
My hon. Friend makes a good point. In that context, EDF’s announcement earlier this week about life extensions for Hinkley Point B and Hunterston B will be helpful. The point he makes is important, and the Energy Bill, which has now been introduced to the House, gives that sense of progress and security. I remember several years ago the then Trade and Industry Select Committee constantly being told by the last Government that they were keeping the door open to nuclear power, but it was not true: simply because they were not doing anything about it, the door was closing. We are now recognising that nuclear power, as a base load capacity, is an essential part of our energy security.
On 4 December 1971, McGurk’s bar was blown up by an Ulster Volunteer Force bomb, killing my uncle, Philip Garry, plus 14 other people, including two children. On the 41st anniversary, a book was published by Ciarán MacAirt, whose grandmother, Kathleen Irvine, was also killed by the bomb. After all the years of investigation, there are still closed files and letters not available, and there was collusion. Clearly, the British Government, possibly up to the then Prime Minister, Edward Heath, colluded and not only co-operated, but instructed that the false story be spread that this was a bomb carried by the people into that bar and that it was an IRA bomb in transit. Is it not now time for a proper investigation by the British Government into the facts of the case, with all the files being open and the Prime Minister coming here to apologise to the families and community for how they were maligned and, for six years, blamed for a bomb that was clearly a vicious act against them?
I am sure that the House will appreciate the strength of feeling that the hon. Gentleman has on this matter. He will forgive me, but I am not privy to any of the details, although I will, of course, ask my right hon. Friends to look into the matter and respond to him.
May we have a debate on compensation claims by criminals? We read in today’s papers of a criminal who received £2,000 in compensation after being bitten by a dog that he was fleeing after breaking into a car. Are such claims not ridiculous and is it not time we had an age of austerity for compensation claims by criminals?
My hon. Friend will be aware that the House has just voted through changes to the criminal injuries compensation scheme. I hope that that will focus criminal injuries compensation on victims, as it is intended to, and ensure that the more severe victims of crime get the compensation they require, rather than compensation sometimes being spread around in places where it is not so justified.
The expensive and cumbersome licensing regime for the use of wild animals in circuses was approved by the House at the end of October. It has not yet come into effect, yet already we hear rumours that the Government intend to replace it with a full ban early in the new year. Can the Leader of the House confirm that the Government finally intend to respect the unanimously expressed will of the House and stop using lame excuses to prevent the Bill from coming into force?
Argentina has consistently reneged on repaying World Bank loans worth around £10 billion. The United States Government have decided not to allow any more World Bank loans to be granted. France, Germany and even countries such as Spain have followed. May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for International Development on when the United Kingdom will refuse to grant further loans to Argentina from the World Bank?
Given that in my constituency there are 10 people chasing every job and given the constant demonisation of the long-term unemployed, young and old, may we have a debate on the calls made by families suffering the indignity of unemployment on our mental health and social care services?
May I take this opportunity to welcome the hon. Gentleman? It is a pleasure to have him among us. He makes an important point on behalf of his constituents. We all recognise the impact that long-term unemployment can have. That is precisely why we are working through the Work programme to ensure that people get access to work—a quarter of those who have gone into the programme have accessed jobs—but in addition, not arriving at long-term unemployment is important. We are taking steps, following the last Government, to try to ensure that people have access to psychological therapies when they have anxiety, stress and depression associated with unemployment, and I hope that will continue.
Happy wedding anniversary, Mr Speaker. A weekend break in the Holme and Colne valleys would be a great way to celebrate your 10th wedding anniversary.
The M62 motorway between Huddersfield, Leeds and Manchester has been an absolute nightmare for the past month. Yesterday morning two lanes were closed at Brighouse and at the teatime rush hour the M621 junction was closed. We regularly have debates about rail services in this House. May we have a debate about the importance of keeping our motorway network moving? Not doing so causes absolute chaos for commuters.
I am happy to say that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport is in his place on the Front Bench and will have heard what my hon. Friend said. I know that he and his colleagues in the Department feel strongly about reducing the duration of motorway incidents to keep traffic moving and, through the so-called CLEAR programme—collision, lead, evaluate, act and reopen—are working with the agencies and responders to deliver exactly that.
Nottingham now has 12 food banks, as hundreds of families, many in work, are forced to rely on charity to feed themselves and their children. Yesterday we found out that the Chancellor aims to hit those poor families even harder. Is it not time that we had a debate on child poverty?
The hon. Lady is of course free to raise this issue, and it might be appropriate for her to do so at Department for Work and Pensions questions on Monday. Child poverty has been falling, according to the last Labour Government’s definition, but we want to ensure that children move out of poverty and improve their conditions in the absolute sense. That is about work, and reducing the number of workless households has been a significant step in the right direction.
It is now apparent that the Department of Energy and Climate Change has been aware for some time of the practice by some unscrupulous onshore wind developers of de-rating, whereby they install a large wind turbine but run it at sub-optimal level in order to benefit from the higher subsidies that are supposed to be available only to small developers. When can we have an urgent debate on the problem, which is costing consumers money and giving renewable energy a bad name?
I am sure that my hon. Friend will know that Ministers at the Department of Energy and Climate Change take this issue seriously. They have acted to address a similar issue in relation to hydro sites, and are committed to doing the same for wind. They have met and discussed the issue with wind turbine manufacturers and with Renewables UK, and I will certainly ask them if they will respond to my hon. Friend. The debate on the Energy Bill might also provide an opportunity to discuss the issue.
May we have a debate on how we can best honour the legacy of those British service personnel who have won the Victoria Cross? They include John Buckley from Stalybridge, who won the VC in 1857 for his gallant defence of the magazine at Delhi during the Indian mutiny. I am told that there is a memorial tablet in Delhi as testimony to his heroism, but his unmarked grave has just been discovered in a cemetery in Tower Hamlets, and it will take about £1,000 to guarantee him a proper gravestone. Will the Leader of the House help me to raise the profile of this issue with the public and help us to celebrate the work of the Victoria Cross Trust, which can make that happen?
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman and all other Members—and indeed those outside the House—would benefit from a visit to the Imperial War museum, just south of the river, which has an excellent new display of Victoria Cross medals that also describes the heroism that led to the awarding of them. I entirely share the hon. Gentleman’s feelings about his constituent and others.
I recently met my constituent, Stephen Leadbetter, who has suffered from lung problems since he was 14. He is now 22, and has recently been diagnosed as having alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. Stephen believes that if he had been diagnosed earlier, his health would not now be declining so rapidly. May we have a debate about raising awareness of this and similar conditions?
It is important that the Department of Health should continue to support research and development into rare genetic diseases, and we have protected the research and development budget in order to do so. We consulted on a rare disease plan, and published a summary of the consultation responses last month. Work is on track to produce a UK rare diseases plan by the end of 2013, which could help my hon. Friend’s constituent and many others.
Further to the question that my right hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mrs McGuire) asked earlier, may I add my voice to calls for an urgent oral statement on the closure of Remploy factories? Of the 1,000 people who have already been made redundant, only 63 have found jobs. That is scandalous, particularly in the light of the written statement today that a further 875 jobs are now at risk.
Over the past week, there has been yet more negative publicity about the Liverpool care pathway, which is so important in minimising end-of-life suffering. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that Members of the House have an opportunity to debate this complex issue, rather than leaving it to the sensationalist reporting in national newspapers?
My hon. Friend will be aware that that matter is being reviewed by some of the leading clinical bodies and by those representing families and other groups. I will of course talk to my colleagues in the Department of Health about it. The Liverpool care pathway, when properly used with informed consent, can ease people’s circumstances as they move towards the end of life, and it is important to recognise how it can be used properly.
The Leader of the House will be aware that this morning another nail has been hammered into the coffin of the Scottish National party’s claim that a separate Scotland would automatically become part of the European Union, in the form of a letter written to the Houses of Parliament. Will he facilitate a debate on accession to the European Union, so that as Scottish voters approach the referendum in 2014, they are able to understand the full implications of that decision for Scotland’s place in the European Union?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that point. It is a pity that that further information was not available when the House debated Scotland and the Union—just last Thursday, I believe. The House expressed its view very forcibly in that debate. As the hon. Gentleman says, the evidence demonstrating that Scotland is better off in the Union and the Union is better off with Scotland will continue to grow.
The Government moved swiftly to compensate victims of the Equitable Life scandal who were so shamefully treated by the Labour party. The one set of people excluded from compensation were the trapped pre-1992 annuitants, all of whom could be compensated within the envelope of money set aside by the Treasury. Could my right hon. Friend arrange for a statement or a short debate so that we can ensure that these weak, elderly, vulnerable pensioners are properly compensated in their later life?
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his work on the all-party group on justice for Equitable Life policyholders. I am sure that many thousands of those policyholders are grateful to him for his advocacy. If I may, I will ask my colleagues in the Treasury to look at the position for pre-1992 annuitants and I will let my hon. Friend and the House know if anything further can be done to help.
May I first thank the Leader of the House for his assistance in helping the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs find the 300 letters that my constituents had written to him, which he seemed to have lost? He has now found them, so I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his help. I would, however, like to ask him if he could assist me a little further in respect of the Enhanced Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Bill. In a letter dated 26 June this year from the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire) who is responsible for crime and security, I was told that membership of the pre-legislative scrutiny Committee was being agreed through the usual channels and that the Committee was expected to report in the autumn. It is now well past the autumn, so I wonder whether the Leader of the House would investigate where this Bill has got to.
May we have a debate on the economic impact of the autumn statement on the east midlands, where 1.8 million individuals will benefit from an increase in their personal allowances, 325,000 businesses will be cheering an extension of the small business rate relief scheme and, more importantly, 2.7 million motorists will breathe a sigh of relief at the fact that this Government have scrapped the fuel duty increase planned by the previous Labour Government?
Yes, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. It is interesting to note that I did not hear a word from the shadow Leader of the House about the cancellation of the fuel duty increases, nor about the simple fact that every time anybody goes to the petrol pumps and puts 50 litres of petrol in their tank, they will have saved £5 because they are not paying the petrol duties voted for before the last election by the Labour party.
The Attorney-General said that he would apply to the High Court for new inquests into the deaths of the 96 people who died at Hillsborough and that he would make that application in early December. It is now early December, so has the right hon. Gentleman had any indication from the Attorney-General as to whether he expects to make that application as early as next week, and whether he will make a statement?
The lady in my house says that it is always a miracle getting to a wedding anniversary. Does the Leader of the House agree with me that section 1.2.a of the ministerial code calls for the “principle of collective responsibility” to apply to “all Government Ministers”? May we have a statement next week from a Conservative Minister explaining what it means to Conservative Ministers and a statement from a Liberal Democrat Minister to say what it means to Liberal Democrat Ministers?
It would be rather easier to reply to my hon. Friend if he asked a question rather than making an allusion.
The principle of ministerial collective responsibility is precisely as it has always been. Ministers speak on behalf of the Government, and, as my hon. Friend knows perfectly well, if it is clear that Ministers have not had an opportunity to complete their scrutiny of an issue, in the circumstances of a coalition Government it is entirely proper for Ministers—more than one Minister; in this case, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister—to reflect ongoing considerations within the Government. It is an accurate reflection of the policy of the Government at that time.
Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate on an ever-increasing health risk? I refer to the impact of wind turbines on people living near wind turbines and wind turbine farms, more and more of whom are coming to my surgeries suffering from severe mental health problems.
Time does not permit me to enter into a debate about the health effects of wind turbines, but I know that there are various arguments, and I have read some of the competing literature, as it were. I will of course draw the hon. Gentleman’s remarks to the attention of my colleagues in the Department for Energy, and will ask them to respond.
When businesses sacked staff by text message, that was rightly condemned throughout the country. People said that it was cowardly and despicable. When, a few years ago, Burberry announced the closure of its factory in Treorchy at the beginning of December, that was condemned as well, on the grounds that it was the wrong time of the year to do such a thing. Today, the Government have done both those things together: they have announced by e-mail that a lot of people working in Remploy factories are to lose their jobs, and they have done it in the run-up to Christmas.
In a way, I almost do not want the Leader of the House to respond to what I have said, but I do want him to think about this. Please, please may we have an oral statement on Monday? The people who work for Remploy are very vulnerable and need to hear the arguments in full from a Minister in the House, and we need to be able to ask questions about the specific situation in all our many constituencies.
I think I have made it clear to the House that, in my view, informing the House by means of a written ministerial statement is perfectly proper. An oral statement is not simply an expression of the importance of an issue; it is made by a Minister who is announcing policy, and, as far as I am aware, what was conveyed in the written ministerial statement did not represent any change in policy. It recognised that, as had been anticipated, the Remploy board would conclude its assessment of the stage 2 businesses. Remploy is working closely with the Department for Work and Pensions, and the Department has kept the House fully informed, but the statement did not represent any change of policy on the part of the Department.