The business for next week is as follows:
Monday 24 June—Second Reading of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, followed by debate on careers advice in schools for 12 to 16-year-olds. The subject for this debate was nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.
Tuesday 25 June—Opposition day (4th allotted day). There will be a debate on lobbying, followed by a debate on the armed forces. Both debates will arise on a motion in the name of the official Opposition.
Wednesday 26 June—I would like to remind the House that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will make a statement on the spending review, followed by Second Reading of the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill, followed by motions relating to the hybrid Bill procedure.
Thursday 27 June—A general debate on legal aid reform, followed by a general debate on multi-national companies and UK corporation tax. The subjects for these debates have been nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.
The provisional business for the week commencing 1 July will include:
Monday 1 July—Remaining stages of the Finance (No. 2) Bill (day 1).
Tuesday 2 July—Conclusion of remaining stages of the Finance (No. 2) Bill (day 2).
Wednesday 3 July— Estimates day (1st allotted day). There will be a debate on public expenditure and health care services, followed by a debate on Rail 2020. Further details will be given in the Official Report.
The details are as follows: Debate on public expenditure and health care services. Debate on Rail 2020.
At 7 pm the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates, followed by a motion to approve a European document relating to reforming Europol.
Thursday 4 July—Proceedings on the Supply and Appropriation (Main Estimates) Bill, followed by business to be nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 5 July—Private Members’ Bills.
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 27 June will be:
Thursday 27 June—A debate on the First Report of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, “An air transport strategy for Northern Ireland”.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business.
We are witnessing a continuing deterioration of the situation in Syria: the latest estimates are that 93,000 people have been killed, and there is a rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis on the border as millions flee. Will the Leader of the House undertake to keep the House informed of the Government’s intentions? Can he tell us now how he intends to ensure that the voice of this House is heard ahead of any change in Government policy?
I note that the High Speed 2 preparation Bill will be before the House next Wednesday, but there is still no sign of the Second Reading of the hybrid Bill, which is also necessary if HS2 is to proceed. The Government promised that that Bill would have Royal Assent by the end of this Parliament, but we all know that hybrid Bills take a very long time to get through Parliament. Is the Leader of the House convinced that there is enough time left for the Government to fulfil their promise? Can he guarantee that Second Reading of the hybrid Bill will take place in this Session?
Under this Government, top bankers have had a double bonanza, as figures from the Office for National Statistics show a 64% increase in bonuses, timed to coincide with the Government’s huge tax cut for millionaires. Is that because, as the figures show, half of all Tory party funding comes from the City?
Last night, the Chancellor made his speech at the Mansion House in the aftermath of the final report of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, but he has had nothing to say to this House. When can we expect a statement on that from the Government? Perhaps the Chancellor is too embarrassed to turn up, as we learned that President Obama called him “Jeffrey” three times at the G8. There are plenty of names I could think of to call this Chancellor, but “Jeffrey” is not one of them.
Yesterday, the hon. Member for Stockton South (James Wharton) presented his Bill on an EU referendum to the House. I am afraid that the Bill is turning into a bit of a farce: last week, even the Leader of the House could not keep a straight face when trying to argue that the hon. Gentleman was running his own Bill, and this week the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary had to be advised that they could not sign a private Member’s Bill without it turning into a Government Bill. Has no one told the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary that if they really want to sponsor a private Member’s Bill, they can easily do so—from the Back Benches?
May I take this opportunity to congratulate all those who featured in the Queen’s birthday honours earlier this week? Of course, the Leader of the House is a previous recipient, so he knows all about the thrill of being recognised by Her Majesty, but does he agree that the Government’s strategy of giving people gongs to keep them quiet is adding to the Queen’s work load with little obvious effect? On the day after his knighthood was announced, the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) showed his gratitude on the Conservative Home website by describing his own Government’s legislative programme as
“the weakest…in recent memory”
Does the Leader of the House agree with him?
The recent birthday honours also brought good news for the right hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Sir Andrew Stunell), who was knighted, and the right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), who joined the Order of the Companions of Honour. I congratulate them both. Some 14% of Liberal Democrat Members have now been knighted, which means that there are more knights on the Liberal Democrat Benches than there are women. Does the Leader of the House agree that at least in this important respect the Liberal Democrats are punching well above their weight in this Government? Any more of this and the Liberal Democrat Whips Office will be scouring eBay for a round table.
With all the disunity in the Government, it is reassuring to see that the Leader of the House and his deputy are working together, shoulder to shoulder, as a great team—at least, that is what I thought until the leaflet I am holding came to my attention. It was delivered this weekend through a door in the constituency of the Deputy Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake). In it, he campaigns passionately to save a hospital that his own Government are closing. He says:
“I am calling upon the Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley to meet urgently with me and local councillors to discuss the fate of our hospital.”
That tells us he does not seem to know what job his boss does, he apparently cannot get a meeting with him, and he does not seem able to defend his own Government’s actions to his constituents. Mr Speaker, I feel a knighthood coming on.
I am grateful to the shadow Leader of the House for her response to the business statement and to the Opposition, in particular, for equipping me to announce the business for the Supply day next Tuesday. I join her in paying tribute to all those recognised in the birthday honours list. I congratulate, on behalf of the House, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Sir Andrew Stunell) on their awards. I would also like to congratulate Elizabeth Gardiner, from parliamentary counsel, and Roland Hunt, head of parliamentary support in the Opposition Whips Office, and I think that the House will be particular pleased to learn that Robin Fell, Principal Doorkeeper of the House, was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
Honours are of course very appropriate for our Liberal Democrat colleagues in the coalition, and much deserved, so we are delighted to have seen them. I am nervous about the reference the shadow Leader of the House made to the benefit of the Liberal Democrat knights sitting at a round table. In this morning’s newspapers it was noted how good a round table is in enabling consensus to emerge in office meetings. The trouble is that the only round table I know that could accommodate all the Liberal Democrat knights is the one in my office, so do not tell the Deputy Prime Minister or there might be a furniture raid.
The shadow Leader of the House talked about the literature in south-west London—[Interruption.] Yes, it was this week. As she will be aware, and as the Deputy Leader of the House has advised me, that is a manifestation of the Liberal Democrats’ green policies; they do not waste paper. One should not waste a good leaflet.
On Syria, the shadow Leader of the House will have heard what the Prime Minister said yesterday, and the Foreign Secretary and other Foreign Office Ministers have kept the House fully informed. I think that I have been clear about this at business questions before, but for the avoidance of any doubt I will say it again: no decision has been made within Government for us to arm the Syrian National Coalition. Were any such decision to be made we would not implement it unless and until it secured the support of this House on a substantive motion. I believe that that meets the concern of colleagues. In addition, the Prime Minister yesterday accurately reflected on the simple fact that where national security interests are engaged it must be correct that the Government reserve the right to take any necessary action in defence of our security. I emphasise, however, that this in no sense qualifies the commitment I have given to the House on the question of arms and Syria.
The shadow Leader of the House asked about HS2. Her points will be addressed in the debate on the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill, which will no doubt give an opportunity to look toward the introduction of the HS2 hybrid Bill. The pace at which the hybrid Bill will be able to progress will be debated next Wednesday in a number of motions relating to its procedure. It might benefit the House to know that the motions have now been tabled and are available, along with an explanatory memorandum, from the Vote Office.
The hon. Lady asked about banking, in particular the banking Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was clear at the Mansion House last night that the Government welcome the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards. Indeed, I think we can all say now that it demonstrates what a good decision it was to proceed with a parliamentary commission. If we had gone down the line of a public inquiry, I suspect that evidence would still be being taken rather than measures being implemented. The Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill is before the House and the Chancellor has made it clear that, where measures require legislation, we will seek to introduce them during the consideration of the Bill. I have not yet had the opportunity to announce the remaining stages of that Bill in this House.
I have seen press reports about the Chancellor being referred to as Jeffrey. I heard this morning that there was a bit of a debate about who was cool at the G8 summit. Jeffrey Osborne would have been cool—that is for sure. From the Chancellor’s point of view, it is probably just as well that the President of the United States did not refer to him as Ozzy, which would have been worse.
I will just settle for George, if that is all right.
On the European Union (Referendum) Bill, I have announced that private Members’ Bills will be considered on Friday 5 July and I know that my colleagues are all looking forward to supporting my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South (James Wharton).
I do not think that the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) asked any further questions, but I want to say one more thing. She and her colleagues have scheduled a debate on lobbying next week and I want to emphasise that the Government are committed to enhancing the transparency of political life. This Government are the most transparent ever, proactively publishing details of ministerial meetings, Government procurement and other items of public interest. I am looking forward to next Tuesday’s debate, because it will be an opportunity to make very clear that we are proceeding with the coalition programme, as we always said we would, whereas the Labour party, over 13 years, never took a step. In fact, it put the issue in the “too hot to handle” basket. We as a Government are making it clear that we are going to do it and have said so time and again. It is curious that an Opposition motion is asking for a Bill to be introduced when we have said that we will introduce such a Bill before the summer recess.
May we have a debate on the protocols that should apply to the information given to Members of Parliament if failings are found in NHS or care home facilities in their constituencies? It is not just the Care Quality Commission but other organisations, such as Monitor and, indeed, the royal colleges that investigate concerns about safety in the NHS. The Royal College of Surgeons recently undertook an inquiry into surgery at Horton general hospital in my constituency. The report exists and is being talked about, but it has not been published. In such circumstances, there should be, post-Francis, a clear understanding of what information is provided to MPs if failings are found in the NHS or social care in their own constituencies.
My hon. Friend will know that, under this coalition Government, there has never been as much clarity in terms of the standards that the NHS is setting out to meet. They are expressed in the NHS clinical standards and the measurement of outcomes. As my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary said yesterday, rightly, that emphasis on the publication of data in order to inform patients and the public and to hold everybody in the NHS better to account is critical.
My hon. Friend asks what Members of Parliament should do. I hope that in any case all Members of Parliament would, in the first instance, be alongside the providers of health care in their constituencies, because the first responsibility for delivering standards lies with the management of the health care providers. Alongside that, the new clinical commissioning groups and NHS England have a responsibility. I think that Members of Parliament will find it extremely helpful to have a continuing dialogue with their clinical commissioning groups, which have a responsibility for delivering high-quality care to the patients for whom they commission services. They are supported by NHS England, where we have mainstreamed the patient safety responsibilities of the former National Patient Safety Agency.
When those measures fail to deliver satisfactory responses in the view of a Member of Parliament, the Member can and should go to the Care Quality Commission. The CQC would then have a responsibility to investigate and secure action to ensure that essential standards are met and that those who are responsible for failures are held to account.
The Leader of the House has announced that the statement on the comprehensive spending review will be on Wednesday. I understand that it is his intention not to schedule a debate on the comprehensive spending review, but to point anybody who wants such a debate in the direction of the Backbench Business Committee. Before he reaches for the Wright Committee report and reads the small section about the comprehensive spending review being under the auspices of the Backbench Business Committee, I should point out that I think all Members would agree with me when I say that if the comprehensive spending review is not Government business, I do not know what is. The Backbench Business Committee would be delighted to schedule the Government’s business, but if that is his intention will he at least allocate an extra day to the Committee so that we may have such a debate? If not, will he schedule it in Government time?
I am sure that the hon. Lady recognises that many of the subjects that the Wright Committee said the Backbench Business Committee should determine the priority of and allocate time to are the responsibility of Government. Paragraph 139 of the Wright Committee report made it perfectly clear that debates on the spending review are precisely the sort of debates that it should be up to the House to decide whether to schedule. As it happens, in the provisional business that I have announced for the week beginning 1 July, the House will debate the Finance Bill and there will be an estimates day, which will include debates relating to the departmental estimates for Health and Transport.
Estate agents in Portsmouth are required to display energy efficiency information on property advertisements. Not only did the Cabinet Office give them little time to do that, but it does not give those details on advertisements for Government property that is for sale or to let and it seems confused about whether a sales listing is an offer to sell or lease. That chaos and confusion rather undermines the unhelpful answer that I received from the Department for Communities and Local Government, which states that “advertisement” is
“an ordinary English word which does not require further clarification.”—[Official Report, 4 March 2013; Vol. 563, c. 779W.]
Will the Leader of the House find time to consider those matters given that, since December, the performance of neither Department has been energetic or efficient?
I will, of course, take up the points that my hon. Friend raises with the Cabinet Office and the Department for Communities and Local Government. The Government are engaged in an ambitious programme of selling surplus public sector land and assets, not least in order to secure the building of 10,000 homes on that land. When we are selling properties, we must try to set an example by securing energy efficiency in those properties and advertising that fact.
If the Government are struggling to produce a lobbying Bill, which they clearly are, they can have my Bill. It was produced two years ago and could be printed before the debate next Tuesday. It would certainly be far superior to any drivel that the Deputy Prime Minister might come up with.
The Government are not struggling to produce a Bill; we have set out the timetable and will introduce a Bill before the summer recess. The clauses for a Bill were published previously and were the subject of a consultation last year. In that context, it is a bit rich of the Labour party to talk about wanting cross-party talks on the issue, when no Labour MP, including those on the Opposition Front Bench, supplied any response to the Government consultation on the clauses that we published.
Some 99% of all UK limited companies have beneficial owners who are exactly the same as the legal shareholders disclosed on the Companies House website, and many people—including the Prime Minister and Will Morris, the head of tax at CBI—have expressed their preference for putting company beneficial ownership into the public domain, because the “many eyes” principle keeps data honest. Will the Leader of the House agree to a debate on the impact of an open, public register of company beneficial share ownership on UK businesses, and agree that that would not be onerous?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. She will recall that in response to questions following his statement on the Lough Erne declaration yesterday, the Prime Minister made clear his wish to see that register of beneficial ownership completed, published and made publicly available, not only in this country but in a number of countries. That multilateral, international approach extends not only to the G8 but beyond to developing countries, and, as the Prime Minister said, it was recognised as important by a number of Heads of Government of African nations who attended the lunch on Tuesday. Such an approach can make a big difference to rooting out corruption and promoting economic development in developing countries.
In March, the Government made the welcome announcement that they intend to publish a Green Paper on graduated licensing for young drivers, to address the dreadful toll of young people being killed or seriously injured on our roads. Will the Leader of the House advise whether we are likely to see that Green Paper before the summer recess, and, if not, when we might expect a statement?
I cannot give the hon. Gentleman a date. Transport questions are next Thursday—I will perhaps alert my hon. Friends in that Department, although they will know of his interest. Forgive me if I am wrong, but my recollection is that the private Members’ Bills published yesterday included one by an hon. Member—the name, I fear, escapes me—who was introducing a Bill to deal precisely with the point raised by the hon. Gentleman.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that we should have a debate on the amount of medical negligence payments being made by the NHS, particularly following the tragic cases in Barking, Havering and Redbridge Trust, which serves my Ilford North constituency?
My hon. Friend raises a point that many Members will recognise as important. We want to minimise cases of clinical negligence that give rise to compensation, and that is the first priority. I said earlier that patient safety being mainstreamed in NHS England is terrifically important, but unfortunately the volume of payments through the NHS Litigation Authority is now roughly £1 billion a year, and there is a massive contingent liability. We cannot expect that to disappear and it is important to have compensation where people have suffered harm as a consequence of accessing NHS treatment, but we must ensure that that is done cost-effectively. I know all Members—including Government Members—feel strongly that we have arrived at a position where negligence payments to expert witnesses and lawyers are sometimes as great as the compensation paid to families, and we want to bear down on that very hard.
In the light of comments reported this morning that the Deputy Prime Minister described the Nigella Lawson incident of domestic violence as “fleeting”, even though we know the perpetrator has accepted a caution for assault, may we please have a debate on how seriously the Government take the issue of domestic violence?
I am sure that the hon. Lady will have heard the Minister of State, Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Mr Browne), responding to questions earlier. The Government are committed to doing everything we can to prevent domestic violence and provide support to victims, which is why the Home Office produced the violence against women and girls action plan, including a ring-fenced budget of nearly £40 million. Also, multi-agency risk assessment centres are operating in more than 250 areas across the country. It is serious, we take it seriously and we are acting in a substantial way.
Has my right hon. Friend seen my early-day motion 282 on the extension of free school meals to young people attending further education colleges?
[That this House notes that young people attending further education colleges do not receive free school meals despite being eligible for them; further notes that the Association of Colleges has found that 79 per cent of colleges believe that free school meals for 16 to 18 years olds would encourage them to stay on in education; further notes that young people who attend sixth form and are eligible for free school meals do receive them; and therefore urges the Government to look at what can be done to treat sixth formers and college students equally and support these young people to continue in education.]
Harlow college in my constituency estimates that 350 young people are in severe need of free school meals, and not receiving them puts their education at risk, yet children who go to sixth-form schools get free school meals. Will my right hon. Friend lobby the Chancellor to include it in the spending round next week?
I understand my hon. Friend’s point, not least because FE colleges in my constituency and adjoining it have raised exactly that point with me too. It is, of course, a matter of available resources, but even before the spending review, if he were to catch your eye, Mr Speaker, he might have an opportunity to raise the matter with Education Ministers at Question Time on Monday.
The Leader of the House will agree that the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards has produced rather a good report, but it leads us to conclude that there is unfinished business over what went wrong with our banking sector. May we have an early debate on the really sad state of the accountancy profession and the auditing process in this country? It is high time we got to the heart of the matter.
The hon. Gentleman is right about the commission: it has produced an important and welcome report. He might like to raise these issues at Treasury questions on Tuesday, if he has an opportunity, but notwithstanding that, as I said, I have not yet been able to announce the timing for consideration of the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill, which touches on these issues. I would add—this touches on accountancy and other professions related to financial services—that the commission has established, and the Government agree absolutely, that there is no competition between high standards in financial services and global competitiveness. The appalling events of 2008 and their aftermath, including their impact worldwide, demonstrate that global competitiveness, including the trust, credibility and competitiveness of major financial centres, depends on setting and maintaining high banking and financial services standards.
Housing is one of the issues most frequently raised at my surgeries, whether it be access to social housing or simply getting on the property ladder. It has been estimated that in the UK there are 920,000 empty homes, of which 330,000 are long-term empty. Please may we have a debate to explore what can be done between local and national Government to bring these homes back into use and so provide more homes and reduce the pressure to build on our green fields?
I think that many Members will recognise the issue that my hon. Friend describes in his constituency. He will recall the changes in council tax treatment relating to empty homes, which, difficult as it might be in some cases, creates an additional substantial disincentive to leave homes empty, which is important. We want them occupied. In addition, the Government are on track to deliver 170,000 more affordable homes by March 2015. It is an investment programme of nearly £20 billion. Furthermore, of course, by supporting the wider house building programme, not least with schemes like Help to Buy, we are beginning to see the steps needed to get the people who need housing into good-quality new housing.
Yesterday King Abdullah of Jordan told Members at a meeting that Jordan was ready to accept Abu Qatada back. As the Leader of the House knows, the total cost to the taxpayer of Abu Qatada’s legal fees is now £1.7 million. Tomorrow the House will automatically ratify the treaty with Jordan, which Jordan has already ratified. May we have a statement from the Home Secretary on the likely timetable for the return of Abu Qatada to Jordan?
The right hon. Gentleman understands these matters well and knows that the ratification in Jordan is a positive step forward. As he said, the House will ratify the treaty, but that does not preclude opportunities for appeal on behalf of Mr Qatada. I cannot offer a statement at the moment, but the Home Secretary has kept the House fully informed and I am sure she will continue to do so.
Diolch. Sianel Pedwar Cymru, or S4C, is hugely important to the cultural life of Wales and underpins the success of the Welsh language. Broadcasting is not a devolved matter; it is the responsibility of this House. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that we have a debate at an early opportunity on the value of S4C and its contribution to the future of the Welsh language?
I am familiar with some programmes. Pobol y Cwm is my favourite programme on S4C, because it is filmed in Menai Bridge, which I know well. My hon. Friend is right about the importance of S4C and it is good for the House to have opportunities from time to time to examine and reiterate that, but the best thing would probably be for him to secure the support of other Members from Wales and make an approach to the Backbench Business Committee.
The Leader of the House will know that a review of the Wright reforms is currently going through parliamentary Committees. The reforms have been an utter disaster for the smaller parties, leaving the proceedings of the House almost exclusively in the hands of the Government and the Labour Opposition. Will he support having a place for a Member from the minority parties on the Backbench Business Committee and on the proposed House business committee?
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman feels that way. The intention of the Government, and I think of the major parties in this House, has been to ensure that there is access for smaller parties. In particular, arrangements have been made for smaller parties to attend the Backbench Business Committee, even if they are not able to vote. I remind the hon. Gentleman and the House that I went recently to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, which is undertaking an inquiry into the Wright Committee reforms. I made it clear that at this stage I have no proposals to introduce a House business committee, but I await the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee’s report. If the hon. Gentleman has any points to raise, he should be making them to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee.
May we have a debate on the protection of our green belt, and in particular on the important role it plays in protecting the character and setting of our historic cities, such as York in my constituency where more than 2,000 acres of green-belt land is under threat from the council’s draft local plan?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. I know he will have sympathy with other colleagues who have historic cities in a countryside setting in their constituency. That was precisely the description applied to Cambridge when its structure plan was agreed some 10 years ago. The essence of the Government’s localism policy is to give more opportunities for local communities to establish the framework for local planning and development. The Government have given that power to York city council, which is not under the control of our party, and I hope that my hon. Friend is successful in ensuring that it listens to the views of the people he represents.
Following the statement yesterday on the hospital and Care Quality Commission scandal, is it not time that we had a full debate, in Government time, on the purpose, intention and scope of the Data Protection Act 1998, so that Parliament is able to make its position crystal clear and stop lawyers’ organisations and petty officials using the Act to hide information, to protect wrongdoers, and to cover up their own incompetence, as seems to happen all too regularly at present?
I cannot offer the hon. Gentleman a debate at this moment. I heard the Information Commissioner talking about this on the radio this morning. One of the most important things is for there to be clarity in the minds of those in organisations, and those who advise them, on what the 1998 Act requires and what it does not require. As the hon. Gentleman may have heard in the exchanges after the statement yesterday, there are clear exemptions under the Act relating to the public interest.
Further to the concerns I raised on the Public Accounts Committee 18 months ago about whether Care Quality Commission inspectors had the clinical experience to understand the industry they were inspecting, and given that the comments on the radio yesterday by the new chair suggest that that is still the case, may we have a debate on the Care Quality Commission and, in particular, the way in which senior officials have escaped accountability, including some who chaired that body and now sit in the other place?
My hon. Friend has examined the work of the Care Quality Commission carefully and critically through his work on the Public Accounts Committee. What is clear from what we saw yesterday, as well as the report produced by Grant Thornton, is that decisions were made—in fact, under the last Government—relating to the generalist character of inspection and the disbandment of the specialist investigations team, which is one of a number of a things that, on reflection, contributed to a very poor regulatory performance at that time. The CQC has new management, new chief inspectors and a lot of opportunities. I hope we will have an opportunity at some point for a debate that not only looks at the causes of that regulatory failure in the past, but gives an opportunity to the CQC to demonstrate how it can be a changed organisation.
The national planning policy framework states that it is inappropriate to build on the green belt, yet a ministerial statement last September said that local plans would be fast-tracked if they included the green belt. My constituents want to know whether the green belt is safe, so may we have an urgent debate on Government guidance to local decision makers on this conflicting policy?
It is not a conflicting policy at all. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for York Outer (Julian Sturdy), this comes down to decisions made locally by local people and the local authorities that represent them. If they attach the importance and sense of permanence to the green belt that is required—as I think they should—that is fine. However, if I may revert to my own constituency, the decision from 10 years ago—made locally, before the last Government introduced overriding planning guidance—did in fact give up some green belt, although it was regarded as poor quality green belt that did not contribute to the protection of Cambridge as a city. Houses are being built on what was previously green-belt land, but we feel strongly, as my hon. Friend and others do, about the green belt that contributes clearly and directly to the environmental quality of the cities and towns we live in.
Given that around 20 to 30 Anglican churches are closed for regular worship every year, may we have an urgent debate on how we can work with local dioceses to keep churches open? They include St Barnabas church in my constituency, which has been threatened with closure after being at the heart of the community for more than 120 years.
I am sure the House recognises that my hon. Friend makes an important point for many communities where churches have been so important for so long. If I may, I will direct my hon. Friend to questions to my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry), representing the Church Commissioners, on Thursday 4 July. His point would be most appropriately responded to then, and he has taken this opportunity to give our hon. Friend notice.
May we have a debate about the way in which we decide when and where high-risk defendants are put on trial? Last week Dale Cregan was sentenced to full life imprisonment for the murders of Police Constables Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes in my constituency. I am sure that Members from all parts of the House will join me in welcoming the news that he will never leave prison as long as he lives. However, the cost of ferrying this man and his co-defendants on a 70-mile round trip up the M6 to Preston every day for four months was more than £5 million, with real risks attached to the public. Greater Manchester police and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd asked the Government to reclassify Preston jail as a high-security prison, but this was refused and the alternative option of holding the trial at the Old Bailey was not taken up either. Is there not a better way to minimise both the cost to the public and the police and the risks to the public than transporting very dangerous criminals in that way?
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. I do not know all the circumstances relating to the case, or the considerations that led to those decisions being made. If I may, I will raise the matter with the prisons Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Kenilworth and Southam (Jeremy Wright), and ask him to respond.
Brighton and Hove are awash with uncollected rubbish and litter because of the inability of the Green council and the unions to reach agreement. Tourism, public health and residents are all being put at risk. May we please have a debate on this important issue?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. The irony will not be lost on his constituents that, although they have a Green council, the quality of their environment is being undermined by these actions. I know that my hon. Friend is doing everything he can to ensure that the issues are resolved, but it is important that the trade unions do not put the interests of the public at risk through the steps they are taking, and that the council steps up to its responsibilities. If he can bring the two together, I am sure that his constituents will be grateful to him.
On Sunday, I was delighted to join a Rossendale and Pendle mountain rescue team exercise on Pendle Hill. Local mountain rescue organisations across the UK are an invaluable life-saving emergency service, run entirely by volunteers and funded by charitable donations. May we have a debate on mountain rescue in the UK and on what Members across the House can do to support local groups?
I very much agree with my hon. Friend about the importance and value of the service provided by mountain rescue teams. They are central to the emergency response in their areas and work routinely with the emergency services in exercises. They are also integral to the work of local resilience forums, and it is not least for that reason that the Government provide financial support to the three mountain rescue organisations, including £128,000 to Mountain Rescue England and Wales over the four years to 2014-15. I cannot promise a debate, but it may be appropriate for my hon. Friend and other colleagues with a constituency interest in the matter to approach the Backbench Business Committee. None the less, I am sure that the mountain rescue organisations will be grateful for his and other Members’ interest and support.
With just over a year to go, may we have a debate to celebrate the fact that Yorkshire councils and the UK Government have finally reached a conclusion on how best to make the Tour de France 2014 the best ever? As a Yorkshire MP, may I thank the Government for the £10 million commitment and £21 million underwrite that they are giving? Will the Leader of the House also confirm that he is dusting off the yellow Lycra outfit in his wardrobe?
I will be happy to be a spectator at the Tour de France, although I confess that that might not be in Yorkshire but in my own constituency when the tour comes through there afterwards. I shall not be cycling myself, but I shall be glad to be there cheering.