House of Commons
Thursday 20 June 2013
The House met at half-past Nine o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Business Before Questions
Contingencies Fund Account 2012-13
That there be laid before this House an Account of the Contingencies Fund, 2012-13, showing:
(1) A Statement of Financial Position;
(2) A Statement of Cash Flows; and
(3) Notes to the Accounts; together with the Certificate and Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General thereon.—(Greg Clark)
Oral Answers to Questions
Culture, Media and Sport
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport was asked—
National Museums (2010 Spending Review)
The 2010 spending review protected free admission to the permanent collections of our national museums by limiting cuts in resource funding to 15% in real terms. Resource grant funding for national museums will reduce by only 5% in 2015-16, and they will be given flexibility to manage their budgets independently.
With the Science Museum Group’s projected deficit to increase from the current £2 million to £4 million or even £6 million, depending on the outcome of the spending review, what confidence does the Minister have in the future viability of that group, and in it maintaining the historically important collections at Manchester’s Liverpool Road station site, home of the Museum of Science and Industry?
Since the Science Museum Group took over the running of the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, visitor numbers have risen by 30%, so the answer is there; the group is running MOSI incredibly effectively, and will continue to run its three or four outposts outside London effectively.
While Government money is, of course, important, will the Minister join me in celebrating the amazing fundraising work of our museums, including the Submarine museum in Gosport, which has raised more than £6.5 million through heritage funding and lots of fundraising in order to restore HMS Alliance?
16. The artefacts in the science museums, including locomotives in the National Railway museum, are expensive to maintain and that museum is concerned it will not have enough money for conservation, preservation, research and dissemination of information about its collections. Will the Minister address specifically that point in his evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee? (160620)
Entertainment Industry (Low-paid/Unpaid Jobs)
The national minimum wage underpins wage levels for those at work and applies equally in the creative sector as elsewhere. The Government support industry in its efforts to provide employment opportunities for young people in the entertainment industry through initiatives such as the creative employment programme, the charity Creative Access, and the forthcoming launch of UK Music’s skills academy.
I thank the Minister for that response, and I particularly welcome what he said yesterday about paid internships in the creative industries. It is still the case, however, that many professional freelancers are expected to work for nothing or for very low pay. Sometimes, everyone involved in a production is being paid except for the musicians and actors who are fronting it up. What will the Minister do about that?
The exploitation of interns is unacceptable, and as I said, the music industry is working hard. In particular, UK Music takes a strong lead on the issue and is setting up the UK music skills academy. The charity Creative Access, with the BPI, will give work experience to 300 individuals who will be paid. I pay tribute to the hon. Lady who continues to campaign on this matter and many other issues in the music industry.
Does my hon. Friend consider that the question seriously underestimates the value of extras and walk-on parts in the theatre and the palace of varieties? One needs walk-on parts to swell a progress, start a scene or two—to be deferential, or glad to be of use. Is not one of the problems with too many theatre troupes that everyone wants to play the role of Hamlet, which is just not possible?
Does the Minister realise that there is such a pool of talent out there, including people with high, graduate qualifications? Surely we could use those people as a resource in our schools, for example, or leading community groups and so on. We must think of new ways and channels to use these young people to give them a start and an income.
The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point, so I hope that he will support the Government, who want to allow people to teach in schools if they have the ability to inspire our young people, rather than shut them out artificially by forcing them to take a teaching degree.
Surely it cannot be right that musicians and entertainers are about the only group of industrial workers still expected to work for nothing in the 21st century. Will the Minister guarantee that no Government or Government-sponsored event will now ever allow musicians to go unpaid?
Broadband (Rural Areas)
Twenty-six local broadband contracts have now been signed under our rural broadband programme, representing over 70% of funding. Derbyshire supplier bids are expected in July, with installation commencing in 2014, and the first cabinets are expected to be rolled out in advance of the Tour de France cycle race, which is scheduled to visit England in July 2014.
May I stress how vital faster broadband is for the vitality and viability of the rural economy? I often refer to it as the fourth utility. Faster internet access will be crucial to rural areas if we are to not only retain our businesses, but attract new ones. Will the Secretary of State reassure my local businesses that the Government remain committed to faster broadband rolled out to rural areas such as the High Peak?
I can say absolutely yes, which is why we have got a £1.2 billion infrastructure programme already under way, meaning that more than 10 million more homes and businesses will get access to superfast broadband by the end of the Parliament. Furthermore, the rural community broadband fund is already further supporting rural communities, having made its first award to Rothbury in Northumberland. My hon. Friend will be aware that many local authorities with large rural communities in areas such as Lancashire, Cheshire and Cambridgeshire are going further with investment. I know that he will be doing all he can to encourage his local authority to do likewise.
The Financial Times reported last week that the National Audit Office was to deliver a very critical report on this exercise, arguing that it failed to deliver a proper bidding process, after only BT bid, saying it lacked competition and describing it as
“a train crash waiting to happen”.
Why did Ministers forget the importance of competition in this exercise?
Good progress is being made in Gloucestershire on broadband, but does the Secretary of State agree that it is important to work with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in promoting local small businesses in places such as Stroud, Dursley and Nailsworth?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We must ensure that when we have access to superfast broadband in local areas, businesses understand its value, and that is why we have always said that this is not only about investing in the roll-out of this infrastructure, but about ensuring that businesses understand how it can help them.
Last week, I attended the launch of Digital Teesdale. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating Labour Durham county council and the voluntary group Barnard Castle Vision, which are the partners that have delivered it, and will she say why she is signing contracts for delivery in 2016, when her target is for delivery in 2015?
I thank the hon. Lady for raising such an important project as the one in Durham. It is such projects that can make a real difference, filling in the gaps of the national programme. On the delivery of the programmes, we are pushing hard to get roll-out as quickly as possible, and she will of course know that a considerable number of local authorities have already opened their first boxes. That progress will continue apace. As I said earlier, 70% of the funding allocations have already been signed off.
Two thirds of premises in the UK now have superfast broadband available and 100,000 more homes and businesses are getting coverage every week. Average speeds increased by 69% last year.
I do not think that this is going fast enough, and that is not good enough. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the New Economics Foundation, which has published a report this week showing how the country could get much better value for the billions that are about to be spent on HS2 by diverting some of those billions into superfast broadband? Does she agree with Sir Charles Dunstone, the chairman of Talk Talk, who also says that HS2 money would be better spent by investing in high-speed broadband, and will she please stand up for this with her colleagues in Cabinet?
My right hon. Friend clearly has many things to say on high-speed rail, but I will leave that for another Minister. I can tell her that 100,000 more homes and businesses every week are getting access to superfast broadband. We are leading the way in Europe on investment in broadband, and we are in the top three of EU members states on coverage, take-up, usage and choice.
The Government backed north Yorkshire early on and we are about to deliver on having 90% homes with superfast broadband by early next year. We need a little bit more money to get to 95%. Will the Secretary of State meet me to discuss how much we need?
I am always happy for hon. Friends to meet the Minister responsible, and I am sure he will make that a priority. [Laughter.] In all seriousness, my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith) is right: we want even more coverage in the country. I would perhaps ask him to look in detail at how the rollout of 4G will help his community, which, after all, will leave the country with 98% coverage in its access to superfast facilities.
Sport (West Lancashire)
The latest participation figures show that 37% of people in West Lancashire are playing sport once a week, which is above the national average. In addition, Lancashire is hosting both an Ashes test and the rugby league world cup this year, which I am sure will maintain enthusiasm for sport in the county.
Participation rates in the north-west have fallen and Conservative-run West Lancashire borough council has closed Skelmersdale sports centre with no replacement in sight, provided unplayable football pitches due to inadequate drainage, and has made deep cuts in leisure service provision while sitting on tens of millions of pounds in reserves. Does the Minister think that the borough council’s approach is the right one to achieve an increase in participation rates and honour the Olympic legacy?
The hon. Lady needs to be careful with her figures. If she is arguing that the participation rates have fallen, that is only for the winter. I was told that rugby league, which is big in her part of the world, had a week in which 96% of all its fixtures were cancelled. That explains the drop-off in participation. [Interruption.] Well yes; because when there is snow on the ground you can’t play rugby league. I would have thought that as the shadow Secretary of State, the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) could have probably worked that out. The fact is that participation rates are above the national average in the part of the world the hon. Member for West Lancashire (Rosie Cooper) represents. I encourage local authorities to make use of both the Olympic effect and the many sports fixtures coming to her part of the world this year to drive up rates.
At best, the active people figure for West Lancashire has flatlined, and participation rates in the north-west have gone down. Overall, the country has seen a reduction of 200,000. It is less than a year since the Olympic games and what have we got? Some 68% of school sports organisers tell us that fewer children are doing sport and that they are spending less time doing it. While the rest of us looked forward to an Olympic legacy, the Government were wrecking school sports partnerships. Now they are blaming the weather for adult figures going down. Rather than riding on the back of fluctuations in the climate, will the Minister get to the Dispatch Box and tell us what he is going to do to deliver a sustainable Olympic legacy?
The first thing is that the hon. Gentleman has got his figures wrong. The second is that anybody with an iota of common sense would accept that if there is snow on the ground rugby league cannot be played, and that if there is ice on the road people are unlikely take their bicycles out. In the period since 2005 when we won the bid, up to the moment when, across two Governments, we delivered the games, London was the first host city to deliver a sustained increase—of 1.4 million—in participation. I pay tribute to the policy devised by James Purnell and carried through by the right hon. Members for Leigh (Andy Burnham) and for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) when they were Secretaries of State. We should celebrate the fact that this country has achieved what no other country in the history of the Olympic games has ever achieved. Ranting and carping is pretty stupid.
In the 12 months to April 2013, tourism spend by international visitors in the UK was up 13% to a record £19.9 billion. This result highlights the importance of tourism in this country, which contributes £115 billion on average to the UK economy each year.
That is very encouraging, but looking forward a decade, what projection has my right hon. Friend made of demand for passenger arrivals capacity and beds? Is she confident that the industry can meet that demand to maximise the export earnings opportunity?
My hon. Friend is right that we should always keep these sorts of things under close review, which is exactly what we do. He will be aware that Sir Howard Davies is undertaking an independent review of airport capacity and how we can better use existing capacity. He is due to report in 2015. As for accommodation, the figures for the UK overall show that we have a one-third capacity available in hotel accommodation across the country. There are particular issues in London, which is why I very much welcome this week’s announcement of £700 million of investment in luxury hotel accommodation at Nine Elms, which we should applaud the Mayor for securing.
I recently had the pleasure of attending the launch of Chester Civil War Tours, a new small company showing people the sights of the siege of Chester in the civil war, including the battlefields and also the pubs. What role does my right hon. Friend think heritage and culture have in promoting tourism in our towns and cities?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the importance of culture in supporting the tourism industry. That is why I was so pleased that the Treasury was able to understand the arguments we put forward and that we have secured such a strong deal for the culture sector in this country.
The situation facing the tourism industry in the north-east is unfortunately less positive. We have seen a reduction of 60,000 in the last year. What action will the Secretary of State take to ensure that the north-east is not left behind?
The hon. Lady is right to say that we want every corner of the country to have a strong tourism industry. That is why our “Holidays at Home are GREAT” campaign is the biggest ever domestic tourism campaign aimed at exactly what she is looking for, which is to boost tourism throughout the UK.
Few city regions have seen as much growth in the visitor economy as Merseyside over recent years. This has been underpinned by the work that the local authorities have done in the boroughs. What conversations has the Secretary of State had with Communities and Local Government Ministers about ensuring that the spending review does not put that investment at risk?
Through the work we do on the GREAT campaign, we bring together Ministers from many different Departments to ensure a co-ordinated approach to how we market Britain abroad. The hon. Lady’s part of England has a strong story to tell when it comes to marketing Britain, which is something I hope she would work with me on.
It is excellent news that visitor numbers and visitor spend rose last year to record levels, but my right hon. Friend will also be aware that the UK still slipped by one place, from seventh to eighth, in the list of top 10 destinations. Can she say what is being done to attract more visitors to the UK, particularly from China, many of whom are still being deterred by the cost and difficulty of obtaining visas?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that we always need to be actively marketing Britain abroad. That is where our GREAT campaign, with £37 million already invested, comes into its own. It is a campaign that this country can be proud of. As for visas, we have made significant improvements to the situation that we inherited. We have now seen an increase of, I believe, around 30% in visas from that country.
The tourism economy in Wales is worth £5 billion a year and employs 8% of the population, including many in my constituency. This week the Welsh Government announced a new target to increase that figure by 10%, including by increasing inward tourists from Ireland and the United States in particular. Does the Secretary of State welcome that and will she commit to meet and work with the Welsh Government to promote Wales, as well as England and the UK?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question. We work closely with the Welsh Government through VisitBritain. This is a shared objective. VisitBritain has a clear target of increasing international tourism by 33% by 2015, and that will mean some 200,000 extra jobs in this country. Tourism is an important sector, and we have some excellent support plans in place.
My constituency is particularly dependent on tourism. What discussions has the Secretary of State had with the Treasury about the capacity for reducing VAT in line with some of the countries on the continent? That might help the sector to grow, and would be particularly helpful to the tourism business in Somerset.
I understand the point that my hon. Friend is making, but there would clearly be a significant cost associated with any such change to VAT. I prefer to invest positively in our country as a place to visit. At the moment, the Treasury is not convinced that there is a correlation between a cut in VAT and any benefit in terms of figures.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research estimates that arts and culture had a turnover of £12.4 billion and a gross value added of £5.9 billion in 2011. The creative industries contribute £36.3 billion in gross value added, accounting for almost 3% of gross value added in the UK in 2009.
Copyright theft costs our writers, artists and musicians billions of pounds a year. Three years ago, this House legislated on action to tackle that. When is the Secretary of State going to show that she is not in the pocket of Google and the other internet service providers by doing something to enforce the will of the House and enforce the law?
The right hon. Gentleman will know, given that he had my job in the previous Government, that the detail of that legislation requires a great deal of working through. That is a huge priority for this Government and I can assure him that we are working closely to ensure that copyright support is put in place as soon as possible.
Does the Secretary of State agree that creative business incubators such as the workshop that is opening in Tontine street in Folkestone this month, along with the Government’s seed enterprise investment scheme, will give a real boost to start-up businesses in the creative sector?
A key element of any strategy for the arts and the creative industries must include support for all regions of the country. In these challenging economic circumstances, the Government should be working with local authorities to make the case for culture and to explain its social and economic benefits. Will the Secretary of State tell us what she is doing to help councils to support the arts and the creative industries in their local communities?
I am not doing what the hon. Gentleman is doing in supporting a council such as Newcastle, which wanted to cut its arts budget by 100%. I hope, given his question, that he now realises that that was a big mistake. I am glad that the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) intervened and overruled the decision that he had made. I could give him many examples of the work that we are doing to support the regions in this way, and I draw his attention in particular to our comments yesterday on the Arts Council, which is investing £174.5 million this year in national portfolio organisations outside London. It is of course the Arts Council that has the role of supporting regional culture and arts, and I think it is doing a good job.
9. What recent discussions she has had with her counterpart in the Scottish Government on the development of swimming in the UK. (160612)
I meet Scottish Ministers regularly to discuss a range of sports policy issues. Chief among those are the Glasgow Commonwealth games in 2014 and the Youth Olympic games bid for 2018, both of which include swimming competitions.
I commend the Government in England for making it compulsory at key stages 1 and 2 to teach children to swim. However, that entitlement does not exist in Scotland. There has been a call from the Amateur Swimming Association not only to train swimmers for the Commonwealth and Olympic games but for better swimming safety. It wants a national entitlement to swimming teaching. In 2011, six children died by accidental drowning in Scotland and 47 in the UK; the figure for adults in the UK in that year was 407. Surely it is a human right for people to learn to swim so that they do not drown if they fall into the water.
I do not know about a basic human right; it is a matter of common sense and safety. There is no doubt that there is a straightforward correlation between young people learning to swim and curbing deaths by drowning. I would encourage anybody to ensure that every single one of our young children is able to swim.
UK City of Culture Status
The potential benefits of becoming the UK city of culture will be increased investment in cultural activities, a great deal of media coverage and a huge increase in visitor numbers.
I am sure the Minister will be aware of early-day motion 156, tabled in my name, which supports Dundee’s bid to be UK city of culture in 2017. I realise that it would be difficult for him to say that he supports one city, but is he aware that not one single SNP Member has signed that early-day motion? Is that because they would prefer Dundee not to be part of the UK in 2017?
I think we will give that one a miss, because the Minister has no responsibility for the policies of the Scottish National party. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) is chuntering from a sedentary position that he has signed it, but I am not concerned with who has or has not signed it; I am concerned with the matter of ministerial responsibility. The hon. Member for Dundee West (Jim McGovern) has made his point; it is on the record, so we will move on.
Cultural Relations (Australia)
The Government continue to endorse the joint declaration signed by the Governments of the UK and Australia in 2000, which states that human remains in UK collections that come from Australia should be returned wherever possible. Decisions on individual claims are a matter for museum trustees or the governing authorities of the institutions involved.
I thank the Minister for his reply, but he will of course understand the importance not only to the Australian people but to the Aboriginal community in particular of returning these human remains based in UK institutions. What will Her Majesty’s Government do this year to ensure that the process of returning those remains takes place as quickly as possible?
I met the high commissioner a couple of years ago to discuss this issue, and it is certainly the case that the Natural History museum, for example, has already agreed the return of 138 sets of remains to the Torres Strait islands. I was pleased that the museum was able to host a Torres Strait islander to work with it on scientific and museum skills. I will certainly continue to keep an open door to the high commissioner, should he wish to raise the issue with me again.
Science Museum Group
The Department receives evidence from sponsored bodies as part of the spending review. The Science Museum Group has projected an operating deficit from 2014 and it is assessing a range of options to address this. As I said earlier, the national museums will see a resource grant funding reduction of only 5% in 2015-16 and a great deal of new freedoms.
I congratulate the Minister and the Secretary of State on securing a great deal from the Treasury to secure the future of museums in Manchester, Bradford and York. Does the Minister agree with me that, rather than consider charging an entry fee, the Science Museum Group should be looking at other ways of generating additional revenue from its visitors, not least as 5 million people have visited the four museums in the last 12 months?
Yes I do. It is this Government’s policy to maintain free admission to our national museums’ permanent collections, but museums can, of course, raise revenue in other ways. People who visit them using the free entry spend money while they are there. We have also, of course, made great strides in helping to increase philanthropy.
Working with VisitEngland, the Government are investing £60 million between 2011 and 2015 to promote domestic tourism, which I believe is a key driver for economic growth.
The Hoseasons group, based in Earby in my constituency, helps millions of holidaymakers to choose self-catering accommodation or short breaks in tens of thousands of properties across the UK every year. What is my right hon. Friend doing to work with companies such as Hoseasons in boosting domestic tourism?
Companies such as the one my hon. Friend has identified are working actively with us on the campaigns that we run and are often partners investing cash in these campaigns as well. With 104 million overnight trips in England made by British residents, their work is successful—and that success is clear to see.
Draft Communications Data Bill (Media Ownership)
Lord Justice Leveson's report made a number of recommendations on plurality and media ownership. This summer, the Government will explain how they plan to seek views on the issue and implement Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations. The Communications Data Bill is being led by the Home Office, and will not include provisions on media ownership because media plurality does not form part of communications data policy.
As I have said, Lord Justice Leveson dealt with that issue in his report—albeit not in a detailed manner—and we have agreed that some issues need to be considered further, in particular the lack of clarity in regard to how plurality should be measured and what constitutes a sufficient level of plurality. I hope that the hon. Lady will join me in seeking answers to questions of that kind in the coming months.
What a week it has been for British sport! Yesterday England romped home in the cricket match against South Africa, Andy Murray won at Queen’s Club, and Hampshire’s own—indeed, Basingstoke’s own—Justin Rose became the first Englishman to win the United States Open since 1970. I am sure that the whole House will join me in wishing our cricketers good luck in the weekend’s Champions Trophy final and in this summer’s Ashes. I wish Andy Murray good luck at Wimbledon, and I wish all the British golfers—whether they are from Hampshire or not—good luck in next month’s Open.
I pay tribute to all the work that my hon. Friend has done in this regard. As he will know, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill is currently being debated in the other place. We are continuing to discuss the issue that he has raised with transgender groups, but I gently remind him that it is actually an issue for the Ministry of Justice. Perhaps he could raise it with my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor.
May I take up the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Katy Clark)?
I hope the Secretary of State agrees that, despite our political differences and the occasional blip, and despite the fact that we are by no means out of the woods yet, we worked well together on the basis of trust and good faith, and worked well with the Liberal Democrats, in trying to sort out the question of press complaints following the Leveson report. However, as she has just said, we have yet to deal with the important issue of monopoly media ownership, which prevents the market from operating by preventing new entrants to it, as well as being bad for democracy.
May I ask the Secretary of State to do what the Government did before, namely set up and lead cross-party talks on the question of media ownership? We—and, I am sure, the Liberal Democrats—would be very willing to work with the Government to deal with that aspect of the Leveson inquiry, which is important and has not yet been tackled.
I observed no blips in our working together; I thought that it went very well indeed.
We have already agreed on how to deal with the issue raised by the right hon. and learned Lady. We will seek views on it in the summer. Lord Justice Leveson himself said that he was not able to devote enough time to considering media plurality matters in detail, and I think that we need to do so now. I think that if we are to provide the sort of broad policy framework that we need, we should seek views on those matters rather than engaging in further political discussion.
I am not sure we directly know the answer to that, but I will find out and write to my hon. Friend.
I had a meeting with the hon. Lady and a delegation some time ago, and she put a very compelling case for Halifax. We will continue discussions with the Arts Council about the future location of the Arts Council collection. Should we start to make progress, I will keep the hon. Lady informed.
T4. It is the Britten centenary, and the Aldeburgh festival has been another rip-roaring success. Will my right hon. Friend join me in celebrating arts outside the metropolis, including the fantastic performances of “Grimes on the Beach” that we have greatly enjoyed in Aldeburgh in the last week? (160626)
T7. Does the Secretary of State agree with me that the BBC should be open and accountable, and does she share my concern that the director of diversity will give me any details I want about ethnicity but will not give me any answer about education—about how many privately educated people work in the BBC and how many state-school people work in the BBC? Many people suspect it is stuffed full of people from private schools. Is that right? (160631)
T5. When News International was allowed to buy The Times newspaper, the condition was set that the editor could not be changed without the explicit approval of the non-executive directors. In the event that such a convention was broken, what would the Secretary of State’s powers of intervention be? (160629)
My right hon. Friend will know that John Witherow has been appointed as acting editor of The Times. Appointing a new editor of The Times is a matter for the independent national directors and shareholders. There would be an opportunity to intervene to enforce the requirement for separate publications to be maintained; that is really where my powers come into play.
The international festival for business is a national event, which next year will take place in Liverpool in June and July. A quarter of a million visitors are expected. It is supported by the Prime Minister, and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is providing significant financial resource. What support will DCMS provide to ensure that the cultural offer that supports the conference and the other events is significant and promotes all that the top arts and creative industries have to provide?
The hon. Lady raised this point in yesterday’s Opposition day debate. She also extolled the many cultural virtues of Liverpool, and I heartily endorse her comments. I am sorry that I did not answer her question then. As I understand it, the Arts Council is talking to Liverpool about the cultural support it can give around the international festival, and I will talk to the Arts Council about its plans, and write to the hon. Lady.
T6. The England football team is a valuable national asset, yet of the millions of pounds raised, over 50% goes to the professional game, not the impoverished grass roots; I speak as a director of Warrington Town football club, an example of the impoverished grass roots. Does the Minister intend to follow the Select Committee recommendation and make it Government policy to make a switch in regard to that funding? (160630)
The Government can clearly direct funding only when they provide that funding, which they do through the whole sport plans and the football foundations. However, the Football Association is a signatory to the new code we set up in 2010 at the last review of the list, whereby it is pledged to give 30% of its UK broadcast income to grass-roots sport.
I am sure the Minister will agree that the advice from Derry/Londonderry to the shortlisted cities for the second UK city of culture would be that inclusion, integrity and imagination are key to any successful bid in a given year. Will he encourage the BBC to be as well engaged with the second city of culture as it has been with the first?
I did not get the chance during the earlier exchange to congratulate Dundee, as well as Hull, Leicester and Swansea bay, on making the shortlist, and I thoroughly endorse what the hon. Gentleman says. I do hope the BBC will support the next UK capital of culture, as it supported Derry/Londonderry.
I think, in the nicest possible way, that the hon. Gentleman may wish he had not asked me that question. The Government have provided a considerable amount of underwriting. They have underwritten the whole event and provided the balance to make up a budget of £21 million. Unfortunately, Cambridge has yet to contribute at all, and that is one of the issues we will address in the weeks ahead.
One of the things for which I am eternally grateful is that my job’s remit does not extend to the appointment of managers or sorting out the weekly round of scraps on a Saturday afternoon. I think I will leave that to the hon. Gentleman, if that is all right.
May I congratulate the Secretary of State on at long last ensuring that all 21 flags of the British overseas territories and Crown dependencies were flown from Parliament square last week for the Trooping of the Colour? However, will she explain to the House why, for the state opening of Parliament, there were 21 empty flagpoles with no Union flags flying for the arrival of Her Majesty the Queen?
A full three months ago, this House debated a royal charter on the independent self-regulation of the press. It was supposed to go to the Privy Council. It did not. Meanwhile, certain recalcitrant elements of the press put their own royal charter in. Can the Secretary of State please explain to the nation what on earth is going on, and when she expects the Privy Council to consider the royal charter that was debated democratically in this House?
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government are working to take forward Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations in light of the cross-party agreements. A process is very much under way to consider the “PressBoF” charter, while making sure that the Government’s charter will be subject to full consideration at the appropriate time.
Women and Equalities
The Minister for Women and Equalities was asked—
In a guest appearance—figures released last week show that 6.785 million women played sport once a week, an increase of more than half a million since we won the bid in 2005. Through Sport England, the Government have awarded £1.7 million to the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation to help sports understand which groups of women are most likely to take up sport, and where sport should focus effort to best advantage. Women’s participation in sport is one of the key priorities of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Women and Equalities.
Having visited the very good girls’ secondary schools and mixed secondary schools in my constituency, it seems that the crucial time to encourage young women to continue with sport and physical activity is the year leading up to 16, when they might leave school or think of other things. What are the Government doing to make sure that at that stage, they are sold the benefits of staying fit?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely correct: the single biggest issue affecting gender-based participation in British sport in the last 20 years has been the post-school drop-out, which is most severe among teenage girls. The Government have sought to address that in the recent round of whole sport plans by concentrating on those in the 14-to-25 age group; by setting up 500 new satellite clubs, which will help to transition girls out of school and into sports clubs; and through the Sport England College Sport Makers, specialists in further education colleges who will help specifically with that drop-off.
A total of 36% of the medals won by Team GB were won by women, but women’s sport gets just 0.5% of sports sponsorship. What action is the Minister taking to ensure that this unacceptable situation is adequately tackled?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right to draw attention to the success of the many women who competed for Team GB last year. We tried to put in place a new sports marketing bureau, headed by Sir Keith Mills, responsible for drawing up the sponsorship for London 2012, but I am afraid that the sports en masse did not want to sign up to that and wished to continue to negotiate sponsorship agreements on their own. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport hosted the summit, bringing together people from the worlds of broadcasting and sport, and we are doing everything we can to address the crucial issue the hon. Lady raises.
A total of 81% of women feel that female sportspeople are much better role models than celebrities. What is my right hon. Friend doing to ensure that female sport is broadcast more widely so that those role models can get the exposure they deserve?
Perhaps I should turn up more regularly to this section of questions; I am being asked more questions than I was during the sports section. My hon. Friend is absolutely right and a key part of the Secretary of State’s initiative was high-quality advice from female broadcasters about how better to package female sport to make it more attractive. I am delighted to say that I have noticed since 2012 that there is much more concentration on it. It is a key part of UK Sport’s plans for the Rio Olympic and Paralympic cycle and we will do everything we can to ensure that those fantastic role models are appropriately profiled.
While the Leveson inquiry was perfectly justified in view of the scandalous behaviour of some of the press, is the Secretary of State aware that there is a good deal of concern not from the usual quarters but from the regional press, who were not involved in the scandals, from the New Statesman—
2. What steps she is taking to increase the number of female entrepreneurs. (160633)
We commissioned the Women’s Business Council to investigate how we can maximise women’s contribution to economic growth as they have a vital role to play. In response to the council’s recent excellent report, the Government will publish an action plan this autumn. It will highlight how we will improve web-based support for entrepreneurs and work with the British Bankers Association to improve women’s awareness of the financial support available to women entrepreneurs.
I thank the Minister for that answer. The Prince’s Trust is doing sterling work to support young entrepreneurs in the north-east, such as Emma Reilly in my constituency who set up a web-based design business with its support. It is worrying, however, that the Government’s new enterprise allowance is reaching only 30% of women. What are the Government going to do to ensure that that help reaches women to help more female entrepreneurs come into the market?
First, the hon. Lady is right to highlight the excellent work done by the Prince’s Trust and I am delighted that it has been helping entrepreneurs in her constituency. It is important that we ensure that the schemes available to support growing businesses are available to women as well as men and are marketed in a way that attracts women as well as men to apply for them. There are some positive points, such as the start-up loans fund of more than £24 million that has already been approved. More than 40% has already gone to women, but the Government recognise that this is an issue where we can and will do more. We are considering that in our response to the Women’s Business Council report.
Next week I am taking a group of A-level maths students to visit British Airways Engineering, including a large number of female mathematicians. What is the Minister doing to broaden girls’ aspirations and career choices?
I thank my hon. Friend for that question. It is important that women and girls are encouraged to take subjects that can lead them into a lot of different careers, whether in entrepreneurship or through science, technology, engineering and maths. We are working with the bodies in the engineering and science industries to make those paths more attractive to women and to encourage them to consider them as positive career options. We are also working further with the Department for Education to follow up on the recommendations of the Women’s Business Council, particularly on careers guidance.
Senior Business Positions (Women)
We support Lord Davies’s business-led approach to increasing the number of women on boards and our “Think, Act, Report” initiative encourages companies to report on gender equality in the workplace, promoting greater transparency. We have welcomed the recommendations of the Women’s Business Council in supporting women in achieving their potential in the workplace.
I thank Minister for that answer. Jane Atkinson, a senior engineer at Sembcorp in my constituency, does everything she can to act as a role model and encourage girls to take up technical careers. Will the Minister ensure that more role models are identified to show that manufacturing and industry are good careers for girls?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that, whether through mentoring or sponsoring, this is an important way of getting more women up the career ladder and into senior positions. However, we also need to make sure that they are considering non-typical choices in careers, and engineering is an important part of it. May I suggest that he looks at the Conservative Women’s Forum report that was published yesterday, which picks up on many of these issues and offers some practical ways of improving the current situation?
During the financial statement the Chancellor said that his Budget “confronts” our problems “head on”. However, a Treasury team of five men and no women produced a Budget that did not mention women in business once. With such poor gender diversity at the heart of Government, are we missing an opportunity to support female entrepreneurship and women in senior positions in business?
I have to gently disagree with the hon. Gentleman. He will see that at the heart of what the Government are doing is ensuring that every person in this country can achieve their potential. The changes in the tax regime will support women, as will the increases in access to child care that we have already put in place. Actions very much speak loudly on this subject.
Violence Against Women
The Government are fully committed to tackling violence against women and girls. We have ring-fenced nearly £40 million of funding up to 2015 for domestic and sexual abuse victims’ services. We monitor the impact of our activity through our annually published action plans, inter-ministerial meetings and regular engagement with the women’s sector.
But the End Violence Against Women Coalition’s recent “Deeds or Words?” report gave the Government a score of 2.5 out of 10 and the Department for Education a woeful zero—nul points—out of 10 for their efforts to tackle violence against women and girls. Have the Government made any assessment of why they got such a woeful score? What are they going to do to improve their score in future years?
I am grateful for the opportunity to put the Government’s side of the argument, because we have a strong story to tell. We have introduced stronger laws on stalking; we are in the process of criminalising forced marriage, in legislation that I am leading at the moment; we have the highest conviction rates for rape since recording began; and the Home Office is running a very successful campaign—“This is abuse”—aimed at addressing teenage sexual behaviour. The Government have a strong record and I hope that we can persuade more people of that when they write reports in the future.
My hon. Friend is right to draw the House’s attention to this appalling practice. I know that he uses that term because it is the one that is widely used to describe this, but I am always a bit guarded about using it because there is nothing at all honourable about treating women in that way. I am sure that that message will go out from every Member of this House, and I hope it will be heard increasingly right across the country.
9. Only 6.5% of domestic violence incidents recorded by the police actually result in conviction. What kind of message does it send if an alleged perpetrator can receive a caution despite extensive corroborative evidence? Is that the norm? If it is, no wonder conviction rates are so low. Or is it a question of there being one law for the rich and famous and another for everybody else? (160641)
There certainly is not one law for the rich and famous and another for everybody else, and if anybody is under the impression that there is, they are labouring under a misapprehension. I share the hon. Lady’s concern about domestic violence conviction rates, and we want to see them increase. Sometimes it is difficult to get a conviction in those circumstances, for reasons that will be obvious to everybody in the House. Domestic violence is an extremely serious crime, and although we have seen overall crime rates fall, we have not seen a marked fall in domestic violence rates. However, that is something we actually quite welcome because it may suggest a higher level of reporting of domestic violence than previously existed.
Women’s safety is being put at risk by Government reforms. According to Homeless Link, Ministers still have not sorted payments to refuges under universal credit, and it is now clear that sanctuary schemes are being put at risk. A woman who is a victim of domestic violence who has a specially installed panic room in her home has been told that she must pay an extra £12 because it counts as a spare bedroom under the bedroom tax. Another woman who is at serious risk from her abuser was moved by a multi-agency risk assessment conference into safe accommodation, but has now been told that she is under-occupying and will have to pay bedroom tax or move home again, when she is already feeling unsafe. It is no good the Minister passing the buck to local councils and chattering on about the discretionary housing payment, as his hon. Friends and colleagues have been trying to advise him. The fact is that such cases are happening across the country. Does he have any idea how many women are being affected in this way? Have Ministers even asked?
I caution the right hon. Lady about scaremongering in that way and trying to use this extremely serious and harrowing issue to make a wider political point about the size of the welfare state, which after all is a part of Government policy on which Labour is in full retreat and is increasingly willing to accept Government policy. There are discretionary payments available to councils in the circumstances that she describes and I urge councils to make those payments available in the right circumstances.
Our disability strategy, Fulfilling Potential, has been developed with disabled people. Through that we are removing the barriers that prevent disabled people from taking a full part in society. Recent indicators show that disabled people are seeing improvements in key outcomes and reduced inequalities between them and non-disabled people. We will drive that progress further when we publish a full detailed plan next month.
The Government have refused to do cumulative impact assessments on their welfare changes, but these were done recently by Demos and Scope for the report, “Destination Unknown”. They found that thousands of disabled people will be hit by four, five or six different cuts to their welfare benefits simultaneously. Does the Minister think the Government have their priorities right when disabled people will be hit by a loss of £28.3 billion of support, while millionaires are enjoying a tax cut?
The hon. Lady raises this point time and again and I have answered it. We do equality assessments on every policy change. A key reform that we have brought in for public sector duty is to ensure that equality is embedded from concept to development to delivery, right the way through. Cumulative impact assessments are not taking place because we have taken advice that they could not give a proper measurement as these changes in policy are being introduced gradually and those would therefore be inaccurate assessments. But we are doing independent assessment throughout to ensure that we are getting these policy changes right.
We already know that Government reforms are pushing tens of thousands more disabled people into poverty and 440,000 households which include a disabled person are being hit by the bedroom tax. Today’s figures from the Employment Related Services Association show that 94% of the largest group of employment and support allowance recipients joining the Work programme have not even been offered a job. Even the providers say that the Work programme cannot meet all the costs of getting a disabled person back to work, yet the Work programme is costing us billions, so can the Minister explain why it is not working for disabled people?
I would like to correct the hon. Lady. These things are working. For the first time ever, we have looked to support disabled people and have them fulfilling their potential. I am sure the hon. Lady will be delighted to hear that for the first time ever we are putting in place an employment strategy for disabled people, bringing together businesses and disabled people to look at how they can fulfil their potential. So far from what the hon. Lady is saying, it would be better if she looked at the figures and got it right.
Business of the House
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.
Points of Order
I hope that this is a genuine point of order and not a means of delay. There is no need to delay. I know that the Front Benchers are not here yet—or at least half of them are not—but that does not matter. We can get on perfectly well without them. However, if the hon. Gentleman wants to raise his point of order and test his vocal chords, I shall not decline him the opportunity.
Further to the point made by the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for North East Derbyshire (Natascha Engel), about how next week’s statement should be labelled, could you possibly ask the Leader of the House to ensure that there is no loss of the time available to Back Benchers as a result of this oversight by the Government?