The business for the week commencing 2 September is as follows:
Monday 2 September—Launch of the second report from the Procedure Committee on private Members’ Bills, followed by a debate on a motion relating to the future for postal services in rural areas, followed by a debate on a motion relating to the all-party parliamentary cycling group’s report, “Get Britain Cycling”. The subjects for these debates have been nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.
Tuesday 3 September—Second Reading of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill.
Wednesday 4 September—Opposition day [6th allotted day]. There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.
Thursday 5 September—A general debate on high-cost credit, followed by a general debate on the north-east independent economic review report. The subjects for these debates have been nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 6 September—Private Members’ Bills.
The provisional business for the week commencing 9 September will include:
Monday 9 September—Consideration in Committee of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill (Day 1).
Tuesday 10 September—Consideration in Committee of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill (Day 2).
Wednesday 11 September—Conclusion in Committee of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill. The Chairman of Ways and Means is expected to name Opposed Private Business for consideration.
Thursday 12 September—Business to be nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 13 September—Private Members’ Bills.
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 9 and 12 September will be:
Monday 9 September—General debate on an e-petition relating to age-related tax allowances.
Thursday 12 September—General debate on UK trade and investment.
As this is the last business questions before the summer recess, may I, on behalf of the House, thank all its staff for their hard work? I hope that they have a good and very well-deserved break before we return at the beginning of September.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for the first two weeks in September.
It is Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday today, and I am sure that all Members across the House will want to wish him well as he fights his illness in hospital.
Last week I said that this Government have a blind spot when it comes to women. The Leader of the House told me that he did not agree, so what does he have to say about yesterday’s mocking of the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan), who was miaowed and clawed at behind her back while speaking in the Chamber because of the outfit she was wearing? Does he think that this boorish behaviour by his Back Benchers is acceptable?
As the House adjourns for the summer recess this afternoon, may I take this opportunity to thank you, Mr Speaker, and all the House staff for the support provided to Members and their staff throughout the year? We are very grateful to all House staff for the support that they give us.
Before everyone heads off to their constituencies for the recess, I would like to give some end-of-term awards. The Man of the People award goes to the Chancellor for his posh burgers and mockney accent. The Bungle of the Year award goes to the Defence Secretary for his spectacularly bad attempt at making a statement to the House on Army reserves. The most contested category, Smear of the Year, was this week snatched by the late entry by the Health Secretary, ably assisted by his barnacle-scraper, Lynton Crosby.
With the Lords due to sit until the end of July and the Commons not due to return until early September, it is clear that this Parliament is no more joined up than this Government. With the two Houses now completely out of kilter, it is practically impossible for Joint Committees to meet. Does the Leader of the House really think that that is a desirable state of affairs, and will he make sure that this practice is brought to an end?
I note that we are to discuss the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill in the first two weeks back. The Bill is not even 24 hours off the press but it is already being derided by campaigners, charities and lobbyists alike for failing to regulate over 80% of the industry. The Government’s Bill is a cheap, partisan attack on Opposition funding. It is constructed solely to divert attention from the real lobbying scandals of their dodgy donors dinners in Downing street.
It has been a bad week for Australians both in the Ashes and in No. 10. At Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday, the Prime Minister once more pointedly avoided answering the question of whether he had discussed the plain packaging of cigarettes with Lynton Crosby. The Leader of the House may remember saying when he was Health Secretary:
“The evidence is clear that packaging helps to recruit smokers, so it makes sense to consider having less attractive packaging. It’s wrong that children are being attracted to smoke by glitzy designs on packets.”
Why has he changed his mind on this issue? I wonder whether he agrees with the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), who tweeted yesterday:
“I’ve seen how election strategists drive current policy & simply untrue to suggest otherwise. It’s why we must know who else pays them”.
Quite so. It is clearly now in the public interest that the House is given full information about Lynton Crosby’s influence. At a minimum, he should publish his client list immediately. Will the Leader of the House support our calls for an inquiry into whether the ministerial code has been broken?
In his hysterical attacks on trade unions in the past few weeks, the Prime Minister has been emulating Senator McCarthy, but this week it has been more like Big Brother from “Nineteen Eighty-Four”. In that masterful novel, George Orwell wrote that the Party’s slogan was:
“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”
I think that we might just have found the Conservative party’s new motto.
We may be living in Tory Orwellian times in which the Government think that Newspeak trumps reality, but we will not let their propaganda go unchecked. They can make all the claims they like about the NHS, but we know that it was they who did not act on 14 failing trusts. They can pretend that plan A is working, but we know that we have had a weaker recovery than during the great depression and that long-term unemployment is at a 17-year high. They can blame anyone other than themselves for as long as they like, but the British people will not be fooled. If the Conservatives want to play Orwellian games for the next two years, they can carry on as they did last week, but they should not think for a minute that they will get away with it.
I am grateful to the shadow Leader of the House. I am not sure whether, in the midst of what she said, there were any requests relating to the future business, but I will try to answer the points that she raised.
Most pleasurably, I join the shadow Leader of the House in sending our congratulations to ex-President Mandela on his 95th birthday. He is an inspiration and an extraordinary man. The extraordinary nature of his capacities is further illustrated by the promising progress in his health. That is something in which we can all take pleasure.
The hon. Lady asked about the relationship between sittings in this House and in the other place. I am happy to discuss the operation of Joint Committees with colleagues across both Houses. That is something that we should certainly look at. However, it is for this House and the other place to determine when they sit. The other place does not sit in September, whereas we rise earlier for the summer and sit in September. We have different approaches, but they are not necessarily disjointed because there are differences in the flow of business in the two Houses that make them perfectly sensible.
The hon. Lady talked about the lobbying Bill, which was published yesterday. It will indeed have its Second Reading and pass through Committee in the first two weeks back in September. I was surprised by what she said; I do not understand how the Bill can be an attack on Opposition funding since it says nothing about Opposition funding. The only thing that is in the Bill—
It is not in the Bill. Let me make that clear to the hon. Lady.
I wrote to the Leader of the Opposition earlier this week because he said in a speech that he wanted the participation of trade union members in the political funds of trade unions to be a deliberate choice. If that is what he wants, the Bill is available as a legislative framework to enable it to happen. If he believes in it, he should be willing to legislate for it. We have made him that offer and he should respond to it. In practical terms, if he wants to take up that offer and demonstrate that he means what he says, he needs to come back to us in the next three or four weeks to enable those amendments to be available for the Committee stage in September.
The hon. Lady talked about the NHS. I have listened to the exchanges, but the shadow Leader of the House should not have entered into the argument about our not doing anything in relation to the 14 trusts. I know about the matter because I have been Secretary of State for Health and shadow Secretary of State for Health. I was shadow Secretary of State when the then Secretary of State and Minister of State stood at the Dispatch Box and told us that Mid Staffs was an isolated incident and that nothing comparable was happening anywhere else in the NHS. They dismissed the idea that there were systemic problems in the NHS—they waved it away. I stood at the Dispatch Box for the Opposition on 30 November 2009 and asked why the then Secretary of State was dismissing the problems at the Basildon and Thurrock hospitals and saying that nothing would be done about them.
When I was Secretary of State, I stood at the Dispatch Box and made it clear that we were taking responsibility by moving NHS trusts towards foundation trust status not on the basis of their finances and governance, but on the basis of achieving quality. I said that we would use the NHS Trust Development Authority to make that happen. Agreements were put in place with NHS trusts to make that happen. I am sorry, but I will not take any lectures from the Labour party on that issue.
I will also not accept lessons from the Labour party on standardised packaging, which again relates to my former role as Secretary of State for Health. I saw what the Leader of the Opposition wrote to the Cabinet Secretary yesterday. I am afraid that it proceeds from a complete misunderstanding or misapprehension of the position. As Secretary of State for Health, I made no bid to the then Leader of the House for a place for such legislation in the Queen’s Speech for this Session. Why was that? As I said in the consultation that I launched on standardised packaging, I had an open mind. My successor as Secretary of State and other Health Ministers have come to the Dispatch Box and said that the Government have continued not to make a decision. As there was no bid from the Department of Health for a place in the Queen’s Speech, there cannot, by definition, have been any decision to take it out. I am afraid that this has all proceeded from a misunderstanding.
To be more cheerful, I hope the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) enjoys the sunshine in Wallasey over the summer. When she is thinking about the Opposition day debate, I am sure she will find that she still has a number of possible subjects to choose from in September. Perhaps she will choose to have a debate to celebrate the Government’s cutting net migration by a third, or a debate to celebrate the fact that the latest unemployment figures are down and employment is up, with 1.3 million more new jobs in the private sector. We are creating jobs in the private sector nearly five times as fast as jobs are being lost in the public sector. Perhaps she will choose a debate to celebrate the crime survey statistics published this morning that show a year-on-year reduction of 9%, taking the figures down to their lowest level since the survey began. That is all being achieved under this Government.
Finally, the hon. Lady talked about a motto. Let me remind her that at the Labour party conference last year, its motto was apparently going to be “one nation”. I have looked, but in this calendar year in this Chamber the Leader of the Opposition has never uttered the words “one nation”. We know why he has not done so. The Labour party is not a one-nation party; it is a trade union party, not the party of one nation. It is owned by the trade unions and it does not represent the people of this country.
Order. As usual, I am keen to accommodate the interests of hon. and right hon. Members, but may I remind the House that we have two statements to follow from Chairs of Select Committees, and thereafter two well subscribed debates scheduled to take place under the auspices of the Backbench Business Committee? That means there is a premium now on saving time. We require economy from Back and Front Benchers alike, first to be exemplified, I hope, by Mr Robert Halfon.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is now 13 months since the brutal murder of my constituent Eystna Blunnie, and her unborn daughter, who died at the hands of her ex-boyfriend. Domestic violence continues to be a worrying issue in Essex, with a 14% increase in prosecutions in 2011-12. The Crown Prosecution Service has acknowledged that it should have done more in this case. May we have an urgent debate on domestic violence to stop such tragedies ever happening again?
I am sure the House will join my hon. Friend in his shock, and that of his constituents, at what happened to his constituent and her unborn daughter. It was a sad and tragic event. It is precisely for the reasons he describes that the Government are doing everything they can to provide support to victims of domestic violence and abuse. The Home Office has produced the violence against women and girls action plan, including a ring-fenced budget of nearly £40 million for multi-agency risk assessment conferences operating over 250 areas across the country. We want an end to all violence against women and girls, and we expect every report to be taken seriously, every victim to be treated with dignity and every investigation to be conducted thoroughly and professionally.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question. I hope to be able to bring forward proposals on the basis of consensus. I welcome the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee’s report, which is published today. However, I do not share its view that petitions could fuel cynicism. I think it is demonstrable from the Hansard Society’s latest audit of political engagement that the public recognise that the House is debating the issues that matter to them more. The petitions process and the work of the Backbench Business Committee have been instrumental in making that happen. I note, for example, that of the 21 petitions that have reached the 100,000 signature threshold, 20 have either been debated or are scheduled for debate. We can do more and I have said that we can. I am sure we can do that not by transferring petitions to Parliament, with the Government standing back and leaving the process alone, but by engaging together so that the public can petition their Parliament while also seeking action and a response from their Government. I am sure we can work together to make that happen.
In the light of the poll just published by the Bruges Group, which shows that 71% of those expressing a preference said that Britain would be better off being a member of the European Free Trade Association than remaining a member of the European Union, may we please have a debate on the potential benefits of becoming a member of EFTA?
My hon. Friend will know that if we make progress and get the European Union (Referendum) Bill—which is currency before the House, but which the Labour party, not having voted against it on Second Reading, is now seeking to frustrate by filibustering in Committee, although I am sure Labour will not succeed in that—we will enable a debate not only in this House but in the country so that the people can make a decision. From my point of view, one of the instrumental questions in that debate will be about how the people of this country believe in free trade and see its advantages. That can be achieved, not least through a renegotiation of our membership of the European Union. As my old boss of many years ago, Lord Tebbit, said, he voted for a Common Market in 1975 and he would like to have one.
Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on football governance? Football League appears to be incapable of sticking to its own rules and policies. It has allowed Coventry football club to be taken away and moved to Northampton without having seen a plan for its timely return, and it allowed player registrations to be moved out of the company registered with the league itself through the golden share, against its own rules. If Football League is incapable of sticking to its own rules, the Government should look into that. Will he find time for a debate?
I heard what the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend the Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham) had to say to the Business Secretary. He and other Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr Jones), have raised these issues at Business questions in the past, and I know they raise strong feelings. I cannot promise a debate in Government time, but I know that on a number of occasions there has been a compelling case, for many reasons, for the House to consider football governance. It is also something that Members might like to approach the Backbench Business Committee about. I will also talk to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and see what she can do to respond to hon. Members on this issue.
Yesterday the Minister for Schools announced a welcome increase in the pupil premium, targeted at children in difficult circumstances. However, Somerset county council is proposing cuts to its school transport budget, which will hit low-income families, and wants to ask schools to cover 50% of the school transport costs for those young people from the pupil premium they receive. That seems particularly mean and insensitive at a time when those Conservative councillors are giving themselves a 3% pay rise, so will the Leader of the House allow time for a debate? Does he agree that it is unacceptable to claim the pupil premium for that purpose?
My hon. Friend invites me to enter into a debate on decisions that are properly those for Somerset county council. If she wants to raise this issue on behalf of her constituents, it would be appropriate to do so on the Adjournment, so perhaps she can seek that opportunity. However, I entirely share the sense of achievement that yesterday’s statement takes us to the point where we are fulfilling the coalition agreement to provide an additional £2.5 billion in support of the pupil premium for the benefit of the most disadvantaged pupils. [Interruption.] I would have thought that that would be something to celebrate on the Opposition Benches, but I was struck by how few Opposition Members were able to come to the Chamber yesterday and express even a sense of appreciation for the resources being provided to support some of the children who are most in need of additional support in our schools.
Will the Leader of the House take the time to study early-day motion 336, tabled in my name, on Crossrail step-free access?
[That this House strongly welcomes the construction of Crossrail but notes with concern that seven stations on the new Crossrail line, Seven Kings, Manor Park, Maryland, Hanwell, Langley, Iver and Taplow are not planned to be step-free to platforms; notes that despite the assurances given by the Mayor of London (MoL) to the London Assembly on 14 March 2012 that full disabled access will be a facility at each of the Crossrail stations in Redbridge, no estimates have been made of the costs and benefits and no plans put forward by the MoL or Transport for London (TfL) to introduce step-free access at Seven Kings station; calls on the Government and TfL to ensure that funding is made available urgently to ensure step-free access at Seven Kings; considers that the lack of planned step-free access on parts of Crossrail undermines the Government’s aim that by 2025, disabled people have access to transportation on an equal basis with others; believes that in the context of an ageing population, the benefits of accessible transport to disabled and older transport users, parents and non-disabled transport users outweigh the costs of installing lifts; further believes that the exclusion of disabled and older passengers from their local Crossrail station contributes to the marginalisation of disabled and older people in public life; and further calls on the Government, Network Rail and TfL to make Crossrail a truly accessible rail line.]
In that context, may we have an early debate on the failure of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to keep his promise that there would be step-free access at Seven Kings station in my constituency, and on the decisions taken by Transport for London over the past three years to stop work on the lifts at Newbury Park underground station?
I will of course look at the early-day motion to which the hon. Gentleman refers. These matters are specifically the responsibility of the Mayor of London, so I cannot promise a debate on them, but in order to help him I will convey his remarks to the Mayor and see what his reply might be.
May I add my congratulations to Nelson Mandela on his 95th birthday? He is a truly remarkable man.
May I tempt the Leader of the House to give us a date for the Water Bill? We were expecting its Second Reading this month, but I note from the business forecast that it is not even scheduled for September. We have heard alarming reports today of possible disruption to our water supplies if there is a drought, and we are still awaiting the reservoir safety guidance from the Government, so it would be helpful if we could have a date.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her question. It is always difficult for me to resist temptation, but in this instance I am afraid I cannot offer her any guidance on future business beyond what I have already announced. As she knows, however, it is a signal achievement that we have brought forward the Water Bill, including the much sought-after provisions that will enable flood insurance to be obtained by those at risk.
A recent report has shown that the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust was the fourth worst performing trust in terms of accident and emergency services, yet five of its chief executives have left over the past 10 years and received substantial pay-offs. Does the Leader of the House agree that it is wrong to reward failure? When may we have a statement on these matters?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health has been assiduous in coming to the House to make statements on how he is trying to secure the best quality of care for patients and tackling failures, some of which are of very long-standing. The right hon. Gentleman will know that I have visited Leicester University hospitals in the past, and I am very familiar with the circumstances that he has described. I will not go into detail, but I will say that if we are going to make the progress that we need to make in many of our hospitals, we need to bring new leadership to the fore in the NHS. Some of our measures to promote a leadership college in the NHS were particularly designed to bring more clinicians to the point at which they will be able to take chief executive posts across the NHS. There are some excellent examples, including Julie Moore at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham, and we need more like her who are in a position to give the hospitals the leadership that they need.
Plymouth university’s Peninsula medical and dental schools have been a great success, and the university is keen to expand its excellent health student offer by establishing a new school of pharmacy to help to address health inequalities in the region. Some might say that we are producing too many pharmacists in the UK, but may we have a debate on pharmacy schools, to give us a better understanding of which regions are losing out?
I have had the benefit of visiting the Peninsula medical school, and seen some of the work being done there alongside Derriford hospital and the dental hospital in Truro. I wish it well in its work. We are working towards reforming pharmacists’ pre-registration training in line with the recommendations of the modernising pharmacy careers programme board. I cannot promise a debate at the moment, but my hon. Friend is right to suggest that there is a case for a discussion on pharmacy numbers and training. The House has not considered the matter for some time, and it would be relevant to do so.
Thousands of people —including, I hope, everyone in this Chamber—will be heading off shortly for their holidays and are likely to use the motorways. May we have a statement about the regulation of motorway service stations, because all of us who regularly use the motorways know that getting refreshments there is an enormous rip-off. Buying petrol there is an enormous rip-off. Somebody should be regulating these motorway services; it is most unfair to people with families who simply cannot afford to eat at them.
I can feel a John Major moment coming on, if the right hon. Lady recalls that.
I will mention the issue that the right hon. Lady has quite properly raised with my colleagues in the Department for Transport—not least because they might have a better answer than I do. For both the public services and the private sector, we always need to look where there is any degree of monopoly of supply. It is important for such issues to be looked at from time to time by the Office of Fair Trading.
Some months ago, I asked the Leader of the House for a statement on very slow departmental responses to parliamentary questions. My right hon. Friend worked his magic back then, so I wonder whether he could apply the same lubricant to the Ministry of Justice, which is now six weeks overdue in responding to constituent inquiries, including a named day question.
My hon. Friend will know the importance I attach to prompt responses to Members and I have sent the Procedure Committee some of the latest data on performance in the last Session. I can tell my hon. Friend that his question to the Ministry of Justice has been answered today.
Major health problems of diabetes, dementia, cancer, heart and stroke challenge us all. Health is a devolved matter for Northern Ireland. Would the Leader of the House agree to a statement or a debate to facilitate an exchange of information from the devolved Administrations to enable a joint strategy for all to be developed for all of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?
I know from personal experience that the devolved Administrations and the four countries of the United Kingdom work closely together on health matters and co-ordinate closely, while respecting the devolution settlement. I will see what plans Ministers from the Department of Health have on the specific issues that the hon. Gentleman raises and ask them to respond to him.
Doctors and other professionals are held to account for failures in their performance. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate to discuss how senior, highly paid council officers can be held to account for the profound damage they cause to education and other services when they leave a trail of incompetence and then just wander away?
I can see how people might feel strongly about particular instances of that, but this is happening in the context of a democratically elected organisation. Councils are accountable to their electors, and the officers of any council are directly accountable to the members of that council and the leadership of that council. It is really to councillors themselves and the leaders of a council that my hon. Friend should look on this matter.
The Leader of the House may be aware of the disappointing increase in the number of service personnel diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Given that we sent these service personnel into dangerous conflict areas, we must have a duty of care to look after them when they come home. May we have a debate to assess the size of the problem and what we can do to help our service personnel in their moment of need?
I am aware and I know many Members are very much aware and concerned about issues relating to the mental health of service personnel and veterans. The Prime Minister commissioned a report from my hon. Friend the Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison)—the “Fighting Fit” report—and we have implemented every single one of its 13 recommendations. That puts us in a much stronger place to provide support, and I know that my colleagues in the Department of Health and in the Ministry of Defence will continue to respond on this issue.
With all secondary schools in Brentford and Isleworth being either good or outstanding, I want to commend the work that head teachers and the Secretary of State for Education have done to improve standards. A recent CBI report last month, however, said that 39% of businesses were struggling to recruit STEM workers. May we have a debate on creating a better career service in schools and on how to engage more businesses in education so that we get the right skills for the future?
No doubt my hon. Friend will recall a recent debate on careers services that was initiated by the Backbench Business Committee. I agree with her about the importance of this issue. I think that the promotion of traineeships by my colleagues at the Department for Education will be of particular benefit in improving the skills, for employment purposes, of people who are as yet unable to gain access to apprenticeships or college education, but we are also supporting employee engagement in skills through, for instance, the employee ownership of skills pilot. Thirty-seven companies were successful in round 1, and Government investment of up to £90 million was matched by £115 million of private investment.
May we have a debate about the relationship between general practitioners and the Department for Work and Pensions? My constituent Fiona Howells is in a really difficult quandary. Atos has decided that she should no longer receive any benefits because, it says, she is fit for work. She is appealing against that decision, which is fair enough, but she has been told that she must provide evidence from her GP. She has been to her GP, who has told her that Bro Taf local medical committee has declared that GPs are not in a position to administer or police the benefits system, and consequently should write no letters—no letters at all—for their patients for tribunal purposes. That strikes me as very callous and unfair. It means that not only are people’s crutches being kicked away, but the carpet is being pulled from underneath them.
If the hon. Gentleman has not already raised the issue with the DWP, I shall be glad to secure a reply relating to those circumstances. However, the management of the processes involved in medical assessment for benefits has improved following the Harrington reviews. The Government are continuing to consider the important “fitness for work” report by Dame Carol Black and David Frost—which concerns, in particular, issues relating to GPs and helping people back into work—and hope to introduce measures as a result.
It has not been a bad week for the Australians when it comes to rugby league. They won the women’s, armed forces, police and student world cups in the festival of world cups, while France won the wheelchair world cup. There are exactly 100 days to go until the men’s rugby league world cup, which will be the first major sporting tournament in this country since the London 2012 Olympics. May we have a statement from the Sports Minister about Government support, and will the Prime Minister agree to adopt “Jerusalem” as the anthem for England?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding us about both those rugby league world cups. I look forward to watching the men’s rugby league event in the autumn. He may wish to raise the other issues during Culture, Media and Sport questions on the Thursday of the week when we return from the recess.
Further to our exchange last week about a debate on Prime Minister’s questions, may I ask whether we could, during that debate, consider renaming them “Prime Minister’s answers”? The Prime Minister seems to think that the possessive apostrophe means that his job is to ask the Leader of the Opposition and other Members questions rather than to answer them.
May we have a statement on the revolving door that exists between the Financial Conduct Authority and the financial sector that it is supposed to regulate? It was announced today that Julia Dunn had moved from the FCA to Nationwide, and on Monday it was announced that Christina Sinclair was moving from the FCA to Barclays. Many small businesses that were mis-sold interest rate derivative products need to be reassured about the fact that the designer of the redress scheme has moved to one of the main sellers of those products.
I will of course raise my hon. Friend’s concerns with my hon. Friends at the Treasury. As he will, I hope, have seen in the course of the debate on the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill, they are very exercised about these matters and are determined to ensure the highest standards of conduct in the banking and financial services sector, following up on the parliamentary commission.
We would be outraged if a black person was refused membership of a sports club based on their skin colour, so please may we have a debate on why it is acceptable for Muirfield to ban women from joining its club, and does not that bigoted bunker mentality make the British Open less than open and less than British?
May we have a debate about the procurement policies of Government agencies? Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, but are often excluded from tendering for public sector contracts, although there is some good practice, and I am sure the Leader of the House would wish to join me in paying tribute to Rugby borough council who last week received an award from the Federation of Small Businesses in recognition of its small-business friendly procurement policy.
Yes, I do take this opportunity to join my hon. Friend in congratulating Rugby borough council on its award from the FSB. The point he raises is very important, and that is why we are taking forward recommendations in Lord Young’s report to simplify and standardise bidding, payment and advertising of contracts, and to reduce complexity costs and inconsistency when trying to sell to more than one local authority. That will include the abolition of unnecessary bureaucracy such as prequalification questionnaires for small tenders. We hope to ensure greater access for SMEs to all the procurement that is available across the public sector.
Following yesterday’s performance by the Prime Minister—and bearing in mind that when we return in September for three days of the second week we will discuss not any of the issues around lack of growth in our economy, but how our politics is done—can we have any confidence at all that he and this Government will take seriously the real concerns about the way the Conservative party is funded? My right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) made it clear that the Labour party is going to deal with its issues; when are this Government going to deal with their issues around party funding?
I am quite interested that the hon. Gentleman says he wants to talk about issues relating to funding in September. I have just announced business relating to transparency of lobbying, non-party campaigning and trade union administration. That will be at the forefront of business here. The point he makes is that he does not want to talk about growth in the economy, and his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition did not raise issues relating to growth in the economy and employment. Why? Because we are seeing growth: we are seeing increases in employment and we are seeing unemployment coming down because we are seeing a healing economy, one that is in complete contrast to the earlier 7.2% reduction in gross domestic product, a consequence of the bust that happened under the last Government.
May we have a statement regarding the changing of the goalposts in relation to Remploy employees being able to make social enterprise bids in Coventry and Birmingham? Why have they been lumped together and put out to private tender?
The hon. Gentleman will recall that the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral West (Esther McVey), has made two statements in relation to Remploy in recent weeks, but I will of course raise the point he mentions with her.
Representation of the People Act 1981 (Amendment) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Thomas Docherty presented a Bill to amend the Representation of the People Act 1981 to amend the period of imprisonment which disqualifies a person from membership of the House of Commons; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 6 September, and to be printed (Bill 99).