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House of Commons Hansard
09 October 2013
Volume 568
  • I congratulate the Government on ending the unfairness in free school meals for 16 to 18-year-olds. Will the Prime Minister look to end the similar unfairness whereby sixth-form colleges have to pay VAT whereas schools or academies with sixth forms do not?

  • I will look carefully at what my hon. Friend says. It is good that we will now have the same system for free school meals for sixth-form colleges and for secondary schools and I also think that it is very welcome that children in infant school will not have to pay for school meals. I will look carefully at his point about VAT.

  • Q9. The Prime Minister will know from his script that I am an extremely proud member of the trade union movement, which seeks to stand up for millions of workers in the public and private sectors and whose living standards have been drastically reduced under his watch. What personal sacrifices have he and his family had to make during these austere times, given that we are all in this together? [900331]

  • I am glad that the hon. Gentleman stands up as a proud trade unionist and, just as I welcome the reshuffle, I am sure that Len McCluskey is delighted with it. Len McCluskey and the Leader of the Opposition probably would not call it a reshuffle—they would call it a purge, because Len McCluskey asked for the Blairites to be purged and they have all gone. The fact is that it has been tough and difficult in our country because of the appalling deficit and debt that the hon. Gentleman’s party left from when it was in government.

  • In my constituency, a school called Skerton is under threat of being closed down by the county council. I spoke to the Education Secretary about that and it has been generic over four years. Will the Prime Minister assure me that his office will look into the fair play on this subject, given that the county council education portfolio holder has said that in his opinion the school should close, even though the first part of the consultation has only just been completed? That was a few months ago.

  • I shall certainly look at the case my hon. Friend makes, but under our education reforms there are greater opportunities for schools to gain their independence and for new schools to establish themselves. I hope that he will consider all the structural changes we have made to education, because they might help in the specific case of this school.

  • Q10. Under this Government the cost of child care is rocketing, while wages have stagnated. Families are facing nursery costs that have risen six times faster than wages last year. When is the Prime Minister going to take action and adopt Labour’s plan to extend free nursery provision to 25 hours? [900332]

  • We have extended the hours that people get for four-year-olds, extended the hours for people who have three-year-olds, and for the first time introduced child care assistance for people who have two-year-olds. That has changed under this Government. We are also introducing for the first time proper tax relief on child care, so that people who work hard and do the right thing can get help with their child care. I hope that when there is a vote on it, the Opposition will support us.

  • Q11. One month ago I installed call-blocking technology in a partially deaf constituent’s home. This has shown that in the past month 65% of the calls that Mrs Moffat has received have been nuisance calls. Will my right hon. Friend commit the Government to do all they can to remove this menace, including looking at whether telephone providers should be profiteering by charging to provide information vital to trace these calls? [900333]

  • My hon. Friend makes an important point. I am sure he has advised his constituent about the Telephone Preference Service—TPS—through which one can stop some of the calls that come through, but it is a real bane in some people’s lives so I am sure we can look further at what else can be done.

  • On reflection, does the Prime Minister agree that allowing more time for further diplomatic discussions to take place over Syria was preferable to rushing in and bombing the country?

  • I think the fact that America was so clear that it would take action is what brought about a change of heart on the part of the Syrian Government. That is the real lesson that we should learn.

  • Q12. One of the biggest factors for many young people’s budgets is the cost of their mortgage. Will the Prime Minister tell us what would be the effect on mortgage rates if the Government were to increase borrowing by £27.9 billion, as the Opposition have called for, since promising iron discipline? [900334]

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. One of the most important aspects of people’s bills is the mortgage payments that they have to make. [Interruption.] The shadow Chancellor is shouting that it is not true, but he is committed to increasing borrowing. If you borrow more, you risk interest rates and mortgage rates going up. Families across the country understand that and they understand that you only get to grips with the cost of living and living standards if you have a proper economic plan for getting the deficit down, for getting growth, for creating jobs and for cutting people’s taxes—four things this Government are doing; four things the Opposition would never do.

  • My constituent Khuram Shaikh was brutally murdered and his girlfriend gang-raped while on holiday in Sri Lanka nearly two years ago. Justice continues to be denied and the key suspect is a close ally of the Sri Lankan President. Is the Prime Minister comfortable meeting this President at the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit next month, and what will he say to him?

  • I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s question. I think it is right for the British Prime Minister to go to the Commonwealth conference because we are big believers in the Commonwealth and in making that organisation work well and, indeed, work for us. But I think it is right that in going to the Commonwealth conference, we should not hold back from being very clear about those aspects of the human rights record in Sri Lanka that we are not happy with. If the hon. Gentleman gives me the details of that case, I will make sure that, along with other cases and along with other arguments, those points are properly made. Of course, those are points that we cannot make if we do not go.

  • Q13. Will the Prime Minister welcome the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, which came into force last week? It has the support of the Church, extra taxes will boost the Treasury revenues, and it will make the trains run on time. Can he say that about any other piece of legislation? [900335]

  • First, may I say what pleasure it gives me to refer to the hon. Gentleman as my right hon. Friend—an honour he fully deserves? I welcome the effect of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act, which has helped to bring revenue into the Treasury. It is also helping to deal with this scourge, which is a crime that we have seen grow in recent years, particularly because of the growth in the price of metals. The lead off the Witney church roof was stolen recently, and I know that the Act will help to make sure that that does not happen again.

  • Q14. Eighty-three per cent. of the beneficiaries of the Government’s proposed marriage tax break will be men; just 17% will be women. Why does the Prime Minister have such a blind spot when it comes to women? [900336]

  • I think that it is worth supporting marriage through the income tax system. Let me make this challenge to the Labour party: in government it gave a married tax break through the inheritance tax system; it gave a married tax break to the rich. I want to give a married tax break to everybody.

  • Does the Prime Minister believe that when the European Union forces my constituents to buy 20 cigarettes at a time, rather than their current 10, it will reduce the number they smoke?

  • It does not, on the face of it, sound a very sensible approach. I was not aware of the specific issue, so let me have a look at it and get back to my hon. Friend.

  • Q15. Why has the Prime Minister told members of his party behind closed doors that forcing through same-sex marriage legislation was a terrible mistake? [900337]

  • I have not. I am very proud of the fact that we passed same-sex marriage in this Parliament and very proud of the role I played in bringing it forward. As I have just been saying, I think that marriage is a wonderful thing, and that goes for a man and a woman, a man and a man, or a woman and a woman. It is a great reform that makes our country fairer. I hope that is clear.

  • With even Boris now admitting that his Thames estuary airport plan has no support, does the Prime Minister welcome Sir Howard Davies’s statement that some plans will not even pass first base environmentally?

  • I do not want in any way to interfere with what Howard Davies is doing. I think that he is the right person to carry out this report. I think that it is very important that we try to build cross-party consensus on the basis that it is a good report and a thorough process so that all parties will be able to endorse it when the report’s conclusions come out.