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Business of the House

Volume 571: debated on Thursday 5 December 2013

The business for the next week is as follows:

Monday 9 December—Second Reading of the Intellectual Property Bill [Lords], followed by a motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to terrorism, followed by a general debate on rural communities. The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Tuesday 10 December—Remaining stages of the National Insurance Contributions Bill, followed by: the Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration.

Wednesday 11 December—Motion to approve a Ways and Means resolution relating to the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill, followed by a motion to approve a money resolution relating to the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill.

Thursday 12 December—Select Committee statement on the publication of the first report from the Liaison Committee entitled “Civil Service: Lacking Capacity”, followed by a general debate on the fishing industry, followed by a debate on a motion relating to Ford and Visteon UK Ltd pensioners. The subjects for both debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 13 December—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 16 December will include:

Monday 16 December—Second Reading of the Care Bill [Lords].

Tuesday 17 December—Remaining stages of the Local Audit and Accountability Bill [Lords].

Wednesday 18 December—Opposition day (15th allotted day). There will be a debate on accident and emergency services, followed by a debate on food banks. Both debates will arise on an official Opposition motion.

Thursday 19 December—Business to be nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 20 December—The House will not be sitting.

I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 16 January will be:

Thursday 16 January—A combined debate on the second report from the Justice Committee on “Women Offenders: After the Corston Report” and the fifth report on older prisoners.

I thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business.

The right hon. Member for North West Hampshire (Sir George Young) announced this week that after a good innings in Parliament he will declare on 41 not out. I am sure that everyone will join me in paying tribute to one of the longest serving Members of the House, and I wish him all the best in his next choice of career. I will not predict a swift return this time, but may I suggest that his local party needs to incorporate an IQ test as part of the selection process for his successor to stop the Mayor of London sniffing around?

I note that on the Order Paper today there is a written ministerial statement on the progress of universal credit—a major announcement about a flagship Government policy that as recently as last month the Work and Pensions Secretary guaranteed would be delivered on time. The statement was slipped out just two hours before the autumn statement, and made available to the media before it was made available to the House. It announces major delays and the complete upheaval of the universal credit scheme, which affects millions of people. Despite the importance of the announcement, there is very little detail about what is actually going on. This is a contemptible way to treat Parliament.

When the Work and Pensions Secretary’s delusions about the practicality of his grand reforms collide with reality, he should be forced to come to this House in person to account for himself. Will the Leader of the House now guarantee that the Secretary of State will explain himself to the House at the earliest opportunity?

The Prime Minister’s unlikely infatuation with the Chinese Communist party continued apace this week, as he skipped Prime Minister’s questions again, postponed the autumn statement until today and flew to Beijing to deliver a framed photograph of himself and a biography of Margaret Thatcher. After being in the diplomatic deep freeze for three years, the Prime Minister took his re-initiation like a man and ended up feasting on bamboo fungus in the spectacular surroundings of the great hall of the people—and to think he was the one who accused my right hon. Friend the Member for Oldham West and Royton (Mr Meacher) of taking mind-altering substances. It is clear that the Prime Minister has been getting into bad habits, too; his press conference with the Chinese Premier consisted of two long statements, no questions, and concluded to rapturous applause from the journalists who had the honour to be present. I think the Lobby had better watch out.

The Prime Minister has been on more foreign junkets in three short years than there are Lib Dem betrayals, but the trade deficit has got worse this year, so may we have a statement on the value for money that these spectacularly expensive, taxpayer-funded PR opportunities represent?

There is less than an hour to go before the Chancellor gets to his feet to deliver the delayed autumn statement. We have had the usual raft of selected leaks to the press and Government pre-statement announcements. The Chancellor was even tweeting bits of it last night. He’s got form. In the 2012 Budget, we had tax U-turns on pasties, charities and caravans, and the word “omnishambles” entered the Oxford English Dictionary. In last year’s autumn statement, the Chancellor’s flagship Swiss tax deal and the 4G auction both raised less than a third of what he had scored in the Red Book, and large chunks of the last Budget were published before he even got to the House.

This year, the Chancellor has been busy getting his U-turns in first. He has been getting more incoherent by the day. He thinks it is Marxist to cap energy prices but positively Thatcherite to cap payday loans. He has been so panicked by the popularity of our energy price freeze that he has persuaded the Energy Secretary to claim that a £70 increase in bills is actually a cut. When will he realise that, on energy, only a price freeze will do? And while he is at it, will he realise that after the record £1.4 billion Euro-fine of banks involved in the Euribor and LIBOR fixing yesterday, he should accept the Lords amendments to the banking reform Bill that create a licensing regime for senior bankers? Will the Leader of the House confirm that he is planning to do that?

Despite the welcome news that our economy is growing again, growth is only a third of what the Chancellor predicted it would be in 2010 and we have the slowest recovery for 100 years. All the Chancellor has delivered is a recovery that helps a few at the top and leaves ordinary people hurting. That is this Chancellor all over—tax cuts for millionaires and a living standards crisis for everybody else.

I am grateful to the shadow Leader of the House for her response to the future business and especially for her very kind words about the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, my right hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Sir George Young). The House will have an opportunity, which I look forward to, to express its full appreciation of my right hon. Friend—[Interruption.] There is plenty of time yet. You never know with my right hon. Friend quite what is going to happen, because he has a habit of re-emerging in different guises. He has had more regenerations than Dr Who.

The hon. Lady asked about the written statement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, in which he set out the further steps we have been taking to trial, learn, implement and put in place an effective online digital system. [Interruption.] It is perfectly reasonable to tell the House about steps that are being taken in line with the policy to deliver universal credit on time and on budget, and my right hon. Friend has done it by way of a written statement to the House.

The hon. Lady asked about the Prime Minister not being here for Prime Minister’s questions yesterday. As it happens, and as she knows, the Prime Minister has been here to answer questions at least as often as his predecessors. In particular, he has made more statements to the House than any of his predecessors. What the hon. Lady said was wrong in relation to where the Prime Minister’s priorities should lie. He has, among many other things, been a leader in going around the world winning business for this country, and for him to be in China winning £1 billion of business will enable us, having almost doubled exports to China under this Government, to do more in the future. It is extremely important that we do so.

The hon. Lady asked the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill. I announced that the House would consider amendments from the Lords during our debates next Wednesday. If I may, I will leave that debate until next Wednesday, rather than pre-empt it now. The Bill will enable us to put in place effective banking regulation for the future, after the failure of the tripartite system that was put in place by the shadow Chancellor when he was the financial services Minister.

Speaking of the shadow Chancellor, we are all looking for him. We could not find him when the national infrastructure plan was being reported to the House yesterday, so we look forward to having him here today. I am sort of sorry that, in the business announced, the Opposition did not use their opportunity of an Opposition day before Christmas to debate the economy, as we could have discussed the long-term plan of this Government, which is clearly demonstrating that we are turning the corner and building a strong and sustainable recovery. After the small hors d’oeuvre of business questions, I look forward to a satisfying main course when the Chancellor makes his statement.

An Opposition day debate before Christmas would enable us to contrast what we are doing and what the Chancellor will say in his statement with the absence of any plan now from the Opposition. They had plan B. That seems to have disappeared, along with the prospects of the shadow Chancellor. Such a debate would enable us to recall, in a compare and contrast way, what the Leader of the Opposition had to say when President Hollande was elected, which I always rather relish. He said that what President Hollande was going to do for France, Labour was going to do for Britain. In truth, that is a contrast that, like their plan B, the Opposition now do not want to talk about.

Order. As always, many right hon. and hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye, but time is especially constrained today as the autumn statement will begin at 11.15. As a consequence, there is a premium on brevity from Back and Front Benches alike, beginning with Mr Nigel Evans.

Some 44 million people worldwide suffer with Alzheimer’s disease and it is estimated that the number will treble by 2050. May we have a debate on dementia to see what more we can do to help carers, those who have a loved one suffering with Alzheimer’s, and research and development in order to give hope to people suffering with Alzheimer’s?

Members across the House will share with my hon. Friend a sense of the importance that we attach to making further progress in the research into the causes of dementia and its treatment, and the way in which we as a society respond to those with dementia. I was very pleased that the Backbench Business Committee was able to schedule a debate before the G8 summit next Wednesday. I hope that with the progress we are making in research on dementia and its treatment, there may be further opportunities in the new year.

May we have an urgent debate on the Government’s policy to exacerbate the north-south divide following the announcement, which advantages the Leader of the House’s constituency, that the A14 will not be tolled but the Mersey Gateway will?

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was here yesterday, but the Chief Secretary to the Treasury was perfectly clear that it is entirely normal to toll estuarial crossings. If the A14, which passes through my constituency, had been tolled, it would have been the only main route tolled in circumstances where there was no viable alternative.

My constituent William Irving, a former soldier, has been held in prison in India for more than seven weeks without charge, along with five other British citizens. May we have a statement from the Foreign Office on what efforts are being made to try to secure the release of Mr Irving and his fellow prisoners and to look after their health and welfare, bearing in mind that he has been ill with dysentery?

I completely understand why my hon. Friend raises this importance issue for his constituents—other Members of the House are in a similar situation. Consular officials have been providing assistance since the men were detained, liaising closely with the Estonian and Ukrainian embassies, as nationals of those countries are also involved. They have visited them four times to confirm their welfare and ensure that they have access to legal representation. We are also providing ongoing support to their families in the UK.

The Leader of the House will know that the chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten, refuses to appear before the European Scrutiny Committee. May we have a debate or a discussion on how we can ensure that he is not abusing his position as a Lord to avoid appearing before the Committee, which wishes to talk about scrutiny in relation to European elections and BBC bias?

I am aware of what the hon. Lady is talking about. I note from Lord Patten’s correspondence with the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee that he expressly did not rely on the fact that he is a Member of the House of Lords in this regard. I will have conversations with the Committee’s Chair and the BBC on the matter, because there is a difference between independence for the BBC, which we absolutely must respect, and accountability, which should enable this House to ask reasonable questions.

I must say that anybody who is invited to appear before a Committee of this House should do so. No one, however senior, should imagine him or herself above such scrutiny. That is a very important principle.

My right hon. Friend will be aware of a proposal for a large offshore wind farm by the Navitus Bay company off the coast of Bournemouth. In the light of the Government’s announcement this week on onshore and offshore wind farm subsidy, my constituents are profoundly concerned that the development could go ahead. It has been shown that a third of summertime visitors would not return during the five-year period of construction and that 14% would never return. Will he provide an opportunity for the Government to reassure my constituents that some offshore wind farms are, and remain, as inappropriate as some onshore ones?

My hon. Friend makes his point straightforwardly and forcefully. I will talk with my right hon. and hon. Friends at the Department for Communities and Local Government about that, particularly the extent to which the points he raises are material considerations in relation to planning.

I am sure that the Leader of the House will have seen that Huddersfield university won the university of the year award last Friday, and, indeed, that last year it was the entrepreneurial university of the year. May we have a debate on student loans and the fact that the sell-off of student loans will be a very hard lesson for those people who owe money and will now be chased by some of the hard men of the loan business?

I gladly join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating Huddersfield university—as the Member of Parliament who represents Cambridge university, I am glad to do so. On his other point, I remind him that, notwithstanding the sale of the student loan book, the regulations and provisions that apply to the recovery of student loans will be no different for any future owner than they are for the Government now.

May I congratulate the Government on their announcement this week about keeping energy prices down and South West Water on its announcement that it will freeze water prices for the next two years? Unfortunately, Labour-controlled Plymouth city council is considering putting up council tax next year despite the Chancellor’s announcement that that does not need to happen. May we have a debate on this before the budgets are set by local authorities such as Plymouth?

My hon. Friend, like me, might have been surprised that when Labour Members responded to a statement on water bills they appeared completely to ignore the fact that this Government had taken steps to ensure that water bills in the south-west were kept down through substantial support to the local water company. This Government have enabled council tax to be frozen right through this Parliament. That is very significant, as is the fact that council tax doubled under the previous Labour Government. However, this is of course something that local authorities have to take up.

This week millions of Royal Bank of Scotland customers suffered inconvenience and embarrassment when they could not use their bank cards. The week before, it was revealed that businesses have been forced into bankruptcy so that RBS could seize their assets. May we have a debate on what is happening in this state-owned bank?

The hon. Gentleman will understand that I cannot offer a debate at the moment, but he will appreciate that during next Wednesday’s debate on banking reform issues may well arise relating to banking standards and the performance of the banks, including those in which the public sector—the Government—has a substantial stake, and he may wish to use that opportunity to discuss them.

In about 34 minutes we will hear the autumn statement for the second time. I am sure the Leader of the House is as horrified as other Members about how much of it has already been leaked. Previously, the Government have said that this has been due to Liberal Democrat Ministers leaking the information. May we have a statement next week on this very serious matter?

My hon. Friend will understand that, in so far as he is surmising anything, he is in fact speculating. We have not heard the statement yet, so let us hear it. I am sure that the recommendations set out in the Macpherson review back in July have been adhered to by the Chancellor and the Treasury. I hope that is helpful to my hon. Friend.

How can it possibly be right for the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to announce a complete restructuring of universal credit by means of a written statement and give it to the press two hours before he gives it to us, and to answer questions from the press before we are able to ask questions? Does not the Leader of the House understand the fundamental principle of his job, which is to make sure that we are able to ask questions? For instance, we would like to ask whether, when the Secretary of State says in his written ministerial statement that the majority of the legacy cases will be moving to universal credit in 2016 and ’17—the majority, note, not all—he really means that he would like to apologise to the House because he got it wrong two weeks ago when he said that this was on budget and on time?

I will be responsible for discharging my responsibility to the House and the hon. Gentleman can be in charge of his. It is important for the House to recognise two things. First, putting a written ministerial statement before the House is announcing something to the House; it should not be disregarded. Secondly, on the day of the autumn statement it is perfectly reasonable for the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, who will be seeing the Select Committee on Monday, not to be making an oral statement.

The most effective way of reducing incidents of stroke disease is by identifying and treating atrial fibulation. May we have a debate on improving access to and take-up of newly developed National Institute for Health and Care Excellence-approved drug treatments?

I cannot promise a debate immediately, but this is an important issue. My hon. Friend will appreciate that during my several years as chair of the all-party group on stroke, it was one of the issues that emerged. We are making progress on a wide front in relation to the improvement of stroke services and on fast identification and treatment of stroke. On prevention, I hope that what my hon. Friend says about AF will be emphasised in our discussions about improving stroke services for the future.

The overseas territories joint ministerial council took place last week and covered a huge number of issues that are of mutual interest to the UK Government, this Parliament and the overseas territories. Could a Foreign Office Minister be asked to come to the House to give a full statement so that we can hold them to account?

The hon. Gentleman will know that the second joint ministerial council took place in London on 26 November and that its overall theme was jobs and growth. The meeting covered a range of subjects and an ambitious communiqué outlining the commitments made was issued at its conclusion. The United Kingdom’s relationship with the overseas territories is a very important one. The Government would welcome any proposal for a debate on the progress made at the council. The hon. Gentleman may wish to encourage colleagues to go before the Backbench Business Committee at some point to seek time for a debate on the subject in Westminster Hall.

Has my right hon. Friend seen my early-day motion 845 on the future of the Harlow respite care centre for children with special needs?

[That this House acknowledges that the Maples children’s respite centre in Harlow is an integral part of the community that provides comfort and security to families and children with special needs; notes that Councillor Madden, Cabinet member for Essex County Council, has said that no final decision about the centre’s future will be taken unless alternative services that meet local needs are in place; strongly believes however that the Maples respite centre should be kept open as it is unlikely that similar alternative provisions will be found and that its closure would be detrimental to its hard-working staff, volunteers, parents and children for which the Maples acts as a lifeline; commends the petition ( that has been signed by 1,076 people; and urges Essex County Council to take note of the strong feelings of Harlow residents.]

May we have a statement on the future of the Maples home in Harlow, which provides respite for children with special needs and their families? Essex county council is currently consulting on the future of the centre and possible closure. Will my right hon. Friend urge the Minister responsible to look into the matter and see what support is available for the centre?

Once again my hon. Friend raises an issue of importance to his constituents, as evidenced by the number of signatories to the petition. He will know that short-break services are a priority for this Government. We know how they support children with disabilities and their families, which is why £800 million has been made available to local authorities for short breaks and why we have introduced a short-breaks duty requiring all local authorities to provide such services for disabled children and young people. As my hon. Friend will know, it is for local authorities to decide, in collaboration with local health services, the level and type of support they will make available. It is encouraging that the cabinet member for Essex county council has given assurances that no final decision about the centre’s future will be taken unless alternative services are available that meet families’ needs. I hope that is of some reassurance to my hon. Friend.

May we have a debate on the complete disarray in NHS England, which is causing ever-lengthening delays and increasing concerns about the future of two greatly needed health centres in Orrell and Ashton?

I am sorry, but I do not accept remotely the premise of the hon. Lady’s question. Given that NHS England formally started its work in April this year, I think that she and Members across the House should support it in its difficult tasks.

One of my constituents was forced to spend six months on unemployment benefit while he waited for the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to process his medical, after which his large goods vehicle licence was returned to him. May we have a debate on the way in which the DVLA’s administration could be streamlined so that constituents like mine do not have to wait unnecessarily for extended periods at vast cost to the taxpayer?

I understand what my hon. Friend is saying, not least because I have a constituent who was in a similar position. If I may, I will ask my colleagues at the Department for Transport if they will look at the issue, because it is very difficult for those with medical conditions who have their driving licence suspended. If they recover, the failure to process the reacquisition of their driving licence quickly can, at the very least, be of considerable and serious inconvenience to them and potentially costly.

Minister after Minister has come to the Dispatch Box and trumpeted the number of new jobs, but they are not able to say how many of them are part time or short hours, whether they arise from public sector reclassification or are zero-hours contracts. May we have a statement to clear this mess up?

On the contrary, I have heard my hon. Friends making it very clear that there are statistics relating to the number of those in part-time employment. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and others have definitions of things such as zero-hours contracts. There were never statistics under the previous Government. I am not sure why the hon. Lady imagines it is a fault on the part of this Government that we do not have those defined statistics, but she is right to say that we come to this Dispatch Box to trumpet the number of new jobs: there are 1.4 million more private sector jobs under this Government.

A few weeks ago, St Jude’s storm resulted in several thousand households in Suffolk being disconnected from electricity. The storm that is gathering in Scotland today is coming to Suffolk, with the entire coastline under a severe flood warning. I know that the Prime Minister has asked the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to chair a Cobra meeting. When will the Secretary of State be able to come to the House to make a statement?

The Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and other Ministers are very aware of the risk associated with a surge tide and the risk that the current storm presents to my hon. Friend’s constituency and others. Many Scottish Members’ constituents are already experiencing the effects of the storm. I cannot at this stage say when the Secretary of State may be able to update the House. At the moment, he is engaged in considering precisely how every measure that might be taken is taken to help support those who may be affected.

If we cannot have a statement on the universal credit debacle, may we please have one on exemption from the bedroom tax? Last week, the Prime Minister claimed that disabled people are exempt, although the Leader of the House mischievously did his best to attribute to him words that he never uttered. In reality, they are not exempt, and the extra money put into discretionary housing payments is nowhere near enough to make up the shortfall.

I have heard Work and Pensions Ministers repeatedly respond extremely well to issues of the kind raised by the hon. Gentleman, in response not only to questions but to debates initiated by the Opposition.

The Airports Commission under Howard Davies is due to report this month on a shortlist of options in relation to the future of aviation capacity across the UK. Will my right hon. Friend consider holding a debate on that in the new year, because it affects all regional airports as well as London?

We are anticipating the publication of Howard Davies’s interim report, and I am sure that the House will want to consider it. May I, however, gently remind my hon. Friend and other hon. Members that following the establishment of the Backbench Business Committee, issues that they consider priorities can be debated by the House through an application to that Committee?

Conservative North Lincolnshire council has said that it will not support people hit by the bedroom tax who smoke. May we have a debate in the House about how local authorities are or are not supporting people hit by the bedroom tax with discretionary housing payments?

The hon. Gentleman will know, because I have heard my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions say this in the House, that additional resources have been made available to local authorities to help those with specific additional needs as a result of the spare room subsidy. In relation to precisely what local authorities are doing, I was not aware of the North Lincolnshire example, but I will of course speak to my hon. Friends at the Department for Work and Pensions about whether they are aware of it and can respond to him.

I have absolutely no requirement for assistance with payment protection insurance, insulating my property or making a claim for an accident that was not my fault, yet I am inundated with phone calls offering me such assistance, as are people up and down the country. In the light of the publication today of a report by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee and of the sterling work by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh West (Mike Crockart) to get a debate in Back-Bench time, will the Leader of the House arrange for a Minister to report on how we can deal with nuisance calls?

It may be little comfort to my hon. Friend to know that he is not alone, but I hope that it may be some comfort to know that tackling unsolicited marketing or nuisance calls is being addressed through the measures in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport strategy paper that was published on 30 July, as he will recall. An action plan will be published shortly to set out future plans. I hope that it will be possible for Ministers to update the House during the type of debate that he mentioned.

Foreign students who get places at British universities but do not have good enough maths and English get extra coaching, but British students who are predicted to get good A-level grades but have grade C in GCSE maths do not receive the same support. Given the Government’s professed support for social mobility, will the Leader of the House ask a Minister to come to the House to make sure that that anomaly is dealt with?

The hon. Lady raises an interesting point. When I was at my old university in Exeter recently, I saw the substantial facility that it has to provide additional support to those whose first language is not English. If I may, I will ask my right hon. Friend the Minister for Universities and Science to respond to her on the point that she raises.

Why are the remaining stages of the Immigration Bill being delayed? It would surely make sense for the House to vote on whether to extend the immigration restrictions for Bulgaria and Romania in advance of their being lifted on 1 January.

I assure my hon. Friend that the Immigration Bill is not being delayed; it is simply that there is a lot of legislation before the House. In the future business before Christmas, I have announced progress on five Government Bills. Let me also explain to him that if there was a debate on the Immigration Bill in this House before Christmas, it would not necessarily have an impact on the timing of Royal Assent, because this is the first House that the Bill must pass through, not the second. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced important measures on this matter last week. I am therefore hopeful that regulations will be laid before the House shortly.

I was visited recently by a constituent who has terminal cancer. His condition will not lead to immediate death and he wishes to visit family and friends in Spain. However, he is unable to obtain affordable travel insurance. May we have a statement on what help the Government can offer to bring down the cost of travel insurance for individuals who find themselves in that situation?

That sounds as though it is a particularly difficult and distressing situation for the hon. Gentleman’s constituent. If I may, I will talk to my right hon. and hon. Friends at the Department of Health and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to see whether they can help.

Isa Muazu has been held for months in Harmondsworth detention centre and has been on hunger strike for more than 100 days. He is ill and cannot stand or see properly. The Home Secretary tried to deport him nonetheless, but the plane had to fly back from Nigeria. May we have a debate on why the Home Secretary has spent well over £100,000 on trying to deport a seriously ill man?

I will, if I may, ask the Home Secretary to respond to my hon. Friend on that specific case. Generally speaking, it is her responsibility to enforce the law, including immigration law, and she does that robustly.

I do not know whether the Leader of the House is a reader of fiction, but if he is I recommend that over the Christmas period, he read the Scottish Government’s White Paper on independence. Once he has read that paper, I urge him to come back and offer some time for a debate on it in this House.

As it happens, I have read the Scottish White Paper. Having read it, I was surprised to find that assumptions within it were overturned within hours. The House might want to seek an opportunity to debate that paper, not least through the Backbench Business Committee, because it is important to Members across the House.

In Harrow, reported crime is down by 10%, the clear-up rate is up by 22% and the number of police on our streets will be at record levels next March. May we have a debate on crime and policing so that we can proclaim the good news?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, as I am sure the Home Secretary and other Home Office Ministers will be. I cannot promise a debate straight away because the amount of legislation is putting such pressure on Government time that it is precluding us from debating the many successes of this Government, of which the reduction in crime is an important one.

Hundreds of thousands of people will have to use food banks this Christmas, so I welcome the fact that there will be a debate on them. Will the Leader of the House ask the Prime Minister to attend that debate? To support the case for that, perhaps he could use today’s Daily Mirror, in which Sara Broadbent, who has just had her hours cut from 16 to five, says:

“David Cameron lives just down the road and he could do a lot more for us… I’d like to be able to look after my own kids and have food in the cupboards but there are times…when you just can’t do it.”

Should the Prime Minister not account for the cost of living crisis over which he is presiding?

As the hon. Gentleman noted, the Opposition have chosen that subject for debate and Ministers will respond. In that context, I think Members across the House will support food banks and charities that support others who are in need this Christmas, and rightly so. Last Saturday, along with many others in my constituency I participated in a food collection at Tesco to support the Cambridge food bank.

May we have a debate on transparency in local government? In the past week, Labour councillors voted en bloc in Kirklees to approve a supermarket in Slaithwaite, despite local concerns and a last-minute plea from 39 local businesses. Members in this House are held accountable in a transparent way for how they vote. Does my right hon. Friend agree that local councillors should be held accountable for the way they vote and decisions they make on behalf of our local communities?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Councillors should be accountable for the decisions they make—[Interruption.] Opposition Members are helpfully making the point that if Labour councillors are making decisions that are contrary to the views and interests of my hon. Friend’s constituents, come the next election those constituents will have an opportunity to do something about it.

This week 100,000 people signed a petition calling for a cumulative impact assessment on the effects of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 on sick and disabled people. Will the Leader of the House agree to a debate in this Chamber on that cumulative impact assessment?

I did, of course, write to the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee noting that that petition had passed the point of 100,000 signatures. At the meeting on Tuesday that Committee received a submission from Members about a debate on that subject. It is now not for me but for the Backbench Business Committee to decide whether a debate should be timetabled.

Members across the House are helping constituent businesses with issues of bank bullying—I currently have cases involving Barclays, Lloyds and Yorkshire Bank. In the light of the Tomlinson report, may we have a debate on how we deal with that issue, which is high on the agenda of our constituents?

My hon. Friend makes an important point that, I reiterate, is germane to the debate on the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill. Lords amendments to that Bill will be debated in this House on Wednesday, I hope the important issue my hon. Friend raises may form part of that debate.

Many thousands of households in Wales and England are concerned about the recent registration of manorial rights, including 4,000 households in Ynys Môn. May we have a debate on that issue, and will the Government give reassurance and information so that we protect the rights of ordinary people in Anglesey and beyond?

The hon. Gentleman will know that registration of notice of manorial rights at the Land Registry is not related to rights relating to shale gas or oil. The Petroleum Act 1988 vests all rights to the nation’s petroleum resources in the Crown. Manorial rights have a distinct legal history, but can be legitimately bought and sold in the same way as other property rights. The registration of notice of manorial rights records existing rights so that people know they exist; it does not create new rights although it does, of course, help prospective buyers avoid what would otherwise be hidden rights. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that property owners who were unaware of existing mining rights when the notices arrived may have been alarmed by that, but I recommend they obtain legal advice, which should reassure them. If Members of the House have evidence of problems, my hon. Friends at the Ministry of Justice will be happy to help.

May we have a debate on the effectiveness of the shadow Chancellor? After all, he claimed we are entering a triple-dip recession, that we should model our economy on that of France, and that we can reduce debt by borrowing more.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It was in fact not just the shadow Chancellor but the Leader of the Opposition who, as I recall, said that what President Hollande is going to do for France, Labour would do for Britain. We are looking forward to a demonstration of the increasingly disappearing shadow Chancellor and his plan B.

Average weekly gross pay for women in my constituency has fallen by £12.30 since 2010, while long-term female unemployment has risen by 144% since May 2010—[Interruption.] May we have a debate on why the Government do not have one wise man, let alone three?

I am sorry that I did not hear all that the hon. Gentleman had to say, but I remind him that we have record employment for women, and 1.5 million women on low earnings are out of tax all together as a consequence of the increases in the personal allowances under the coalition Government.