Skip to main content

Business of the House

Volume 585: debated on Thursday 11 September 2014

The business for the week commencing 13 October is as follows:

Monday 13 October—Debate on a motion relating to Palestine and Israel. The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Tuesday 14 October—Second Reading of the Recall of MPs Bill.

Wednesday 15 October—Opposition day [6th allotted day]. There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject to be announced.

Thursday 16 October—Debate on a motion relating to progress on the all-party parliamentary cycling group’s report “Get Britain Cycling”, followed by general debate on the national pollinator strategy. The subjects for both debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 17 October—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 20 October will include:

Monday 20 October—Consideration in Committee of the Recall of MPs Bill (Day 1).

I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 16 and 23 October will be:

Thursday 16 October—Debate on the 13th report of the Public Administration Committee on “Caught red-handed: why we can’t count on police recorded crime statistics.”

Thursday 23 October—Debate on the eighth report of the Science and Technology Committee on “Communicating climate science.”

I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for after the conference recess. May I associate myself with the tributes paid by the deputy leader of the Labour party, the Leader of the House and other Members during Prime Minister’s questions yesterday to Jim Dobbin? We will all miss him.

Following President Obama’s address to the American people overnight and on the anniversary of 9/11, will the Leader of the House promise to keep the House updated on the rapidly developing situation in Iraq and Syria?

The Opposition Benches might seem just a little more sparsely populated than usual, but I assure you, Mr Speaker, that our Members’ absence is in a good cause. They are all in Scotland campaigning to save the Union. I will be joining them later today and I know that the Leader of the House is also bound for Scotland. Does he therefore agree that we can only build a better, fairer and more just future for the generations yet to come by realising that our two great nations are far better staying together than being torn asunder? May I welcome his Government’s support for the legislative programme outlined by the former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), to give the Scottish Parliament greater powers in the event of a no vote? Does he agree that this demonstrates that the choice facing Scotland is not, as the nationalists would have us believe, between the status quo or separation?

Last Friday, the Government were defeated three times on the bedroom tax when the Affordable Homes Bill promoted by the hon. Member for St Ives (Andrew George) was given a Second Reading by 304 votes to 267. The bedroom tax is callous and cruel and has caused misery to hundreds of thousands of people across the country who have no realistic chance of moving to a smaller property. Many of them have been forced to turn to food banks to feed their families at the end of the month and many more have fallen unavoidably into debt. Will the Leader of the House confirm when the money resolution will come forward to enable the Bill to go into Committee? Clearly, there is no longer a majority of MPs who favour this cruel measure, and even Ministers are voting against it, so may we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions outlining how he plans to move forward?

This week, the Minister for Employment flew to the other side of the world to talk about the welcome fall in youth unemployment. What she did not mention in her choreographed boast was that long-term youth unemployment on the Wirral, where she and I both have our constituencies, has increased sevenfold since 2010, that the number of zero-hours contracts has trebled and that families are £1,600 a year worse off under this Government. By 2019, the number of working people claiming housing benefit will have doubled, increasing the cost by a massive £13 billion. Just when we thought that the Minister for Employment could not be any more out of touch, she suggested that the unemployed should undergo psychological tests to check out their attitude. The tests will apparently decide whether those looking for jobs are determined, bewildered or despondent. It sounds like these tests could sensibly be used on Tory Back Benchers.

During the Newark by-election, Tory MPs were expected by their Whips to visit the constituency at least three times, yet I hear that the Chief Whip, who is strangely absent yet again, has now made trips to Clacton-on-Sea optional. Following this week’s defection of two Tory councillors in Clacton to UKIP, are Tory MPs too bewildered or despondent to go there?

This week, months of research and planning finally culminated in a long-expected and spectacular launch. The press was lined up, waiting with bated breath, and fans lined the streets. Some had camped out overnight. There was going to be a product even slimmer than the iPhone 5s—the Liberal Democrat pre-manifesto, otherwise known as the iLie 3. The Deputy Prime Minister clearly takes seriously his pledge not to make promises he cannot keep, as he has promised to plant a tree for every child born and to legalise all drugs. The problem is that the only trip he is going on is to the Back Benches. There is, however, some good news—I hear that the manifesto is on a shortlist for a prestigious prize: the Booker prize for best new fiction.

I am grateful as always to the hon. Lady. What she has said about Jim Dobbin was one of many heartfelt tributes in the House this week.

We will always keep the House updated—although we are entering a four-week recess for the conferences and the referendum—on developments in foreign affairs. Yesterday we had a foreign affairs debate in which many hon. Members took part. The Government will keep the House updated whenever possible.

I am pleased—it is unusual for me to say this—that the Labour party is out campaigning. The shadow Leader and I will be doing so—not together, although we will both be in Scotland—[Interruption.] Well, perhaps we will meet up later today. We will be on the same side, and for an important reason: as we discussed in the House yesterday, the decision to be made next week by the people of Scotland is not an opinion poll or an election; it is a permanent decision that will affect their children and grandchildren. Therefore, it is right that this will have such intense attention over the coming days.

The hon. Lady referred to the process put forward by the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown). All the main parties have endorsed the proposed timetable, including for a Command Paper to be published at the end of October.

The hon. Lady asked about last week’s private Member’s Bill debates. As discussed at Prime Minister’s questions yesterday, this is, in our eyes, a basic matter of fairness. The Bill that has been introduced would cost the country up to £1 billion, but I have not heard any proposals on how to replace that money. Many of the people whom the Bill intends to help are already supported within the existing policy—elderly people are exempt and disabled people who need overnight care from a visiting carer are allowed an extra bedroom. Of course, the House takes its own view on private Members’ Bills, but Government policy on the matter has not changed.

I am pleased that the hon. Lady, unusually, turned to employment matters, but she ought to have referred to the prediction of the Leader of the Opposition that 1 million jobs would be destroyed by Government policy. Since then 1,750,000 jobs have been created in this country; long-term unemployment is down, both on the last quarter and since the election; the Work programme is helping 1.4 million people, and has already got more than 500,000 people into work; and we have more than 1.8 million apprenticeship starts since the election. That is a strong record on employment and it will be a major factor at the coming general election.

Talking of elections, I thank the hon. Lady for referring to the Newark by-election, which was a great Conservative election victory—in fact, the first by the Conservative party in government since I was elected 25 years ago, which just shows how well we are doing in the run-up to the general election. She linked that with asking, as always, about the whereabouts of the Chief Whip, who is on his way to Clacton to campaign in the by-election. She will find plenty of Conservative MPs campaigning in Clacton, including me next week. That will be another of my visits around the country and I look forward to it.

I will be going to Clacton next week, and I trust that Opposition Members will be going there, because in Newark their vote fell, which, for an Opposition, is quite remarkable in a by-election. If they are not careful, the same will happen in Clacton. We all enjoy taking part in by-elections, and that is particularly so for the one in Clacton.

I note that the hon. Lady has written an article for the LabourList website, which talks about the Labour party now showing

“real fiscal responsibility and an understanding that in the next Parliament we will have less money to spend, not more.”

Will she convey that to the shadow Chancellor, or, still better, become shadow Chancellor? I would happily nominate her for that post, because he does not seem to show any recognition of having put the country £160 billion a year in debt. He recently racked up £21 billion of spending commitments without having the slightest idea of how to pay for them.

With the publication of the recall Bill, will the Leader of the House tell the House what progress has been made with the Bills that were announced in the Queen’s Speech and say whether the recall Bill is a constitutional Bill, with all stages to be taken on the Floor of the House?

We are making good progress. The introduction today of the Recall of MPs Bill means that we have introduced 10 of the 11 Government Bills promised in the Queen’s Speech, and they are proceeding well through Parliament, despite the fact that we have had some additional emergency legislation, as my right hon. Friend knows. I announced in the business statement that the Committee stage will begin on Monday 20 October on the Floor of the House, so, yes, we will be taking all stages of the legislation here.

At last week’s business questions, I asked the Leader of the House about local government grant cuts, particularly as they affect Knowsley. He very helpfully suggested that I take the matter up at Communities and Local Government questions on the Monday just gone, which I did: I asked a very detailed question. While it is well known that the Secretary of State does not do detail, I got a reply from an Under-Secretary that bore no resemblance to the question I asked. Having taken up the Leader of the House’s helpful suggestions so far, does he have any others that might help to resolve this problem?

I am full of helpful suggestions—“Ask at the next DCLG questions” would be the first one. Of course, as the right hon. Gentleman, who is a very experienced Member of the House, knows, there are many other ways in which to raise issues in this House—through Adjournment debates and promoting Back-Bench business debates—and he is very well able to do so.

In the light of South West Trains’ announcement that £210 million will be invested in rolling stock and not a single penny will be used on rail routes between Portsmouth and London, will the Leader of the House agree to a debate on the much-needed improvements to this important route, which has been painfully neglected for decades?

The investment that my hon. Friend mentions is coming in to provide additional capacity to meet the expected increase in the number of peak-time passengers arriving at London Waterloo, and it is targeting the suburban network by creating extra platform capacity. A small number of evening peak services to Portsmouth will be lengthened, with more cars in the train, and I hope she welcomes that. I know that she will continue to make the case for investment that benefits her constituents. Again, there are many opportunities open to her, and to other hon. Members, to raise such issues in the House.

Having spent Monday and Tuesday in Clacton-on-Sea and Wednesday in Glasgow, back here it feels a bit like a Greek tragedy is going on, because all the action is happening everywhere other than in Parliament. Everything the Leader of the House announced for the future business feels, yet again, like a whole load of largely irrelevant matters compared with the imminent danger to the state of the Union, the collapse of the effing Tories, the imminent dangers that people are facing in terms of rail fare increases, and, most importantly, the bedroom tax—the one issue on which we did actually have a debate, when last Friday we came to a resolution in this House by a significant majority—which affects thousands of people. Yet still the Leader of the House will not announce when he is going to table the money resolution so that the Bill can go into Committee. When will that be?

I hope that the hon. Gentleman’s visit to Glasgow had a more positive effect than his visit to Clacton has evidently had on the Labour campaign there so far.

Well, the Conservative party will be having an open vote on who is the candidate, because we believe in as much democracy as possible in by-elections. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not deride too much what has been going on in this House. He is right that there is a great deal going on elsewhere, including the referendum campaign, which is crucial, as we have all agreed. However, yesterday we had a full day’s debate on foreign affairs—on Ukraine, the middle east and all matters of international and national security. When we come back, we are going to consider the Recall of MPs Bill—something that was mentioned in all our party manifestos at the last election and is in the coalition programme. I hope that he will not run down too much what is happening in the House of Commons. As he knows, last week’s vote was on a private Member’s Bill, as distinct from a change in Government policy, and of course we will treat it as such in the normal fashion.

My constituent Graham Gallier is awaiting trial in Kenya on charges he denies. I have deep concerns about the legal process to which Mr Gallier is being subjected: his case has been repeatedly adjourned, his passport has been held for more than three years, his health is declining and he is being denied access to justice. I am grateful for the help that the Foreign Office has given me so far, but could we have a debate on access to justice for British citizens in other jurisdictions, so that cases such as Mr Gallier’s can be raised?

I know that my hon. Friend has taken up this case with my ministerial colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and I will draw their attention to the fact that he has raised it this morning. The UK has a very strong consular network around the world. Indeed, it is something else for voters in Scotland to remember next week that one of the world’s strongest consular and embassy networks is that of the United Kingdom. Of course, that network will continue to assist my hon. Friend’s constituent and I will ask FCO colleagues to keep him informed.

May we have an urgent statement on a code of practice in the NHS that makes the interests of children paramount and that balances the views of parents and clinicians so that public money is not wasted in court and police costs?

Clearly, the House is going into recess and we have no statement planned today, so there will not be an urgent statement on that, but the hon. Lady raises an important issue and I will draw it to the attention of my colleagues at the Department of Health.

May we have a debate on waste and bureaucracy in local authorities? When I worked for Asda, there were eight or nine levels between the most junior role and the chief executive. I have just found out from a freedom of information request to Bradford council that it has 42 different job levels in the local authority. Does the Leader of the House agree that an awful lot of money could be saved by cutting out some of those job levels and that that would also create a much-needed career path for people, who could start at the bottom and follow a path to reach the top? That often happens in supermarkets, but it very seldom happens in local authorities.

My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. There have been many efficiency savings in many local authorities over the past four years. Indeed, in the best-run local authorities, layers of management have been taken out and there have been huge administrative savings, but that has not been uniform across the country. The pressure on local authorities to conduct efficient administration without excessive layers of management must continue.

May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for International Development on the Ebola outbreak in west Africa? It is affecting three countries and there have been nearly 2,300 deaths so far. It is important that we provide public health and any other expertise necessary to try to help Médecins sans Frontières and Governments there to stop the outbreak as soon as possible.

The Government are closely engaged with this issue. The hon. Gentleman is probably aware that the Government’s emergency committee, Cobra, has met on this subject, chaired by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. The Department for International Development has already been assisting the countries concerned. We have made our own precautions and successfully treated some people in this country, so the Government are very conscious of the issue and discussed it in Cabinet this week. As we approach a recess, I cannot offer an immediate statement by DFID, but I know that Ministers will want to keep the House updated whenever possible.

May we have a debate after the party conference recess on mental health provision and services in the United Kingdom? I recently did a tour of my constituency and, after housing, it was the No. 1 issue. It relates not just to health-care provision in hospitals and social services, but to those who have finished full-time education and cannot get employment. What is to happen to them? It is a huge worry for them and, indeed, their families. This is a Cinderella service that now needs to be addressed in the mainstream in this Chamber.

My hon. Friend raises a very important issue. I am proud that this Government have legislated to ensure that improving mental health and treating mental illness are given the same priority as treatment for physical health. We are committed to introducing access and waiting times standards for mental health from next April. We are investing more than £400 million for access to National Institute for Health and Care Excellence-approved psychological therapies, more than £50 million for improved access to mental health care for young people and more than £7 million, additionally, for mental health services for veterans. A great deal is therefore being done to improve the situation, but I know that my hon. Friend will continue to press this issue.

Last week, the Home Secretary announced the lord mayor of London, Fiona Woolf, as the new chair of the child abuse inquiry. Although I am anxious for the inquiry to be got up and running, I am disturbed by the apparent links between the new chair and Lord Brittan, who is alleged to be at the heart of the paedophile scandal and cover-up surrounding Westminster. Does the Leader of the House share my concerns, and does he agree that there should be a debate on this issue in the House?

The hon. Gentleman has raised this issue many times, and he is very rigorous in pursuing such matters. We are all anxious for the inquiry to get under way, as he says. Fiona Woolf has had a long and distinguished career. She has held high-profile and challenging positions, including as president of the Law Society and chairman of the Association of Women Solicitors, and she is only the second woman since the year 1189 to hold the position of lord mayor of London. She is a very distinguished person, who is well able to conduct the inquiry to the very highest standards of integrity. The Government are therefore confident that she has the skills and experience needed to set the direction of the inquiry, lead the work of the panel, challenge individuals and institutions without fear or favour, really get into this issue and stop these terrible things happening again. I think that we should support her in doing this work.

Scots and Yorkshire folk have a great deal in common. They say, “You can tell a Yorkshireman, but you can’t tell him much.” We hope fervently that the Scots will vote to stay with us.

Rural businesses in North Yorkshire look with some envy at rural businesses in Scotland that have pretty much total 100% rural broadband coverage. Will my right hon. Friend agree to an early debate on why his constituency and mine will have less than 80% fast-speed broadband coverage by 2015-16, whereas the Scots will have a much better deal?

Yorkshire and Scotland do have much in common, including a lot of sound common sense, and we hope that it will be displayed next week.

Superfast rural broadband is very important to my hon. Friend’s constituents and to mine. Public expenditure is higher in Scotland than in North Yorkshire in particular, and indeed than in much of the rest of the UK. In fact, Scots benefit from spending that is about £1,200 per head higher than we have in England, which affects such things. However, we are investing £790 million in superfast broadband access—North Yorkshire is at the forefront of the rural counties that will benefit from that—and 1 million UK premises are already connected, so this work is well under way, including in England.

Further to our exchange last week about having a debate on the Welsh language, the Leader of the House will know that the “Gododdin”, the early mediaeval Welsh epic poem, features a battle at Catterick in his constituency—soldiers from the Welsh settlement of Edinburgh fought in his constituency—while the very name of Glasgow comes from the Welsh for a “green place”. Does that not show that, from Aberdeen to Aberystwyth, the historical ties that bind the people of this island are deep and enduring, and that they should not be idly cast aside?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very strong point. I have a copy of the “Gododdin” at home, and I am well aware that a battle was fought in about the year 600 in Catraeth, as Catterick, where I live, was then called. I sometimes visit the mound by the church where the warriors killed in that battle are supposed to have been buried. The fact that there was a Welsh-speaking tribe and that a battle in England included people who had come down from Scotland is, as he says, a reminder of our intrinsic ties and of the dark times when this kingdom was not so united. I hope that people will also bear that sort of history in mind when they vote next week.

May we have a debate on a dysfunctional aspect of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills? When the list for today’s oral questions was first published, I was in fourth position with the following question to the Secretary of State:

“What guidance he issues to companies delivering publicly-funded projects on taking the national interest into account when awarding contracts and sub-contracts.”

The Department refused to answer the question, saying that guidance should come from the Cabinet Office. There is a clue in the title of the Department, in that it contains the word “Business”. May we have a debate on the business aspects of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and their relation to the national interest, particularly given that it is an issue that concerns two companies in my constituency?

I hope that my hon. Friend can get an answer to his question from one Department or another. He is able to pursue the matter with the Cabinet Office. There are many ways of promoting and bringing about debates, including Back-Bench business debates, of which we have a great many. He might want to put forward aspects of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills for such a debate.

The latest figures show that Hull, which is the 10th most deprived area in the country, will lose £628 per household during the course of this Parliament, whereas Elmbridge in Surrey will gain £41 per household. May we please have a debate before the local government settlement in December to look at the fairness or unfairness of the way in which the coalition Government allocate local authority funding?

We debate local government finance on a regular basis in the House. The level of Government support for local government spending remains vastly higher in the vast majority of urban areas of this country than in many of the more rural areas. Of course there are variations over the years, but the level of support in a city such as Hull is much greater than that in constituencies elsewhere in Yorkshire, such as mine. This matter can be argued both ways, and the hon. Lady argues that the funding should be greater in her constituency. We have all made that argument over time, and she will be able to do so the next time these matters are debated.

Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Leader of the House to make a statement tomorrow in order to, I hope, scotch the rumour that if, unfortunately, Scotland votes to become independent, there will be a move to put back the general election until Scotland becomes independent? Will he confirm that that would require the introduction of new legislation, and that the Government have no intention of bringing forward such legislation?

That has not been discussed within the Government. All of us on this side of the argument should concentrate on ensuring that there is a no vote in the referendum in Scotland next week, which means concentrating on the arguments about that. After the result, we can discuss its implications, but the time for that is afterwards. We should concentrate on ensuring that people are encouraged to vote no.

One of the oldest centres of Christianity, Iraq, is being purged of Christians and other minority communities. This weekend, I shall host a round table with the Mancunian Iraqi-Christian diaspora and Iraqi bishops whose flocks are in exile. What message of solidarity should this House send to those displaced communities in our country?

I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for undertaking that work. It is another illustration of how tragic and serious the crisis and bloodshed in Iraq are, and of why we cannot ignore them. That is why we have promoted political unity in Iraq. We have stressed to Iraqi leaders the need to bring together all communities in Iraq and to have a Government who command the united support of the different communities and religions, so that they can decisively tackle the threat from ISIL. Progress has been made on that. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is a new Prime Minister of Iraq, and a new Government are being formed. International support is being given to that Government.

Many colleagues welcome Government assurances that any proposed military intervention in Iraq and Syria will be subject to a full debate and vote in the House. Given the significance of President Obama’s statement only hours ago, and the fact that the US seems to be adopting policies such as air strikes in Syria, which certainly go beyond what those on the Front Bench expressed yesterday as their comfort zone, will the Government make a statement as soon as possible to the House, particularly given that we will be in conference recess for the next month?

We had a full day’s debate on foreign affairs yesterday, although I know my hon. Friend is talking about the speech of President Obama overnight. President Obama was talking about action that will be taken by the United States, which does not mean that there is any immediate change to the British Government’s approach. The approach expressed by the President of building a strong international coalition, working with Governments in the region, and working with others to defeat the threat from ISIL is the approach of the British Government. We have stated what we are doing, including the provision of lethal equipment to the Kurdish peshmerga forces and our diplomatic work to bring about political unity in Iraq. None of that has changed and it is not different today from yesterday. We will, of course, keep the House regularly updated at every opportunity.

If the Scottish people vote to separate from the United Kingdom, and/or if the RAF is ordered to prepare for air strikes against the Islamic State, will my right hon. Friend as Leader of the House recommend to the Prime Minister that the House be recalled?

As usual, we must always judge a case for the recall of Parliament when it arises. Most recalls of Parliament that I remember from the last few years have been on situations that were entirely unexpected. It is common for hon. Members to ask in advance of a recess about particular situations that it could be argued might lead to a recall, but it is often something else entirely. We must judge all these situations as they arise, and it is not right to make any announcements or assumptions about that at the moment.

Could we have a debate on upland hill farmers, which is a subject that affects my constituency and that of my right hon. Friend? Upland hill farmers are under intense pressure from organisations like the national parks, Natural England and many others that make demands about the way farming is carried out in this country. In some cases that is fair enough, but if we want the upland areas of the United Kingdom to stay as they are and look as they do now, we must allow farmers to farm. Most of the uplands are not natural but man-made, and people enjoy them because of what they are. Will my right hon. Friend see whether we can make time to debate what is an important industry in both our constituencies and across much of the United Kingdom?

Hill farming is an important industry, as I know well from my constituency, and upland hill farmers are crucial to some of the most beautiful and outstanding areas of the country. We have had debates over many years—I remember promoting such debates more than 20 years ago as a Back-Bench MP. There are opportunities to bring about such debates through Adjournment debates and the Backbench Business Committee, and I encourage my hon. Friend to pursue those opportunities.

Notwithstanding the £38 billion black hole left by the previous Government, may we have a debate on the UK defence budget? Given increasing threats against UK citizens and UK interests around the world, is it not time to increase the defence budget rather than squeeze it?

We have a £33 billion defence budget, which is the biggest in the European Union and the second largest in NATO. I think we should be proud of the fact that we are spending in excess of 2% of our GDP on defence—we are one of only four NATO countries to do so. My hon. Friend will be aware that at the NATO summit we encouraged other countries to enter the new commitment to increase their defence spending in future. We had the Prime Minister’s recent statement on the NATO summit, so I do not think we need to debate all that again immediately. There will be regular opportunities in the course of many debates to raise such issues and the vital importance of defence spending.

The Government have understandably indicated that, if the Scottish people vote no, proposals will be introduced for further devolution to the Scottish Parliament within days. That will increase the concerns of my constituents and others in England that we are being treated less favourably than people in other parts of the UK. Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that an early statement will be made on how the Government intend to meet the aspirations of the English people and devolve further powers within England?

The decision next week is a matter for the people of Scotland, but its implications will be felt across the UK. We have a good record of devolving powers, as we have to Wales or, through the Localism Act 2011, to local authorities. We are a flexible and adaptable Union—that is one of the great strengths of the United Kingdom. That must take account of the people of England as well. As proposals come forward on Scotland over the coming months, there must be every opportunity to debate the implications for England.

In view of the increased number of migrants both from the EU and from outside the EU in the past 12 months, may we have a debate on the subject and an explanation of why we are going in the opposite direction to the manifesto commitment?

Net migration has fallen by a third since its peak and we have capped economic migration from outside the EU. My hon. Friend will welcome measures such as limiting EU jobseeker’s benefit to only six months, and removing entitlement to housing benefit. I am sure other hon. Members would welcome an opportunity to debate the matter. My hon. Friend may wish to seek such time from the Backbench Business Committee.

I very much support the increase in the cancer drugs fund announced by the Government, and was delighted previously to open a new digital mammography unit at Crawley hospital. Nevertheless, I was concerned to see recently the results of an assessment of my constituency that indicated that cancer survival rates were below the national average, largely owing to the need to get early diagnosis. Will he consider a debate on the importance not only of cancer treatment but of awareness of cancer symptoms, so that people can be diagnosed and treated much more promptly?

Yes, tackling diagnosis is vital. We have committed more than £450 million over the period of the spending review up to next year to support earlier diagnosis. We have debated related issues, most recently on Monday, when the House considered the e-petition on research funding and awareness of pancreatic cancer, but I am sure the House would benefit from further opportunities, particularly to coincide with the next early diagnosis reminder campaign, which is running in October and November.

On Sunday, I visited one of my constituents, Mrs Margaret White, who happens to be the former chairman of my local party. She had been released from hospital and went home, but unfortunately, there seems to be no care plan for her. May we have a debate on the national health service and its interrelationship with local authorities, to ensure that such people are looked after much better?

It is a priority for the Government to ensure that patients receive joined-up health and social care. That is exactly what the better care fund seeks to achieve through pooled budgets between the NHS and local authorities, which is being done in every single area for the first time. I am sure that that is the right approach, but such a debate, which my hon. Friend can seek through all the normal channels, would help the House to consider individual cases like the one he mentions.

For 46 years, Barbara Hepworth’s bronze “Rock Form” sculpture has stood in the Mander centre in my constituency. In spring, it was removed without warning and has not been seen since. For three months, the major stakeholders in the Mander centre, RBS and Delancey, refused to deny that they intended to sell the “Rock Form”, which, in the current market, would probably fetch several million pounds. Given the cultural importance of the piece, will my right hon. Friend provide a debate on the need to protect and preserve cultural landmarks in our towns and cities?

Many hon. Members will appreciate Barbara Hepworth’s work, as many visitors to the Mander centre will have done over the past 46 years. It is possible to protect such sculptures through statutory listing, and my hon. Friend may seek a debate on the wider issues about protecting our cultural landmarks, but I am sure that my ministerial colleagues at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport would also be pleased to meet him to discuss what can be done to help his campaign and save this particular sculpture for the future enjoyment of his constituents and many visitors to Wolverhampton.

While not wishing to annoy the House, I am afraid that I must again raise the issue of nuisance telephone calls. My constituents tell me that despite registering for the telephone preference service they find themselves inundated with unsolicited calls at all hours of the day. May we please have a debate about what more the Government can do to lift this blight from people’s lives that causes so much misery to our constituents?

There is great concern in the House about this problem—it was raised last week as well—and the DCMS is taking measures to address it. It published its nuisance calls action plan on 30 March and since January 2012 regulators have issued penalties totalling more than £1.9 million to companies for breaching the rules. Further work is under way to see what more can be done to tackle the issue, as set out in the action plan, and I know that DCMS Ministers would be willing to discuss that with my hon. Friend.

A senior NHS executive recently asked counterparts in European countries how they could continue to offer consultant-led maternity units of the same size as the one in Stafford—2,000 to 2,500 births a year—whereas in the UK these are often said to be unsustainable. He was told that different implementation of the working time directive was a major consideration. May we have a debate on the continued provision of safe consultant-led maternity and paediatric care in district general hospitals, including the impact of varied implementation of the working time directive?

This is an important issue, as I have seen in my own constituency, and the Government are committed to reducing the negative impact of the directive on the NHS. The Health Secretary commissioned an independent taskforce, chaired by Professor Norman Williams, which looked closely at evidence of how the directive affected different parts of the medical profession, and work is now being done on the recommendations. Furthermore, the European Commission has recently requested information on the impact of the implementation of the directive from all member states, and our response must take account of the concerns that my hon. Friend and others have expressed. He can also seek a debate in the normal ways.

Local charity Dementia Forward is working to make Harrogate a dementia-friendly town. This is a great initiative encouraging both businesses and members of the public to understand and help those living with dementia. One in three people aged over 85 suffers some form of cognitive impairment, meaning that there is real scale to this challenge, so please may we have a debate to explore what more can be done to help communities become more dementia-friendly, to celebrate the work of dementia charities and to encourage everybody across the UK to recognise the scale of this issue, which is only going to grow over time?

Again, this is an important issue and the initiative in Harrogate is welcome. Seventy communities have already signed up to the dementia-friendly communities recognition process, which more than doubles the original ambition of 20 cities, towns and villages signing up by 2015. Major businesses have committed their staff to supporting the process and the Government are supporting the work of the Yorkshire and Humber dementia action alliance. This is all very good work and of course I encourage my hon. Friend to seek debates and other opportunities to promote this matter in the House in the usual ways.

The “Big Tidy Up” will be starting in Rugby this weekend when a team of volunteers, supported by Rugby borough council and local businesses, will be targeting litter in a new project that will bring people together to benefit their local environment. The Leader of the House may be aware that the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government is about to consider the issue of litter. Could we have a debate to consider how further to encourage such activity as is going on in my constituency?

I wish “Keep Rugby Tidy” well; I hope it will be a successful weekend and that future activities will do well. This is setting a good example not only in the locality but around the country. I cannot offer a debate on top of all the other things before us, but there are ways for my hon. Friend to seek further parliamentary time. I wish everyone in Rugby well with this initiative.