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Fixed-term Parliaments

Volume 589: debated on Wednesday 10 December 2014

Q14. What assessment he has made of the effect on the performance of Government of the introduction of five-year fixed term parliaments; and if he will make a statement. (906557)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and the Committee he chairs for their work on the operation of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. Fixed-term Parliaments give greater predictability and continuity, enabling better long-term legislative and financial planning. The full effect of introducing fixed-term Parliaments is something that can only be assessed over time, which is why the Act will be reviewed in 2020.

Nearly 25 years ago, I asked the then Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher, at Prime Minister’s questions whether she would set up a national institution to reduce the sexual abuse of children. May I congratulate the Deputy Prime Minister and his Government on setting up, over the past five years, a series of “what works” organisations to provide best practice including early intervention? Will he and other party leaders consider putting in their manifestos the creation of a national institute for the study and prevention of sexual abuse of children so that we do not have another 25 years’ worth of belated inquiries? Such an institute would pre-empt perpetration and help victims with the best evidence-based practice and programmes both nationally and internationally.

I happen to know that the hon. Gentleman is seeing my right hon. Friend the Minister for Crime Prevention on that issue next week. I and my party agree with the hon. Gentleman about the merits of “what works” initiatives. A “what works” institute for crime prevention would be a good idea. He shines a spotlight on the reprehensible and grotesque crimes of child sex abuse and exploitation. I agree that we need to work together, which is why the National Group on Sexual Violence against Children and Vulnerable People has been set up, to work across agencies, areas and local authorities to bear down on these reprehensible crimes.

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting Motcombe primary school in my constituency. It has fought tooth and nail to introduce free school meals, and has been very successful. Will the Deputy Prime Minister take this opportunity to congratulate Motcombe and all the primary schools in my constituency and across England which have done such a fantastic job delivering on his policy?

Of course I congratulate everybody at Motcombe primary school and all the primary schools across the country which, despite all the scepticism and cynicism, have delivered healthy free school meals at lunchtime to 1.5 million more children. The educational and health benefits are considerable, and I am delighted that we are now doing this across the country.

With crude oil now below $70 a barrel, will the Deputy Prime Minister tell us why that price is not reflected at the pumps?

I know that my right hon. Friends the Chancellor and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury have raised this with the industry. We all want to see the lower shifts in oil prices across the world reflected in the prices on our forecourts. We must continue to focus on that in our dealings with all the oil companies.

“We should be clear. It is not wrong to express concern about the scale of people coming into the country. People have understandably become frustrated. It boils down to one word: control.” Does the stand-in Prime Minister agree with the Prime Minister, because they were his words?

There are some important controls that we need to improve and strengthen. It is essential that we reintroduce the proper border controls and exit checks that were removed by previous Governments. I insisted that that was in the coalition agreement. We are now on track to do that, so, just as we count people in, we count them out as well. Those additional controls are important, because we can then discover who has overstayed their presence here in the United Kingdom illegally, which is one of the biggest problems that we face.