House of Commons
Thursday 16 July 2015
The House met at half-past Nine o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Business before questions
Transport for London Bill [lords]: Revival Motion
That the promoters of the Transport for London Bill [Lords], which was originally introduced in the House of Lords in Session 2010-12 on 24 January 2011, may have leave to proceed with the Bill in the current Session according to the provisions of Standing Order 188B (Revival of Bills).—(The Chairman of Ways and Means.)
To be considered on Tuesday 10 September.
Review of Possible Miscarriages of Justice
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, That she will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House a Return of a Paper, entitled Review of Possible Miscarriages of Justice: Impact of Undisclosed Undercover Police Activity on the Safety of Convictions, dated 16 July 2015.—(Charlie Elphicke.)
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—
1. What discussions he has had with the French authorities on preventing disruption to cross-channel services from the port of Dover and channel tunnel in summer 2015. 
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and I have had regular contact with Alain Vidalies, the French Transport Minister, and his predecessor Frédéric Cuvillier, both in the run up to and during the current dispute.
Operation Stack has been in force on the Kent motorways for 14 of the past 28 days, closing the M20 and causing chaos on Kent’s roads. What consideration is the Minister giving at the moment to emergency measures that can be brought in this summer if there are further delays, to alleviate the pressure on the people of Kent and keep our roads open?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The road situation in Kent has been intolerable for many local people, although it has to be said that because of Operation Stack we have managed to keep the coaches and tourist traffic flowing. A working group led by Kent County Council is looking at all these issues, considering short and long-term mitigation of the problem.
I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
I am pleased to hear that the Minister is in regular dialogue with his French counterparts, but given that the gangs of people traffickers particularly change their tactics constantly, what measures are being discussed to resolve the problem of traffickers simply moving further away from Calais to attack lorry drivers and get into their vehicles, in order to circumvent the steps that have been taken at Calais?
The Home Secretary made a statement on this problem on 14 July, and I know that measures are being put in place, including fencing, at Coquelles to try to improve the situation. I spoke yesterday to my opposite number in the Republic of Ireland, who expressed the very same fears about lorry drivers being put at risk by migrants, who may engage in aggressive tactics.
I thank the Minister for his update on the action to try to avoid the continuation of Operation Stack. As my fellow Kent MP, my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins), has said, it is causing untold disruption and misery to local people as well as to lorry drivers. Does the Minister consider it an option to continue Operation Stack during the summer? For my constituents, an alternative solution as soon as possible really is a priority.
We continue to keep all options under review. I know that it has been suggested that Manston airfield may be used to store trucks, although that is 43 miles from Dover. One or two issues that can be addressed more urgently include queue-jumping. Queue-jumpers cause congestion on local roads and they also cause problems when they get to the front of the queue, when there is usually an altercation before they are sent back. We are looking at how we can make Operation Stack work more efficiently, but looking at alternatives too.
Tourists going to France are being inconvenienced by delays. Lorry drivers are accosted by migrants in great numbers. There is clearly a lack of confidence in the cross-channel routes at this moment in time. What can the Minister do to reassure tourists and lorry drivers that they can cross the channel without any bother whatsoever?
Obviously, this is a problem on the other side of the channel, of which the French authorities are all too well aware. We anticipate that it will be a continuing problem, but it is of course made worse by the industrial action in Calais. Although Calais is open, it still is not operating at full capacity. DFDS ferries are not able to use the port, and two of the five berths at Calais are occupied by striking workers.
2. When he last met the chief executive of Highways England to discuss its programme of repairing and upgrading the motorway network. 
The Government have an ambitious £15.2 billion plan to triple annual spending on England’s motorways and major A roads by the end of the decade, to improve capacity and condition as set out in the road investment strategy. I recently met Jim O’Sullivan, who was appointed chief executive of Highways England at the beginning of July, and there will of course be further meetings between us and with the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones).
I congratulate the Government on that long-term investment strategy, which will inevitably entail roadworks. Will the Secretary of State ask Highways England to review its increasing and annoying tendency to cone off vast stretches of motorway and install average speed cameras, sometimes for years at a time, when work is happening only in a very small area?
Of course, road improvements cannot take place without some disruption to the motorist, but I well understand the frustration that many people who use the M1 feel about the length of roadway that is currently under repair. I have already taken that up with the chief executive.
May I say that this is a superb question. One way to upgrade a motorway such as the M62 would be to improve existing road links between the north-west and Yorkshire. The Minister recently wrote to me and other affected MPs to inform us of the new strategic road study into a possible tunnel under the Peak district. Can the Secretary of State confirm that that would be in addition to the bypass scheme that has been announced for the Mottram in Longdendale area of my constituency, not a replacement for it, and that the Government’s vision is that the two schemes can be complementary?
I shall pass on the hon. Gentleman’s thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart), who used to be my Parliamentary Private Secretary, for his superb question, which rightly exposes the huge road investment that the Government are taking forward.
The study that the hon. Gentleman refers to is being done by Colin Matthews. I await his report, and it is in addition to the scheme that has already been announced.
The Chancellor’s Budget last week confirmed the road investment strategy. How many extra miles of motorway and trunk road will it mean?
I am reliably informed by the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones) that it entails 1,300 more miles.
The A1 north of Newcastle has significant importance for freight and other strategic traffic travelling between Newcastle and Edinburgh. In May 2010, in recognition of the importance of connectivity with Edinburgh, the Government announced that it would be designated a route of strategic national importance. With that in mind, will the Secretary of State advise us of what investment has been made in the A1, and will he provide details of any planned future improvements?
Much to the credit of the campaign by my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mrs Trevelyan), we have announced a number of road improvements to the A1. If the hon. Gentleman were to drive around Newcastle at the moment, he would see the extensive work around the Lobley Hill junction, which is a huge investment that will improve flow around Newcastle. Further works on the A1 are planned.
Are the works to improve the M60 and M62 around Greater Manchester on track to be completed on time?
Yes, as far as I am aware, they are on track. We are delivering the first increase in trans-Pennine motorway capacity since 1971 by upgrading the M62 to a smart motorway. I realise that there is inconvenience for motorists while upgrades take place, but the work is part of the Government’s investment not just in the north but right across this country’s road infrastructure, which was so badly neglected for 13 years.
3. What recent assessment he has made of Network Rail’s progress in delivering the rail electrification programme. 
4. What recent assessment he has made of Network Rail’s progress in delivering the rail electrification programme. 
As I said in my statement, important aspects of Network Rail’s investment programme are costing more and taking longer. That is why I have asked Sir Peter Hendy, the new chair of Network Rail, to develop proposals for how the rail upgrade programme will be carried out.
Many of my constituents will now have to put up with slower services because of the Government’s decision to halt the electrification of the midland main line. It was revealed this week that in March, Network Rail agreed that joint decisions with the Department for Transport to defer upgrades would be required. Does that not show that Ministers must have known that the upgrades would be shelved, even though they were promising the public that they would be delivered?
I welcome the hon. Gentleman asking what I think is his first Transport question in the more than two and half years since I became Secretary of State. I am glad that he is taking an interest in the railway that he has not taken before.
The train services in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency are operated by Northern, and we will increase overall capacity between Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield by 36% by the end of 2019, providing an extra 200 services each weekday. We will also increase Northern’s fleet size by 10% in 2015, delivering an additional 87 carriages—all good news for his constituents, and I am sorry that he looks on the negative side.
The delay in the electrification of the trans-Pennine line means delay in the release of rolling stock to replace the clapped-out Pacers endured by commuters in my constituency. How long will the pause last, and how long do they have to wait for an improvement in the quality of their journeys?
We have electrified the track between Liverpool and Manchester, replacing the two-car diesel trains with four-car electric trains from April 2015. I would have thought that the hon. Lady would welcome that and, if not, that she would at least welcome the increase in the fleet size of Northern trains by 10% in 2015, delivering an extra 87 carriages. We will double the services between Manchester Victoria and Liverpool, Macclesfield, Chester, Bolton and Stockport by the end of 2017—more has been done to upgrade those sections of rail in the past five years than was achieved in the 13 years her party was in government.
As a former resident of Cannock, my right hon. Friend will be well aware of the importance of the Chase line electrification to residents and businesses in my constituency. Will he work with me to minimise any potential delays to the completion of the project?
My hon. Friend is quite right: I know that line incredibly well. It goes from Rugeley to Hednesford, then to Cannock and on to Walsall and Birmingham. As a member of Cannock Chase District Council, I campaigned for the line to be reopened and I am pleased that that happened in 1989. I am also pleased to confirm that as part of the electrification of that line, the new bridges at Hednesford, Stafford Lane and Cannock are already in place. The investment is £78.2 million and it is on target to be finished in December 2017.
The Secretary of State will know of the great disappointment across the east midlands at the pause in the electrification of the midland main line. While we are waiting for a final decision on that, can he update the House on when we might see the implementation of the other improvements on the line that are still in the plan?
Those improvements are still going on and, as I said at the time of the statement, the most important thing is to achieve some of the line-speed improvements to allow us to operate six trains an hour from St Pancras, as opposed to the five trains per hour at present. That work is going on as we speak.
On 25 June, just seven weeks after the election, the Secretary of State announced that the Government were shelving vital electrification upgrades in the midlands and north— projects that Ministers repeatedly promised to deliver before and during the general election. Will the Secretary of State say categorically when he first became aware that Network Rail thought a decision would have to be made on the future of those upgrades? Was it before or after the election?
It is worth noting that when I made the statement the shadow Secretary of State said that it had been well known that the electrification programme was in some trouble. If so, it is interesting that he never asked a question on it at any Transport Question Time. The first time I was told that a pause was needed was a week before I made the statement to the House.
That is not an answer to my question. The Secretary of State says that he was in the dark, but we know that the Government were warned by the rail regulator in November last year, and by the Transport Committee in January, that costs were escalating and big rail projects such as those were in trouble. The chief executive of Network Rail, Mark Carne said:
“People knew perfectly well there were high levels of uncertainty about this, it was widely flagged at the time, and it would not be fair for people to forget that.”
I wonder who he was referring to. Ministers knew all along that they were going to shelve those projects, but they continued to con the public. It is completely shabby. Should not the Government now live up to their election promises, reinstate the electrification work and not pull the plug on those vital upgrades for the north and midlands?
The last time a major upgrade was done by the Labour party, it set out as a £2 billion scheme and ended as a £12 billion scheme—and then was, I think, scaled back to a £9 billion scheme. It would be wrong of me, therefore, to say exactly what the future course of action will be until I have Sir Peter Hendy’s report—he starts work today. However, I am committed to seeing the electrification as laid out, and to the 850 miles that we will be putting in place over this period of electrification, as opposed to the 10 miles of electrification that the last Labour Government put in place in their full 13 years.
Will the Secretary of State ensure that the pre-electrification line-speed improvements on the midland main line, which will be hugely welcomed and increase the number of trains out of St Pancras from five to six an hour, will have the knock-on effect of reinstating the half-hourly service northwards from Kettering which was taken away by the last Labour Government?
My hon. Friend has been forceful in that campaign, and I will certainly look at whether those opportunities will arise as a result of what I hope will be the increase in frequency of services between St Pancras and the midlands.
The major question mark over the delivery of rail electrification as promised has rung alarm bells for the northern powerhouse, but what does it mean for One North, the plan worked out by local authorities right across the region to integrate road and rail transport across the Pennines?
I am appearing before the hon. Lady and her Select Committee on Monday afternoon, where I am sure we will go into a much deeper dive on those points.
I did not manage to finish my answer to the shadow spokesman, the hon. Member for Barnsley East (Michael Dugher). It is worth pointing out that I did say in March and in January, when I was before the Transport Committee, that there were some problems with some aspects of the electrification of the northern Pennine line, and that is why, when the new franchise was issued, it mentioned diesel trains—[Interruption.] Sorry, Mr Speaker, these are very big questions and I am trying to be as open as possible with the House. I realise it is frustrating that these responses are so long.
5. What plans his Department has to relieve congestion and support growth through investment in roads in Worcestershire. 
Tackling congestion and supporting local economic growth are key priorities for this Government, and we have plans for significant investment in Worcestershire’s road infrastructure to deliver those goals. This includes over £100 million of funding to improve local roads, and a number of upgrades to the M5 in Worcestershire.
I am very grateful to the Minister for that answer and, indeed, for his response to my recent Westminster Hall debate on the Carrington bridge and Worcester southern link. He will be aware that the Department classifies the southern link as a local road, but in fact it has enormous strategic importance, linking Worcestershire to Herefordshire, and upgrades to it have the support of the Worcestershire local enterprise partnership and the Marches local enterprise partnership, as well as of a large number of local authorities. Will he therefore take into account the strategic importance of that road in any decisions about funding?
I do indeed recognise the importance of the A4440 and the Carrington bridge. It is of clear strategic importance to both counties, a point recognised by the county council, by the local enterprise partnership and by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who has visited it personally. That is why we have confirmed we will work with the county council to determine how further stages of the proposal can be taken forward.
No, no. Rossendale and Darwen and Antrim are a very long way from Worcestershire. This question is about Worcestershire. We will move on.
Rail Electrification: Northern Powerhouse
6. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of the cessation of work on the electrification of the trans-Pennine route and the midland main line on the northern powerhouse initiative. 
8. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of the cessation of work on the electrification of the trans-Pennine route and the midland main line on the northern powerhouse initiative. 
12. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of the cessation of work on the electrification of the trans-Pennine route and the midland main line on the northern powerhouse initiative. 
Rail services in the north, including trans-Pennine, will see a massive boost from the new franchises that come into effect in April 2016—including a 36% increase in peak capacity into Leeds and Manchester. We are developing plans for even better trans-Pennine links, including electrification, as part of the northern powerhouse.
The challenge with capacity and the slow pace of the TransPennine—so-called—Express, and of the midland main line, have a real impact on York’s economy. Can the Secretary of State say when the modernisation and electrification work will now begin, and when it is due to be completed, so we can be confident that the work has not hit the buffers?
I am very sorry that the hon. Lady cannot welcome the £2.7 billion of investment in Intercity Express, which will mean 65 trains, in five-carriage and nine-carriage formations, introduced and serving her area from 2018 and a 28% increase in morning peak-time seats into King’s Cross. The new Northern and TransPennine Express franchises will operate fast, high-quality, inter-urban commuter services with more capacity, and improved local services—all with a strong focus on serving their customers well: more achievements, as opposed to the terrible franchise that the Labour Government re-launched in 2004, based on nil growth for the northern area.
In February, the Secretary of State wrote:
“A transformation in transport connectivity between the cities of the north is vital to realising their potential to become a ‘northern powerhouse’ for the UK’s economy.”—[Official Report, 27 February 2015; Vol. 593, c. 33WS.]
Now that the project has been postponed indefinitely, will he tell the House how we can build a northern house when the north has been left powerless?
The people who are talking the north down are those resentful of the improvements we have made. They are resentful and bitter about it. We have already electrified the track between Liverpool and Manchester, replacing two-car diesel trains with four-car electric trains from April 2015. That is just one of the many projects under way to re-energise the northern powerhouse and provide the opportunities I talked about, and we are not backing away from them. It is the Labour party that regrets that it never had the foresight to bring them into operation when it had the opportunity.
My hon. Friends are asking so many questions about the northern powerhouse that it has become more of a northern puzzlehouse. Will the Secretary of State confirm that plans were already in place to shelve the electrification project in the midlands and the north before the election, and does he agree that this amounts to nothing more or less than a cynical betrayal of voters?
My right hon. Friend has made it absolutely clear that electrification of the line will happen in the future. Does he agree that the hundreds of millions of pounds of investment in Kirkstall Forge and Apperley Bridge stations and the southern access at these stations shows that the Government have put their money where their mouth is? Does it not also show that, unlike Labour, which in government took £350 million out of the city of Leeds to spend on Crossrail—under a Labour council and with the support of all eight Labour MPs for the city—this Government are investing in the north and committed to the northern powerhouse?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I visited the site he refers to with him not so long ago. [Interruption.] No, it was after the election actually. I am also pleased to say that our investment in Leeds station to provide a new access will be very important for that station.
While welcoming the huge investment in rail services by this Government over the past five years, may I ask the Secretary of State what implications the pause—I stress the word pause—might have for the York-Harrogate-Leeds line electrification ambition and the important future links with Leeds Bradford airport?
My hon. Friend is right to point out our ambitious programme for the rail industry in this country. Many people have commented that there has never been as much investment in the rail industry as set out by the Government over control period 5. That said, the taxpayer, as well as the travelling public, would want us to get best value for money from our investment, and we will want to consider the points he makes when it comes to CP6.
The trans-Pennine rail route goes through Slaithwaite and Marsden in my constituency. Will the Secretary of State confirm when he expects Sir Peter Hendy to report back about the pause on electrification, and will he take this opportunity to debunk the myth going around that the Pacers will be replaced by refurbished tube trains, which obviously is not true?
I can certainly debunk that. It was made clear that once we got rid of the Pacers, they would be replaced by new trains, and that is what is in the invitation to tender, which is being looked at as far as the returns back to the Department for Transport are concerned. I hope to have more to say about that before the end of the year. This is a pause, and I am very much looking forward to Sir Peter’s report. It is his first day today, and I will be finding out shortly when he intends to give me that report.
Network Rail knew that northern powerhouse projects would be paused in March. Either the Secretary of State was told before the election that decisions would have to be made in June, or he was not, which means that one of two men must be guilty of abject negligence and failing to admit the truth to voters—the chief executive of Network Rail or the Secretary of State. Which one is it?
I told the hon. Lady when I was asked about giving a pause, and that is when I came to the House. Mark Carne has been doing a fantastic job trying to upgrade the railway while at the same time delivering a railway service for the passenger, which is very important. He described it as “open-heart surgery”. I pointed out when I went before the Select Committee back in March that there were problems with trans-Pennine electrification. That is why the ITT for Northern Rail was deliberately worded so that diesel trains would be in service on that particular line, because it was thought that electrification might have to slip.
EU Port Regulations
7. What recent discussions he has had on the proposed EU port services regulation. 
I represented the UK at Transport Council when this was discussed last October. I have also met the European Parliament rapporteur, the hon. Gentleman’s socialist colleague, Knut Fleckenstein. My most recent discussions were on Wednesday this week at the all-party maritime and ports group chaired by the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick).
The previous shipping Minister indicated that the Government would be able to use domestic regulation to counter these regulations if they were passed in Europe, but the details of how it would be done remain unclear. Will the Minister reassure us that he has a clear plan of action to protect the UK’s interests and block any regulations that damage port business and threaten workers’ interests in my constituency?
Our position is quite clear: competition between ports is the best way to ensure efficient operation within them. I am pleased that the general approach is better than the Commission’s original proposal. We have the competitive market exemption and more discretion on issues such as pilotage. I would certainly be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss particular issues affecting Port Talbot, which is one of our most important ports.
What discussions has the Minister had with the Department for Regional Development in Northern Ireland and what representations has he had from Northern Ireland ports about these regulations? Can he give an assurance that ports will be prevented from having to disclose the commercial information that these regulations will require so that the commercial operations can remain?
I had unanimous support for our position that this is designed to fix a problem that we do not have in the United Kingdom. However, there are problems in other European ports, and cross-channel business and business across other seaways is important to the UK as an exporting nation. It is important to get a reasonable conclusion to these discussions, which I expect to happen under the Dutch presidency next year.
9. What assessment he has made of recent trends in bus (a) fares and (b) service use in England. 
The latest departmental figures show a slight increase in local bus fares in England, while the provisional number of local bus passenger journeys remains unchanged compared with a year earlier. Final figures will be published in the annual bus statistics released in September. The bus market outside London is deregulated and decisions regarding the provision of individual bus services, including setting the level of fares, is primarily a commercial matter for bus operators.
Figures from the Minister’s own Department show that 121 bus routes in the north-west of England have been cut in the last five years, while fares have risen by an average of 25%. When will the Government give more powers to all communities—whether or not they want an elected mayor—to control fares, set routes and integrate services?
The Government support the bus sector, which is the backbone of our public transport sector, in lots of different ways, including through the bus service operators grant of £250 million in England this year. The proposals in the buses Bill will include opportunities right across the country for more local control, including the development of franchising, which the Manchester combined authorities are taking forward. The Bill will be published later in this Session.
Is it not clear that the Government have lost the plot for bus users outside London? Their own latest statistics show that journeys there were down by 11 million and fares up by 3.6% last year. Two thousand bus routes countrywide have been lost through cuts since 2010. London, with franchise powers to set routes and fares, has rising bus use. Why are this Government blocking them for communities elsewhere in England—unless they have an elected mayor, which many do not want, forced on them? Is this not sham rather than real localism?
Bus fares in Greater London have, in fact, been rising faster than those in non-metropolitan areas. As for the issue of franchising and local mayors, it is all about local control and decision accountability. A range of proposals will be published later in the year with the buses Bill.
10. What assessment he has made of trends in the rate of take-up of low-emission vehicles. 
As more models come into the market, businesses and consumers are recognising that low-emission vehicles are cheaper, greener, and a great driving experience. Thanks to a strong framework of Government support, more than four times as many ultra low-emission vehicles were registered in the first three months of 2015 as were registered in the first three months of 2014. Last year, one in four electric cars bought in Europe was made in Britain.
The United Kingdom is one of the world’s leading producers of low-emission engines. For instance, Perkins Engines, in my constituency, manufactures large engines for power generation, and Jaguar Land Rover, in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Gavin Williamson), manufactures vehicles. What further measures is my hon. Friend taking to encourage UK motorists to start using low-emission engines?
Never mind “one of the world’s leading producers”. I think that we are the world’s leading producer, given that all the i8 hybrid engines for BMWs are made at BMW’s £500 million Hams Hall plant, Donington Park has been chosen as the global headquarters for Formula E, and Geely is investing £250 million to make plug-in hybrid taxis at the new plant in Coventry, thus creating 1,000 jobs. So we are indeed leading the world. As more manufacturers make these models available, more consumers will be given that option at their local showrooms.
The Minister will know of the report that was submitted to the Economic Sub-Committee of the Cabinet which showed that the cost to our economy of air pollution from diesel and other vehicles was between £9 billion and £20 billion. When considering low emissions, will he take into account particulate matter—the PM 2.5—and nitrogen dioxide?
Internal combustion engines produce pollutants which contribute to air quality problems. That is why we need to ensure that more people opt for green alternatives such as electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and other technologies that are becoming available.
A report published in today’s Financial Times reveals that, in 2010, 9,500 people died prematurely in London alone as a result of pollutants that are commonly found in fumes from diesel trucks, buses and cars. As well as the human cost, such pollutants carry a financial cost of up to £3.7 billion, just in the capital. Will the Government look at that report, and consider commissioning a similar report applying to the whole United Kingdom?
There is a cross-party initiative on air quality. I should add that I came in on my bicycle this morning, so I have not contributed to any of the air quality problems in London.
We need to make further progress in rolling out low-emission vehicles, while ensuring that the electricity they use is produced in a sustainable way.
Figures published this week show the scale of the air quality challenge that faces London, in addition to the carbon dioxide challenge that faces us all, and other towns and cities have similar challenges ahead. Why, in the Budget, did the Chancellor impose a financial penalty on hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, putting them in the same band as cars with far higher emissions? Is it not time that the Chancellor talked to the Transport Secretary, and that both of them listened to what the industry is telling them?
When consumers are deciding which vehicle to buy, they will consider not only the level of vehicle excise duty that they will pay—which, incidentally, will be zero in the case of the very cleanest cars—but the total life cost of the fuel that they will use. It is pretty much a no-brainer to buy the most fuel-efficient car possible, and to opt for a plug-in vehicle if that suits the consumer’s lifestyle.
11. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of private investment in the bus industry. 
The bus market outside London is deregulated, and it is for individual commercial bus operators to determine how best to invest in their businesses. The biggest operators have invested £1.3 billion in new vehicles outside London over the past five years.
Local authority funding for local bus services in Fareham and Gosport has been reduced by £1.5 million, leaving areas in my constituency such as Whiteley, Locks Heath and Warsash with virtually no bus service. I am concerned that private investment is not filling the gaps. What are central Government going to do to assist?
I note my hon. Friend’s concern, but I believe that decisions about funding to support local bus services are best made at local level. I would say, however, that the Government are continuing to make substantial funding available to bus operators and local authorities through the £250 million bus service operators grant. Additionally, I understand that FirstGroup has made significant investment in local buses in south Hampshire. All the buses in that area are fitted with free wi-fi, and most are fitted with next-stop displays and audio announcements. This is being delivered in partnership with Solent Transport and with Department for Transport funding, and therefore involves a mixture of public and private funding. I share with my hon. Friend a desire to see a strong bus sector.
Further copious detail, if required, could always be lodged in the Library of the House.
I do not want to criticise the Minister, but I will. When my constituents go around the country, they, like me, see buses belching filthy black smoke from their out-of-date diesel engines. Cummins in my constituency makes the most advanced turbo-chargers in the world. Why are we not investing in a new generation of buses and getting rid of those that are belching out fumes, killing and shortening the lives of our constituents?
Just as the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill) came into work on his bicycle this morning, I came in on a bus. It was a clean bus, and the Government are investing heavily in clean bus technology all over the country. I am not quite sure when the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) was last on a bus, but if he looks around the country he will see an enormous range of clean buses right across the UK.
The Minister truly is a man of the people.
13. If he will meet senior management of Southeastern to discuss the reliability of its rail service; and if he will make a statement. 
I regularly meet the senior management of Southeastern to discuss their rail services, and I want to assure my hon. Friend that the recovery of reliability on that route is of the utmost importance to Southeastern, to Network Rail, to my Department and to Transport Focus. I now chair the weekly meeting of a taskforce comprising all those bodies and Southern Railway that is dedicated to improving the reliability and performance of the railway for customers travelling on those vital routes.
I am grateful to the Minister for the steps she has taken, of which I have had experience, but the fact remains that the performance of Southeastern trains is wholly unacceptable. I am getting emails from my constituents saying that their train is five minutes late more than 60% of the time, which tells me that the message is still not getting through. Should we not be urgently considering the introduction of financial penalties? Should we perhaps consider, even in advance of the franchise renewal in 2018, bringing in an operator such as London Overground, which operates its services infinitely more efficiently?
My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that performance is recovering, from a pretty low point last autumn, and that right-time performance is about 62%. That is still not good enough, in my view, but performance is on the mend. We face a massive challenge, in that we are doing some of the biggest engineering works in the UK around the critical stations that serve that part of the network, but that is not an excuse. We have to get performance better during these times of disruption, and that is what the quadrant taskforce is dedicated to doing.
17. One of the main frustrations of my constituents who use Southeastern trains is the number of occasions on which shorter trains than expected arrive at stations, resulting in acute overcrowding. Will the Minister commit to redeploying some of the Thameslink class 319 carriages to the Southeastern network to ease that problem? 
I commend the hon. Lady, who, unlike some of her colleagues, is an assiduous campaigner on the railways in her constituency. It is nice to see someone who really cares about the railways, rather than someone who simply reads out the Whips’ questions. [Interruption.] She is a Whip, as she points out, and this is her own question. She is right to focus on the issue of rolling stock, and she will be pleased to know that we have received a proposal for improving the rolling stock on that route, which we are now considering. I will take her suggestion into account.
Will the Minister tell us when the feasibility study on the Brighton main line 2 rail project was completed, and whether she will put the study in the House of Commons Library?
Another person who cares about his local railways. I am hoping the hon. Gentleman will join us at London Bridge on Monday, where we are having a really deep dive into what is going on there and the recovery plans for his route. He will know that the Chancellor has committed further funding to the feasibility study, which will help inform us as to the overall benefits. Of course the hon. Gentleman knows that this line, although very welcome to many, has to be effective in terms of cost and affordability—that is what we will be looking to see.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Not now—we will save the hon. Gentleman up for later.
15. What steps his Department is taking to improve the condition of roads. 
Over this Parliament the Government are investing £15.2 billion on upgrading our strategic road network, contributing £6 billion to the local growth fund for local enterprise partnership priorities, including local roads, and just under £6 billion in maintaining our local highways. It is a comprehensive package that will improve the condition of our road network.
In the light of the growth around Cambridge, does the Minister agree that it is time to upgrade the A10 north of Cambridge towards Ely?
The growth around Cambridge is encouraging and I hope that my hon. and learned Friend is encouraged by the fact that the Cambridgeshire schemes in the road investment strategy have a budget of more than £2 billion. The A10 is certainly an important north-south link providing access across Cambridgeshire, but it is for the local highways authority, the county council and the LEP to best decide what upgrades are needed. My hon. and learned Friend is a tenacious campaigner and I am sure they would be extremely wise to listen to her.
When the Minister next meets the chief executive of Highways England to discuss the condition of the strategic road network, will he also have a word about the litter on that network, because some of the filthiest roads in my constituency, the M60 and the M67, are under the ownership of Highways England and it is clear that its maintenance arrangements are not adequate?
I will be having a monthly meeting with the chief executive of Highways England and I will raise that point with him. To be fair to Highways England, they are not the people who deposit the litter in the first place.
Several hon. Members
Last but not least in this session, I call Matt Warman.
18. During the election campaign the then roads Minister came to my constituency to consider a new Boston distributor road and the opportunities it might present. It has been on the drawing board for the past 60 years, so will this Minister commit to continue the good work of his predecessor and come to look at that site again to see when we can finally get some shovels in the ground? 
I will certainly commit to continuing that good work and will be delighted to meet my hon. Friend in his constituency.
T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. 
Today, Sir Peter Hendy takes over as the new chairman of Network Rail—he is someone with huge experience who helped keep London moving during the Olympics—to develop the proposals by the autumn on how to improve our vital rail upgrades. That programme will be carried out and will report to me by the autumn. I can also confirm today that Lord Adonis has agreed to become a new non-executive director at HS2 Ltd, bringing his wealth of experience and vision to the project and clearly demonstrating its truly cross-party support.
Can the Secretary of State outline what steps are being taken to improve coastal protection along the west coast of Scotland?
I might need to write to the hon. Gentleman about that question and look at it in a bit more detail, because of all the things I had prepared for in these Transport questions, that was not one of them.
T3. Will the Minister update the House on the schedule for the much-needed improvements agreed for the A303? When will he meet Amesbury Town Council and other local interested parties to discuss the route and when this work will happen? 
As my hon. Friend knows, this Government are focused on delivering a £2 billion package of road improvements to the A303/A30/A358 corridor, and that includes dualling the A303 from Amesbury to Berwick Down, as was announced in the road investment strategy. Highways England will continue to engage with a wide range of stakeholders as it investigates what it is going to be doing in detail. It expects to start a wider public consultation in 2017. I will be delighted to meet Amesbury Town Council to discuss the scheme and to meet other local stakeholders, including local councils in his constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Claire Perry), the rail Minister.
Over the past few years, many incidents have raised serious concerns over maritime safety in the coastal waters of the highlands and islands. Those concerns have not yet been addressed. Will the Minister agree to meet MPs from the constituencies representing the west coast of Scotland to discuss those concerns and the provision of emergency towing vessels in the area?
I am happy to do so. I have already had briefings on the issue of emergency tugs in the area. I am pleased that we have recently rolled out our new search and rescue helicopters, which are providing a far better service to people in the hon. Gentleman’s part of the world.
T5. Junction 10 on the M27 has been identified for vital upgrading to an all-moves junction. Such work is vital to support the strategic development area of Welborne, bringing 6,000 new homes. Can my hon. Friend confirm that those works will be taking place in the first half of this Parliament, and that the funding shortfall of £30 million will come from central Government? 
The upgrade to junction 10 on the M27 has been profiled to start its preliminary work this year. The Government have contributed £14.9 million through the Solent local enterprise partnership growth deal to make up the shortfall of the scheme. In March, they also contributed £3.4 million in the second growth deal to support the local connections into the junction, and those works will start in 2015.
T2. The Davies commission predicted that 40 million passengers would use Gatwick by 2024, yet Gatwick says that it will reach that number this year. Who does the Secretary of State think is right on that point, and is he concerned that the Davies commission may have underestimated the economic impact of expanding Gatwick? 
As I said when the Davies commission report was published just a few weeks ago, we will be looking at all its implications and recommendations and coming to our view and reporting back to the House by the end of the year.
T8. In my constituency, work is under way on building the M6 link road to Heysham port. As phase 2 of the extension, it would be wise to consider carrying out a feasibility study on a tunnel under Morcambe Bay, as the tunnel would link in with the powerhouse and open up the whole of the Furness peninsula. Will my hon. Friend make a statement on that issue? 
I understand that my hon. Friend is aware that it is for the two local transport authorities of Lancashire and Cumbria County Councils, in consultation with their respective LEPs, to assess whether to take forward the development of that ambitious scheme, which would include any feasibility study. I understand that he has had meetings with both authorities and urge him to continue those discussions and keep me informed of progress.
T4. Some 85% of internal and cross-channel freight goes by lorry. A substantial modal shift of freight from road to rail cannot happen unless and until full-size lorry trailers can be carried on trains, which is impossible on the existing network. When will the Government look seriously at investing in new large gauge rail capacity to accommodate lorry trailers on trains and linking the regions and nations of Britain both to each other and to the channel tunnel? 
I commend the hon. Gentleman for his long-term promotion of this large rail project, the G8 freight project. He will know that I was delighted to renew the modal shift grant. We are very focused on getting freight off the roads and on to trains. One freight train saves 72 HGV journeys. I am happy to meet him on this. I understand that the proposal has been looked at several times and was declined about 10 years ago. If he has new information, I would be delighted to see it.
Potholes in my constituency cause inconvenience, expense and even danger. Does my right hon. Friend agree that technology is a key weapon in the battle against this menace and that councils should look to use the latest pothole resistant coatings during road resurfacing?
We have allocated a substantial increase to local authorities for mending potholes—it is something like a 50% increase over what was provided in 1997. My hon. Friend is right that potholes are a substantial nuisance and menace, and that looking at new ways of repairing them is also very important. Those ways will mean that potholes are repaired and do not deteriorate so quickly.
T6. Fifty-six cyclists have been killed on our roads this year. Following the meeting with the Prime Minister yesterday, will the Minister seek to expand the cycling cities initiative to more cities to help develop the safe cycling infrastructure? 
I had an informal meeting with the Prime Minister immediately after the meeting the hon. Lady mentions, and we discussed what measures can be put in place to try and improve the safety of cyclists, such as looking at how junctions can be redesigned. We are proud of our record so far on investment in cycling, and we would like to see more cities taking up the option of becoming a cycling city and reaching the £10 per head funding which the existing cycle cities have achieved.
The Secretary of State has just said that potholes are a nuisance and a menace, but they are incredibly dangerous as well, particularly for cyclists. Can he encourage local authorities to use the money that has now been provided to act urgently to repair potholes?
Yes, I would urge local authorities to act urgently. We have set a budget for local authorities for the next five years so that they can plan their maintenance to get the best service for their constituents and the road user, be it cyclist or motorist.
T7. A recent report published by the Papworth trust found that one in five stations in England is accessible to disabled people and that two thirds of disabled passengers need to book assistance in advance to travel. Will the Minister commit to making accessibility a condition of future rail franchises? 
I am sure the hon. Lady, like me, welcomes the fact that under the previous Government we spent and now continue to spend an unprecedented amount of money on accessibility. She is right to focus on the fact that the rail industry voluntarily provides an amazing free service for disabled passengers who need to make shift changes. I think we have made good progress. I am happy to look at individual station applications, but it is right that the railway network is accessible for all.
The Sheffield-Gainsborough-Cleethorpes line has many dilapidated stations and a Saturdays-only service. This is a ludicrous state of affairs. People want to visit Cleethorpes seven days a week. Will the rail Minister agree to a meeting with me and the other Members affected?
Like me, my hon. Friend is an assiduous reader of Rail Magazine. That was a cover story two weeks ago. He is right. The problem we have is a system that has pushed money out of the top, rather than pulled money through the bottom, so even where there are services and new trains, the station infrastructure does not always keep up. I would be delighted to meet him and to come to Cleethorpes once again.
T9. Some 68% of over-70s households have a car and older drivers are more experienced and generally safer road users who make fewer insurance claims, yet often face higher premiums than those of us in our 40s. What, if anything, will the Secretary of State do to encourage insurance companies to adopt a health-based rather than an age-based approach to insurance premiums? 
The points that the hon. Gentleman makes are very interesting, and next time I meet the insurance companies I will certainly raise that issue with them.
In a sort of Rossendale remake of “Groundhog Day”, Bacup road in my constituency is being dug up for the third time in the past 18 months. Will my right hon. Friend write to Lancashire County Council about the success of London’s lane rental scheme in reducing delays?
I am aware that the Mayor of London enthuses about the success of the lane rental scheme in London and the positive impact it has had in minimising disruption from roadworks. As my hon. Friend knows, the Government believe these decisions are best taken locally, but I will be happy to look closely at what he says and take it up with the county council.
A key driver of economic growth in the north of England is Manchester airport, which is in my constituency. It relies on public sector transport for its market penetration. Does the Secretary of State understand that the cancellation of midland main line and the electrification of trans-Pennine routes damages Manchester’s economy and our potential growth?
There has been no cancellation. The hon. Gentleman should look to the fact that, as I pointed out just a few moments ago, we have electrified the line from Liverpool to Manchester and further upgrades are taking place in relation to the whole of the northern powerhouse. It is something to which we continue to be committed.
I recently travelled from Frodsham station to Liverpool John Lennon airport along the Halton curve. It took 15 minutes. This is a game-changer for commuters in the area. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the £10.4 million investment and reinstatement of the Halton curve is a strong commitment of this Government to Weaver Vale, Cheshire and the northern powerhouse?
Indeed, and I could reel off a pile of other schemes that have led to improvements in connections and connectivity in the north. My hon. Friend the rail Minister is going with my hon. Friend to visit that site in the not-too-distant future.
Considering the success of the new lower Scottish drink-driving limit, when will England and Wales follow Scotland, and the rest of Europe, in saving more lives on the roads by lowering the blood alcohol limit to 50 mg per 100 ml?
Obviously we will look at any evidence we see. I am pleased that we have introduced new penalties for drug-driving, and we are one of the first countries to do so.
As my right hon. Friend will know—he set out his priorities the other week—electrification of the Great Western main line will open up job opportunities and growth for my constituency. Will he confirm that the Government are committed to the largest investment in the railways since the Victorians?
Indeed. My hon. Friend and I have visited some of the schemes going through his constituency and seen the big challenges of electrifying a railway for the first time in its 130-year history, but they are challenges that we are determined to meet.
When the Secretary of State or his Ministers are next having conversations with their Treasury colleagues, will they urge them to look at the shameful disparity between wholesale and retail prices for petrol and diesel? A review is needed to look into why motorists are being ripped off.
I am always keen to have discussions with Treasury colleagues, and that might be one of the issues we discuss next time.
Business of the House
Will the Leader of the House give us the business for next week?
The business for next week is as follows:
Monday 20 July—Second Reading of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.
Tuesday 21 July—Second Reading of the Finance Bill.
The business for the week commencing 7 September will be:
Monday 7 September—Remaining stages of the European Union Referendum Bill.
Tuesday 8 September—Consideration in Committee of the Finance Bill.
Wednesday 9 September—Opposition day (6th allotted day). There will be a debate on a motion in the name of the Scottish National party. Subject to be announced.
Thursday 10 September—Business to be nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 11 September—Private Members’ Bills.
I want to inform the House of two other matters. First, it might be helpful to right hon. and hon. Members, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone), to know that you, Mr Speaker, have authorised a trial during the September sittings in which the alphabetical groupings in the Division Lobbies will be changed. We will not be consigning the Mc’s to the outer darkness, but the letter G will move to the A to F desk. That is to try to address the issue, raised by several Members, of long queues at the current G to M desk. The trial will run for two weeks to establish whether the new arrangements improve the situation.
Finally, as is customary, I want to thank all the staff of the House for their hard work, particularly in supporting Members at the start of this Parliament following the general election. I hope that they enjoy a well-deserved break. I hope that all right hon. and hon. Members will also have a well-deserved break as well as spending a lot of time on constituency work—it is not all holidays, of course—before the House returns in September.
Let me begin by seconding the Leader of the House’s thanks to all the staff and employees of the House for the support they have given us since the general election. As he is trialling the moving of the letter G from one desk in the Division Lobbies to another, perhaps he will explain why we cannot trial his plans for English votes for English laws, because they seem more important.
Yesterday’s general debate on the Government’s rushed and partisan proposals to introduce an English veto into our Standing Orders demonstrated that there is no support for it outside the Government. The Leader of the House has not announced when in September he intends to force votes to introduce his reckless plan. Will he tell us now on what date he is thinking of bringing the matter back to the House? Will he confirm that, despite the huge doubts expressed yesterday, he intends to force it through with no further concessions?
This week we learned that the Government’s plan to pack the House of Lords with 100 extra, mainly Tory, peers has been blocked by the Cabinet Secretary—at least for now. Does the Leader of the House agree that the upper House is already bursting at the seams and that, even without these extra peers, it now has the dubious distinction of being the second largest legislature in the world, beaten only by the Chinese People’s Congress? Given that every peer costs £117,000 a year, can we have a debate about how on earth these plans fulfil the Prime Minister’s pledge to cut the cost of politics? Why does this Prime Minister think it is acceptable to slash the number of elected Members in this House while allowing the unelected House to expand seemingly indefinitely in his own party’s interests?
The summer recess is nearly upon us, and I bet nobody will be more relieved than the Leader of the House. He is just two months into his new job and the Government’s business has already descended into chaos. We have had the Prime Minister’s doomed attempt to enforce collective Cabinet responsibility over his own EU referendum, which he hurriedly abandoned at the first whiff of grapeshot. In the last week we have learned of the Government’s new “dodgems” strategy to pilot their business through the House. Their headlong rush to impose a shoddy and partisan “English votes for English laws” fix was replaced with yesterday’s general debate without a vote to manage unease on their own Back Benches. Then we had the absolute farce of their botched attempt to wreck the Hunting Act 2004. The first vote was meant to be today, then it was moved to yesterday to be rushed through in 90 minutes, and then, as most of us learned on Twitter well before the Leader of the House came to the House to announce the change using a point of order, the Government pulled the vote because they knew they would lose. Will the Leader of the House tell us what other chaos he is planning for September?
This week the Government’s farcical attempt to reincarnate themselves as some kind of workers’ party has been exposed as a sham. Before the election, the Tories had vowed to “transform policy and practice” to help more disabled people into work. After the election, they scrapped the independent living fund, and we now hear that the Prime Minister is considering forcing workers to save up for their own sick pay. The Chancellor’s so-called national living wage has been exposed as just a rebrand of the minimum wage, and with his huge cuts to tax credits, millions will be thousands of pounds a year worse off. The Mayor of London has let the cat out of the bag, acknowledging that these changes will not deliver “enough to live on”.
Yesterday the Government revealed their real nature with the most vindictive attack on trade unions for 30 years. Despite the Government’s spin, this is an attack on the basic freedom to organise in the workplace that any Latin American dictator would have been proud of. If they really were the workers’ party, they would be supporting trade unions, not attacking them.
Today we will hear the result of the Liberal Democrats’ leadership election. I would like to send my commiserations to whichever candidate is unfortunate enough to win. Since the Prime Minister’s pre-resignation, there have been interesting developments in the Conservative party leadership election. Yesterday the Home Secretary poured cold water on the Mayor of London’s plans for water cannon. He has sprayed around public money, buying second-hand German cannons that it transpires he cannot even use. The Home Secretary rejected his business case because it was not watertight. I just hope he bought them on a sale-or-return basis. The Chancellor has also been on manoeuvres. The Treasury sent out an email to lobby journalists that mysteriously read, “Blah, blah, blah.” That is the most sensible thing the Chancellor has said in five years.
We have all been entranced this week by the news that a NASA space probe has made it to Pluto: a cold, desolate, lifeless place, light years away from civilisation. It sounds just like the Tory Back Benches. No doubt we are about to discover that it is a plutocracy run by old Plutonians—a bit like this place.
I have a high regard for the hon. Lady as a parliamentarian, but as a stand-up comedian, I would not go there. [Interruption.] I think hon. Members laughed in exasperation at how bad, not how good, the jokes were.
The hon. Lady asked about English votes for English laws and, indeed, the trial of the new Division Lobby arrangements. I assure her that the English votes for English laws procedure will last longer than two weeks when we put it into place. It is not customary to announce business further in advance than is normal in the business statement. When we return in September, I will as normal set out the business for the coming weeks.
The hon. Lady made a point about the House of Lords. May I once again suggest that it really is not a good idea to believe everything she reads in the papers? That story was simply not true, and it has rightly been described by Downing Street as “nonsense”. [Interruption.] I take it that the Labour party will therefore not nominate any peers in future. I take it that the hon. Lady is giving a self-denying ordinance that there will be no more Labour nominations to the House of Lords.
The hon. Lady talked about reducing the size of this House. I simply remind her, as I keep doing on English votes for English laws, that we believe in keeping to our manifesto commitments.
There was, however, one point on which we agreed—offering our good wishes to the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, who will be announced this afternoon. As the hon. Lady rightly says, he faces a very big and uphill task. We now have a collection of fine Members of Parliament on the Government Benches who will be excellent representatives of their constituencies and will I am afraid freeze out the Liberal Democrats for the foreseeable future.
The hon. Lady talked about chaos. Let me give a simple explanation of chaos. Chaos is a party that claims to represent working people, but votes against a national living wage. Chaos is a party that claims to represent working people and not support benefit-dependency, but increasingly opposes our reform of welfare, as we see in Labour Members’ mounting rebellion at their leadership’s attempt to claim that they support our reforms. Chaos is a party that claims to support an extra voice for the English, but says it will vote against a sensible package of reforms that will do the right thing for the English. Chaos is a party that ends up with its leadership candidates fighting over whether it is good idea for a party leader to be a parent. Chaos is a party that cannot even condemn the strikes that left millions of people unable to make their normal journeys to work last week.
The hon. Lady talks about supporting trade unions. May I ask her, as one of two preferred deputy leadership candidates backed by a militant boss who says it is okay to break the law, whether that is really what she means by supporting the trade unions? She talks about places that are light years away from civilisation. There is one place close to here where that is definitely the case—in the Labour party.
May we have a debate on why British taxpayers’ money should be used in the bail-out of Greece when we are not a member of the eurozone?
We are very clear that British taxpayers’ money will not be put on the line as part of the support for Greece. We have huge sympathy with the plight faced by the Greek Government and their people. It is right and proper that action is taken within the eurozone to try to support them, but the reality is that this is a problem for the eurozone and within the eurozone. Britain is not part of the eurozone and we do not want to be part of the eurozone. It is for the taxpayers of the eurozone, not the taxpayers of this country, to put their money on the line to support this bail-out.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business. I sincerely hope that it lasts a bit longer than last week’s business and that it will not be hastily rearranged on the back of a point of order, as happened this week.
It seems as though the Scottish National party now has almost a magical omnipotent power. As soon as we announce our intention to exercise our democratic rights in the House and vote on a measure announced in the business statement, it miraculously disappears. Such is this omnipotence that we are seemingly credited for the election result in England, the near-death of the Liberal Democrats and the crisis in Labour, and now we are the saviours of the English foxes.
I am going to try my arm and see whether I can test that omnipotence a little further. I announce to the Leader of the House that the Scottish National party fully intends to vote on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. Let us see whether we can get that miraculously to disappear and whether we can do the job of protecting the poor, the most marginal and the vulnerable in society from the callous Bill that the Tories intend to introduce. We cannot leave that to the Labour party. I have no idea what Labour Members will do on Monday, but I hope that they join us in the Lobby and vote against this callous Bill. When I look round at my honourable colleagues in the Labour party I have my doubts, but I hope they do the right thing.
The Leader of the House does not like me referring constantly to the Scotland Bill, but he will have to indulge me a little more. This week the Secretary of State for Scotland announced that he is in a mood to accept some amendments, which is good news for my hon. Friends given that we have had four days of debate on the Bill and nothing has been accepted. I appeal to the Leader of the House for sufficient time to discuss the remaining stages of the Bill, so that amendments are debated by elected Members of this House and none are taken to the unelected, bloated Chamber up there, where there are no representatives of the Scottish National party. The amendments must be discussed under the full glare of the elected representatives of the Scottish people. Can the right hon. Gentleman assure me that we will get sufficient time to debate those issues properly?
Finally, as is customary as we head towards the recess, may I wish you, Mr Speaker, an enjoyable summer recess? I also wish the staff of the House an enjoyable recess, and on behalf of all new SNP Members—this is practically a new parliamentary group—let me say that the kindness and good grace shown by the staff of the House in assisting all our new Members has been recognised by us all. I also wish the Leader of the House an enjoyable summer recess. He has been kind and courteous to us in our new enhanced position here, and I wish him all the best for the recess. I hope he comes back, drops his EVEL plans, and I am sure we will get on just famously.
Let me reciprocate and say that although we will have lively debates across the Floor of the House, I have found initial relations between myself, my colleagues and the new SNP Members at Westminster to be pleasant and congenial. I return the hon. Gentleman’s wishes and I hope that all SNP Members—indeed, all Members of the House—have a pleasant recess. Having gone through an election period when everybody works immensely hard, although lots of us have constituency work during the summer, I think that everybody deserves a short break as well. I wish everybody the best for the summer recess.
Perhaps over the summer, as the hon. Gentleman relaxes on the beach or wherever he is, he might consider whether he really wants to pursue the policy of reversing what he rightly said when he gave evidence to the McKay commission about the need for the Scottish National party to stay outside matters that do not affect it. That has been a policy of principle for the SNP over many years, and it is a shame that he has walked away from that. If anybody is U-turning at the moment, it is him. He is a man of principle, and I am sure that he will reflect again and perhaps take a different approach in the future.
I must disappoint the hon. Gentleman about the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, because I suspect that the Scottish National party’s view on that will not change many opinions on the Government Benches. This is a Bill on behalf of working people, and I am certain that it commands support among working people in Scotland who—like everyone else in the country—want a welfare system that is fair, and also fair to those who pay for it. That is what the Bill will do.
On the Scotland Bill, I say simply that there will be a further day of debate in the House and the conclusion of proceedings. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to table amendments and debate them with the Scottish Secretary, he will of course have the chance to do so as normal.
With the news this week that the promise that the European Union made to our Prime Minister has been reneged on, may we have an early debate on how we can hold the European Union to account so that it complies with its word? For example, can we bring forward a breach of promise action against the European Union?
I understand my hon. Friend’s point and I have every sympathy with what he says. We have been clear that we in this country will not allow taxpayers’ money to be put on the line for a bail-out. We are also clear that the political agreement reached between member states must be adhered to. That is a matter for the eurozone and for its members to resolve. We cannot be in a position where countries outside the eurozone have their taxpayers’ money put at risk in circumstances such as this. We are clear about that, and sympathetic to, my hon. Friend’s point, and there will be a number of opportunities next week for him to raise a point about which he is absolutely correct.
The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill is currently finishing its progress through the other place and will come here shortly. Will the Leader of the House tell us when that will be? Will he also ensure that this English devolution Bill takes as much time on the Floor of the House as we have rightly spent discussing the Scotland Bill, which is a devolution Bill for Scotland? Will he ensure that the 85% of the UK population that is English can see that this House fulfils its obligations by considering the Bill on the Floor of the House and not in Committee?
I will take a careful look at the timetable for the Bill. We have a lot of business to get through in the autumn, but we will endeavour to make sure there is as much time available for key measures as possible. I absolutely share the hon. Gentleman’s view on the importance of this measure. It is a part of a devolution package designed to provide additional powers across the United Kingdom. It is right and proper that cities such as Manchester have additional powers. My hope and expectation is that the Bill will pass and deliver those powers.
Ladder for Staffordshire is a new campaign to promote apprenticeships across Cannock Chase and the wider area. It created 50 new apprenticeships on the first day alone. May we have a debate on the role that such campaigns can play in helping to create apprenticeships?
Local work done to promote our overall national goals on apprenticeships is absolutely vital. I praise all those in my hon. Friend’s constituency who have been involved in that work, and her for the work she is doing. Engaging employers in providing apprenticeships is vital, something she will no doubt wish to discuss during the passage of the Finance Bill or when Treasury Ministers are here next week. We need to keep getting across to employers the role they can play.
I note on the Order Paper today that nominations for membership of the Backbench Business Committee have been forthcoming. We are not yet completely open for business, but I hope that by Monday we will be and that on Tuesday we can have our first meeting. Under normal circumstances, we would be looking for submissions to the Committee by the previous Friday, which would be today. I have contacted colleagues and people are agreeable for submissions to be made by mid-afternoon on Monday, with the first meeting of the Committee hopefully at lunchtime on Tuesday. Will the Leader of the House please recommend to right hon. and hon. Members that they make applications for debates to the Backbench Business Committee on subjects of their choosing?
I am very happy to do that. I see the hon. Gentleman is making a number of appearances on the Order Paper today, since he is one of those who appears to be not entirely in line with his party’s acting leadership on other matters. I absolutely support his request. Given that we are setting out Committees late before the summer recess, it is right and proper that a little flexibility is shown. I am sure everyone in this House would accept that that should be the case.
Following the point made my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) about the breach of promise by the EU, as I understand it, we are now required, as the United Kingdom, to put £1 billion towards the bail-out of Greece. I think people will find that unacceptable, so may we have a statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer next week on that subject?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer will be here on Tuesday and will certainly be explaining where we have got to on this matter. He is clear, and I am clear, that British taxpayers’ money cannot be put on the line to bail out Greece. That would not be acceptable to the people of this country. We have a debate to come in this country on our relationship with the European Union. I think people would look very hard if we were put into a position where our taxpayers’ money was on the line for a bail-out in the eurozone when we are not a part of the eurozone.
Great progress has been made in recent years in tackling cancer and increasing survival rates, but there remain great discrepancies between the various regions and countries of the UK in terms of early diagnosis and treatment. May we have a debate at some point early in the next session on how we can ensure that all our constituents get equal access to early diagnosis and treatment?
We would obviously want the best possible treatment for every citizen of the United Kingdom. We have arrangements where the health services in the four parts of the UK are managed separately. These are devolved matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is important that we share best practice from the NHS in England to the NHS in the other three countries in attempting to make sure that the best possible treatment is available, but that is of course a matter for the devolved Administrations to decide.
I thank the Leader of the House and you, Mr Speaker, for your quick response in recognising and responding to Members’ concerns about the arrangements in the Division Lobbies.
Allegedly, Kettering is the most average town in England. It is, however, very special to those of us who live there, and its special status has been confirmed by the award of a purple flag for it having a thriving, safe and vibrant night-time economy. That is similar to green flags for parks or blue flags for beaches. May we therefore have a debate in Government time about the importance of provincial town centres, and how best practice from places like Kettering might be rolled out to the rest of the country?
I am sure that my hon. Friend did not intend to inadvertently mislead the House, but I have to say that no constituency represented by him could possibly be an average town. [Hon. Members: “Hear, Hear.”] I congratulate everyone in Kettering who has worked towards that award. I know Kettering; it is a fine town. It is a great community, and it is a tribute to the strength of its community that it has been marked in this way.
Yesterday, I and other colleagues attended the opening of the new parliamentary education centre. I commend you, Mr Speaker, and the other Officers of the House, and Westminster City Council, for ensuring that it was up and running so quickly. Given the importance of the regions to the development of Parliament, would it be possible to look at setting up sub-offices of the parliamentary education centre in those towns and cities that are associated with the development of parliamentary rights? We obviously do not have a purple flag like Kettering, but we do have Simon de Montfort, the Earl of Leicester. May we have a debate on that very important subject?
As long as the right hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that we might relocate Parliament to Leicester, I would be very happy to table that as a thought for the Commission. I was very sorry to miss the launch of the education centre yesterday; the shadow Leader of the House and I were obviously in this Chamber for the debate on English votes. I congratulate everybody who has been involved in it. I am looking forward to visiting the centre to see the work that has been done, and I see no reason why we should not explore ways of ensuring that people around the country have an opportunity to learn more about Parliament.
May we have a debate about local democracy and local accountability? In particular, may we explore the practice of electing people to local councils by thirds, which not only is a spectacular waste of money compared with all-out elections every four years, but undermines local accountability? When the local people want to get rid of a corrupt or poorly performing local authority—such as we have seen in the past with Doncaster and Rotherham—they cannot do so when it is elected by thirds, when one party has a massive majority. All-in and all-out elections surely bring about much more local democracy. May we have a debate on them?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. I have both in my constituency—part of the constituency is all-out, part is by thirds. It is certainly the case that thirds creates a constant programme of elections, which cost the taxpayer. I cannot comment specifically on the circumstances that he refers to, but of course these decisions are taken locally, can be taken locally, and with a proper debate locally things can be changed.
Prior to the general election, the Chancellor advised that my constituency of Dewsbury would be designated an enterprise zone within 100 days. Will the Leader of the House agree to ask the Minister to meet me to discuss the implementation process?
Of course, the Chancellor will be here for Treasury questions next week and I would simply suggest to the hon. Lady that she puts that question to him. The enterprise zone programme is part of our plan to shift the focus in this country—in our deprived areas and our challenged areas and in towns that need support and development and economic growth—away from excessive welfare dependency and on to a focus on better conditions for people in the workplace through the national living wage and better support for business. It is a shame that the hon. Lady appears to oppose the measures that we shall bring before the House on Monday, because they would help her town and others like it.
Corby is under threat from plans for a gasification plant. Local people are united in opposing the plans, and I am standing shoulder to shoulder with them in fighting against them—Corby really does say no. May we have a statement from a Minister setting out the protections that are in place for communities that are under the threat of gasification plants being built?
I will make sure that my hon. Friend’s concerns are passed on to the relevant Ministers. He is already proving a powerful advocate for Corby. I know that this is an issue of concern to local residents, and I will make sure he gets a proper response.
August 6th will mark the 70th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, and a few days later will be the anniversary of Nagasaki. Will the Leader of the House provide Government time to reflect on the legacy of that event and the horrors of nuclear war, and will he perhaps tell us when we can expect a statement from the Defence Secretary about the timetable for the maingate decision on Trident?
No one could look back on the bombings at the end of the second world war without a sense that we must never allow that to happen again. The reality is that for 70 years the world has managed to keep a nuclear peace, and long may that continue. The Defence Secretary will be in the House again after the summer recess, will continue to be available for questions and will set out our plans in due course.
Yesterday the Auditor General for Wales published a damning report on the Labour Welsh Government’s handling of the regeneration investment fund for Wales and the underselling of a large amount of publicly owned property. May we have a statement on the issue from the Secretary of State for Wales as soon as practicable?
My hon. Friend gives me an example that I missed out when I talked about the chaos in the Labour party. It is chaotic in opposition, chaotic in government, letting down Wales and failing to deliver the services and environment that Wales needs. It would be great to see Wales have a Conservative Government, not the current Labour Administration who have let it down year after year.
Today the Home Secretary has published the terms of reference of the Pitchford inquiry into undercover policing. To be frank, I expected an oral statement, not a written statement, given its significance. The purpose is to investigate to what
“extent and effect undercover police operations have targeted political and social justice campaigners.”
Some months ago, we revealed in the House the extent of undercover police surveillance of trade unionists, but there is no explicit mention of trade unionists in the terms of reference, which we expected there to be. Will the Leader of the House seek clarification from the Home Secretary that trade unionists who have been under surveillance will be included in the inquiry’s terms of reference?
It will be up to the Home Secretary to give a detailed response to that question, and I will make sure she is aware of the hon. Gentleman’s point.
Last Friday I was delighted to look at three brownfield housing sites in my constituency, at Valley Road and Hope Mill in Barnoldswick and at Knotts Lane in Colne, where the Together Housing Group is delivering 95 new affordable homes this financial year. May we have a debate on brownfield generation and on what more can be done to ensure that we prioritise brownfield land over greenfield land?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. When the Chancellor announced our reforms to the planning process last week, he was clear that there should be a strong, and in many cases automatic, presumption of development on brownfield sites, and that we should protect our green belt. We as a party feel strongly about that. Yes, we face housing pressures and need to build new houses, but that must not happen at the expense of the character of our country. I believe that we have a portfolio of policies that will secure that.
As the Leader of the House will fully appreciate, the Secretary of State for Transport’s recent announcement that the electrification of the trans-Pennine route will no longer go ahead as planned has been met with widespread concern throughout the Chamber. Given the importance of the matter, does the Leader of the House agree that time should be allocated to debate the future of that major project?
Of course, the Transport Secretary has just been in the House answering questions on that very issue. We have not cancelled the programme; we have simply had to delay it. We will go ahead with the electrification. I remind the hon. Lady that when Labour was in government, it electrified 10 miles of railway line. We have a major programme of electrification that could have started when Labour was in government, but it did not.
Our economic recovery will be put at risk if trade unions no longer act within the law, as they suggest. May we have an urgent statement on how trade unions can be made to act legally?
The one more disgraceful thing I have seen in recent days than a trade union leader saying that it is okay for his members to operate outside the law has been the Labour party’s deafening silence in condemning such an irresponsible statement. I waited for the acting leader of the Labour party or any of the four candidates for the leadership to stand up and say, “That is wrong. Trade unionists should not break the law”. But silence followed. I heard nothing—no condemnation. That is because they are so in hock to the trade union movement that they do not even dare to tell them that breaking the law is wrong.
Following recent reports that the Ministry of Defence has spent almost £120 million in one year on car rental, may we have a statement or a debate in Government time on whether that kind of practice can possibly represent value for money in MOD procurement?
We can safely assume that the Ministry of Defence, under the high-quality leadership of the current Secretary of State, looks to make sure that it maximises the value of its budget. I am pleased that we will maintain our 2% commitment to NATO, but that does not mean that the Secretary of State will not look to drive out extra efficiencies to ensure that we put as much resource as possible into the front line.
BCG is an important ingredient in drugs to tackle bladder cancer, but there is a shortage and only one manufacturer of it—MSD, which to its credit is producing as much as it can. Several other manufacturers have left that particular business. May we have a debate on ensuring the security of the supply of those most vital drugs?
I commend my hon. Friend for the work he has done in this important area. He is a great champion for the health service in his constituency and for his constituents who need healthcare. I will make sure that the Secretary of State for Health is aware of the concerns my hon. Friend raises, and gives him a response before we come back in September.
In Transport questions, on a question on parallel tracks, the Secretary of State moved into a parallel universe when he refused to answer a question about the Brighton main line 2 rail upgrade programme and a feasibility study mentioned on page 69 of the Budget Red Book, which clearly states that the feasibility study exists. The rail Minister could not give the answer because the study does not exist, as revealed in a parliamentary answer I received this week. May we have a statement to bring clarity to the situation? Either the Department for Transport or the Chancellor is in danger of misleading the House.
If the hon. Gentleman wants to put the question directly to the Chancellor, he will be here on Tuesday for Treasury questions. The hon. Gentleman could also request an Adjournment debate in which he could put his questions directly, over a longer period of time, to the Minister concerned.
Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the great work being done by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which allocates some £375 million to projects across the UK every year? An event last week, hosted by my predecessor, Sir Peter Luff, showcased many works connected with the centenary of the first world war.
The House’s loss is the Heritage Lottery Fund’s gain. Sir Peter was a distinguished public servant in this House for many years. He was well regarded and will be much missed in his constituency, even though he has a great successor. I pay tribute to the Heritage Lottery Fund and to all the organisations that have been involved in commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of the first world war. The Woodland Trust in my constituency has begun to create a new area of woodland to mark the occasion, as it is doing in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Several other organisations have been involved, and it has been an example of this nation at its best.
The Smith family from my constituency, whose son Colin died tragically aged seven, a victim of the contaminated blood scandal, are keenly awaiting the Government’s further response to the Penrose inquiry. When will that happen?
This issue has rightly caused enormous concern across the House. Many of our constituents have been touched by it, and the hon. Lady is not alone in having tragic circumstances in her constituency. I know that the matter is very much on the minds of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State. It is our intention to respond in the timetable that was committed to.
This summer I am very much looking forward to my annual week of volunteering, when I will join the volunteers of the National Trust, the Holme Valley mountain rescue team, the Pack Horse trail, Huddersfield Canal Society and The Cuckoo’s Nest in Marsden. May we have a debate about the wonderful service that volunteers provide in our communities day in, day out?
By the sounds of it my hon. Friend is not going to be getting much sleep that week! I hope he finds that that experience is helpful to him and enables him to do what we as Members of Parliament should all do, which is to pay tribute to the work that volunteers do in our society. Our society is a better and stronger place because of their work, and every one of us will have examples in our constituencies of people who go more than the extra mile to do good work for the areas where they live. We should praise every single one of them and be grateful to them for what they do.
The access to, and availability of, cancer drugs throughout the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is an issue that concerns directly more than 50% of our population. The current cancer drugs strategy runs out in March 2016. Will the Leader of the House agree to a debate about this vital health matter in the autumn?
It is of course important that we deliver the best possible support for cancer victims. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence makes a real effort to try to identify the right products to make available through the national health service, and individual local responsibility for decision making lies with the devolved Assemblies, but there will be opportunities after the summer recess to raise the issue with Health Ministers —in questions, in an Adjournment debate and now that the Backbench Business Committee is up and running. The Health Secretary is also in the House regularly to take questions from Members.
Yesterday I went to the Diabetes UK lobby, where I met a brave triple amputee, along with two of my constituents who live with diabetes. One of them gave me the Daily Mirror, which reports that 135 amputations are taking place every week. We have found ourselves in an appalling situation, and it is only going to get worse with the obesity time bomb that is about to hit us. Is it possible to have a statement as early as possible from a Health Minister on exactly what the Government intend to do to tackle this appalling tragedy?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight that very real health challenge which this country faces, and the very real issue that many of our constituents face. I am pleased that we are the first Government, I think, in one of very few countries—if there are any others—to have a national strategy to address the issue. The Health Secretary takes the issue very seriously, and I will make sure that he is aware of my hon. Friend’s concerns so that when my right hon. Friend is next in the House he can provide an update about the work he is doing in that important area.
It was an act of cowardice by the Government to deny this House a democratic vote on fox hunting, just because the nasty, blood sports party has become too nasty even for many of its own MPs. When can we express the settled view of the country and of MPs that the tormenting and killing of defenceless animals for fun is not acceptable?
The hon. Gentleman represents a Welsh constituency, and it is perhaps not a coincidence that the Labour party lost seats in Wales at the general election, because it does not appear to be very much in touch with the concerns of Welsh business or, in this particular case, of Welsh farmers. I suggest that he talks to them about their concerns.
In January I turned 40—[Interruption.] I know, I know. The reason why that is relevant is that the year before I was born is the last time we had wholesale reform of local government. Following on from the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), I think the time has come for a debate about how we run local government and whether it is fit for purpose. Mr Speaker, I know you are keen on brevity, so may we have a long debate about local government reform, one which needs to start specifically with the democratic accountability of one member per ward?
One challenge that many smaller councils face is that they have three-member wards, and several have decided they cannot afford to have so many councillors and have reduced those numbers. It is a live issue, but one that can be and is decided by local authorities themselves. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend will make strong representations in his own area on their moving to a more efficient system.
Given the shambles of the debate around EVEL, the Government’s intransigence over the Scotland Bill and their all-out attack on the renewables sector in Scotland, may we have a debate in Government time about their one nation approach, because it would be very enlightening to know which nation they are referring to?
It still baffles me why the Scottish National party appears to believe that covering the Scottish mountains in endless wind farms is the best way to preserve Scotland’s character. The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues talk about English constituents raising concerns with them, thereby giving them the right to vote and express a view, but plenty of English people have expressed profound concern about wind farms in Scotland and the damage they do to the Scottish environment. We are listening to them.
In the early hours of this morning, two young men were admitted to hospital with stab wounds following a major gang fight in my constituency. I understand that several individuals are under arrest as a result. I also believe that statistics have been published this morning showing that knife crime is on the increase for the first time in four years. Will my right hon. Friend facilitate an early statement from the Home Secretary on what we can do to remove the scourge of knife crime from our streets once and for all?
We have taken additional steps in this area to introduce tougher legislation. I pay tribute to our former hon. Friend, Nick de Bois, the previous Member for Enfield North, for his work in this area. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes), who has worked hard in this area too, as has my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman). We have introduced measures as a result of which anybody caught carrying a knife for a second time will be subject to an automatic jail sentence. We have to send a strong message that it is simply not acceptable in our society today to carry a knife. If knives are carried, tragedies follow; they must not be carried.
Further to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden), the Prime Minister promised a statement before the summer recess on the contaminated blood scandal. By my calculation, that leaves next Monday or Tuesday. Will the Leader of the House confirm that we will have a statement on Monday or Tuesday?
It is the intention that we should do what we said we would do before the summer recess.
As part of my constituency role, I sit on the board of the Links Trust, which looks after the St Andrews golf courses. As the Open begins, will the Leader of the House join me in wishing well everybody travelling to my constituency to take part, and will he find time for a debate in the House on the benefits of golf to the social and economic wellbeing of everybody in the country?
That is certainly true, although I might not be alone in thinking that time on the golf course is sadly at a premium in the busy life of a Member of Parliament. None the less, golf plays an important part in our national sporting life. I am disappointed that Rory McIlroy cannot take part in this year’s Open, as he has proved a great champion for the United Kingdom as well as for Northern Ireland, but let us hope that despite the strong American challenge this year, one of our fine British golfers will win through come Sunday night.
I join colleagues in calling for an early debate on the situation in Greece. I am well aware that we are not part of the eurozone, but Greece is the cradle of democracy and a member of the European Union and the European community, and there are many young people in desperate straits and many children starving there. Surely, in the name of our common humanity, we can find room in our hearts to help Greece in its hour of need.
I do not disagree for a moment with what the hon. Gentleman says, but there is a big difference between being friends to the Greeks and saying that a country that is not in the eurozone should be part of eurozone support for Greece and should help to sort out its financial challenges. That is the issue and the challenge. We stand clearly as friends of the Greeks—we will work with them, seek to be their partners and help and encourage them out of the problems they are in—but we cannot, and should not, address the problems of the eurozone from the outside. We consciously, and rightly, decided as a nation not to be part of it. The eurozone must take the lead in sorting out the problems within its borders.
A recent report by Citizens Advice Wales shows a 14% increase in the number of people going to their offices for help and support. The top 10 issues that people go for advice about are the personal independence payment, the employment and support allowance, working tax credits, child tax credit, housing benefit and disability living allowance—and the rest all relate to debt. May we have a debate on how the Government’s benefits policy has led to an increase in debt in many regions of the United Kingdom?
What the Government’s policies have done is create more employment in Wales, as they have in every other part of the country. What our policies in the benefits arena are doing through the introduction of universal credit is to simplify a complex system and create proper incentives for people to move back into work. People with disabilities should do small amounts of work in order to enable them to start making a move back into the workplace. That is the kind of strategy this country needs—to help those who genuinely cannot work, but to make sure that the support is there for those who have the potential to get back into the workplace and that the jobs are there when they need them.
On 18 June the Leader of the House answered questions that I had raised on behalf of a number of people who were unable to get information from the Scotland Office through the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Clearly, I, a Member of Parliament, should not have to rely on that Act. Is the Leader of the House aware that I subsequently attempted to use a number of parliamentary procedures, but have as yet been unable to get the Secretary of State for Scotland to tell us who wrote and who received the infamous “Frenchgate” memo? I cannot even get him to admit whether he saw a copy of it before it was leaked. I cannot get him to tell us which Ministers or whether any Ministers saw that memo before it was leaked. No doubt the Leader of the House would agree that it would be enormously embarrassing for this place if I as an MP were forced to raise this matter under FOI. Does he agree that a Government who have nothing to hide should stop hiding? Will he arrange for the Secretary of State for Scotland to be brought before the House to explain himself as soon as possible?
Of course, one of the benefits of how this place works is that Members have a number of ways to bring Ministers before the House to answer questions—whether it be through Adjournment debates, oral questions, debates called by the Backbench Business Committee or whatever. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman will use one of those different approaches to bring the Secretary of State for Scotland here so that he can put those questions directly to him.
The third international conference on financing for development, which took place in Addis Ababa last weekend, made it clear that aid donor countries received five times as much in illicit financial flows as they gave out in aid—for every $1 in aid, they received $5 in illicit financial flows. We have not had a statement on the conference, which has been some surprise, but will the Leader of the House make time for a debate on what this country is doing to stop such illicit financial flows from flowing back from the developing world into the UK?
We are—I believe rightly—good citizens in the world when it comes to providing development support where it is needed, but none of us would ever condone illegal practices; in fact, we have some of the world’s toughest and most highly regarded anti-corruption laws. I will make sure that the Secretary of State for International Development is made aware of the concerns that the hon. Gentleman has raised.
Yesterday, I met a representative from Addaction, which provides drug and alcohol treatment services to prisons. She explained that because of staff shortages prisoners simply cannot be escorted for their treatments. May we have an urgent debate on the difficulties experienced in implementing drug and alcohol treatment regimes in our prisons?
I praise Addaction for the work it does. I have had many dealings with it over the years, and it does excellent charity work. The hon. Lady is right, and I know from my former role that there have been staff shortages in parts of the country. That has been a result, ironically, of our economic success and a buoyant labour market, particularly in the southern part of the country, where unemployment levels have been below the conventional full employment levels in many areas. It poses a challenge for public services. I know that my former team and the current team in the Ministry of Justice have been working hard to address those shortages and will continue to do so.
Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement, either before the recess or during the September sittings, on the future of the access to elected office for disabled people fund, which helps disabled candidates with the additional costs of putting themselves forward? I hope that I shall have the support of the Chief Whip in this regard, given that he has been a firm supporter of the fund.
I am very sympathetic to the hon. Lady’s request. I am observing all sides of the various selection processes with great interest, especially that involving the Member who shadowed me in the days of my justice role, who is one of those now vying to be the Labour candidate in London. I always watched his Twitter feed with amusement, as about one tweet in 10 was about justice. and nine out of 10 were about his travels around different parts of London.
The hon. Lady has made a very important point. It is good for our democracy that disabled people stand for elected office, whatever party they belong to. We should always do what we can to help them, and I will ensure that the hon. Lady’s comments are drawn to the attention of the appropriate officials.
This weekend, I shall somewhat advisedly seek to double the number of Labour MPs in Scotland—albeit temporarily—by visiting Ayrshire to serve as best man for my friend Alan Gemmell, who is marrying his partner Damien Stirk. Does the Leader of the House share my pride in the fact that Britain has led the way on equal marriage, and will he provide time for a debate so that the House can show solidarity with lesbian and gay people throughout the world who are denied this and many other rights and freedom?
Equal marriage is one of the big social changes of recent years for which the House has voted. I supported it, the hon. Gentleman supported it and a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends supported it, and I think that it has been a positive step. I wish the hon. Gentleman well, and I wish the friends whose wedding he will be attending all the best for the future. I have to say that I think the Labour party will probably be outnumbered by the Conservatives in Scotland this summer, as I know that a number of my hon. Friends will be taking advantage of the tourist destinations and, in some cases, fishing rivers which that fine country offers.
Although more than 90% of the highlands and islands is mainland, my constituents, along with people in neighbouring constituencies, continue to be unfairly discriminated against, and are forced to endure excessive delivery surcharges from some traders, particularly online. Will the Leader of the House grant a debate in Government time on the practice of delivery surcharges in rural areas?
That is an important issue, which does not affect only the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. The provision of services in rural areas is an issue in many parts of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We have had a number of debates in recent weeks about, for example, the provision of rural broadband. I can assure the hon. Gentleman, as I would assure colleagues on both sides of the House, that when the Government can help to improve the situation in rural areas, that will be a priority for us.
If the Leader of the House and his colleagues wish to visit Northern Ireland as well during their holidays, they are welcome to do so.
During the passage of the Scotland Bill, we have had two debates on English votes for English laws, and the possibility of other legislation on devolved matters in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Will the Leader of the House set out his vision, or the Government’s vision, for the Union during this Parliament, so that we know exactly what their priorities are, and can be assured that theirs is not a piecemeal approach?
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, and we will continue to discuss that issue. It is important for us to set out that vision for the Union. We want a strong Union with strong devolved Assemblies in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We want fairness for the English. We want local communities and cities in England to have greater responsibility for managing their affairs. Ultimately, however, we want a strong Union in which we all work together.
I might add that the hon. Gentleman, in Northern Ireland, benefits from what I believe to be one of today’s finest and most popular tourist attractions, namely the Iron Throne.
Reference has already been made to the Chancellor’s proposed planning reforms, which will involve a near-presumption in favour of housing on brownfield land. Given that that is a substantial departure from the current plan-led system, in which such pieces of land are identified for other uses and particularly for employment use, will the Leader of the House first tell us how those measures will be brought to the House for discussion, and secondly what the time scales will be?
There are regular opportunities to discuss planning matters. We will be debating the Finance Bill next week, at which point such matters can be raised, and there will be Treasury questions and Department for Communities and Local Government questions when we return in September. It is important that we should move ahead with the development that we need, and that we should use sites that are sitting idle as the focal point for that development. That is the Government’s strategy. We do not want sites that could be used to meet urgent housing need to sit idle for years and years. That does happen in some places.
May we finally have a statement from a Health Minister on the ongoing chaos and delay in the process of approving drugs for those with ultra-orphan diseases? My six-year-old constituent, Sam Brown, and many other children are no longer getting the drugs they need, and they are deteriorating and will die early as a result. Can we please, finally, have a statement on this, before the recess?
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Our hearts go out to the very young people who are facing such dreadful health challenges, and I will make sure that his concerns are passed on to the Secretary of State for Health today.
With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on measures to improve the safety culture in the NHS and further strengthen its transition to a modern, patient-centric healthcare system. The failings at Mid Staffs, detailed in the Francis report, were not isolated local failures. Facing up to widespread problems with the safety and quality of NHS care and learning the appropriate lessons has been a mission that the Government and the NHS have shared, with a common belief that the best way to deal with problems is to face up to them rather than wish that they did not exist.
Measures taken in the last Parliament include: introducing the toughest independent inspection regime in the world; more transparency on performance and outcomes than any other major healthcare system; new fundamental standards; a duty of candour; and the excellent recommendations by Sir Robert Francis QC. But because the change we need is essentially cultural, a long journey remains ahead. The Department of Health was described during the Mid Staffs era as a “denial machine”. We therefore have much work to do if we are to complete the transformation of the NHS from a closed system to an open one, from one where staff are bullied to one where they are supported, and from one where patients are not ignored but listened to.
Today I am announcing some important new steps, including: our official response to Sir Robert Francis’s second report, “Freedom to Speak Up”; our response to the Public Administration Select Committee report “Investigating clinical incidents in the NHS”; and our response to the Morecambe Bay investigation. I am also publishing Lord Rose’s report into leadership in the NHS—a key part of the way in which we will prevent tragedies such as these from happening again. I would like to thank everyone involved in writing those reports for their excellent work.
In his report “Freedom to Speak Up”, Sir Robert Francis QC made a number of recommendations to support this cultural change. All NHS trusts will appoint someone whose job is to be there when front-line doctors and nurses need someone to turn to with concerns about patient care that they do not feel able to raise with their immediate line manager. We will also appoint an independent national officer, located at the Care Quality Commission, to make sure that all trusts have proper processes in place to listen to the concerns of staff before they feel the need to become whistleblowers. Other changes will include providing information about raising concerns as part of the training for healthcare professionals and part of the curriculum for medical students, and placing a greater focus on learning from reflective practice in staff development.
Dr Bill Kirkup’s report into Morecambe Bay brought home to the House that there can be no greater pain than when a parent loses a child and then finds that pain compounded when medical mistakes are covered up. We will accept all the recommendations in this report, including removing the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s current responsibility and accountability for statutory supervision of midwives in the United Kingdom, and bringing the regulation of midwives into line with the arrangements for other regulated professions.
Likewise, we agree with the vast majority of the recommendations of the excellent PASC report into clinical incident investigations. In particular, we will set up a new independent patient safety investigation service by April 2016, based on the success of the “no blame” approach used by the air accidents investigation branch in the airline industry. It will be housed at Monitor/Trust Development Authority, which have the important responsibility of promulgating a learning culture throughout the NHS. Monitor/TDA will operate under the name “NHS Improvement”, and Ed Smith, currently a non-executive board member of NHS England, will become the new chair, with a brief to appoint a new chief executive by the end of September.
For NHS managers, Lord Rose’s report, “Better leadership for tomorrow”, makes vital recommendations to join up the support offered to NHS managers, to improve training and performance management, and reduce bureaucracy. He extended his remit to cover the work of clinical commissioning groups, which play a key role in the NHS, and today I am accepting all 19 of his recommendations in principle, including moving responsibility for the NHS leadership academy from NHS England to Health Education England.
These are important recommendations, which, in the end, all share one common thread: that the most powerful people in our NHS should not be politicians, managers or even doctors and nurses, but the patients who use it. Using the power of intelligent transparency and new technology, we now have the opportunity to put behind us a service where you get what you are given and move to a modern NHS where what is right for the service is always what is right for the patient.
A litmus test of that is our approach to weekend services. About 6,000 people lose their lives every year because we do not have a proper seven-day service in hospitals. Someone is 15% more likely to die if they are admitted on a Sunday than if they are admitted on a Wednesday. That is unacceptable to doctors as well as patients. In 2003-04, the then Government gave GPs and consultants the right to opt out of out-of-hours and weekend work, at the same time as offering significant pay increases. The result was a Monday-to-Friday culture in many parts of the NHS, with catastrophic consequences for patient safety.
In our manifesto this year, the Conservative party pledged to put that right as a clinical and moral priority. I am today publishing the observations on seven-day contract reform for directly employed NHS staff in England by the Review Body on Doctors and Dentists Remuneration—the DDRB—and the NHS Pay Review Body. They observe that some trusts are already delivering services across seven days, but this is far from universal. According to the DDRB, a major barrier to wider implementation is the contractual right of consultants to opt out of non-emergency work in the evenings and at weekends, which reduces weekend cover by senior clinical decision makers and puts the sickest patients at unacceptable risk. The DDRB recommends the early removal of the consultant weekend opt-out, so today I am announcing that we intend to negotiate the removal of the consultant opt-out and early implementation of revised terms for new consultants from April 2016. There will now be six weeks to work with British Medical Association union negotiators before a September decision point. We hope to find a negotiated solution but are prepared to impose a new contract if necessary. To further ensure a patient-focused pay system, we will also introduce a new performance pay scheme, replacing the outdated local clinical excellence awards, to reward those doctors making the greatest contribution to patient care.
I am also announcing other measures today to make the NHS more responsive to patients. Those include making sure patients are told about Care Quality Commission quality ratings as well as waiting times before they are referred to hospitals, so that they can make an informed decision about the best place to receive their care. NHS England will also develop plans to expand control to patients over decisions made in maternity, end-of-life care and long-term condition management, which I will report in more detail subsequently to the House. Finally, because the role of technology is so important in strengthening patient power, we must ensure that no NHS patient is left behind in the digital health revolution. I have therefore asked Martha Lane Fox, the former Government digital champion, to develop practical proposals for the NHS National Information Board on how we can ensure increased take-up of new digital innovations in health by those who will benefit from them the most.
When we first introduced transparency into the system to strengthen the voice of patients, some called it “running down the NHS”. Since then, public confidence in the NHS in England has risen 5 percentage points. By contrast, in Wales, which resisted this transparency, a survey has seen public satisfaction fall by 3 percentage points. Over the previous Parliament, the proportion of people who think that the NHS in England is among the best healthcare systems in the world increased by 7 percentage points, the proportion of those who think NHS care is safe increased by 7 percentage points and the proportion of those who think that they are treated with dignity and respect increased by 13 percentage points. That demonstrates beyond doubt the benefits of an open and confident NHS, which is truly focused on learning and continuous improvement.
As we make progress in this journey, we must never forget the people and the families who have suffered when things have gone wrong. In particular, there are the families and patients at Morecambe Bay and Mid Staffs, the whistleblowers who contributed to Sir Robert Francis’s work, and everyone who has had the courage to come forward in recent years to help reshape the culture of the NHS. Without their bravery and determination, we would not have faced up to the failures of the past or been able to construct a shared vision for the future. We are all massively in their debt. This statement remains their legacy, and I commend it to the House.
I thank the Secretary of State for his statement and for advance sight of it. Let me say at the beginning that I support much of what he said. I will focus my remarks on his plan for seven-day working, and then touch on some of the other issues he raised.
Ensuring that our health services are there for everyone whenever they are needed—be that a weekday or a weekend—should be our shared goal across this House for a 21st-century national health service. Illnesses do not stop at the weekend and nor should our NHS. Although we support the principle of what the Secretary of State is trying to achieve with seven-day working, and will work with him where possible, I urge some caution in the manner in which he is attempting to drive through these changes. His remarks contain no acknowledgment that the NHS right now is in a very fragile condition. It has gone backwards, not forwards, in recent times. A&E is in crisis, and primary care services are overwhelmed. There is a shortage of staff and an over-reliance on agency workers. Staff are demoralised and worn out. If he does this in the wrong way, many may walk away and that would make matters even worse. Given all that, it is not immediately clear how seven-day services can be delivered in the timeframe he has set out without significantly impacting on the rest of the NHS.
The Secretary of State said that around 6,000 people lose their lives every year because we do not have a proper seven-day service. Of course that is an appalling statistic, but is there not a risk of implementing seven-day services by simply spreading existing resources more thinly? A recent study published in “Health Economics” concluded:
“There is as yet no clear evidence that 7-day services will reduce weekend deaths or can be achieved without increasing weekday deaths.”
Will the Secretary of State tell us on what evidence he has based his announcement and, crucially, what steps he is taking to guard against what the study warns could be an increase in weekday deaths?
If the Secretary of State wants to make changes on this scale, it is vital that he works in partnership with NHS staff. I gently say to him that briefing headlines such as “Declaring war on doctors” have not got us off on the right foot, as doctors are already feeling worn out and put upon. The British Medical Association said:
“Today’s announcement is nothing more than a wholesale attack on doctors to mask the fact that for two years the Government has failed to outline any concrete proposals for introducing more seven-day hospital services.”
Will the Secretary of State take care to avoid provocative statements such as “Declaring war” and will he rethink the manner in which he is pursuing these negotiations? Talk of imposing deals at this stage is not helpful; it is premature and it would be better to proceed in a more constructive manner.
Staff across the entire hospital system—not just doctors —will be needed to run these services, but the Government confirmed only last week that many of them will face another five years of pay cuts. In total, that will amount to a decade of pay cuts. Has the Secretary of State looked at the detail of the Chancellor’s announcement on pay for NHS staff? Will he tell the House what effect he believes this deal could have on staff numbers and retention?
The Secretary of State said very little about how he will fund seven-day services, but given that the NHS is struggling to fund weekday services, it is likely to need significant investment over the next five years, over and above funding attached to the five-year forward view. Can he confirm that the money allocated to fund the five-year forward view does not include seven-day working? That is not specifically mentioned in the “Five Year Forward View”. If so, what extra funding will be made available specifically to deliver seven-day working, and when will this funding be available? The announcement today appears to be unfunded and it will not escape the House’s attention that the 2010 Conservative manifesto also promised to deliver seven-day services. The Secretary of State has a lot of convincing to do if he expects people to believe him this time.
In a statement last week in another place, Lord Prior, the Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for NHS productivity, said he was establishing an independent inquiry into extending charges in the NHS. This has sounded alarm bells among many patient groups. Will the Secretary of State say more about the terms of reference for this independent inquiry and when it will proceed with its work?
The Francis “Freedom to speak up” report contained a number of important recommendations to foster a more open culture and we support his work to implement them. The right hon. Gentleman will know that there have been a number of appalling examples of poor care in recent times at Orchid View, Oban Court and Winterbourne View, and these scandals were exposed only when undercover reporters infiltrated the care home. Will he look seriously at the idea of an independent body to receive complaints from NHS staff and social care staff so that they are not faced with the problem of always going to their employer if they are to blow the whistle?
I welcome what the Secretary of State had to say about the Kirkup report and his acceptance in full of its recommendations. We, too, think of the families affected by the failures at Morecambe Bay. I supported steps to improve the regulation of midwives, but the big question mark over the right hon. Gentleman’s commitment is the failure to bring in a Bill on professional regulation. This was an important recommendation of the Francis report and the continued delay in implementing this proposal is putting patients at risk and preventing regulators from doing their job. Will the Secretary of State now commit to legislating at the earliest opportunity for the Law Commission’s reforms?
These are extremely serious matters and I do not believe that some of the Secretary of State’s more political comments today were appropriate, nor do I believe they will build the consensus that will be needed across this House to deliver these important changes. Labour introduced more transparency into the NHS with the establishment of independent regulation and the inspection of hospitals. I appointed Robert Francis to begin the work of looking at what went wrong at Mid Staffs. Where the Secretary of State seeks to build on these constructive changes, we will support him, but he will not achieve his goals by provoking confrontation with doctors or playing politics with patient safety.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his support on many of the measures that we are announcing today. Where we can work together, we should. I thank him for his support for the principle of seven-day working, although I gently point out that this was in our manifesto in May and it was not in his. I shall deal in turn with the points that he raised.
On funding for seven-day services, the right hon. Gentleman has just fought an election on plans that would have meant that the NHS would get £5 billion less than this Government are prepared to commit. We are committing £10 billion to the NHS to implement the five-year forward view, which we can do on the back of a strong economy. That includes plans for a seven-day service.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about comments by Lord Prior in another place. There is no independent review on charging for NHS services. After the election, he should be very careful of such scaremongering. That is what he was doing for the whole election. When he makes such comments, he frightens NHS staff. He should think about the effect on morale when he does that.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the NHS has gone backwards, not forwards, but I have just presented figures showing that public confidence in the NHS is going up; the number of people who think that the NHS is one of the best systems in the world has increased. I gently point out that the reports we are publishing today are a response to problems that happened on his watch and that we are facing up to, so he should have a little modesty in this situation.
The right hon. Gentleman asked an important question about spreading services currently offered on five days over seven days. A lot of work has been done on this. The truth is that having services only on five days is not only dangerous for patients but incredibly inefficient for hospitals. For example, someone admitted to hospital on a Friday in need of a diagnostic test might not get the result until the following Monday or Tuesday so will have to stay in hospital for the weekend even though they could possibly have been discharged. That is bad for the patient and expensive for the NHS, so these measures will result in huge cost savings.
Most importantly, the right hon. Gentleman talked about carrying staff with us. Doctors go into work every weekend throughout the NHS and do a fantastic job, but often it is not recognised and they are not thanked. We want a more professional contract that recognises that contribution. That is why these measures are supported by the Royal College of Surgeons, the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.
When the previous Labour Government changed the consultants’ contract in 2003, senior doctors did not like it. They said that it led to
“a loss of a sense of vocation and what it means to be professional”.
That quote is from a King’s Fund report. It undermined the basic relationship between doctor and patient. We are not blaming doctors, and actually we are not blaming unions, because unions will always ask to see what they can get—the right hon. Gentleman spends more time with unions than I do, so he knows that better than I do. The people responsible for that decision in 2003 were the Ministers who signed off changes to the consultants’ contract and the GPs’ contract. It was Labour politicians who were responsible for those changes, and they must take responsibility for the fact that it was the wrong thing to do.
Finally, this is the most important question of all, and we have not heard an answer today: does the right hon. Gentleman support the measures that the Government are putting forward to make our hospitals safer with seven-day working or not? Leadership is about making choices, and today’s choice is this: is he on the side of the patient or on the side of the union? We know whose side we are on. For Labour, once again, the politics matters more than the patients.
I welcome the Secretary of State’s vision of an NHS that is empowered to focus more fully on the people and communities it serves and that is more transparent, less bureaucratic and as safe on a Sunday as it is on a Wednesday, and I welcome his comments about culture change. Does he agree that meeting that challenge will also depend on financing? As welcome as the extra £8 billion announced in the Budget is, will he join me in urging colleagues to ensure that as much of that as possible is front-loaded, because it is so necessary for the transformational changes he has talked about? In encouraging leadership across the NHS, will he ensure that the changes that are needed at a local level, and the systems we can integrate for the benefit of patients, can be introduced more quickly and effectively?
I thank my hon. Friend for her important comments, and for sitting through a very long speech I gave this morning. We are trying to achieve many things. At their heart, as she rightly says, is a recognition that culture change does not happen overnight. She is right that the profiling of the extra money that the Government are investing in the NHS is important, because we need to spend money soon on some things, such as additional capacity in primary care, as in two to three years’ time that will significantly reduce the need for expensive hospital care. We are going through those numbers carefully. She is also right that local leadership really matters. I know that she will agree, especially as she comes from Devon, that leadership needs to be good at a CCG level as well as a trust level, because CCGs have a really important role in commissioning healthcare in local communities. That is an area where we need to make a lot of improvements.
I have to declare an interest: like most doctors, I am a member of the British Medical Association.
I commend the Secretary of State for his announcement about a national officer for whistleblowers. Shona Robertson, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Health, announced this in June, and we are taking action on the Francis report in the same direction. It is vital that members of staff feel they have someone to speak to if things are not going well, and that if they are not being responded to locally there is an independent voice that they can go to.
With regard to seven-day services, the excess deaths of people who are admitted at weekends is recognised and abhorred by the vast majority of doctors. I do not know anybody who gets up and works the hours we do and does not care that someone did not do well. However, I think we are blurring the lines between the elective and emergency systems. The sickest people the Secretary of State mentions—those who run the risk of dying if admitted on a Friday or a Sunday—are not part of the elective system but of the out-of-hours emergency system. It is suggested that hospitals are like the Mary Celeste and there are no doctors. In fact, any service with an emergency component runs 24/7, but there is a multi-disciplinary team. Sometimes patients will be stuck on a ward because they cannot get access to a scan or there is no physiotherapist to help them recover from their stroke.
We are already working towards solving this in Scotland. We are doing so in a more collaborative way, and that is important. There is no resistance to that, because it is recognised that we need all parts of the service. This is different from people coming in for a routine check-up on a Sunday when that does not result in a detriment to them if it is not available. The biggest shortage we have is in human resources—doctors, nurses, physios, occupational therapists and radiographers. I recommend that the Secretary of State separate these two aspects. The first is that hospital consultants did not get the option to opt out of 24/7 care for emergency patients in the contract, whereas GPs did. It is a matter of providing, funding and setting up a full service with all that is behind it to deal with ill patients seven days a week, no matter when they come in.
The other aspect is trying to get value for money. If we have invested in expensive machines and theatres, we want them to work as many days a week as possible so that we get value for money, but that must be secondary to the first priority, which is looking after sick people. I suggest that the Secretary of State starts talking about the two aspects on separate tracks and not crossing backwards and forwards, and that this should be collaborative. I echo the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) in saying that we require the money to be front-loaded so that we get it to start changing the service now.
Order. May I gently say that from now on we are going to have to enforce the time limits on Opposition responses to ministerial statements much more strictly? Otherwise they eat into the time available for other colleagues. The shadow Secretary of State has five minutes in response to a 10-minute statement and the third party spokesperson has two minutes. That really does have to be adhered to as a matter of course from now on.
The hon. Lady speaks with the authority of someone who works in hospitals, and I always listen to her very carefully. I do not think it is easy to make a rigid distinction between elective and emergency care. The opt-out in emergency care does apply, for example, to accident and emergency doctors. Sometimes when people are admitted to hospital because they are ill—they would not be admitted if they were not—their condition may not appear to be life-threatening on a Friday afternoon but then, over the course of the weekend, they deteriorate, and by the time they are seen by a senior consultant on a Monday or a Tuesday, it is too late. The trouble is that we have a culture in which a lot of major services are available only from Monday to Friday, and that is what is causing these avoidable deaths. The hon. Lady is right to say that this is not just about senior consultant cover; it is also about diagnostic care, handovers and many other things, and we are working at those. The Royal Edinburgh Infirmary has done a very good job of eliminating the difference between weekday and weekend mortality rates, as have Salford Royal and Northumbria hospitals in England. We need other hospitals to follow those examples.
Senior clinicians in my constituency are warning of a major threat to patient safety as a result of a proposed downgrade of one of Britain’s best hospitals, Wythenshawe. The regional transplant unit is a world-class centre for heart and lung and there is a major trauma centre adjacent to Manchester airport, where it should be. That must all be protected. The Secretary of State knows my view that the consultation has been opaque, and that the decision-making process has been flawed. Will he review the decision as urgently as possible, and meet me and other Members for local constituencies as a matter of urgency before the summer recess to discuss what can be done?
I am more than happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss those matters. Wythenshawe is an excellent hospital—I have been there—and it has provided a number of staff who have helped to turn round the standard of care at Tameside hospital, which has seen dramatic improvements. I recognise that Wythenshawe is an excellent hospital, and I am very happy to meet him to listen to his concerns.
How will the Secretary of State pay for his very laudable objective of seven-day working when he has lost control of NHS finances? Contrary to what he claimed about the situation in Devon, as things now stand our patient care is suffering, waiting times are rocketing and we are facing a £434 million deficit.
Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman why so many places are going into deficit. They have looked at the lessons of Mid Staffs and said, “We don’t want that to happen here.” That is why, in the past two and a half years, hospitals have employed 8,000 more nurses on hospital wards to deal with the scandal of short staffing that they faced and wanted to do something about. In the end, if it is not sustainable, it is not quality care, so we have to find smart ways to control deficits—not by reducing the staff and making care unsafe, but by making changes to process and through efficiencies, such as making sure that nurses do not spend too long filling out forms and can spend more time with patients. In terms of funding, I would just say that the only way to fund a strong NHS is to have a strong economy, and that is why the country voted in a Conservative Government in May.
I declare an interest as a member of the BMA.
I absolutely agree with all the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston). I like the reforms of leadership, but will the Secretary of State recognise the existing great leadership in the NHS? A safe NHS is one in which staff morale is at its best. If every leader in the NHS was at the level of Professor Sir Peter Morris, we would already have the best and safest health service in the world.
My hon. Friend obviously speaks with huge knowledge—I am wondering whether she is the first Conservative MP who is also a member of the BMA —and is extremely welcome for the insights she brings to the House.
Leadership and morale are absolutely crucial. One of the ways in which we can improve morale is by giving patients and doctors alike the sense that we are honest about the problems and have good plans in place to tackle them. Nothing eats away more at morale than people going in day in, day out and not giving patients the care that they want to give and feeling that nothing is being done about it. That is why the move towards transparency, which I know my hon. Friend supports, is so important.
I echo the comments of the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Mr Brady). Despite a public consultation wanting five major trauma receiving sites in Greater Manchester and Wythenshawe hospital being the public choice, it did not receive specialist status at the end of the Healthier Together process yesterday. What assurances can the Secretary of State give the people of Trafford and south Manchester, particularly in relation to the 18 specialisms that are underpinned by Wythenshawe being a major trauma receiving site?
As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Mr Brady), I will look into the decision made by Healthier Together. The assurance that I can give to the constituents of the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane), and indeed to all people in the Greater Manchester area, is that with some of the most exciting changes, such as the integration of health and social care and the transformation of out-of-hospital care—it has just been announced that there will be seven-day GP services across Greater Manchester—they are blazing a trail. It will be exciting for his constituents; none the less, I understand their concerns about their local hospital and I am happy to look into that.
We in Staffordshire know better than most what the denial machine that the Secretary of State referred to meant to local people, so I congratulate him on his commitment to transparency and consistency. Will he encourage the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust and the Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to work much more collaboratively, so that that commitment to transparency and better service is delivered to my constituents in Tamworth and Fazeley?
I will absolutely encourage that. The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust is one of the biggest in the country and has had significant challenges. The Burton foundation trust has been through the special measures process, and patient care has improved as a result. Collaborative working will be the way forward. We need to break down the silos that have cursed so much of the NHS, and I will happily pass on that message.
I advised food manufacturers in the ’90s about bringing in seven-day working to keep supermarket shelves stacked. Twenty years on we are still talking about seven-day working in the NHS, and it seems to me that good care and saving lives are rather more important. Will the Secretary of State ensure that exactly the same principle applies to mental health? Does he recognise that it is just as important to ensure that people can leave hospital and go home on a timely basis, seven days a week, but that with cuts to local government funding there will be more pressure and it will be more difficult to achieve that? Together with the extraordinary pressure that the system is under, does that not make the case even more strongly for a new settlement for the NHS and social care?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for finding time to come to the Chamber on what I know is an important day. I am not sure whether I am allowed to wish him luck, but I greatly value the time that I spent working with him as a ministerial colleague, and I know he will make an important contribution to the House. He is right, as ever, to speak about mental health. The programme towards seven-day working is as important for mental health as it is for other services, and we must also ensure that the revolution happens for things such as suicide rates and crisis care. He is right about the importance of the social care system; and in my mind when I speak about seven-day care I am thinking about social care and health as one entity.
Our doctors no doubt work incredibly hard in our hospitals. The people of Brigg and Goole and the Isle of Axholme work at weekends, whether in factories, at the docks or in the fields, and they want an NHS that does the same. The Secretary of State will know about my passion for ambulance services, which at weekends are often the last line of support for patients. What will his plans mean for ambulance services and the incredible job that paramedics do across the country?
I thank my hon. Friend because he leads by example as a first responder and does a fantastic job in his constituency—indeed, that role takes place at weekends. Paramedics and ambulance services operate a seven-day service. Nurses, paramedics and others who work in hospitals currently do not have an opt-out; consultants are the only ones who do. These measures will give ambulance services confidence that if they take someone to hospital at the weekend, there will be a proper senior consultant present and their patient will get in front of the right person. That will make their job all the more rewarding.
The Secretary of State has not outlined what steps should be taken to recruit, train and retain front-line staff who are key to patient safety.
We have big plans to recruit and retain staff, and those are being worked up by Health Education England. We think that we will need extra doctors to deliver seven-day care, just as we will need more GPs. We think we can afford that within the extra £10 billion that we are putting into the NHS, and we are ensuring that all the numbers add up. I am sure that I will inform the House once we have come to a conclusion.
I declare an interest as an NHS nurse. Does the Secretary of State agree that the UK has one of the worst one-year cancer survival rates compared with the rest of Europe, with one in five cases being diagnosed as an emergency admission? Having a prompt diagnosis is very important. A seven-day-a-week service would be a major step forward, because patients should be seen when clinically indicated, not when indicated by the calendar. With a seven-day service they will be seen more quickly and be less poorly. Not only will that save money but—more importantly—it will save lives.
Absolutely. May I say how pleased I am to welcome my hon. Friend’s experience to the Conservative Benches? It makes a big difference. She is absolutely right. NHS England will be saying more about how we intend to deal with the problem of late diagnosis of cancer, which is critical if we are to improve our cancer survival rates. One point that links to the announcements I have made today is better collaboration between senior cancer consultants and GPs. If GPs are to be able to spot cancers earlier, they will need to link into the learning they can receive through closer contact with consultants and hospitals. That is something we need to think about.
As someone who has spent quite a bit of time going to hospitals over the past 16 years, I have learned a little about it. I suspect that some people, like the doctors who the Secretary of State wants to collaborate with, just might have reflected on why this Tory Government are more concerned with getting in agency nurses and doctors than giving nurses a decent pay increase. Has it not crossed his mind that by telling nurses they are worth only 1% more, he will finish up with more agency nurses? The truth is that doctors see this happening every day. The main reason is that the Government have tried to reform and privatise the NHS for the past five years. The doctors and the nurses do not trust him—it is time he got out.
Let me tell the hon. Gentleman what the doctors and nurses working in our NHS hospitals see. They see 8,000 more hospital nurses on full-time contracts than when his party was in power, because we are doing something about the scandal of short-staffed wards that was left behind by his Government.
Will my right hon. Friend ensure that neither the revalidation regime nor the NHS’s status as a near monopsony employer is allowed to promote anxiety among NHS staff who would otherwise wish to speak up? It is essential that they know they have that freedom and security.
As ever, my hon. Friend is spot on. At the heart of what I am saying today is creating a new learning culture inside the NHS where people are able to be open. In the airline industry, it is much easier for a junior pilot to talk to a senior pilot about a mistake they think the senior pilot has made without feeling it will impact on their career. We need to break down the barriers, so that when people talk about their concerns—even about what their boss has done, which is never easy—they are listened to and treated seriously, and there are no consequences as a result. We absolutely have to make that change.
Are the Government considering the introduction of charging in the NHS, as a member of the Secretary of State’s ministerial team, Lord Prior, suggested in the other place in response to Lord Patel?
No, that is not the case, and the hon. Lady should avoid scaremongering.
Given the political priority which my right hon. Friend attaches to 24/7 consultant cover for accident and emergency hospitals, why was his Department unable to answer the question I put about which hospitals in England currently provide such cover? Will he collect that data and make sure that it is published?
The truth is that all hospitals have been moving in this direction in the past five years in different ways. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that, to make sure we deliver on our manifesto commitment, we will be doing a full and comprehensive audit of which people are delivering which types of services. It is partly about senior consultant cover, which we are talking about today, partly about seven-day diagnostic services, partly about handover, and partly about mental health and many other standards, but, yes, that work is being done.
The Secretary of State was unclear before. May I say that, as far as I am concerned, Labour Members are absolutely in favour of measures that will increase safety at the weekend, and that my party will never prosper as a mouthpiece for the British Medical Association? Is he not concerned that the porters and nurses, who are being asked to swallow a decade-long real-terms pay cut, will not be able to deliver such change given the level at which they are being demoralised?
If you will permit me, Mr Speaker, may I also say that I very much welcome the full acceptance of the recommendations of the Morecambe Bay inquiry? Will the Secretary of State ensure that the families will remain fully involved in ensuring that these measures are implemented, as well as accepted, by Government?
Of course. The hon. Gentleman has liaised very closely with the Morecambe Bay families over the period of the inquiry. I am happy to give him the assurance that they will remain closely involved.
I am very pleased that the hon. Gentleman says he does not want his party to be the mouthpiece of the BMA, but if that is the case, it needs to get behind the proposals that the Government are making today and say it supports them. We have not heard that from his party and that is what the public want to hear.
The trust or place that has probably learned the most from Mid Staffordshire is Mid Staffordshire, or, as it now is, County Hospital, Stafford. Quality of care and performance has increased dramatically, with 98% and more patients seen within four hours at A&E. That is why we need a 24/7 A&E. May I urge the Secretary of State to ensure that the new independent patient safety investigation service is truly independent, despite being housed in the Monitor-Trust Development Authority building?
I thank my hon. Friend for the amazing work he has done in supporting County Hospital through the most unimaginably difficult circumstances. I put on record my thanks to the doctors and nurses working in that hospital who are doing a fantastic job. They have improved care. Many of them were working at the old Mid Staffs hospital and, even during the period of those problems, they were working incredibly hard and doing a very good job for patients. They did not want to be associated with any of the bad things that happened. They are a shining example to all of us. Yes, the independent patient safety investigation service needs to be independent, but I think trusts will welcome this measure. It will mean that a trust has a body, which is completely independent of anyone working in the trust, that it can call in. In a no-blame way, it can find out exactly what happened—a bit like a French juge d’instruction; that kind of principle. I think that will be really welcomed in the NHS, but independence is vital.
I declare my interest as a former NHS manager, latterly for a clinical commissioning group. I very much welcome the focus on patients, transparency and the use of digital, which will be very helpful for the challenges we will face. As a former NHS manager, I would make the plea that management needs support in facing the challenges ahead. I am afraid that confrontation with local doctors as the first step over the summer period is not helpful. Will the Secretary of State please support NHS managers in this difficult task ahead, across clinical and non-clinical standards? I very much welcome the Rose review, but can we please give managers the support they need?
I am really grateful to the hon. Lady for making that point. NHS managers have one of the most difficult challenges in the country. Not only do they have to balance revenue and expenditure; they have patients’ lives at risk and public accountability. It is really difficult to run a hospital or a clinical commissioning group. These are some of the most difficult jobs one can imagine. We need to support them. I hope they will agree and welcome a move away from targets as the main way of driving change in the NHS to intelligent transparency and peer review. This is not a confrontation with doctors. Doctors overwhelmingly support a seven-day service. It is, I am afraid, a battle with the BMA, with which we have been trying to negotiate on the matter for nearly three years. It has refused to move. It needs to get in touch with what its members want and what the public want, and then I hope we can make much faster progress.
A characteristic of the health system in our country is that we have something like 20% to 25% fewer doctors per head of population than comparable countries such as France, Germany and Spain. Is it part of the Secretary of State’s vision to correct this over time, and will that make reforms such as these easier to push through?
We do need more doctors and more nurses. We saw an increase of about 8,000 nurses and 10,000 doctors in the previous Parliament. We will need more for the simple reason that we will have 1 million more over-70s by the end of this Parliament. That said, the NHS is admired in the other countries my hon. Friend talks about for our models of care, which are sometimes less hospital-centric and therefore inherently more efficient than what happens in some other systems. The learning should go both ways.
My question is about whistleblowers. I want to know whether the Secretary of State is really satisfied that the fit and proper person test for managers is working, when it allows a chief executive who bullies and mismanaged, as happened in Hull, as the Secretary of State knows, to move with the help of the Trust Development Authority to another job as a chief executive, paying £170,000, and yet the whistleblower has to fight for her rights. When the fit and proper person test was invoked, the TDA investigated and the new trust, unsurprisingly, said that that chief executive was okay. I do not think that that is independent, transparent or in the spirit of Francis.
I recognise that the hon. Lady has legitimate concerns about the way that the whistleblower, who I think is one of her constituents or is near to her constituency, was treated. I have, as she requested, looked into that very carefully. She will understand that it would not be right or proper for me to comment on an individual case. She knows that, as a result of requests by her and fellow MPs, I looked into whether due process was followed in the case that she mentioned. All I will say is that bullying behaviour should not happen anywhere in the NHS. That is a very important part of the culture change that I want to see.
In Torbay, there are a number of concerns about access to primary care, due to issues of recruitment and retention of GPs. Recognising the comment that the Secretary of State made earlier in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), how does the Secretary of State see his statement today helping to improve this situation?
We have some fantastic primary care in Torbay. I remember visiting my hon. Friend during the election campaign and going to a hospice run by an absolutely inspirational lady. We need to build on those traditions, and modern technology offers us an opportunity to go even further. In the end, this is about having a less hospital-centric system and prevention rather than cure, and our great tradition of general practice will be our strongest asset in that change.
The idea of seven-day working sounds absolutely fantastic for supplying services, but in west Cumbria, where we struggle to deliver services five days a week, it sounds like nothing more than a fantastic pipe dream. I am aware that the Secretary of State understands the specific problems we have in west Cumbria, but I want to ask him about a letter that I recently wrote to him to do with Cockermouth hospital—a beautiful new hospital which sits half empty. Will he meet me and clinicians from that hospital to see how we can deliver and solve the problems in Cockermouth?
I would be very happy to meet the hon. Lady and clinicians. I am aware of the problems in that health economy and I am aware that they are long-standing. They are a concern to me and I would be delighted to do anything I can to support her in helping to solve them.
I was shocked to hear the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) running down the NHS yet again. He obviously has not been watching the series on television about the Royal Derby hospital, or looked at its website, where most of the comments are incredibly positive. Also in Mid Derbyshire we have surgeries that wish to take some of the burden away from hospitals. Does the Secretary of State agree that we should be encouraging that, where they can offer services to save people from going to hospital?
I absolutely agree. I commend the Royal Derby, which is an excellent hospital, and thank my hon. Friend for mentioning it. It is really interesting: around the country the number of people per thousand who use A&E varies from 166 to 355—a dramatic variation—and a lot of that relates to the availability of good primary care services, which is why our plans for seven-day GP appointments are also a very important part of the programme.
I welcome the partnership on patient safety that is being announced today between Queen’s hospital in Romford and King George hospital in Ilford and the Virginia Mason Institute, and echo some of the comments made by my hon. Friends about the Government taking staff with them and looking at issues around pay and workforce. May I gently point out to the Secretary of State that it is now two months since I wrote to him about pressures in our local health economy and the future of our A&E department. Can he offset my disappointment by agreeing to meet me and my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes) and other local MPs to discuss those issues?
I know that the hon. Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes) secured a Westminster Hall debate on this yesterday, during which I hope the hon. Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting) covered most of the issues he wants to address, but I am happy to arrange to meet him or to get the Under-Secretary of State for Health with responsibility for hospitals, my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Ben Gummer), to meet him to discuss those issues in more detail. The hospital trust that the hon. Gentleman talks about—Queen’s and King George are covered by the same trust—has been through a very challenging period. It is a big trust; it is going through special measures, but I think it has good new management. I think they have really turned things around, and that staff are to be absolutely commended. The link with Virginia Mason in Seattle will be as inspirational for them as it has been for me to see what is possible.
I welcome today’s statement about transformation of our NHS. Will the Secretary of State join me in welcoming the progress made by East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, which came out of special measures about 12 months ago, and particularly the fact that a Health Service Journal and Nursing Times survey recently ranked the trust among the top 100 places to work, with improved staff engagement and morale, which is a huge transformation from where we were when the trust was put into special measures?
I thank my hon. Friend for his passionate support for that trust through a very difficult period. I also thank him for giving us perhaps the single biggest insight into how to transform a hospital in difficulty: according to all the measures, the most important single thing is to engage with staff. If staff feel supported and listened to, the result is safer care for patients and better outcomes. That is something they have done in East Lancashire, and it is something that many other hospitals could learn from.
Many current failures in care are caused by poor integration of services, not the failure of a specific service. What, in the proposals announced, addresses that problem?
The integration of the health and social care systems, as talked about by the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), is a very big priority. It is a vision shared by all parties. That is part of delivering safe seven-day care. The consequences for the health and social care system if we do not have safe hospital care are people with much greater medical needs, creating much more pressure in the system, so it is part of the same picture.
I thank the Secretary of State for coming to the House and also, I think, for making two written statements. There are only 32 other written statements from Ministers. I remember that when I first got here, there would be 87 written statements on the last day of term, with no chance to scrutinise the Minister. Following what my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Maria Caulfield) said, has the Minister had a chance to look at my Ovarian Cancer (Information) Bill, which would help reduce the number of ovarian cancer deaths through earlier detection?
I thank my hon. Friend for his support for that Bill. I hope that plans that NHS England will announce shortly about how we can improve early cancer detection will give him much encouragement. He will see that some of the things that he is campaigning for are actually going to happen.
Everyone supports seven-day-a-week, 24-hour NHS care—who would not? But the bottom line is that there are insufficient resources and insufficient people at the moment for it to be possible to deliver those services. For the Secretary of State to try to blame the health unions for that is not fair, and there are people behind that. The tone of the statement that the Secretary of State made this morning at the King’s Fund has already caused alarm among GPs, and Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said that this announcement
“will sound…alarm bells for hardworking GPs who fear we will be next in line—even though we are already being pushed to our limits in trying to provide a safe five-day”
“service for our patients.”
I do not blame doctors; I do not blame the unions. I blame Ministers from the hon. Lady’s Government who gave consultants an opt-out at weekends that has had a catastrophic impact on patient care. I am delighted that she supports seven-day care, but it was not in the Labour manifesto; it was in the Conservative manifesto, and we are putting in extra money—£5.5 billion more than Labour was promising—to ensure that we can pay for it.
I welcome the changes that my right hon. Friend has announced today in turning the NHS into a learning organisation rather than a denial machine. Does he agree that there should be a best practice industry standard for healthcare in this country, which learns and compares itself with other countries’ healthcare systems, such as Germany, France and Canada?
That is a very interesting idea, and I am happy to take it away. I am a strong believer in learning from best practice all over the world. Sometimes it is difficult to gather the data, but it is an interesting idea.
The Secretary of State might be in aware that in Huddersfield we are having great difficulty in attracting and recruiting A&E specialists, nurses and GPs. He will know that I am more an education specialist than a health specialist, but given that this is an NHS reform statement, is it not time that we had a serious, fundamental look at how we educate and train everyone in our health service—doctors, nurses, technicians, the whole lot? At the moment it seems more appropriate to sometime in the 20th century than to looking forward in the 21st.
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. As part of what I said in my statement, we are looking at how we train doctors. My hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale (Graham Evans) talked about creating a learning culture, and the big change that we need to make is creating a culture in which people feel supported to speak out about any concerns or anything on which they think they can see a way of doing something better. They must not feel that that could threaten their career prospects. We do not have that culture in the NHS at the moment, but we need it if the NHS is to be the world’s largest learning organisation, as I argued in a speech this morning. I think staff are up for it, but it is a big change.
I thank my right hon. Friend very much for his extraordinarily embracing response to the Public Administration Select Committee report on clinical incident investigation. We started less than a year ago with the germ of an idea, and it has turned into what amounts to a radical reform of safety investigation in the health service. That is a tribute to him and to the Committee’s witnesses, but it is a tribute to the health service itself that it has embraced the idea, which is a big change that I believe will be transformative.
May I pick up on the Secretary of State’s reluctance to provide special legislation for the immunity of those giving evidence to the new patient investigation body? Will he keep an open mind on the subject? If he wants that body to be truly independent and to have a special status, he should remember that the marine accident investigation branch and the air accidents investigation branch have specific legislation to provide for such immunity. Public interest disclosure protection must not be challenged by freedom of information requests, given that freedom of information has been extended into areas where we never imagined it would go. We have to be specific in legislation that that cannot happen in this instance.
Too long—I hope the answer will be somewhat briefer.
It will, Mr Speaker.
My hon. Friend’s idea is really interesting, and I am happy to take it up and explore whether we need to replicate that immunity so that we can get to the truth more quickly in a no-blame context.
I thank my hon. Friend for the work of the Public Administration Select Committee. I think it is true to say that we would not have the new patient safety investigation service, modelled on the air accidents investigation branch, which has worked so well in the airline industry, if it had not been for the work of PASC. It brought the idea to my attention and it was a good idea, and I know that he will help me make sure that it is a success in practice as well.
I support the comments of my neighbours, the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Mr Brady) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane). Three years ago the new health deal for Trafford resulted in the reduction of overnight and weekend services at Trafford General hospital on the basis that patients would receive better specialist care at Wythenshawe hospital. Does the Secretary of State understand that local people feel that the process has been chaotic, opaque and unresponsive to their concerns, and will he undertake to review the decision as a matter of urgency?
I thank the hon. Lady for the responsible approach that she took to the changes at Trafford general. Of course, I will listen to her concerns carefully, alongside those of her colleagues, and take them up with the NHS. Perhaps if she comes to the meeting that I am organising for her colleagues, that will provide an opportunity for me to do that.
I welcome a huge amount of the statement, particularly about the balance between transparency and more autonomy and the combination of scrutiny and support. Does the Secretary of State agree that not only hospitals and GPs but community and social care services need to be 24/7?
My hon. Friend speaks with great knowledge about health matters, because of her previous job. [Hon. Members: “McKinsey.”] Yes, McKinsey, which does some important work for the NHS. She is absolutely right that we need to be able to discharge into the community on all seven days, and it is important that the primary care and social care systems are part of that change.
When does the Secretary of State intend to implement the recommendation of the Royal College of Pathologists and introduce the role of medical examiner, to provide independent scrutiny of deaths? That has been repeatedly delayed, despite the success of five pilot schemes and the fact that it was recommended in the Francis report.
That is an important recommendation, and the Government support it. We intend to implement it, but there are costs involved, which we are going through as part of the spending review process.
Local people in Corby and east Northamptonshire want to see a truly seven-day NHS. One way of achieving that in our area is to get moving on the new urgent care centre at Kettering, which has attracted cross-party support. Some Members could learn valuable lessons from that project and from what has been going on in Northamptonshire. I thank Ministers for all that they have done in the past to help get that project moving. Will the Secretary of State do everything he can to help it come to fruition in the months ahead?
It sounds a promising project, and I will keep myself closely informed of its progress. We need to better integrate urgent care centres into the work of GPs and hospitals so that, for example, somebody’s GP medical record can be accessed in those centres and any advice that people get there can be seen by their hospital consultant or GP at a later date.
I must first declare an interest as a state-registered health clinician who worked in acute medicine until the election.
I have witnessed pilots of seven-day working, on the ground and across the country, that have just taken five-days-a-week services and stretched the same complement of staff to seven days a week, therefore not making the service any more efficient or safe. With £22 billion of efficiency savings, or cuts, how will we fund seven-day working?
A lot of the efficiency will come from seven-day working, and I do not agree with the hon. Lady that there will be a simple cost increase. The cost to a hospital of cranking down all its services on a Friday afternoon and then having to crank them up on a Monday morning is huge, and it is not efficient. Part of the savings will come from having more streamlined services that operate to a consistently high standard across the week.
Many of my constituents complain about the lack of availability of GP appointments at weekends and outside normal hours. The consequence of that is that people who are ill turn up at A&E, causing pressure on it. I know that my right hon. Friend is taking action on that, but what is he doing to ensure that we have proper seven-days-a-week working across the NHS in primary care as well as in hospitals?