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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Gareth Thomas): Last year, 46.5 per cent. of DFID's total bilateral funding was allocated to Commonwealth countries. We expect spending in the current financial year to be at about the same level.
I should like to thank the Minister for that reply, but I am a little concerned that I think I heard him say that the figure is only 47 per cent. for Commonwealth countries. He will know that many Commonwealth countries are very poor. Should we not
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be prioritising helping our Commonwealth brethren, rather than Francophone countries that receive money from France?
Mr. Thomas: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman recognises that we have a rising aid budget thanks to the decisions that the Labour party has taken, which is in stark contrast to the record of the Conservative party when it was in government. A little more credit for what we have been able to achieve in helping Commonwealth countries to tackle poverty might be appropriate. Let me cite just one example of the continuing support that we give. There was a recent announcement of some £50 million for Bangladesh over five years to help 10 million poor people in rural areas to get access to electricity for the first time.
Mr. Thomas: As I am sure that my hon. Friend knows, we have an increasing aid programme for India. One of the specific sources of funding that we provide is to help it to try to achieve its target of getting all Indian children a primary school place by 2010. We have provided some £210 million for that purpose, and in the past two years, the number of out-of-school children in India has fallen from 25 million to 13.5 million. Clearly there is a lot more to do, but that is a sign of positive progress as a result of the money that we have provided.
Robert Key (Salisbury) (Con): When Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth, were our aid programmes also suspended? What hope can the Government give to people experiencing severe poverty in that countryboth black and white?
Mr. Thomas: The hon. Gentleman might know that our aid programmes to Zimbabwe before the country was suspended from the Commonwealth did not go through the Government of Zimbabwe anyway. We continue to provide funding to the people of Zimbabwe through UN organisations and NGOs with which we have close links and in which we can be confident that they genuinely deliver aid to the people who need it most.
My hon. Friend might be aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State recently announced an extra £25 million for the immediate relief effort to help earthquake victims in Pakistan to survive the difficult winter period. That brings our total aid for the immediate period to some £58 million. Two weeks ago, we pledged £70 million to help to address the long-term reconstruction needs in earthquake-affected areas.
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5. Mr. Edward Vaizey (Wantage) (Con): What assessment his Department has made of the implications for developing countries of President Bush's recent comments on reducing global tariffs; and if he will make a statement. 
The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): We welcome moves to reduce tariffs, subsidies and other barriers to the free flow of goods and services. The UK has made assessments based on research by the World Bank, United Nations organisations and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that suggest that substantial gains for developing countries could result from the liberalisation of agricultural and industrial trade. The actual gains will depend, of course, on the level of reform and the policies that developing countries themselves put in place to take advantage of a more open trade system. Assistance to help the poorest countries to do this will be important, and the UK Government are committed to trebling trade with them and increasing support to £100 million a year by 2010.
Hilary Benn: The hon. Lady is well aware that agriculture support is a big issue in France, is she not? I made the point earlier that there are 25 member states in Europe that have different views. In the end, there must be agreement in Europe so that progress can be made.
Mr. Vaizey: The Secretary of State said earlier that someone has to move in the world trade talks. Is it not the case that the United States has moved and that President Bush has said that he is ready to eliminate all tariffs? Is that not an offer that the European Union and Britain cannot refuse?
Hilary Benn: I welcome the offers that are on the table, but the question is how we unlock the logjam that we have got into. As far as Europe is concerned, some movement on the part of the G20 might allow progress to be made when we actually get to Hong Kong, but there is precious little time in which that can happen.
Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): My right hon. Friend is aware that moving trade barriers can have a real effect on the poorest countries, such as those in the Caribbean which have been dependent on protection for sugar cane. Will he ensure that there will be help and support for those Caribbean countries that have benefited from trade protection?
I share my hon. Friend's concern about the problems that sugar producers in the Caribbean face. What is currently on offer is €40 million of support
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from Europe. The British Government's view is clear: that is insufficient. We will continue to press for more support to help those countries to adjust to changes that have to take place.
David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): To take the example of one industry, in textiles and clothing the combination of low quotas and high tariffs means that north America and the EU cost 27 million jobs and $50 billion-worth of exports, which is not helping to alleviate poverty. Is not it true that we are helping to stitch up those poorer countries?
Hilary Benn: My hon. Friend makes a powerful case for why the current trade rules need to change so that developing countries can use their skills and expertise to bring a better life to their people.
Mr. O'Brien: Does the outgoing Prime Minister[Interruption.] Does he agree with the chairman of the Cheshire police authority, Labour Councillor Peter Nurse, when he says in his recent letter to the Home Secretary:
The Prime Minister: That is precisely why we must consult fully on it, which we will, and ensure that we get the right proposals for policing in the hon. Gentleman's area and others. However, I point out that he has record numbers of police in Cheshire, just as he has record numbers of people across the entirety of the public services. On every scorehealth, education and crimethings are better today than they were in 1997.
Jeff Ennis (Barnsley, East and Mexborough) (Lab): Can my right hon. Friend tell me how he will deal with a young, handsome, intelligent, charismatic politician, such as myself[Laughter.]and how Parliament can better engage ordinary people in the political process?
The best way to make progress is to continue with the strong economic growth and the investment in our public services that we have seen across the whole of the public services. Every single indicator has improved since 1997.
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Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): The first issue that the Prime Minister and I are going to have to work together on is getting the good bits of his education reforms through the House of Commons and into law. [Interruption.] That is the problem with these exchangesthe Labour Chief Whip shouting like a child. [Interruption.] Is the right hon. Lady finished?
The Prime Minister: Yes. It is important that we give schools the freedoms that they need. I am delighted to hear that the hon. Gentleman supports these reforms. I assume, therefore, that the Conservative party will be voting for them.
Mr. Cameron: Absolutely. [Interruption.] With our support[Interruption.] With our support, the Prime Minister knows that there is no danger of losing these education reforms in a parliamentary vote. So he can afford to be as bold as he wants to be. That is when he is at his bestor so I am told. Can we agree that that means trust schools owning their own buildings and land, employing their own staff, setting pay locally, developing their own culture and ethos and controlling their own admissions?
The Prime Minister: Of course it means all those powers that currently are available to foundation and voluntary aided schools being extended to other schools as well. That is the purpose of the proposals. Incidentally, before I answered any questions, I should have welcomed the hon. Gentleman to his new position and congratulated him on winning the Conservative leadership election. But can I tell him where I feel that we mayand I am sorry to say thishave a disagreement? As I understand it, his position is that all schools should be free to set their own admissions procedures. I am afraid that I believe that the present admissions code should remain in place. So perhaps we can clear that up, too.
Mr. Cameron: I want schools to control their own admissions. That is what is in the White Paper, and let us see that it turns into the Bill. [Interruption.] It is only our first exchange, and already the Prime Minister is asking me the questions. This approach is stuck in the past, and I want to talk about the future. He was the future once. Education is one of the public services in desperate need of reform, so does he agree with me that our aim should be to ensure that all schools have these freedoms? Will he ensure that this is one reform where he will not look back and wish that he had gone further?
The Prime Minister: I certainly can say, as I have said before, that it is important that all schools get these freedoms. However, it is obvious that we disagree on the issue of admissions. I think that if schools are free to bring back selection at the age of 11, that would be regressive for our country. So I am afraid that in this grand new consensus we have to disagree on that point.
The other point, which is very important, is this: we also have to keep the investment going into our schools. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Conservative party
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voted against that investment, but as a result of the investment and the change, through specialist schools, city academies and the literacy and numeracy strategy, we now have the best ever results at 11, at 16, at 18 in our schools. Therefore, I have to say to him that it is not merely in respect of education policy that we have to agree. We have also to agree that the investment that is so necessary to back up that reform continues. I am afraid that his economic policy, which is to cut back investment, because of his desire[Interruption.] I am happy if this is another policy that he is about to change. He is saying that this year he would not have put all the investment in but rather have shared that investment half and half between tax cuts and investment. That would mean substantial cuts in public investment. I am very happy to have this new consensus with the hon. Gentleman, and I am delighted that he has said today that the Conservative party will vote for these education reforms, but it has to be on the basis of agreeing the investment also.
Mr. Sadiq Khan (Tooting) (Lab): Would my right hon. Friend like to comment on the experience of Mr. Chuttun, a Tooting resident, who unfortunately was sick on Sunday and had to go to St. George's? He had an ECG, two types of blood tests, X-rays and various blood pressure tests, and was treated wonderfully by doctors and nurses. He said:
The Prime Minister: The type of improvement that my hon. Friend is describing is one that is happening right across the national health service at the present time. It is extremely important that it continues. It is the result of investment and reform, which means that over the past eight years waiting lists have come down by almost 400,000. We have the lowest waiting lists that this country has had since records began.
Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (LD): The United States Secretary of State said yesterday that "extraordinary rendition" had been conducted in co-operation with European Governments. To what extent, therefore, have the Government co-operated in the transport of terrorist suspects to Afghanistan and elsewhere, apparently for torture purposes?
The Prime Minister:
First, let me draw a very clear distinction indeed between the idea of suspects being taken from one country to another and any sense whatever that ourselves, the United States or anyone condones the use of torture. Torture cannot be justified in any set of circumstances at all. The practice of rendition as described by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been American policy for many
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years. We have not had such a situation here, but that has been American policy for many, many years. However, it must be applied in accordance with international conventions, and I accept entirely Secretary of State Rice's assurance that it has been.
Mr. Kennedy: Given that assurance, can the Prime Minister therefore explain why the published evidence shows that almost 400 flights have passed through 18 British airports in the period of concern? When was he as Prime Minister first made aware of that policy, and when did he approve it?
The Prime Minister: In respect of airports, I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman is referring to. In respect of the policy of rendition, it has been the policy of the American Government for many years.
The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman says, "Why?" It is as well to remember that we need to detain some of the people we are talking about for reasons of action against international terrorism. Some of those people are highly dangerous, and some of them can provide information that is of fundamental importance in preventing terrorism. Of course, there should be proper treatment of anyone who is detained, and I have already made it clear that, as far as I am aware, it is not an issue here. However, the American policy has been clear for ages. That is not a matter of contention, and I fully endorse what Secretary of State Rice said yesterday.
Rosemary McKenna (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch, East) (Lab): In the week of additional moneys for local government and the Scottish Parliament, will my right hon. Friend join me in condemning East Dunbartonshire Liberal-controlled council, which this week cut 64 jobs, reduced services and increased charges?
The Prime Minister: That is very typical of the Liberal Democrats. It will not surprise my hon. Friend that whenever the Liberal Democrats get their hands on any power in local government there is a clear difference between what they say they will do and what they actually do.
The Prime Minister: I do not accept the figure that the hon. Gentleman gave. Productivity in this country has been catching up with and even surpassing Japan and Germany. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer pointed out on Monday, the only year in which productivity fell was in a period of Conservative government.
Hugh Bayley (City of York)
(Lab): What plans do the Government have to increase the supply of affordable
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housing, especially family housing with gardens, in house-price hotspots in the north of England such as the City of York?
The Prime Minister: Both in my hon. Friend's constituency and elsewhere, the proposals introduced by my right hon. Friends the Chancellor and the Deputy Prime Minister for shared equity in homes are a major step forward that will allow many couples who want to get their feet on the first rung of the housing ladder, but who may not be able to afford the full 100 per cent. equity, to build up their equity stake over time. Together with the very considerable investment in social housing, that will make a difference in my hon. Friend's constituency and elsewhere.
Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): The Montreal climate change conference is taking place this week. We support the goal of a new Kyoto-style treaty that will tackle carbon emissions. Earlier this year the Prime Minister said that he had been changing his thinking on the issue. Can he set out his new thinking? In particular, is he still committed to a proper successor to Kyoto based on clear targets and including all the major carbon-producing countries of the world?
The Prime Minister: Yes, I most certainly am committed to that. The reason it is important that we change our thinking on the matter is that I do not believe that the successor to Kyoto can work unless it has not just the United States involved in such targets and such a framework, but India and China, because they are the major emerging economies of the world. In China, for example, one power station is being built every week or every two weeks. Therefore, unless we manage to get a comprehensive framework that also involves India and China, it will not be of much use to us. I entirely agree that the issue is immensely important. That is one of the reasons, of course, why we passed the climate change levy. I hope the hon. Gentleman's question indicates that he will support us on that, too.
The Prime Minister:
I just said in answer to the previous question that it is important that we get binding targets. Emerging economies will want those to be sensitive to the needs of their economic growth, but one of the important issues that was not part of Kyoto but needs to be part of a new protocol is technology transfer. As we develop the research that allows us to have clean energy, we need to share that research and
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that technology with others. I am sorryI was pointing my finger; I would not want that to break up the new consensus. It is important not merely that we say how much we care about climate change, but that we take the action necessary. Therefore, it will be no use the hon. Gentleman's saying that he supports the aim unless he also supports the climate change levy, the renewables obligation and the extra investment that we put into energy efficiency. If he is prepared to have a consensus on that basis, I welcome it.
Shona McIsaac (Cleethorpes) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend recall that in 1997 maternity pay in this country was a miserly £55 a week and new mums got only 14 weeks' paid maternity leave? I am sure the whole House will agree that the Government have done more for women and working families than any other Government. Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that he will not slow up in helping working families and working mothers?
The Prime Minister: I can assure my hon. Friend of that. It is one reason why it is important that we keep policies such as the families tax credit, which has helped so many families balance work and family life, and why we keep on with the investment in the wrap-round child care between the hours of 8 am and 6 pm that we will be developing over the next few years. That is important, not just to give women and, indeed, men within the family the ability to work and care for their family life. It is a vital part, as well, of increasing the number of people of working age at work, which is of fundamental importance to the pension reforms that we want to see. So my hon. Friend is right to stress the importance of that support, and we must continue it.
Q3.  Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire) (Con): Couple support programmes in Australia and America have cut divorce rates by half in some cities. Does the Prime Minister agree that health visitors, registrars and local authorities should co-operate fully with similar schemes in the UK, such as community family trusts?
The Prime Minister: First, I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving me prior notice of his question. I understand that the aim of community family trusts is to reduce family breakdown in the way that he describes, by strengthening and building confident, committed relationships within families. The trusts should be commended for their work. From April next year the new children, young people and families grant will provide support to organisations that support families, including adult couple relationship support. I understand that community family trusts have applied for funding from that grant, and decisions on successful bids will be made by March 2006. I commend the trusts for their work. Obviously, I cannot say what will happen in the bidding process, but money will be available from April next year for precisely the type of scheme that the hon. Gentleman suggests.
Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill)
(Lab): In view of the Chancellor's clarification of the Government's support for the British film industry, does my right hon. Friend agree that this is a splendid
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opportunity for the industry to reciprocate by producing more and more movies, especially here in the United Kingdom?
The Prime Minister: I have been told by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor that the latest "Harry Potter" will be produced in Britain. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr. Clarke) has said, the Government are replacing the existing film tax relief with a new film tax credit, which will be available to support British films by increasing support for producers and helping large-budget films and small-budget films. I know that my right hon. Friend has campaigned for many years in support of the British film industry, which, I am pleased to say, is in a healthy state, and I hope that the support announced by the Chancellor on Monday will make it healthier still.
The Prime Minister: I will tell the hon. Gentleman: a rebate that goes upit is actually going to increase. The rebate will be paid in full on all common agricultural policy and on all expenditure in the original 15 member states. However, on new member states, whose economic development we support along with their membership, it is important that Britain pays its fair share. That is a principled position, and it is useless for Conservative Members to say that they support enlargement and helping those new countries if they then say that Britain should walk away from those countries. That is not responsible leadership, and I do not intend to engage in it.
Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green) (Lab): Does the Prime Minister love the country as it is now rather than the way it used to be? Who deserves the credit for the way things are now compared with how they used to be?
The Prime Minister: Well, in my view there have been many improvements in the past few yearsthe strength of the economy, investment in public services, the introduction of the minimum wage and the repeal of section 28. All those achievements have two things in common: first, this Labour Government introduced them; secondly, the Conservative party opposed each and every one of them.
Q5.  Mr. Jeremy Browne (Taunton) (LD): Like many market towns, Taunton suffers from chronic congestion, which harms the environment, business and local people's quality of life. What measures can the Government take to tackle that problem both in Taunton specifically and in hundreds of other towns across Britain?
The Prime Minister:
First, I understand that Somerset county council, which is the local transport authority for Taunton, has received more than £20 million for local transport, which is an increase of more than 20 per cent. in the past few years, and has indicated that congestion in Taunton will be a priority. Towns have been given
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new powers under the Traffic Management Act 2004, which include the ability to co-ordinate utility and telecom companies' roadworks, parking enforcement, bus lanes and even some moving traffic offences. In the end, it is our job to provide the powers and the money, and it is the local authority's job to make the best use of them. I hope that that happens in Taunton, which, like many towns, faces a congestion problem, because the local authority has additional powers and resources.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend accept that in the war against the mass murderers whose hatred of humanity is no less than that of the Nazis it is necessary to win hearts and minds, particularly in the Arab world? In view of what the United States is alleged to be doing, does he really believe that having mini-Guantanamos across Europe helps to win hearts and minds in that war? It is essential that UK facilities are not used, if there is any possibility of the United States using torture.
The Prime Minister: I totally agree with my hon. Friend's last point. That is why I have drawn a very clear distinction on any suggestion that there can be any use of, or condoning the use of, torture. That is completely unacceptable on any basis. In respect of the allegations of so-called torture facilities or detention facilities across Europe, I have to say to my hon. Friend that I really know nothing about them at allI only know that there are not any such here. If he reads the very clear statement by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday, I think that he will find that it is consistent with all that I have said.
As for Guantanamo BayI think there are now under half the numbers there that there were some time agoI have made it clear throughout that that is an anomaly that should be brought to an end, and I think that it is important over the next period of time that it is.
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I intervene on the remarkable school reunion between Fettes and Eton to ask the Prime Minister this: are there any remaining differences of political principlenot details of policy, but political principlebetween the Prime Minister and the new Leader of the Opposition, and if so, what are they?
The Prime Minister: There are manyfor example, the new deal on unemployment. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman may not think that that is a principle; I think that helping the unemployed is a principle, as is the investment in public services, and the European social chapter. Let me tell the hon. Gentleman the difference that I have with him. He wants Scotland wrenched out of the United Kingdom; I believe that the future of Scotland lies within the United Kingdom. I have differences of principle with both hon. Gentlemen.
Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South)
(Lab): Does my right hon. Friend recall saying that whenever he introduced a reform he always, with the benefit of hindsight, regretted not going any further? Is the proposed limited ban on cigarette smoking a case in point? Could I encourage my right hon. Friend to be a little bolder and at the very least ban cigarette smoking in restaurants and pubs that do serve food, not just those that do not? [Interruption.]
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The Prime Minister: There will of course be a ban on the vast majority of smoking in any form of premises at all. There is an interesting debate going on as to whether we should go further. We have held to our manifesto commitment. However, I have no doubt that this discussion will continue.
Q6.  Mr. Shailesh Vara (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): In a response that the Prime Minister gave earlier to a question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron), he spoke of action. May I remind the Prime Minister of something that he said in April:
The Prime Minister: We have already moved a long time ago from words to action. It is partly as a result of what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development did that the African Union has put together a peacekeeping force that is now 7,000 or 8,000-strong. We ourselves have put an immense amount of overseas aid into Sudan. We have been leading the way on ensuring that the proper talks take place in order to get a long-standing settlement. I think that the action that we have taken speaks volumes for the commitment of this country as well as the commitment of this Government. It obviously continues to be a deeply difficult situation, but the only proper way through is to build up the African Union force so that it can keep the combatants apart long enough for us to be able to get a peace deal negotiated.
Kali Mountford (Colne Valley) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will understand why New college in my constituency has been placed as one of the top schools and colleges in the country because of his visit earlier this year. [Laughter.] Is it not right that education is best when children get the best start in life? Will he come back to my constituency to visit the Sure Start programme to see how the £11.5 million that has been invested in that has been spent, and ensure that the investment in education under this Government not only continues but grows?
The Prime Minister: I had hoped that the judgments were somewhat more objective than that. My hon. Friend is right to say that, as a result of the investment and reform in constituencies such as hers, education has improved considerably. Sure Start has made a real difference to people's lives. I know that there are conflicting reports estimating the value of the scheme, but I believe from my own experience of visiting many Sure Start schemes round the country, including those in my constituency, that they have made an enormous difference not only to the children but to the parents. I have talked to many families who have gained skills and jobs for the first time through Sure Start. That is why I believe that it should continue.
Q7.  Mrs. Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet)
(Con): Crime and antisocial behaviour are undermining the quality of life of many of my constituents. In Barnet, we have fewer police officers per head than many other
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London boroughs that have far lower levels of crime. When are the Government going to give Barnet its fair share of police officers on the beat to tackle crime?
The Prime Minister:
If the hon. Lady wanted to be fair, in this new spirit of debate, she would accept that we now have record numbers of police officers, including in Barnet, just as we have record levels of investment in education and health. We have been able to put this extra money in as a result of the strong
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economy, and because we have chosen to put investment before tax cuts we have managed to keep that investment going. If the hon. Lady supports our policies over the next few years, I am sure that, in Barnet and elsewhere, we will get the numbers of people we need, in terms of a visible uniformed presence on the streets, and the legislative measures that we need to make a real difference to crime in her area. If she is signalling that our investment and antisocial behaviour plans will be supported by those on the Conservative Back Benches, I am delighted at yet another outburst of consensus.
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