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Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab):
I am sure that the Prime Minister would accept that the 1970 nuclear non-proliferation treaty commits this country and all other declared nuclear powers to long-term
disarmament. In light of that, will he explain why the Government are even considering an extension to, or a replacement for, Trident? Should not we seize this historic opportunity to start a process of nuclear disarmament around the world?
The Prime Minister: We do an immense amount in that area, and there is nothing inconsistent in renewing our independent nuclear deterrent and in being in favour of non-proliferation. My hon. Friends remarks are an indication that the debate will be lively.
Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): Ministers are meeting tomorrow in Geneva to try to resolve the vital world trade talks. When I last asked the Prime Minister about the talks, he said that failure in the Doha development round would be a disaster, and I agree. Given that Oxfam says that there are still 760 areas of disagreement, how confident is the Prime Minister that we will make progress this weekend?
The Prime Minister: It is obviously immensely difficult. However, we are working very closely, in particular with the German Government of Chancellor Merkel and with the Brazilians, to try to find a way forward. In addition, I spoke recently to Pascal Lamy, the head of the World Trade Organisation, and we talked through the various outstanding issues, but, yes, a lot of movement will be needed from all areasfrom Europe on agriculture, from America on subsidies, from Brazil and the G20 countries on non-agricultural market accessand we will do everything we can to make sure that progress is maintained.
Mr. Cameron: Clearly, a reduction in agricultural protection is absolutely key to those talks. Although our headline offer appears to be a 39 per cent. cut in tariffs, there are concerns that when it is applied in practice it will mean a lot less; in fact, one estimate, based on figures from economists at the World Bank, is that it would, in effect, mean an average cut of only 1 per cent. Does the Prime Minister agree that that would be completely inadequate?
The Prime Minister: Yes, I do, which is why I think that it is important that we all go further. But I should say to the right hon. Gentleman that exactly the same calculations could be made in relation to some of the other offers that are made by the G20 on non-agricultural market access and in relation to the American offer in terms of agricultural subsidy. I am afraid that, in every single part of this, there are still outstanding issues that have to be resolved. That is whycertainly prior to the G8 and possibly at the G8I will be arguing very strongly that the leaders need to put pressure on all the different systems to go far further.
In my view, it would be a disaster not just for world trade and for the development package that we want to see, but for the whole multilateral system, if the WTO went down. That is precisely why, as I say, that has been a constant part of my dialogue not just with America, but most particularly with the German Government, who share our view that failure in this area would be deeply regrettable for the whole of the international system.
Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West) (Lab/Co-op): What assessment has my right hon. Friend made of the impact on community relations of the alliance between the former British National party organiser Steve Edwards and the Conservative candidate in Tipton in the last local elections
The Prime Minister: The national programme for IT will help us to deliver an NHS fit for the 21st century. In 10 years, it will connect more than 30,000 GPs in England to more than 300 hospitals, giving patients access to their personal health and care information. By the end of March 2006, expenditure on the contracts let at the outset of the programme was £654 million. As the National Audit Office report said:
The notable progress and tight control of the central aspects of the programme are to be commended.
Mr. Bacon: Does the Prime Minister agree with Sir John Bourn that value for money on this programme is safeguarded because suppliers will not receive public money for IT projects and services until they are delivered and shown to be working effectively? Can he give the House his personal assurance that that has not happenedfor example in relation to iSOFT, whose directors trousered £76 million in share sales prior to their recent share crash?
The Prime Minister: I do not know about the particular example that the hon. Gentleman gave, but let me explain to him why it is important that we have that information technology programme. In the end, one of the huge benefits of having a national health service is that we can have electronic patient records that are transferable right round the system. If that happens, it means not just an end to vast amounts of paperwork in the NHS, but that things such as patient choice, for example, can become a reality. Contrary to the pre-reports of the National Audit Office report, on the whole the NAO was complimentary about the IT programme. It is a huge programme, but it will deliver real benefits. Of course, we have to make sure that people offer value for money, but by and large the NAO said that we did.
Dr. Lewis: I entirely agree with the Prime Minister, but does he accept that no society can be safe if its laws fail to recognise that people forfeit some of their own rights when they pose a threat to, or infringe, the rights of others? Is not that failure precisely why he had to abandon the pledge that he gave the House on 3 May that foreign prisonerscriminalswould be deported automatically on release, and is it not why he is helpless to deport foreign terrorist sympathisers?
The Prime Minister: No, although there is a particular problem, which I will come to in a moment. We have many peopleI think almost 40who are foreign nationals who are accused of terrorist offences or of plotting or inciting terrorism and their cases are going through the court. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that we have got to make sure that those court cases are successful. But under the Human Rights Act 1998, we have the power expressly to override legislation if we wish to do so. What I said last year, and repeat now, is that we are prepared to do so if necessary.
If I may say so, our view is somewhat better than the one expressed by the Leader of the Opposition. He said that we should replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights. He also went on to say that that should not be subject to the Parliament Act, and therefore would be entrenched, which, in fact, would make it even harder to do what the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) wants. The Leader of the Opposition also said that the reason why we needed that was something called the Singh case. I can point out that the case was decided in August 2000. The right hon. Gentleman said that it had been decided under the guidance of the Human Rights Act, but that Act came into force in October 2000. So we have
Q5.  Mrs. Joan Humble (Blackpool, North and Fleetwood) (Lab): Is the Prime Minister aware that domestic burglary has gone down by 21 per cent. in my constituency? Car theft had gone down by 23 per cent. between 2003 and 2004-05. However, in spite of extra police officers in Lancashire, extra police support staff, the new police community support officers, community wardens and special constables, many people still think that crime is going up. Will the Prime Minister reassure my constituents that they are less likely to be a victim of crime now than they would have been at any time in the past 25 years?
The Prime Minister:
What my hon. Friend says is absolutely true. Incidentally, I would like to pay tribute to the Lancashire police force, which is a groundbreaking force that does a superb job. She is absolutely right that there have been big falls in both car crime and burglary, and the antisocial behaviour legislation is also of enormous help here. I know that she will realise that we need to do more, which is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is examining various issues to do with the Home Office. The Violent Crime Reduction Bill will play a part in this as well. My hon. Friend is right that we need to keep on ensuring not only that the laws are
fit for what we need, but that we get the community policing out on the street that her constituents and others want.
Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con): In 1997, when the Prime Minister was still the future, he pledged to cut early-years class sizes to below 30. In the same year, and in every year since, he has promised to tackle school truancy. However, parliamentary answers that I have received show that those early-years class sizes have doubled since 2002 and that truancy has risen by 200,000 over the same period. Has the Prime Minister changed his mind about those priorities, or just broken his promises?
The Prime Minister: As far as I am aware, the infant class pledge has been met. If the hon. Gentleman goes into virtually any primary school in the country, he will see the effect not merely of the investment in bricks and mortar, but of something like 80,000 extra classroom assistants. In so far as we have been able to cut infant class sizes, we have done so, of course, because of the extra investment in our public services that he voted against in the past.
Q6.  Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): Since my right hon. Friend became Prime Minister, hospital waiting lists and waiting times have dropped dramatically. Unfortunately, the reverse is the case for housing waiting lists. Before my right hon. Friend leaves office, will he ensure that the necessary investment is committed so that his legacy will also be one of falling housing waiting lists?
The Prime Minister: I thank my hon. Friend very much indeed for the first part of her question, which I regard as progress of a sort. However, she is absolutely right that we need to do more on housing, particularly social housing. That is why we are investing literally hundreds of millions of pounds over the coming years to ensure that we have better social housing and to increase the provision of houses as well
The Prime Minister: Whether it is provided by councils or others, it is important that we get the maximum investment in housing. Of course we only manage to achieve investment when we have a strong economy with the money therefore to invest.
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Will the Prime Minister set out a clear timetable for the removal from the statute book of the Act of Settlement, which introduces clear discrimination against millions of our fellow citizens? Would a Government set on a course of repeal not be demonstrating leadership, authority and direction?
The Prime Minister: No, I am afraid that I cannot give the hon. Gentleman that assurance, but as we are on the subject of legislation I can tell him what I would not agree to do, and that is to introduce the Bill that he wantsan independence Bill for Scotland. That would be an absolute and total disaster for the people of Scotland.
Q7.  Margaret Moran (Luton, South) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of my official engagements yesterday was the opening of the 11th childrens centre in my constituency, at a school, Dallow junior, which has received over £2 million of additional investment for new facilities? Will he join me in congratulating the staff involved in that achievement, and does he agree that it is another example of this Government tackling child poverty, which doubled under the Conservative party?
The Prime Minister: I can assure my hon. Friend that it is our intention to keep up the investment in childrens centres. Sure Start, too, is an immensely important programme that has not only allowed hundreds of thousands of people to get access to facilities that help their children, but benefited many parents enormously. In addition, we are trying to support people through the work-life balance, the childrens tax credit, and increases in maternity leave and maternity pay. All that adds up to a package that results not in simply talking about helping families but in supporting them in realistic and practical ways throughout the country.
Q8.  Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab): I report with great sadness to the Prime Minister that, following the local elections and a bit of bed-hopping by the Liberal Democrats, Newcastle-under-Lyme is being temporarily led by the Conservatives. In the past 20-plus years Newcastle has been well served by Labour leadersMike Brereton, Eddie Boden and David Leechand I wonder whether, in this novel situation, the Prime Minister can help me out. By which yardsticks would he judge this new, Tory/Liberal Democrat alliance in my area, however temporary it may be?
The Prime Minister: The most important thing is that the programmes of renewal and inner-city regeneration that were funded by the Government are maintained by the council, and I know that my hon. Friend will be holding it strictly to account.
Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): I am sure that the Prime Minister will join me in congratulating Cheltenham and Tewkesbury primary care trust on never having had a financial deficit and on living within its means. Can he therefore explain to the professionals, patients and people of Cheltenham why we are being rewarded with the closure of our 10-year-old purpose-built maternity ward, the closure of our rehabilitation hospital, cuts in health promotion, cuts in community nursing, cuts in health visiting, cuts in access to acute care and the non-implementation of new NICE-prescribed drugs such as Herceptin?
The Prime Minister: I do not know the particular circumstances of the hon. Gentlemans constituency and what has happened with the primary care trust there, although I am sure that if we were to go into it we would also find that waiting times and waiting lists for patients had fallen substantially and that there were additional numbers of people being treated far faster for cancer and cardiac care. I am afraid that it is a necessary part of the financial management in the health service that no matter how much money is put in, there will have to be proper accountability to make sure that that money is spent well. I am very happy to look into the points that the hon. Gentleman raises.
Q10.  Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con): I gave notice to the Prime Ministers office that I was going to raise the case of the late Lieutenant William Norbury MC and his widow Gillian, and the battle to win her the war disability pension to which she is entitled. Yesterday, at a veterans reception in Downing street, the Prime Minister was challenged to resolve the issue by Mrs. Norburys splendid champion, John Nunneley. In Mr. Nunneleys own words, he appealed to the Prime Minister to act as Mrs. Norburys court of last resort. Is the Prime Minister now able to deliver his judgment in this case?
The Prime Minister:
No, I am not able to do that right now. I met Mr. Nunneley yesterday and he gave
me a letter explaining the situation. I thank the hon. Gentleman for notice of the question. It is a complex case because Lieutenant Norbury was a member of the Kings African Rifles, which is a colonial force raised in Kenya, and responsibility for his war pension was taken over by the Kenyan Government when that country gained its independence in the early 1960s. Ministers and officials have met Mrs. Norburys representatives on a number of occasions, and the Ministry of Defence is now examining a number of possible schemes to consider whether Mrs. Norbury will be eligible under any of them. So the MOD is looking into it, and I hope that I will be able to get back to Mr. Nunneley or Mrs. Norbury in due course.
Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Prime Minister congratulate Plymouth city council on returning to Labour control last Thursday after a successful by-election? Will he take an interest, too, in the challenge that we face of providing enough affordable housing to rent and buy, as we need some flexibility to play our part as one of the countrys key growth areas?
The Prime Minister: I certainly congratulate the council and its Labour leadership on the superb work that they are doing, not least in relation to schools, antisocial behaviour and regeneration. The by-election last week set a very good example.
The Solicitor-General (Mr. Mike O'Brien): With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement on the report by Her Majestys Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service on the Jubilee Line case.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General made a statement in another place yesterday. I did seek to provide opposition spokesmen with a copy of the report in good time yesterday, and to indicate that we did not intend to make an oral statement in the House, consistent with practice on some legal issues in the past. When I had an opportunity to speak to the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve), he said that he wanted an oral statement, and I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for agreeing to allow me to make one today.
In retrospect, I think that hon. Gentleman was right that the Attorney-Generals statement on the issue should have been repeated in this House at the same time, and I apologise to him and to the House for the fact that that was not done. In future, however legalistic they are, statements made in another place ought to be made in the House unless there is prior agreement otherwise. With minor amendments to allow for the fact that a day has elapsed, the Attorney-Generals statement reads as follows:
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