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I am well aware of the strain that has been put on Dover...and how well the town has dealt with this. I also accept that Dover has suffered an unfair burden?
With the Home Office now threatening to burden us with an open prison, in the most inappropriate site in the land, can he understand why Dover feels dumped on, and will he meet me to talk about my grave concerns?
The Prime Minister: I recall my hon. Friend representing so strongly the issues in relation to migration in Dover, and we were able to deal with that problem. I am happy to meet him and to try to deal with the problem that he now has. I entirely understand that local feelings are strong. I know that he has already met the Home Secretary, and I would also be happy to meet him to discuss the matter.
Q2.  Mr. Jeffrey M. Donaldson (Lagan Valley) (DUP): The Prime Minister will be aware of the need to ensure that there is adequate support and recognition for the innocent victims of terrorist violence in Northern Ireland as we seek to move forward. The interim victims commissioner, Bertha McDougall, who is doing excellent work, has recently published a report that indicates the need to secure long-term funding for the victims sector. Will the Prime Minister give a commitment to provide that long-term funding for those who have suffered so much?
The Prime Minister: I think I can give that commitment. We have already committed some £38 million to victims groups since 1998, and spending currently stands at £5 million a year. I am aware of the excellent work being done by Bertha McDougall as victims commissioner, and I look forward to her final report. We will look positively at her recommendations for future funding and her suggestions for spending the money more effectively.
I also thank the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues for the constructive role that they played in the talks at St Andrews last week. I hope very much that the shared future of which I spoke from the Dispatch Box last week is somewhat further advanced now. I also hope that we can all continue to work closely to ensure that the institutions in Northern Ireland are up and running again, and that Northern Irelands future is secure.
Q3.  Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): Last Thursday, the British Board of Film Classification gave a 15 certificate to a video game formerly called Bully. The game contains scenes of violence, including scenes of players terrorising teachers and students, teachers being head-butted and the aggressive use of baseball bats. Currys has banned it. Given the link between video games and a propensity to encourage violence that some research has demonstrated, will the Prime Minister convene a meeting of stakeholdersincluding representatives of the industry and parents groupsto discuss the issue? Does he accept that this is not about adult censorship, but about protecting our children?
The Prime Minister: First, let me praise my right hon. Friend for his work in raising awareness of the issue. I have not seen the game myself, but I know that both my hon. Friend the Minister responsible for creative industries, and my hon. Friend who is responsible for the video industry, would be happy to meet my right hon. Friend to discuss the issue. It is obviously important, and I know that there is a lot of concern about it.
I think it can be said that the video games industry, or at least a substantial section of it, has made significant advances over the past few years, but as my right hon. Friend says, it is important for that progress to be maintained.
Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): Today thousands of postmasters and postmistresses are coming to London. Will the Prime Minister explain why we were promised a one-stop shop for Government services that was never introduced, why we were promised a Post Office card account which was introduced but is now under threat, and why the option of letting sub-post offices compete in new areas was never seriously considered? Will the Prime Minister guarantee that all those matters will be examined properly and urgently in the Governments review?
The Prime Minister: We can certainly examine all the options. We should and we will. I hope, however, that the right hon. Gentleman will not tell post offices that he will spend even more money on Government subsidy than we are spending.
I might just point out that when we came to office nothing was really being done to support rural post offices. We have spent [Interruption.] Let me give the facts; then I will explain what the difficulty is.
We have spent about £2 billion, and we are currently subsidising post offices to the tune of £150 million a year. I entirely understand why the issue is of concern to peopleof course it isbut the reason there is a problem is that more and more people are using bank accounts rather than the post office. It is important to realise that there is a process of change that any Government would have to handle. Of course we will consider all the options, but what we will not be able to do is say that even more subsidy is available than the money that we are already putting in.
Mr. Cameron: But the fact is that if decisions are not made urgently, there will be no post office network left to protect. Will the Prime Minister accept that 4 million people have card accounts, that they value those card accounts, and that those card accounts are a vital income stream for the Post Office? Does he not understand that scrapping them could be the last and a fatal blow to the post office network? Will he review the policy and keep the Post Office card account?
The Prime Minister: We are debating and considering the card account, but I must tell the right hon. Gentleman that some 98 per cent. of pensioners, and people who are becoming pensioners, choose payment into a bank account. The desire for the Post Office card account is actually declining. I am afraid that, on any basis, there is a limit to the amount of money that we can put in. That is particularly so on a day when, apparently, the shadow Chancellor is about to promise £4.7 billion worth of cuts in stamp duty on share dealing. He cannot promise to spend more money on the health service, more money on defence, more money on post offices and more money on rural services, and then promise tax cuts that simply cannot be affordable.
Q4.  Michael Jabez Foster (Hastings and Rye) (Lab): Thousands more criminals have been convicted as a result of the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, allowing the police to take suspects DNAa measure that Opposition Members oppose. Will my right hon. Friend reject any calls for a dumbing down or blunting of this important instrument in the fight against crime?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes a very important point about the DNA database. The police are now matching about 3,000 offences a month and literally hundreds of murders, manslaughters, rapes and other serious offences have been solved as a result of that database. The Conservative party was opposed to it on the basis that it transgressed peoples civil liberties, but it is important to build up the DNA database, which provides a vital way of fighting crime in the modern world. If people are serious about fighting crime, they cannot allege that we are not doing enough and then oppose the very measures necessary to do it.
Q5.  Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): Will the Prime Minister join me in praising the UKs air ambulances, which help thousands of patients and save hundreds of lives? Does he realise that the service survives entirely on voluntary donations and that, unless we find a sponsor, the mid-Wales helicopter will be withdrawn for the winter? Is he aware that its ambulances are barred from applying for Big Lottery funds? Will he facilitate a meeting to resolve what amounts to an anomaly, so that the service can apply to the lottery fund in order to upgrade its aircraft and continue its life-saving services?
The Prime Minister: I am certainly happy to facilitate a meeting with the Minister with responsibility for air ambulances and I pay tribute, of course, to the work that they do. For the last four years or so, the NHS has reduced the burden on all air ambulance charities by meeting the cost of the paramedics who staff the ambulances. I have to say that I am not aware of any bar to the air ambulance services applying for funding and I am happy for the issue to be discussed. The lottery has awarded some £300,000 to mountain rescue and other services in previous years. I totally understand what the hon. Gentleman is saying and it is important to do our best for air ambulance services. If he has a meeting with the Minister, I will look carefully at its outcome myself.
Q6.  Jeff Ennis (Barnsley, East and Mexborough) (Lab): Is the Prime Minister aware of the five good GCSE pass rates for Willowgarth high school in Grimethorpe, one of the most deprived parts of my constituency? I have served on the schools governing body since 1979. The pass rate last year was 38 per cent. and this year it is 67 per cent. Furthermore, for the boys, it has gone up from 34 per cent. last year to 73 per cent. this year. Is that yet further evidence of what the Prime Minister meant when he said that the Government were making education their top priority?
The Prime Minister:
Strangely enough, I am aware of the results in Grimethorpe and they are indeed excellent results. I congratulate all the schools in my
hon. Friends constituency and the local authority in Barnsley that has done such a superb job. That achievement has been repeated throughout the country, as we have seen the best ever school results. We have moved from a position in which many authorities had a 30 per cent. or lower average of five good GCSEs to one in which we are now ensuring that they are all above 40 per cent. Real improvements are happening in schools up and down the country. It is a wonderful tribute to teachers, staff, pupils and parents, and also to the record investment and reform that the Government have provided.
Peter Viggers (Gosport) (Con): When the servicemen and women of other nations are exposed to injury, they are given the best possible medical treatment, often in military hospitals, whereas ours are handed over to the national health service. Does the Prime Minister recognise that moving Defence Medical Services to Birmingham has not worked and will not work in future? Will he yield to overwhelming pressure indicating that our only military hospital, the Haslar hospital in Gosport, should be retained?
The Prime Minister: I simply do not agree with the hon. Gentleman at all. First, I pay tribute to the work that is done by Defence Medical Services and to the work that the NHS is doing in looking after those soldiers who are injured.
As there has been a lot of discussion about Selly Oak hospital in the news in the past few days, I should at least give it the chance to respond. It has issued a statement that has not been particularly well covered, but I would like to quote from two parts of it. It says:
In the main, the articles
are inaccurate, unbalanced, ill-informed and unsubstantiated.
On no occasion has the Trust been approached to comment on any of the allegations. There have been reports of an alleged Muslim visitor verbally abusing a paratrooper at Selly Oak Hospital. Neither the Trust, nor the Ministry of Defence, has any formal or anecdotal reports or evidence that this alleged incident took place.
I have saidI believe it is rightthat it is important that our soldiers, particularly those who are wounded in battle, are looked after to the best possible extent. The use that is made of NHS specialist services is important in that. Those soldiers should be in an environment in which they feel comfortable, and we will look to make sure that that is the case. But I think that it would be quite wrong of people to criticise the national health service for the way in which it has looked after these people, because I know that the staff are doing their level best in difficult circumstances.
Q7.  Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op):
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in this years world league table for foreign investment Britain has come at the top? Not only has foreign investment been greater in Britain than in China, but it is greater in Britain than in the United States. Indeed, foreign
investment in Britain is even greater this year than in China and the United States combined. Does that not show that, unlike the spokesmen for the Opposition, the international business community has real confidence in the strength of the British economy?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that the latest figures show that £85 billion worth of direct foreign investment came into Britain last year, making it the most popular destination in the world ahead of both the United States and China. We have had the strongest economic growth, low inflation, high employment and low unemployment. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has said:
over the last decade has been a paragon of stability.
Greg Mulholland (Leeds, North-West) (LD): The Prime Minister will be aware of the case of the Leeds man, Mirza Tahir Hussein, who is to be executed in Pakistan on 1 November following a legal process that can only be described as deeply flawed. The Prime Minister will also be aware of the proposed royal visit of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, who will be in Pakistan at the same time. Does the Prime Minister agree that the royal visit should not go ahead if the Pakistani authorities intend to carry out this gross miscarriage of justice? Will he also tell the House what he intends to do before that time to persuade President Musharraf to use the powers he has to overturn and resolve this difficult situation?
The Prime Minister: If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I will not comment on the royal visit. However, I will say that we have raised this case constantly with the Pakistani authorities and I raised it personally with President Musharraf when he was here a couple of weeks ago. I hope, even at this stage, that there is an intervention to ensure that this does not take place; it would be very serious if it did. There is a limit to what the President can do, but I hope that he can use his powers, and we will continue to make representations right up until the last moment. I can assure the hon. Gentleman of that, because we have raised the case on many occasions for all the reasons that are well known.
Q8.  Ben Chapman (Wirral, South) (Lab): Given its potential to engage young people in politics, to teach respect and responsibility in communities and societies and to tackle disengagement and antisocial behaviour, does my right hon. Friend share my considerable disappointment at Ofsteds reporting of poor standards of teaching in citizenship? Will he see that its recommendations are implemented comprehensively and swiftly?
The Prime Minister: The point that my hon. Friend makes is absolutely right, and we will look at those recommendationswe are looking at them very carefullyand, obviously, we will want to implement them. Citizenship is relatively new; it has come on to the curriculum only over the past few years. But my hon. Friend is right to stress its importance, and in view of the debates that are happening at present about how people better integrate into our society and how people become more responsible citizens, citizenship is an absolutely central part of teaching in school. It is important that we improve the quality of it, and that we make sure that, where classes are inadequate, they are substantially improved.
Mr. James Paice (South-East Cambridgeshire) (Con): Now that the National Audit Office has laid bare the chaos of the Rural Payments Agency, and given the potential fine of £141 million by the European Union because of the inaccuracies, plus the fact that the then Secretary of State was warned in June 2005 that the project was off course and yet did nothing, what sort of Government do we have that keep the then chief executive on full pay six months after he was sacked, and promote the responsible Minister to Foreign Secretary?
The Prime Minister:
First, as we have said on many occasions, we are sorry for the delays that there have been. Now, 97 per cent. of farmers have received full or
partial payments. The Rural Payments Agency is in contact with the remaining high-value cases, and it is working to pay the remaining claims as soon as possible.
Q9.  Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): In June, my right hon. Friend told me that the Government need to do more on social housing, yet in the forthcoming two years Birmingham city has so far been allocated less money for new social housing than in the previous two years. What sense does it make for housing benefit to have been paying, for the last 20 months, £635 a month for Mr. and Mrs. Garghen in my constituency and their five children to be accommodated in inadequate temporary accommodation, when had we had a decent council house-building programme, the rent would have been less than half that amount?
The Prime Minister: I totally understand the point that my hon. Friend makes, but it is just worth pointing out that we have substantially increased investment in social housing; not all of it is provided in the traditional way, but we will continue to do that. It is only as a result of this Government actually putting the money into social housing when we came to office that, for example, many elderly people [Interruption.] Well, there was no support for elderly people in social housing before this Government came to power. We are now spending about £2 billion on that. That is investment that this Government put into social housing, and the Conservatives voted against.
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