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25 Oct 2006 : Column 1512

My hon. Friend’s point is absolutely right. One of the reasons why it is important that we continue to invest in arts and culture is that this is not a peripheral issue for us. It is an absolutely central part of creating a more vibrant and decent society and we will continue to invest in it.

Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD): May I begin by associating myself and my right hon. and hon. Friends with the expressions of condolence and sympathy that we have just heard from the Prime Minister?

When may we expect the Attorney-General to make an application for the extradition and trial in Britain of those American soldiers against whom there is a prima facie case for the unlawful killing in Iraq of the ITN journalist Terry Lloyd?

The Prime Minister: For very obvious reasons, I think that it would be wrong for me to comment on anything that the Attorney-General may do in relation to that case. Once again, however, I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to Mr. Lloyd’s family.

Sir Menzies Campbell: Not much comfort there, I think. As recently as last night, the Government assured us that the extradition treaty with the United States would facilitate justice. Is not what we have a fast-track process, but a fast-track process that goes only one way?

The Prime Minister: I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is stretching reality a bit there, because the fact of the matter is that we were asked to make sure that the US Senate and Congress ratified the treaty and we have done our best to ensure that that happens. I have repeated again my sympathy to Mr. Lloyd’s family, but let me just point out to him that I think that it is important when we talk about American soldiers, or indeed our own soldiers that I make it clear that not just British soldiers, but American soldiers and the soldiers of many other countries who we are fighting alongside, are doing a superb job in very difficult circumstances. None of that will, of course, excuse anything wrong that has happened, but I do not think that it is right to have a debate about the armed forces, particularly when they are losing significant numbers of troops, as the American forces are, without paying tribute to their heroism, courage and bravery in defence of democracy in Iraq.

Q3. [96557] Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that 10 years of economic stability has made it possible for us to look to and plan for the long term? In my constituency, I have had £150 million of infrastructure investment and there is £100 million coming in the next two years. But we also need much social housing. Will he agree to look to toughen section 106 applications? So many times I am told that there is to be a school, a medical centre, a sports field or a village hall, but when the houses are built, the section 106 agreement is never delivered.

The Prime Minister: I totally understand the point that my hon. Friend is making. He illustrates exactly why the planning gain supplement is an important part
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of Government policy. It is also true that, with the section 106 applications, we are looking to see how we can strengthen that. There may be announcements on that in the weeks to come. The point that he is making about the investment in infrastructure is absolutely right. Where we are building more homes—and we need to build more homes—it is important that we are matching that with infrastructure investment in schools, hospitals, roads and so forth. That is why, again, it is important that we increase the investment in areas such as his, rather than cut it.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): For almost a year, we have been pushing repeatedly for a climate change Bill. [ Interruption. ] That is right: if you want to get something to happen in this country, get the Leader of the Opposition to suggest it. In January, the Prime Minister rejected the idea. He even said that it was “a trifle dodgy.” Can he confirm today that the Government will have a climate change Bill in the Queen’s Speech?

The Prime Minister: Obviously, I cannot say what will be in the Queen’s speech before it is published, but I can give the reason why I described the right hon. Gentleman’s proposals as I did—I am surprised that I used the word “trifle” because “dodgy” would have been the accurate description. First, he is against the climate change levy, but we would never have been able to make the progress that we have without it. Secondly, he is asking for statutory, binding, year-on-year targets, which are very difficult to deliver because the changes that might happen in any one year could render them extremely difficult to achieve.

Mr. Cameron: Why can we not just have a straight answer? Are we getting a Bill: yes or no? Can the Prime Minister confirm that he is not going to water it down? Will it include the two things that really matter: annual targets and an independent body that can measure and adjust them in the light of circumstances? Can we have a proper climate change Bill, not some watered-down version?

The Prime Minister: The reason why I cannot give commitments on that is that we have not yet published the Queen’s Speech. I would have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would be aware that it would be in the Queen’s Speech that that would be announced.

Let me go back to the point that he is making. The action that we are taking—huge investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, and the climate change levy, which has reduced dramatically what would otherwise have been the carbon dioxide and greenhouse emissions—is absolutely vital, but it must also be practical and workable. That is why we will make sure that any proposals that we bring forward will mean that we will be able to ensure that we get the reduction in CO2 emissions that we need—remember, this country will meet and exceed its Kyoto targets and will be one of the very few countries in the world to do so. Such proposals must also be entirely compatible with the interests of business and consumers.

As for the tax proposals that the right hon. Gentleman introduced last week, if I may very quickly— [Interruption.] I am citing this because it is an interesting example of how a Government should
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not make policy. In the morning, he was saying that green taxes on pollution will rise to pay for reductions. By the afternoon, he was saying, or his shadow Chancellor was—[Hon. Members: “Ah.”] Well, I assume that they are on the same side, roughly. By the afternoon, the shadow Chancellor was saying:

By the time that the last edition of the Evening Standard was published, it was saying:

If that is an example of the right hon. Gentleman’s policy making, we certainly will not follow it.

Iraq

Q4. [96558] Mr. David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): What support the UK Government are giving to develop democratic, independent trade unions in Iraq.

The Prime Minister: My special envoy for human rights in Iraq recently met the Iraqi Minister for civil society and reiterated our full support for the right to form free and fair unions. She also made the same point when she met a group of Iraqi women trade unionists on international women’s day. As my hon. Friend knows—I think that he was present at the launch—there is a TUC pamphlet celebrating the life of Hadi Saleh, the international secretary of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, who was murdered in Iraq, almost certainly by former Saddamists, in January 2005. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate my hon. Friend and those in the TUC on campaigning for free and fair trade unions in Iraq. I also congratulate all those who continue to strive for free and trade unions in difficult circumstances today.

Mr. Anderson: I welcome the Prime Minister’s words, but is he aware of Iraqi Government decree 8750, which was issued last year and said that the Government of Iraq will

Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is anti-democratic, and will he do everything in his power to convince the Iraqi Government to rescind that pernicious legislation?

The Prime Minister: We are indeed making those points to the Iraqi Government. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to the fact that it is important that there are no inhibitions on free Iraqi trade unions. I know that he will join me in celebrating the publication of the pamphlet, which shows that despite all the problems in Iraq today, the position of trade unions in Iraq has been absolutely transformed compared with the conditions under Saddam Hussein. That is one of the most powerful things about the pamphlet, which I urge hon. Members to read, and it is a great antidote to all those who say that nothing has improved since the fall of Saddam. The pamphlet makes quite clear the appalling brutality to which people—especially trade unionists and others—were subjected under Saddam and shows how, despite the difficulties, that is changing in Iraq today.


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Engagements

Q5. [96559] Mr. John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): Will the Prime Minister agree to put an end to the scandal that allows Post Office Ltd to privatise profitable Crown post offices, such as Chorlton post office, without any consultation with local residents or stakeholders?

The Prime Minister: It is important that the Post Office is able to take the decisions that it considers necessary for running a proper business.

Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab): Yesterday I was lobbied by my constituent Janine Mcdonald who had paid for her own Herceptin treatment for early stage breast cancer until our primary care trust agreed to pay. Is my right hon. Friend aware that despite the very great improvements that we have made in breast cancer treatment, there is still a postcode lottery in respect of the repayment of those funds paid by patients for Herceptin, as indeed there is for wigs and prostheses and, even more importantly, for genetic screening? Will my right hon. Friend look into the matter and endeavour to ensure that all breast cancer patients receive equal access to all treatment?

The Prime Minister: I certainly will look into the point that my hon. Friend makes. She is right to say that it is our intention to get rid of the postcode lottery in the prescription of drugs. Enormous changes have been made over the past few years in the treatment of breast cancer, which is why so many more people are able to survive it. It is important, too, that there is huge investment going into drugs and treatment throughout the national health service, but the point that my hon. Friend raises is a valid one. I am happy to look into it and contact her.

Q6. [96560] Mr. John Baron (Billericay) (Con): Regardless whether the original decision to invade Iraq was right or wrong, given the significant comments by General Sir Richard Dannatt and the fact that everyone except the House seems to be discussing the current situation in Iraq and possible policy options going forward, will the Prime Minister lead a full and proper debate in the House in Government time on Iraq?

The Prime Minister: The Leader of the House said the other day what time would be available for debating Iraq, but I am happy to debate Iraq at any time. We do so regularly in the exchanges in the House and elsewhere, and the Queen’s Speech will give us an opportunity to do so again. Let me make one thing absolutely and abundantly clear. There will be no change in the strategy of withdrawal from Iraq happening only when the Iraqi forces are confident that they can handle security. To do anything else would be a betrayal not just of the Iraqi people, but of all the sacrifices that have been made by our armed forces over the years. I know that the subject arouses huge controversy still, but it is important just occasionally to remember the utter barbarity of the regime that we got rid of, and the fact that, for once, today in Iraq people at least have the chance to have a proper functioning democratic society, and we should stand by them—stick by them—in achieving it.


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Kitty Ussher (Burnley) (Lab): The more a country trades, the more prosperous it becomes. Does my right hon. Friend therefore agree that we should celebrate European enlargement?

The Prime Minister: I do. For all its difficulties, some of which we saw in the discussions about Bulgaria and Romania yesterday, European enlargement has been a chief British foreign policy priority. It is right for Britain and right for Europe. Those countries are making enormous strides forward—incredible strides in their economy, their democracy and their politics—which would have been impossible unless they had been allowed into the European Union. So we championed enlargement then, we champion it now and we will continue to champion it in the future.

Q7. [96561] Mr. Adrian Sanders (Torbay) (LD): Does the Prime Minister acknowledge that his attempts to reform and improve the Child Support Agency are failing? If I wrote to him, would he look into the case of one of my constituents who, because of a computer error, will have to wait a full 12 months before she can receive money that her ex-partner has already paid?

The Prime Minister: It is precisely because of the difficulties in the CSA that we have taken steps to set up the Henshaw inquiry. That report has been received and we are considering it and will act upon it. I am happy to look into the individual case of the hon. Gentleman’s constituent, but the CSA is subject to all the difficulties to which it has been subject right from its outset, which is why a proper and fundamental reconsideration is sensible.

Colin Burgon (Elmet) (Lab): Last week, the Companies Bill received its Third Reading in this House. Thanks largely to the efforts of the corporate responsibility coalition and its millions of supporters, a good Bill was made a bit better. However, I read in Tuesday’s Financial Times that the CBI and the Institute of Directors are going to nobble the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to drop the provisions that they do not like. Will the Prime Minister assure me—I am sure that he will—that when push comes to shove on that important Bill, the primacy of this elected Parliament will not be undermined by the lobbying of unelected business leaders?

The Prime Minister: It looks as if I will get nobbled either way. We have said that we will honour the commitments that we set out in the Warwick agreement, which form the core of the Bill, and we will honour them.

Q8. [96562] Mr. Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): When he is interviewed by the Metropolitan police, what innocent explanation will the Prime Minister offer for the fact that 80p in every pound donated to the Labour party came from people who were subsequently honoured?

The Prime Minister: I have absolutely no intention of debating those issues with the hon. Gentleman. It is, however, significant that in advance of the Scottish elections next year, he does not dare ask a question about Scotland or the result of that election. That is because he knows that his policy of ripping Scotland out of the UK would be a disaster for Scotland and the UK.


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Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): Hundreds of miners and their families in constituencies such as mine and my right hon. Friend’s have benefited from the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease scheme, which was introduced by this Labour Government. Unfortunately, unscrupulous solicitors, including Watson Burton in Newcastle, in collusion with claims handling firms, are deducting thousands of pounds from victims’ compensation. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the guiding principle should be that victims and their families should receive 100 per cent. of their compensation and not have it plundered by unscrupulous solicitors or middlemen?

The Prime Minister: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Of course, it is important that people get the full benefit of the compensation. I know that any issues—there have been issues in different parts of the country—are being raised with the Law Society. The main point is that hundreds of millions of pounds have been paid out to former miners.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): £4 billion.

The Prime Minister: I thank my hon. Friend for that prompt—a helpful intervention is always welcome. That £4 billion is the difference between a decent life for people who worked down in the pits and who suffered injury and often debilitating illness as a result. That indicates the priority that this Government attach to social justice.

Q9. [96563] Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford) (Con): Does the Prime Minister recall the helpful answer that he gave me in May this year concerning the Broomfield hospital private finance initiative scheme? Is he aware that almost six months have passed and that approval has still not been given for that project? I am sure he is as anxious as me, and my constituents, that this important scheme should be approved and go ahead. Will he please look at the scheme again and try to expedite approval for it?

The Prime Minister: I am very happy to do so. As I understand it, there have been problems with the scheme in the past few months. The scheme will cost in the region of £170 million or £180 million, and I know that it will be worth while for the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. However, there have been issues about the financing of the scheme, which I know that people are trying to sort out. I am happy to look at the scheme again to see what can be done to expedite it. Since the last time that the hon. Gentleman asked me about it, a new dimension has arisen, and it needs to be sorted out.


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