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The Prime Minister:
The museums do an immense amount of good for our young people and the broader community. As a result of our introducing free entry for our national museums, we have had millions more
people going to museumssome of them from some of the lowest-income families. What my hon. Friend draws attention to is the reality of Tory government.
Q2.  Mr. Geoffrey Cox (Torridge and West Devon) (Con): In my constituency, local arts organisations such as Beaford Arts and the Plough theatre and dozens of community, sports and charitable organisations are doing immensely valuable work for the rural communities that they serve. What can the Prime Minister say to reassure them that that work will not be damaged by the draining of lottery funds to the Olympic games?
The Prime Minister: We will certainly make sure that those projects are not the casualty of any problems to do with funding. As a matter of fact, we have already said that projects that have got funding agreed will continue to have that funding agreed. In addition to that, the core funding for the arts has gone up by some 73 per cent. in real terms since we came to power. The reason why a lot of those projects are supported in the hon. and learned Gentlemans constituency and elsewhere is precisely the investment that we have made.
Q3.  Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a wealth of independent evidence that the Labour partys and Labours Governments commitment to education over the last 10 years has borne fruit right across the educational spectrum? But is he also aware that there is still a real problem with staying-on rates at 16 and the number of young people not in education, employment or training? Will he continue to campaign and have the right policies to keep young people in work, employment, and training, and will he put his backhis effortsinto the new diplomas that we all want to come in from September 2008?
The Prime Minister: Yes. In particular, obviously, we will keep the investment going in our schools and also in the apprenticeship programmes. We will make sure, as I think that my hon. Friend will find from later announcements, that we do even more to encourage young people to stay on at school and to go into proper training. Of course, it is important that we provide the proper training for them, and that is why the quadrupling of the number of apprenticeships since 1997 has been very important. I was told yesterday, when visiting the Department for Education and Skills, that more new schools have been built in the last five years than were built in the previous 25. Going round the country, I can see, as I am sure he can, how the programme for refurbishing and rebuilding every school in the country is not just doing wonders for pupils, but is making sure that our school results go up, so that, whereas in 1997 there were only about 80 schools with over 70 per cent. of pupils getting five good GCSEs, the figure is now over 600.
Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con):
The 200th anniversary of the ending of the slave trade in the British empire is the right time to acknowledge the pain and devastation that was caused by that evil trade. Does the Prime Minister agree that the bicentenary should also be a reminder of those who are still
suffering slavery in our world today? Will he confirm that 120,000 women are trafficked for sex in Europe every year and that some European countries have named Britain as the No. 1 destination? Does he think that that is accurate?
The Prime Minister: I do not know whether that is an accurate descriptionI certainly hope not. However, I do know that on Friday we will sign the convention on human trafficking. We will also ensure, through the measures that we are taking, especially in relation to serious and organised crime, that we do everything that we can not only to bring to justice those engaged in this appalling activity, but to try to disrupt those peoples activities by seizing their assets. When new measures on the seizure of assets and organised crime are proposed, I very much hope that we will get the full support of the House.
Mr. Cameron: I am delighted that the Prime Minister will be signing the EU convention, as we suggested earlier this year.
Does the Prime Minister agree that one of the most useful things that we can do to end this sickening trade is to ensure that when women flee their captors, there is a safe place for them to go? Will he join me in praising the work of voluntary sector organisations, such as Sister Ann Teresas, that provide safe places up and down the country? Instead of listening to the man who is about to go off to the power station, will he make sure that the Government do all that they can to support those excellent voluntary bodies?
The Prime Minister: My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was pointing out that it is all very well for the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) to say that he is in favour of supporting the voluntary sector and voluntary bodies, but he voted against the national offender management service Bill, which will allow people in precisely the situation that he describes to be helped by the voluntary sector. As a result of the additional funding that we have given to many of these voluntary bodies, we are able to help women in that situation. It is also important that they recognise that they will not be at a disadvantage if they come forward to give evidence against the people who have trafficked them. Part of the problem is that a lot of these women are ignorant of what is going to happen when they get to this country, and they are then very frightened of what will happen if they give evidence against the people who have trafficked them.
Ms Dari Taylor (Stockton, South) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that delivering the Olympics is inevitably expensive [Interruption.]
Mr. Speaker: Order. Allow the hon. Lady to speak.
Ms Taylor: Does my right hon. Friend also accept that opportunities for all young people, especially those engaged in sport, and the regeneration of east London are priceless?
The Prime Minister:
I agree with both the first and the second part of what my hon. Friend says. The most important thing to understand is that the Olympics will not merely be a huge showcase for the country, but that
they will result in thousands of jobs being created, thousands of new homes being built and the development of state-of-the-art facilities that will be there for the whole country. The Olympics will benefit people in my constituency and her constituency, as well as people in London. They are a fantastic thing for the country, and I know that the country is proud of them.
Q4.  Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con): The Prime Minister will be aware that the Governments target for ambulances responding to life-threatening emergencies is that they should reach 75 per cent. of such cases in eight minutes. The local ambulance trust in my constituency manages to reach only 45 per cent. of such life-threatening emergencies in eight minutes. I do not think that that is good enough. What does the Prime Minister intend to do about it?
The Prime Minister: In fairness to the ambulance and paramedic services in the hon. Gentlemans constituency, I think that he will find that they will tell him that they have improved considerably over the past few years. Massive investment is going into our ambulance services and paramedics, although of course we always have to improve on it. However, I heard for myself the other day from people who had been treated for heart disease that as a result of the work done by paramedics today, as well as the additional number of consultants, doctors and nurses working on heart disease, we have saved some 100,000 lives over the past 10 years. I do not doubt that there are significant improvements still to be made, but the health service in the hon. Gentlemans area and others is getting better.
Sir Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough) (Lab): Since the European Union will this weekend be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the treaty of Rome, and since the Prime Minister will be attending the European Council meeting in June, can he confirm that the recent agenda on the environment is one that can unite all the peoples of Europe in this continued forward march?
The Prime Minister: As I pointed out to the House the other day, I think that it is very important that the issue of climate change should become a major question and challenge for the European Union. We have now agreed a very ambitious and bold set of targets. As I pointed out to the Houseas it is slightly fuller now than it was for the last European statement, I might just repeat itthere was one member of the European Council who was against including climate change as one of the forward projects of the European Union, and that was the Czech Prime Minister.
Q5.  Mr. Lee Scott (Ilford, North) (Con): Will the Prime Minister join me in supporting the National Autistic Societys campaign to make schools make sense, and will he agree to meet me and a leading campaigner, Ivan Corea from my constituency, to discuss the inadequacies of services across the country?
The Prime Minister:
I do not know enough about the details of that particular campaign to give an endorsement to it, but I am very happy to meet the
hon. Gentleman and the campaign to discuss it. Autism is a very serious issue that has to be taken seriously by our medical services and schools.
Q6.  Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): Does the Prime Minister agree that the cause of efficient energy use in future will be better served by encouraging energy companies to enter into contracts with consumers, in which they agree to invest in methods of reducing energy use and to share the savings? Would that not be better than the companies continuing to endeavour to sell as much energy as possible to customers? Is he pressing for progress in developing ways of doing that, as suggested and outlined in the energy review?
The Prime Minister: There is no doubt at all that it will be impossible to meet our CO2 emissions targets unless we also do much more on energy efficiency. My hon. Friend will know of the very strict new regulations on energy efficiency for the building of new homes. Work is being done by the Carbon Trust and others, and obviously there are plans to switch to low-energy light bulbs and so on that are immensely important. One fact that shows the significance of small changes is the fact that if every home had at least three low-energy light bulbs, it would save the amount of energy used for the whole countrys street lighting, so there is a massive amount that we can do. Again, over the next few weeks, we will announce further proposals on that issue.
Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): Will the Prime Minister kindly explain why, in relation to the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, he has treated the House of Commons with contempt, and why, in relation to the question of unequal treatment, he has given those who stand for gay rights preference over those who are concerned with conscience, family and religion?
The Prime Minister: I am afraid that I just do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. First of all, we have had a very full debate on the issue in public, and we have followed exactly the procedure that we said we would follow in relation to the regulations. I am afraid that in the end there is a basic choice; he takes the view that there should be discrimination against gay people in respect of this
The Prime Minister: Well, it is no use him shaking his head; that is the impact of voting against the regulations. I happen to think that we can, if we are sensible, find a way of preventing discrimination against gay people, while allowing Catholic adoption agencies to carry on doing the excellent work that they do. It is a difficult balance to strike, but I believe that we have struck the right balance, and I think that most sensible people would agree with it.
Q7.  Paddy Tipping (Sherwood) (Lab):
What progress has been made to widen and deepen the EU emissions trading scheme, particularly in respect of aviation; and is it not the case that international agreements of that kind will have greater effect in
reducing carbon emissions than proposed plans to restrict individual travellers?
The Prime Minister: I agree entirely with what my hon. Friend says, which is why I am opposed to the Oppositions proposals toI thinkput VAT on domestic flights. We have got to be very clear about this: the fact is that people are going to travel. Indeed, there is no possibility whatever of trying to restrict access to airlines now, in a modern world where people want that access. I think that the right way of dealing with the issue, as my hon. Friend rightly implies, is to deal with it within the European Union emissions trading system. It allows us to bring aviation within that system, which we will do from 2011 onwards, and it allows us therefore to move in concert with other countries. If we end up penalising our passengers in this country, it will do us no good at all.
Q8.  Anne Main (St. Albans) (Con): We all want to be cleaner and greener, and have a cleaner and greener environment, but in Hertfordshire, we have massive road congestion, groaning infrastructure and high pollution. St. Albans has one of the largest CO2 footprints in Hertfordshire, so will the Government listen to my residents concerns, and stop ratcheting up the housing totals that are imposed on us?
The Prime Minister: I understand why the hon. Lady raises that concern, but the truth of the matter is that we need more homes in the south and elsewhere, particularly for couples and first-time buyers who need to get a foot on the first rung of the housing ladder. We will not be able to deal with the housing problems of an expanded number of households unless we build new homes. We will protect the green beltin fact, we have increased it. We have dramatically increased the amount of new build on brownfield sites, but it is not a realistic policy, I am afraid, to say that there will be no more house building in the south-east.
Gordon Banks (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Lab): I wonder whether the Prime Minister will take the opportunity to tell the House what plans are being discussed to cope with the possibility of tens of thousands of migrants entering England, Wales and Northern Ireland from a future independent Scotland because of a failed independent Scottish economy?
The Prime Minister: The best plan is to make sure that it does not happen. Certainly, the recent proposal for a 3p local income tax is a very timely reminder of why it is better that Scotland remain inside the United Kingdom.
Q9.  Mr. Jeremy Browne (Taunton) (LD): Sir Michael Lyons has said that the council tax places too heavy a burden on pensioners. Does the Prime Minister agree?
The Prime Minister: It is for precisely that reason that we asked Sir Michael to look at the way in which council tax works, and he has published his report today. It is one reason why we have given more support for pensioners, although I do not think that there will ever be a situation in which local taxes are popular.
Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden) (Lab): Early-day motion 992, signed by 84 MPs, concerns the injustice done to a local community football team, AFC Wimbledon, whose hopes of promotion are over because it has been docked 18 points. It did not know that one of its players, who previously played for Cardiff City in the English championship, needed a [ Interruption. ]
Mr. Speaker: Order. I must be able to hear the hon. Lady to find out whether she is out of order. I cannot hear her if hon. Members are shouting her down.
Siobhain McDonagh: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. AFC Wimbledon did not know that it needed an international registration for that player to cross the river Severn to play football in south London. Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister give his support to the thousands of football supporters up and down the country who believe that there should be justice for everyones teams, whether in the Ryman or the premier league?
The Prime Minister: Actually, I agree with my hon. Friend. She is absolutely right: it sounds like a daft rule, and someone should change it.
Q10.  James Brokenshire (Hornchurch) (Con): Is Lord Turnbull right, or is the Prime Minister not bothered?
The Prime Minister:
Let me tell the hon. Gentleman something. Fortunately, one of the things that I have not had to be bothered about in the past 10 years is the running of the economy, because the Chancellor has done such a good job. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends must realise that in the end, that is what people will judge his record onthe results. Those results mean that in constituencies such as his, as well as in the constituencies of Labour Members, there are more people in work, people are earning more, living standards are rising and interest rates are at levels not heard of for years and years and years. As a result, schools in his constituency have had
money put into them, the health service has had money put into it, and there are more police on the streets. That is the difference between a Chancellor who delivers and a Conservative party that failed.
Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): Has my right hon. Friend had a chance to see the recent analytical report in the Daily Record that highlighted the potential loss of thousands of jobs in the shipbuilding industry in Scotland? If those who wish to break up the UK are successful, does he agree that that is an act of unpardonable folly, and something that all of us should be bothered about?
The Prime Minister: It is an extraordinary situation when it is suggested that we break up the oil and gas industry and the way that it works, and that we break up institutions like defence and shipbuilding which have done so much for the people of Scotland. Scotland has had 200,000 extra jobs in the past few years, living standards have risen, there has been massive investment in education and health, and that is why I am sure people will not want to put that at risk.
Q11.  Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry) (Con): Next week the Government are to reply to the all-party parliamentary groups report on anti-Semitism. Given that we indicate in the report that the problem is growing, albeit subtly, in Britain and that there are blatant examples of anti-Semitism breaking out across Europe, will the Prime Minister ensure that the Governments response is full and sufficient for our needs in this country, and also exemplary for other countries that may want to look at the matter further?
The Prime Minister: I certainly undertake to do so. I agree entirely with what the hon. Gentleman says. It is important that we respond positively to that reportI am sure we will do soin order to make it clear that anti-Semitism or any form of racism is unacceptable in this country. The hon. Gentleman is also right that this is a good and timely moment to send a signal across Europe too.
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