|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
The Prime Minister:
First of all, I do not negotiate these contracts. I am delighted, however, that we managed to win that contract, which protects thousands upon thousands of jobs in this country. Secondly, let me repeat again to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that I was asked for my advice as to what damage the investigation would do if it continued. I gave that advice, because of the huge importance of working with Saudi Arabia on the middle east peace process, on counter-terrorism and on the situation in the middle east. I stick by that. Frankly, the idea that such an investigation could be conducted without doing damage to our relationship is from
cloud cuckoo landwhich is, after all, the natural habitat of the Liberal Democrats.
Mr. Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow) (Lab): Later today, my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, North (Jim Sheridan) will introduce a ten-minute Bill that aims to extend the provisions of the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 to the construction industry. Is the Prime Minister aware of the terrible impact that gangmasters are having on the construction industry in this country, with intimidation, violence and illegal deduction of earnings? Will he join us in outlawing such activity?
The Prime Minister: We will certainly consider carefully what is in the private Members Bill. My hon. Friend will know that we have already introduced certain protections. It is fair to say that concerns remain about the activities of some gangmasters, and it is important that we keep the matter under review. I am afraid that I cannot give my hon. Friend a commitment on the Bill today, but we will certainly consider carefully both the Bill and the debate that follows.
Q2.  Steve Webb (Northavon) (LD): For decades there has been talk of a Severn barrage or similar scheme. The Prime Minister has now been in office for another 10 years, during which there has been a lot more talk but precious little action on that scheme. If the Government were serious about renewable energy, would we not be harnessing the tidal power of the River Severn by now?
The Prime Minister: Yes, it is absolutely right, but we must ensure that that can be done on a cost-effective basis and in a way that will provide the renewable energy that we want. So far we have not been able to find a satisfactory way of doing it, but we will continue to look at what we can do. In principle, of course we want it to happen, but it must be done in a way that is cost-effective.
Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the best mental health care is provided by multidisciplinary teams of professionals working together in the best interests of the patient? Does he agree that the amendments made to the Mental Health Bill in the House of Lords were not made in that spirit, and that people with serious personality disorders can benefit from treatment in a modernised mental health service? [Interruption.]
The Prime Minister: Before Opposition Members start shouting, we should understand the seriousness of the issue. About 1,300 suicides and 50 or more homicides are committed each year by people who are in touch with mental health services, and almost 15,000 people are under compulsory powers at any one time under the Mental Health Act 1983. We introduced the Mental Health Bill because we believe that we need to give greater protection to the public as well as to those who are mentally disordered.
Nearly 15 years have passed since my husband Jonathan Zito was killed. I firmly believe that these measures in the Bill are both balanced and necessary.
Mr. Cameron: In the last few days, members of the Prime Ministers Cabinet have called for the trade unions to be given more money, more power, and in some instances both. Does the Prime Minister agree that they are all wrong?
The Prime Minister: Obviously I do not agree with changing our trade union laws, but if we are talking about leadership campaigns, I might remind the right hon. Gentleman of what he said when he ran for the leadership of his party. He said:
consistency in politics is vital,
Mr. Cameron: I know that the Prime Minister does not want to talk about the deputy leadership campaign, because the contest appears likely to achieve the impossible and make the current Deputy Prime Minister look like a cross between Ernie Bevin and Demosthenes. In the last few days, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has said that the new anti-terror laws could make us the equivalent of Guantanamo Bay, and the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), has said that we should review the Trident decision. Does the Prime Minister think that they are both wrong?
The Prime Minister: No, I do not agree with either of those statementsbut let me return to the subject of leadership for a minute. May I give the House an update on the married couples allowance? Members will remember where we left it: the Tory policy was that married couples without children should receive the allowance, but gay couples would have to have kids. However, the Tory leader has now clarified the position: he says of the married couples allowance that
it could be something to do with married couples.
In the last few weeks, the right hon. Gentlemans Ministers have told us that they want to increase taxes, that they want to hand power to the trade unions, and that they want to end reform. The whole thing has been one long lurch to the left. They are even arguing about how much money people should be allowed to spend on a handbag. Now that this contest is looking like a cross between Big Brother and The Muppet Show, can the Prime Minister answer this question? Which one is he going to vote for?
The Prime Minister: Actually, I am going to focus on the big picture. I say this with the greatest respect for all my colleagues who are standing for deputy leader, but the leadership is the important thing. We will have a leader who is strong; the Opposition have a leader who bears the imprint of the last person who sat on him.
Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be aware that when large organisations such as Sony find that their copyright has been breached, they are quick to use the law. Does he agree that when Sony used images of Manchester cathedral as part of a game that extolled gun violence, it was in bad taste and very insulting, not only to the Church of England, but to people across the land who think that it is inappropriate for big corporations to behave in that way?
The Prime Minister: I agree with my hon. Friend. It is important that any companies engaged in promoting such goods have some sense of responsibility and some sensitivity to the feelings of others. I think that it is an immensely difficult areathe relationship between what happens in those games and the impact on young people. I have no doubt that this debate will go on for a significant period, but I agree with him: I think that it is important that people understand that there is wider social responsibility, as well as simply responsibility for profit.
Q3.  Mr. Shailesh Vara (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): Does the Prime Minister believe that it is right that, on the one hand, he and his Government should be critical of the Sudanese regimes butchery in Darfur, yet on the other hand, at British military establishments, Sudanese military personnel received training as recently as April this year?
The Prime Minister: I would have to look into that fairly carefully before I agreed with the premise behind the hon. Gentlemans question, if I may say so. As far as I am aware, any training that we give to the military of whatever country is training that also upholds respect for law and order, human rights and so on. I simply do not know about the particular instance that the hon. Gentleman mentions, but let me tell him that we are continuing to put all the pressure we can on the Sudanese Government to come into compliance with the international communitys recommendations, and over the next couple of weeks, if there is not action by the Sudanese Government, we will be tabling a United Nations Security Council resolution.
Q4.  Ms Dawn Butler (Brent, South) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend aware of the good work that the trade unions, Church leaders and the Mayor of London are doing to try to secure a London living wage for all new procurement contracts? Yesterday, an indefensible decision was taken to try to block the paying of the London living wage to cleaners in our fire stations by the Tory vice-chair of the body concerned. That just goes to show that, no matter how the Leader of the Opposition parts his hair, they are still the same old Tories.
The Prime Minister: That seems a very reasonable comment to me. Let me point out that the minimum wage has now brought benefit to more than a million people in this country, in raising their living standards and their wages. It particularly helps women, and it is excellent that London is focusing on paying the living wage to the cleaners. I very much hope that those concerned will reverse their position, if the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) can assert a bit of control over his party.
Tony Blair and I have just agreed on what might be the framework for a simplified treaty. That is quite something.
nothing you could really call negotiations
The Prime Minister: Obviously, we are trying in advance of the summit next week to gain allies and to co-ordinate positions with those who do not want a return to the constitutional treaty either, but do want a return to a conventional amending treaty. It is sensible for us to build allies in Europe. It is all very well for the hon. Gentleman to shake his head, but I want to take him back 10 years: in 1997, after what people remember as the beef war, we had no allies and no influence in Europe. We could not even bring ourselves to sign up to the social chapter in Europe. Ten years on, we are managing to determine the agenda in Europe, and it is important that we keep on doing it.
Dr. Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab): Does the Prime Minister share my concerns and those of other County Durham MPs that the current regional spatial strategy for the north-east is potentially very damaging to economic and housing development in the county? If he has a little more time in his diary in a few weeks, will he join us in trying to rectify the shortcomings in that document?
Q6.  Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con): The Prime Minister, in a recent newspaper article, deplored the way in which the courts use the European convention on human rights[Hon. Members: Hooray!] It was not me who objectedit was the Prime Minister, who objected to the way in which the courts use the convention to strike down anti-terrorism measures. We can, however, override that convention if we wish, as Parliament is supreme in this matter. Why, then, did the Prime Minister sign the European Constitution, which contains the much stricter and more extensive EU charter of fundamental rights, from which no exceptions are permitted, and which would explicitly override the Houses powers? Will he, even at this late stage, repent of his folly in signing the European Constitution and reject any revival that would bind the House in a way that even he now objects to?
The Prime Minister:
First of all, Parliament is always sovereign. It is always up to Parliament to decide what it wishes to do and what it wishes not to do. Parliamentary sovereignty always remains: that is a constitutional principle, and it is a constitutional fact. Secondly, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, the European convention is not to do with the European Union. It is a separate convention, to which we have been signatories for over half a century. Yes, we are worried about the way in which it is interpreted, which
is why we have joined other countries to try to get the ruling in the Chahal case changed so that we can deport people who are a threat to this country. Thirdly, in relation to the European charter, I will agree to nothing that allows Europe to alter our laws without the consent of this House.
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): The Prime Minister will know that a consultation is under way into the future of Remploy, which suggests that many factories should be closed and that there should be greater emphasis on trying to get disabled people into mainstream work. Will he guarantee, on the Governments behalf, that no one who is working for Remploy will be compulsorily made redundant? Will he ensure that there is a lifelong guarantee of terms and conditions, including final salary pension schemes?
The Prime Minister: Obviously, terms and conditions must be negotiated by Remploy and its employees, but we are watching the situation very closely. My hon. Friend will know the difficulty. Many hon. Members, particularly Government Members, have Remploy factories in their constituencies. Remploy does excellent work, and it provides important jobs for people. On the other hand, it is important that it modernise and go through a process of change. That is strongly supported by many bodies that represent those with disability. We will have to try to match those two principles up, but I assure my hon. Friend that we will look very carefully to make sure that terms and conditions of employment are given the utmost protection that we can give them.
Q7.  Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (LD): All seven north Yorkshire Members of Parliament of all political persuasions, all the district councils, every major business organisation and the vast majority of parish councils and individuals in north Yorkshire utterly oppose the Governments proposals for a unitary council in the area. Will the Prime Minister, as part of his legacy to the people of north Yorkshire, agree to scrap those proposals? If not, will he at least allow the people to hold a referendum to decide for themselves what sort of local government they want?
The Prime Minister: I think that, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the final decisions have yet to be made about which of the 16 bids will proceed to implementation. When the consultation ends on 22 June, all the proposals will be carefully assessed against the five criteria that we set out to councils last October. That means that proposals will not go forward unless we are convinced that they are affordable, provide strong leadership, improve public services, empower local communities and have a broad cross-section of support, too. Obviously, the fact that seven Members of Parliament have made their views known is very powerful, but the decision will be made at a later point.
Miss Anne Begg (Aberdeen, South) (Lab):
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Industry and Parliament Trust, of which I believe you are a patron, Mr. Speaker. How useful does my right hon. Friend
believe that the trust has been in fostering understanding between business and Parliament?
The Prime Minister: Let me congratulate the trust on its 30th anniversary. In providing over 300 fellowships and a number of opportunities for Members of Parliament to interact with business, it has done immensely valuable work over the years. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House have benefited enormously from that work.
I did maths at school...but I dont think I was ever very good at itand some people would say it shows.
The Prime Minister:
He obviously does not do irony in a good way, but let me tell the hon. Gentleman that what is more important than whether the Chancellor passed his school maths exams with flying colours is the fact that he has passed with flying colours his time
as Chancellor for 10 years. I should thank the hon. Gentleman for giving me the opportunity to point out once again that, thanks to the Chancellor, we have 2.5 million more jobs, unemployment at its lowest level for more than 30 years, interest rates half what they were in the Tory years, and the strongest ever period of economic growth. I thank the hon. Gentleman again for giving me the opportunity to remind the House of that.
Dr. Ian Gibson (Norwich, North) (Lab): I would like to point out to the Prime Minister that there is a group that represents British nuclear test veterans, including those who worked on Christmas Island. Some startling work from New Zealand shows that genetic abnormalities are associated with the brave men and women who stared into the face of atomic bombs. Does the Prime Minister agree that we ought to help the people from our country who went out there and served for us?
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|