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The Prime Minister:
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend who as Minister for Veterans brought in the veterans medal and enabled it to extend to a large
number of people who would not otherwise have been able to have it. In all our constituencies, we can see thousands of people who are benefiting from the award of a veterans medal, which is a recognition of their service to our country. I shall certainly look at his proposal and report back to the House.
The Prime Minister: It is very interesting that the leader of the Conservative party did not ask anything about the married couples allowance or tax credits and that it has been left to the leader of the Liberal party to pick up the baton. Tax credits are the most successful policy in removing child poverty in this country: 6 million families benefit from tax credits. Yes, there was computer error to start with, but it is being substantially reduced and the right hon. and learned Gentleman should admit that 600,000 children are not in poverty today because they are receiving tax credits.
Sir Menzies Campbell: But as the Prime Minister said on the radio this morning, there is still a long way to go. The truth is that the money wasted is heading towards £9 billion£9 billion that could have been better spent. Behind that figure there are 2 million families whose lives have been made miserable by error and overpayment. Is not that the responsibility of the Prime Minister?
The Prime Minister: I can tell the Leader of the Opposition he knows what it means, saying a long way to go. Child benefit was £11 when we came into power; it will be £20 in 2010. The child tax credit was £27 and it is rising for the poorest families to more than £70, compared with £28 when the Conservatives were in power. We have done more through these measures to take children out of poverty than any previous Government in the past 30 or 40 years. The right hon. and learned Gentleman should be supporting the tax credit system, not condemning it.
Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South) (Lab): The Prime Minister will know that tens of thousands of families around the land fear that their housing future will be plagued by the prospect of regular flooding and ultimate uninsurability. Given the pressure that he is under to approve further development on floodplain land, will he consider making the developers liable for full insurance cover for development on such land for the first 20 years of the life of the developments, rather than leaving the tenants and owners of properties to be both victims financially and victims of flooding?
The Prime Minister:
I shall certainly look at my hon. Friends proposal, but we are increasing flood prevention moneys from £600 million to £800 million. I have visited the areas subjected to the worst of the floods over the past few weeks. On Saturday, I visited a number of people who are not insured, and we have to do something to help them in those circumstances. I talked to local authorities and we gave them special
help to get over the difficult circumstances now. We also have to help them with reconstruction, but I hope my hon. Friend agrees that to increase the flood prevention budget from £600 million to £800 million, at a time when we have other priorities to meet, is a sign of our determination to deal with the proper defences against floods.
Q3.  Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle) (Con): Can the right hon. Gentleman think of any ministerial decision in the domestic sphere that has been taken during his time as a Member of this House that has caused more lasting harm to the British people than his withdrawal of £100 billion from the pension funds as a result of his abolition of dividend fair play?
The Prime Minister: I think that the hon. Gentleman is referring to dividend tax credit. Despite the stock exchange crash and despite what he says about tax changes, the assets of pension funds in this country have risen from £500 billion in 1997 to more than £1 trillion now. I believe that the pensions of the people of this country are better protected because of the Pensions Bill that we will bring in, and I hope that there will be all-party support for it.
Mrs. Joan Humble (Blackpool, North and Fleetwood) (Lab): Further to the Prime Ministers earlier answer on super-casinos, does he recall that in the debate on this issue there was an acknowledgement that locating a super-casino, or indeed any of the casinos, in a resort location would minimise the impact of problem gambling and maximise the regeneration potential? When he looks in the autumn at the report that he referred to on problem gambling, will he take into account the special needs of a town such as Blackpool when it comes to regeneration?
The Prime Minister: I thank my hon. Friend for speaking up at all times for the needs of the people of Blackpool. She does so with great eloquence. Of course we will look at the proposal that she is putting forward, but I have to say that there are means to regeneration for our coastal townsand particularly our great holiday resortsand those means include investing in local infrastructure, and in hotels and conference centres. At the same time, we know that Blackpool has put forward proposals: first, for a tramline, secondly, for a museum of the theatre, and thirdly, for a better conference centre. I want to look with her at all those proposals and see how Government can help.
Q4.  Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con): I am delighted that the Prime Minister has at long last decided to join my campaign to fly the Union flag from every public building throughout the United Kingdom, but when is he going to start treating my constituents in England in the same fair way as he treats his constituents in Scotland and give us English votes for English laws?
The Prime Minister: There is one United Kingdom Parliament. We are all part of the United KingdomScotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Englandand I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that there are not two classes of citizens in this House.
Anne Moffat (East Lothian) (Lab):
This is from a Scots MP: my brother, Gregor Moffat, left last month
to serve in Afghanistan with the British Territorial Army. Does my right hon. Friend have a message for the brave volunteers who leave their families to serve their countries in war?
The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend and I am grateful for the service that is being given by her brother. I was in Afghanistan, and also in Baghdad and then Basra in Iraq, and I have nothing but praise for those people in the Territorial Army who have volunteeredwith their skillsto help in Iraq and Afghanistan. I believe the whole House will want to say that we owe a debt of gratitude to them as well.
Q5.  Mr. David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con): How can the Prime Minister justify the fact that nurses in his constituency are paid a lot more than nurses in mine, in the London borough of Bexley, for doing exactly the same job? Is he aware that the point that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition raised about potential closures of hospitals in south London is a real issue?
The Prime Minister: That is why I read to the Leader of the Opposition what Lord Darzi said this morning about the purpose of his report. The purpose of his report is to improve health services in London. It is to create a system of polyclinics that will mean that people will get access to health care nearer their homes. Those proposals are now out to consultation and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will join that consultation. From 1 November, every nurse will receive the same rate of pay.
Q6.  Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend aware that two Coventry police officers have been nominated for the police bravery award? Officers Owen and Rudnicki arrested two men, one of whom was armed with a sawn-off shotgun. Does not that say a lot about the bravery of the British police force?
The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I will be hosting a reception at Downing street for the brave policemen and women who will be receiving those awards this week. Again, I have nothing but praise for what they are doing. They undertake very difficult work with great courage, increasingly in circumstances in which we face a terrorist threat. They deserve the full-hearted support of the public. Everyone who receives those awards for their absolute and tremendous courage should be thanked by all of us.
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): Will the Prime Minister explain how, after a £24 million grab from the Welsh lottery fund, people in north Wales will in any wayeconomically or otherwisebenefit from the Olympic games in London?
The Prime Minister:
Despite the difference in party labels, I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will support Britain holding the Olympic games. All the opinion polls show that in every part of the country, including Wales, people welcome the Olympic games. When I go around the country, I find young
people in every part, including Wales, who want to compete in the Olympic games and represent our country.
Q7.  Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): The Prime Ministers predecessor was hugely supportive of the Motor Neurone Disease Associations campaign to raise £15 million to find a cure for this dreadful and terminal disease. As a direct result, we have raised almost £4 million so far this year from private donors. Will the new Prime Minister meet representatives of the MND Association to maintain the momentum and help us to achieve a goal that I believe we all share: a world free of MND?
The Prime Minister: I understand the hon. Gentlemans interest in this. He has been a long-standing campaigner for support for both the Medical Research Council and others to carry out greater research on motor neurone disease. As someone who has also seen people die of motor neurone disease, I support the research that is being done. I will do my best to support everything that he is doing. I will be happy to meet him and all those associated with this good work in Downing street at the soonest possible opportunity.
Mr. Jamie Reed (Copeland) (Lab): On behalf of 40,000 British nuclear workers and 17,000 workers in my constituency, may I thank the Prime Minister for his unequivocal support for the industry at the Dispatch Box last week? Will he join me in urging hon. Members on both sides of the House to support the Governments energy Bill when it comes to the Floor of the House?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend knows that we put our nuclear proposals out to public consultation on 23 May. The Governments preliminary view is that nuclear has a future role in providing our homes and businesses with the low-carbon energy that we need. Let me emphasise that the Government will make their decision in the autumn, after, and in the light of, the consultation.
The Prime Minister: The hon. Lady is referring to a decision in relation to nurses in Scotland that was made by the Scottish Parliament. I have to tell her that from 1 November, all nurses will be paid exactly the same rate.
Dr. Nick Palmer (Broxtowe) (Lab):
My constituent, Dr. Aziz, who is a leading Muslim scholar, has asked me to congratulate the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary on their moderate tone in response to the terrorist attacks. He asks me to ask the Prime Minister
to confirm this: does he see this as a struggle not between different civilisations, but between ordinary people of all religions and none, and the people who seek to kill us?
The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The number of organisations of different faiths in our country that have come out to condemn the attempted attacks in Britain over the past few days has been encouraging. All mainstream opinion will want to stand up against extremism. In the next few months, I hope that we can set up inter-faith councils in every constituency and community of our country so that we can bring together the faiths and all moderate opinion against those extremists who are trying to disrupt our civilisation and who, at the same time, of course offend every decent value of human dignity.
Mr. Hollobone: Volatile substance abuse involving glue, lighter fuels and sprays kills more young people aged 10 to 16 than die from illegal drug use. Three Departments are involved in combating that nuisancethe Department of Health, the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and the Home Office. Does the Prime Minister share my disappointment that prior to the reshuffle, Solve It, a Kettering-based charity doing much good work on the issue, was refused a meeting with a then Education Minister? Will the Prime Minister, under his Government, facilitate a meeting with that Ministers replacement?
The Prime Minister: Of course I will, and I apologise if that meeting did not take place; I will make sure that it does. We have published a national framework for dealing with substance abuse. The hon. Gentleman is a campaigner on the issue, and I pay tribute to Barbara Skinner, one of his constituents, who set up the charity in 1998. We are very happy to work with her, and with all people who are interested in finding better solutions, so that we can combat that terrible problem.
John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): A proposal based on a single, unpublished academic paper and anecdotal sources was put forward yesterday that would end the hugely successful general practitioner-led drug treatment programme in my constituency. Will the Prime Minister confirm that his drug treatment policy will be based on evidence and proven success, rather than on the political prejudice of the Commission on Social Justice?
The Prime Minister:
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the issue. It is true that Britain has a major drug problem. It is also true that we need a new and better strategy for dealing with it, and I have already announced that we will formulate such a strategy. At
the same time, Opposition Members should acknowledge that the number of people receiving help with drug rehabilitation has doubled in the past few years, and that we are attempting to help to solve a problem that has ruined the lives of many young people. If the Opposition wish to work with us on that, they must admit that the public spending that is necessary for doing that must be found, and they should resist the third fiscal rule, which would mean that they spent less, not more, in the future.
Q10.  Mr. John Baron (Billericay) (Con): The Prime Minister talks about the need for more open and transparent politics, so can he explain why his Government continue to defy the Information Commissioner by refusing to publish the first full draft of the Iraq dossier, which was produced by the Foreign Office press officer, John Williams, on 9 September 2002one day before John Scarlett produced his first draft? Does the Prime Minister not believe that actions speak louder than words?
The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman should recognise that that is a process in which the Government have rights under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 too, and we are pursuing a policy in which we are defending our rights in relation to it, but a decision will be made in due course.
Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): Yesterday, the House heard welcome proposals for tackling deprivation. Will the Prime Minister start to put those plans into action by supporting pilot schemes in areas such as Liverpool that address the particular problems of young people who leave school and do not go on to further education or training, and who do not have a job?
The Prime Minister: I agree with my hon. Friend that that is a major challenge that we now face. While there are far more young people in education than there were before, and far more young people in work than ever before, there is a group of young people that the new deal has not yet got to, and that is the group of people we want to help with their transition so that they can undertake apprenticeships and can have a path to a career. If Opposition Members want to support us in doing that, they will have to say that they will provide the equivalent funding to do so; that is what is lacking in everything that the Conservative party says at the moment.
Q11.  Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): The whole House will be aware of the acute personal importance to the Prime Minister of one particular NHS issue. In his new home, he is within just 9 miles of 19 consultant-led maternity wards. If plans go ahead, that will compare with none at all in Cheltenham. Will his Government reverse the trend towards less choice further from home in maternity care for so many parts of the country?
The Prime Minister:
What we are trying to do with maternity care is to give every mother a choice. Having had access to a midwife, women will have the choice of
having the birth at home, in a midwife-led unit, or in a maternity unit staffed by consultants and doctors. That choice will be open to every mother from 2009, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will support that extension of choice, which means that there are more doctors and more nurses, and more midwives helping them.
Mrs. Sharon Hodgson (Gateshead, East and Washington, West) (Lab): Is the Prime Minister aware of the plight of over 1,000 Kwik Save staff struggling to feed their families following the companys closure? Will he do all he can to ensure that those people are not left high and dry, and also back USDAW, the shop workers union, which is striving to secure seven weeks back pay and redundancy money for the Kwik Save workers?
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