The Prime Minister:
We are sad about any redundancy that hits people and their livelihoods, and we will try to do everything we can. I hope we can
provide help for those workers through the new deal, and look at their financial circumstances. If my hon. Friend wants to contact me, we will have a meeting to discuss it.
Q12.  Mr. Ben Wallace (Lancaster and Wyre) (Con): The Prime Minister can scrutinise health policy in my constituency but, because I represent an English constituency, I cannot scrutinise health policy in his constituency. Is that not an example of the fact that we already have a two-tier Parliament? When will he put the fairness back into the United Kingdom?
The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman should understand the devolution settlement. This Parliament voted the right to make decisions on health to Scotland and Wales. It also voted the right to make decisions on specific issues to London. It is right that the House of Commons can make those decisions, but now that they have been made, and the Conservative party has said that it accepts devolution, it is a bit much for Conservatives now to change their minds.
The Prime Minister: For over one and a half centuries, the annual Gracious Address has been drafted inside Government and agreed by the Cabinet far from the public arena, but I believe that it is right, in the interests of good and open government and public debate, that each year the Prime Minister make a summer statement to the House so that initial thinking, previously private, can be the subject of widespread and informed public debate. Today, in advance of final decisions, the Leader of the House is publishing details of our initial list of proposed legislative measures, inviting debate on them in both Houses this month and making provision for region-by-region deliberation and responses.
To respond to the rising aspirations of the British people we must deliver new and better opportunities in education, employment and the provision of housing and health care, and ensure that in a fast-changing world there is opportunity and security not just for some people, but for all British people. A new educational opportunity Bill will mean that for the first time not just some but all young people will be able to stay in education or training until the age of 18. The new pensions Bill will ensure that, for the first time, not just some but all working people have the right to a workplace pension, with a duty on every employer to contribute towards it.
Putting affordable housing within the reach of not just the few but the many is vital both to meeting individual aspirations and to securing a better future for our country, so for housing and planning in the 2007-08 Session there are three proposed legislative measures. Let me tell the House the scale of the new opportunities for home buying and to rent that we are proposing. In two eras of the last centurythe inter-war years and the 1950s onwardsBritain made new house building a national priority. Now, through this decade and right up to 2020, I want us, in environmentally friendly ways, using principally brownfield land and building eco-towns and villages, to meet housing need by building over 250,000 more homes than previously planned. That would be a total by 2020 of 3 million new homes for families across the country. For England, we will raise the annual house building target for 2016 from 200,000 houses a year to 240,000 new homes a year.
We propose a new housing Bill that will support and encourage initiatives on the ground by local authorities and other authorities. We will bring together English Partnerships and the Housing Corporation to create a new homes agency charged with bringing surplus public land into housing use to deliver more social and affordable housing and to support regeneration. This work will include new partnerships with local authorities, health authorities and the private and
voluntary sectors to build more housing made affordable by shared equity schemes and more social housing responsive to individual needs.
The planning Bill will implement the Eddington and Barker reports to speed up the development of major infrastructure projects that Britain now needs to facilitate economic and housing growth, and it will speed up planning generally. The planning gain supplement Billto ensure that the public benefit from planning gainis provisional, because if, prior to the pre-Budget report, a better way is identified of ensuring that local communities receive significantly more of the benefit from planning gain, enabling them to invest in necessary infrastructure and transport, and it is demonstrated that it is a better alternative, the Government will be prepared to defer next Sessions legislation.
To move housing supply forward, English Partnerships is negotiating a new deal with the Ministry of Defence to acquire at least six major redundant sites. Similar discussions are being undertaken with the Department for Transport, the Highways Agency and the British Railways Board residuary body, and the Department of Health is undertaking an urgent review of surplus land owned by NHS organisations and trusts. I can announce that in total over 550 sites owned by central Government are now being examined for housing development, with the potential for up to 100,000 new homes. In addition, we estimate that another 60,000 homes can be built on brownfield land currently owned by local authorities. The Minister for Housing will publish further details next week in a Green Paper to this House.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is announcing today that he will consult on creating a new regime for covered bonds to help mortgage lenders to finance more affordable 20 to 25-year fixed-rate mortgages, and he will report by the Budget on how to overcome other barriers that prevent lenders from offering people long-term mortgages, including the case for changes to instruments used by the Debt Management Office.
At the same time as building more affordable homes we must reduce the environmental impact, so we will consult local councils on using the New Towns Acts to enable eco-towns with zero or low-carbon housing to be built, and to ensure that they are built more quickly. I assure the House that we will continue robustly to protect the land designated as green belt.
Alongside this, measures in the Climate Change Bill, which was published in draft on 13 March, will make Britain the first country in the world to introduce a legal framework for reducing carbon emissions by setting targets for carbon emission reductions for each five-year period to 2050. The energy Bill will also provide greater incentives for renewable energy generation. The local transport Bill will support the Governments strategy to tackle congestion and to improve public transport.
I turn to some of the other proposed Bills in our programme. As we approach the 60th anniversary of the NHS, we will do more to put power in the hands of patients and staff and ensure that every patient gets the best treatment. Alongside the NHS review announced last week, the health and social care Bill will create a stronger health and social care regulator, and there will
be a clear remit to ensure improved access, clean and safe services, and high-quality care.
The children in care Bill is an attempt to do more to protect vulnerable children. The child maintenance Bill will do more to prevent children from falling into poverty when parents split up. Behind the unclaimed assets Bill is our determination that money in dormant bank accounts will be used to improve our countrys youth and community facilities. The Human Tissue and Embryos Bill has already been published in draft for discussion.
Measures to support British businesses as they strive to succeed in the new global economy and to break down the barriers holding enterprise back include the enforcement and sanctions Bill, which will keep the burden of regulation on compliant businesses to a minimum while effectively targeting and penalising those deliberately disregarding the law. The employment simplification Bill will deliver simpler and fairer enforcement of the national minimum wage.
Protecting the security and safety of the British people is paramount for every Government. We stand ready to introduce new measures into the Criminal Justice Bill, which will be carried over into the next Session, including measures that come from the review of policing by Sir Ronald Flanagan, which will report later this autumn. We are committed to building a broad consensus on the right balance between protecting our national security and safeguarding the civil liberties of every individual in this country, so the Home Secretary plans to consult on, and we will seek an all-party consensus on, new measures to ensure more successful prosecutions against terrorist suspects and increased penalties for terrorists charged with other criminal offences. We will consult on, and hope to achieve a consensus on, the period of pre-charge detention where, for terrorism alone, exceptional circumstances in my view make it necessary, while ensuring rigorous judicial oversight and parliamentary accountability, that we extend the time. As the House knows, we shall review the use of intercept material in prosecutions.
The full and final programme will be set out in the Queens Speech in November. Many of the proposals that I set out to the House last week will also be taken forward in a constitutional reform Bill. Just as with the challenge of securing justice and security for all, the challenge for the Government and the foundation of next Sessions legislative programme is to support all parents with children, not just some; to invest in the educational chances of all young people, not just a few; to offer more people the chance to get on the housing ladder for the first time; to help more people into work; and to give all patients the best health care. In this way, we respond to the rising aspirations of the British people, by ensuring that the opportunities that are today available to only some are available to all. I commend the statement to the House.
Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con):
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. I know that it is meant to be some great constitutional innovation, but most of what he announced sounded rather like the Queens Speech last year, the year before and the year
before thata long list of Bills, the same priorities and the same failures, and we have heard it all before.
The Prime Minister says that he wants to build more homes, but did he not say that in 1994, 1998, 2005 and 2006? Is it not the case that every year the Government have built less social housing than was built in any year under their predecessor? Was not the announcement about building on MOD land made in May 2006, and again today? He says that he wants 25-year mortgages, but did he not first announce that four years ago? He wants apprenticeships and universal education after 16, but I have checked the record and he told us that in 1996a year before he even came to office. For 10 years he has plotted and schemed for the top job, but all we have got is a sort of re-release of the 1997 manifesto. The country has moved on, but he simply has not.
Let us deal with whether the Prime Minister is really listening to peoples priorities, which is what he told us on the radio this morning. Some 86 per cent. of people in this country want a referendum on the European treaty, so where is the Bill for a referendum? Does that not show that his promise to listen is a complete and utter sham? [ Interruption. ]
Mr. Speaker: Order. Hon. Members should please allow the right hon. Gentleman to be heard. He is the Leader of the Opposition and he is entitled to be heard [ Interruption. ] Perhaps the hon. Member for City of Durham (Dr. Blackman-Woods) will listen to me and will know what not to do, and that is to start speaking.
Mr. Cameron: Let us take a look at the areas where we agree. As I have said before, we shall work with the Government on anti-terror legislation to make this country safe from terrorists. I am glad that the Prime Minister has agreed to my proposal for the Privy Council committee to consider the use of intercept evidence. He has also taken up our idea of interviews after charge. He has said again today that he is considering our border police proposals. Will he confirm that they could be introduced in the Queens Speech this year?
Let us look at other proposals. On housing, the Prime Minister says that it is difficult for people to get their foot on the housing ladder, but who does he think is responsible for that? It was his Government who doubled the council tax, restricted the right to buy and increased stamp duty, including for first-time buyers. Will he confirm that as a result, home ownership in Britain is actually falling for the first time since figures were published? Is that not Labours record on housing? As Chancellor, he launched the planning gain supplement in a great blaze of glory, but is he not back-pedalling on it today? As he broke the housing ladder, why should anyone think that he is the right person to mend it?
confusion and frustration in the NHS?
Doctors, clinicians and nurses complain that they are fed up with too many top-down instructions.[ Official Report, 4 July 2007; Vol. 462, c. 961.]
Who has been responsible for the top-down instructions over the past decade? Today, we have an NHS in which nurses are being sacked, accident and emergency units are closing and junior doctors are having to leave the country to look for work. A week ago, the Prime Minister announced a fundamental review of the NHS. Today, he is promising fundamental legislation on the NHS. Either the review is bogus or the legislation has not been thought through, orknowing this Governmentprobably both.
Ten years ago, the Government said that education was their priority, yet 10 years later almost half of our 11-year-olds cannot read, write or add up properly. The number of young people not in work, education or training has actually gone up under this Government to over 1 million. The one change that the Prime Minister and his new Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families are making seems to be going in entirely the wrong direction. Does not the Prime Minister intend to dilute the reform agenda by giving academies less independence? What we need is more freedom for schools, more power for head teachers and more choice for parents. While the previous Prime Minister was beginning to move in the right direction on education, is this one not moving in the wrong direction?
The Prime Minister has talked about the constitution. We proposed, and will support, measures that genuinely strengthen Parliament and decentralise power. However, real change means giving the House of Commons the right to determine its own timetable; real change means a proper bill of rights to replace the Human Rights Act 1998and, I have to say to the Prime Minister, real change means addressing the West Lothian question. I ask him again: where is the fairness in allowing Scottish MPs the right to vote on hospitals, schools and housing in my constituency, while no MP is allowed to vote on hospitals, schools and health in his constituency?
So much for what was in the draft Queens Speech; let us see what was left out. There was nothing in this speech to address Britains broken society. Where are the measures to address teenage pregnancy, drug addiction and personal debt? Where are the measures to strengthen families and marriage? Where is the package to tackle the highest rate of family breakdown in Europe? The Prime Minister knows that he cannot tackle social breakdown because he has presided over social breakdown.
The Prime Minister tells us that he wants to be accountable to Parliament, so let us see whether he can ditch the usual pre-prepared rant and answer three questions. First, he says that there will be a pensions Bill. Will it give faster help to the 125,000 people who have been left with no pension under his Government? Secondly, will he announce a moratorium on A and E and maternity unit closures, and an end to the top-down targets that are leading to NHS cuts? Thirdly, will he give the British people a referendum on the European constitution, which they all want? Three straight questions; let us have three straight answers.
The Prime Minister: The answers to the right hon. Gentlemans three questions are: first, we will deal with the problems that are facing those who have lost their pensions as a result of their companies collapsing. We have instructed a review of the assets of bankrupt companies and their pension funds, and we believe that we will be able to move the 80 per cent. guarantee that we have given further towards to 90 per cent. We will make an announcement very soon.
On the second issue of A and E, I say to the right hon. Gentleman exactly what I said to him at Prime Ministers questions: all seven reconfigurations have been referred to the medical committee, which will review them on medical and surgical grounds. I would have thought that he would be gracious enough to support that move. On his third question, on the European referendum, I think that he should listen to some other voices in his own party. The debate within his own party is raging at the moment, with Lord Heseltine saying that, as a result of our achieving our red lines in the negotiations, if we can secure the amending treaty, there is no case for a referendum. Perhaps, in the spirit of consultation, the right hon. Gentleman should consult his own party on these matters.
On housing, we have just raised the level of house building commitment to 240,000 houses a year. We have just released a lot of public sector land, and announced that 500 more sites are being examined with a view to releasing land for housing. At the same time, we are creating the new homes agency to bring together all the agencies that can help. I am disappointed, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman says that there is nothing in that for the Conservative party. The reason there is nothing in it for the Conservative party in that the shadow housing Minister has said that
you cannot build your way out of housing problems.
If we are to be the party of aspiration...that means building more houses and flats for young people.
fewer homes designed for young single people.
I hope that the Conservative party will find a way to support many of the measures that we propose. There was general agreement in this House about some of the measures in the constitutional reform Bill. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will support us on the counter-terrorism Bill. Employers and trade unions have agreed on the employment simplification Bill. I believe that there is a growing consensus about what we have to do on human tissues and embryos. I hope that on the unclaimed assets Bill, which will give money to youth services, we will not find a reluctant Conservative party unwilling to support it.