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The Prime Minister:
Under the Bellwin formula, it used to be 85 per cent. of costs recovered; it is now 100 per cent. as a result of an announcement that we made because of what happened in Yorkshire and Humberside, and that is extended to all the areas affected now. In addition, my right hon. Friend the Environment Secretary announced that the fund that was set up for Yorkshire and Humberside will be extended from £10 million to £20 million so that local authorities can make further claims where they face difficulties. I can also say that in addition, along with funding from the Department for Children, Schools
and Families and the regional development agencies, the total funding available for Yorkshire and Humberside, and to deal with what is happening in the areas we are visiting today, will be £46 million in total. We have substantially raised the funds available so that local authorities are in a better position to respond.
In addition to that, we shall have to look at the infrastructure needs for the future, which will be a matter for the inquiry set up by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. In the immediate term, £46 million will be made available; in the longer run, we have to look at what we have to do to improve our infrastructure. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, expenditure on flood defences is being increased from £300 million to £600 million, and it will reach £800 million by 2011. I hope, again, that all parties will support that.
Mr. Cameron: The focus in some parts of the country is now shifting from emergency response to clean-up. Can the Prime Minister tell us what steps the Government will take to make sure that the insurance companies pay up rapidly? Many people who do not have insurance will find their homes ruined and be left with little or nothing. Some local hardship funds are being set up, but is the Prime Minister satisfied that they are extensive enough to cover all the affected areas?
The Prime Minister: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman because his question allows me to explain that we have been talking to the insurance companies. They are in a position to act quickly, and we are urging them to do so. As for people who are uninsured, part of the reason why we are funding local authorities with the additional £20 million is to enable them to help people who are in particular difficulties. In addition, there are crisis grants and community care grants, and I know that money has already been paid out in Yorkshire and Humberside. We will do what we can to help people to get their insurance payments as quickly as possible, and to help the uninsured. Again, I hope that all parties want to make sure that people insure for the future and, at the same time, that insurance companies pay up quickly.
Rosemary McKenna (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch, East) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be aware of the very serious situation facing broadcasters in this country, with the revelations last week from the BBC, and this mornings resignation by the head of GMTV. Will he hold urgent talks with Ofcom and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in an attempt to restore public faith in broadcasters?
The Prime Minister: This is a very serious matter, because it affects peoples confidence in television stations. Those people who are running competitions and telephone lines rely on the general public having confidence in what they are doing. I will certainly have the talks that my hon. Friend suggests, but it is a matter for those authorities to sort out, and they should do it quickly.
Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD):
Once again, I associate myself with the expressions of condolence and sympathy that we have just heard from the Prime
Minister, and like him, I wish to pay tribute to the local authorities, the armed services and the emergency services, some of whose work I have seen for myself.
The Prime Minister acknowledged the importance of infrastructure, particularly water treatment plants and power stations. In the review to which he has referred, set up by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, will there be a detailed assessment of the precautions available to all such infrastructural facilities throughout the country, and not just those in the areas affected during the past few weeks?
The Prime Minister: I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman because that is exactly what we have to do. If we are dealing with extreme weather conditions, as we are, and if we are dealing with the situation that we found in Yorkshire and Humberside, and particularly in Gloucester, where a months rain fell within an hour, we have to look at whether the precautions we have taken in the past are satisfactory, whether infrastructure is sited in the right place, and whether drainage arrangements made in the 19th and 20th centuries are suitable for 21st century conditions. I assure him that the review has sufficiently wide terms of referenceI could read them out, but I shall pass them on to himfor all these issues to be looked at. But again, all parties will have to agree that further expenditure on infrastructure will be necessary, and that it will be a public expenditure requirement for the country.
Sir Menzies Campbell: The Prime Minister was responsible for the establishment of the Stern review, which he will recall pointed out the severe economic consequences of climate change. Is it not clear from the events of the past few weeks that we cannot afford not to take the necessary steps, or, indeed, not to spend the necessary money, to mitigate the effects of climate change?
The Prime Minister: The right hon. and learned Gentleman is right. The Stern report, which the Treasury commissioned, said that global warming is very likely to intensify the water cycle and increase the risk of floods. It is an accepted part of the Stern recommendations that we have to do more. We have increased expenditure on flood defences from £300 million to £600 million. We will increase that to £800 million in the next few years. We will ensure that the necessary investment is made and, if the review reports that we need to do more, we will put it to the House of Commons that we should spend more to ensure that our infrastructure is properly equipped to deal with emergencies such as those that we have experienced.
Mr. Eric Illsley (Barnsley, Central) (Lab): My right hon. Friend knows that bingo clubs throughout the country provide a safe form of entertainment for many thousands of our constituents. However, due to a combination of factors, including the smoking ban, the removal of amusement games and the high taxation that bingo clubs face, 21 clubs have already closed in Scotland alone. Will my right hon. Friend agree to meet me and representatives of the industry to ascertain whether we can find a way forward, especially through value added tax, to try to preserve as many of our bingo clubs as possible?
The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I have looked at the issue from time to time. I realise that he is passing judgment on a former Chancellor of the Exchequer when he makes his comments about what has happened to the taxation of bingo. I assure him that the current Chancellor will continue to consider those matters and that I too am happy to meet him to discuss them.
The Prime Minister: I am sorry that Conservative Members do not want to support the enlargement of the European Union, which is the reason why the budget was adjusted. It was right to do that in the interests of supporting the economic development of eastern Europe. I believe that we got a good settlement for the country and that, when the House debates it in detail, Conservative Members will see that it is a good settlement for the country. I hope that, from the hon. Gentlemans new position of freedom on the Back Benches, he might be able to support us.
Ms Dari Taylor (Stockton, South) (Lab): My right hon. Friend knows that, today in Britain, 4,000 children live in care establishments and long to live in family homes with parents. What are the Government doing about that?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend raises an important issue, which is very much part of the spending review that we are undertaking so that we can do more for children in the establishments that she mentioned and recognise their needs. I believe that all parties accept that we undervalued what we needed to do in the past. The review that is taking place will make for better policy for the future. I am happy to talk to my hon. Friend about those issues so that we can agree on a proper way forward.
if I thought I was doing something that needed a referendum I would say so.
The Irish Prime Minister says that 90 per cent. of the constitution remains in the treaty and the Spanish Foreign Minister says that 98 per cent. remains. What figure would the Prime Minister put on it? [Interruption.]
The Prime Minister:
I see, Mr. Speaker, that we are quickly back to the old agenda. I have to tell the right hon. Gentleman that, if he examines each aspect of the
treaty and what we secured in our negotiations, he should support it, not oppose it. The first issue is the charter of rightsit is non-justiciable in British law, so we secured our negotiating objective. The second is justice and home affairswe have an opt-in, so we secured our negotiating objective. The third issue is security, foreign affairs and defence policy, which remains intergovernmental, so we secured our objective. The fourth is social securityno expenditure affecting us will be made without an emergency brake that we can put on, so we secured our negotiating objective. National security will remain a matter for individual Governments, so we secured our negotiating objective. He might be better off, in the interests of unity within his own party, looking at what the chair of his democracy taskforce said only a few days ago. He said that, as a result of what we had negotiated, a European referendum would be crackpot, dotty and frankly absurd.
Mr. Cameron: If the right hon. Gentleman wants to trade quotations from former Chancellors, I can tell him about a former Chancellor who promised a referendum and who put it in his manifesto. That former Chancellor is him. He talks about his red lines, but he had red lines with the constitution, and they are pretty much the same red lines. That is why the man who wrote the constitution says that the changes have been few and far between. That is why the President of the Commission is going round saying that it will usher in
the worlds first non-imperial empire.
Mr. Giscard dEstaing says that more than 90 per cent. remains and Jean-Luc Dehaene, the former Prime Minister of Belgium, says that the figure is 95 per cent., so which is it? The Prime Minister claims to be a numbers man, so is it 90 per cent., is it 95 per cent. or is it 98 per cent.? Come on.
The constitutional concept, which consisted in repealing all existing Treaties and replacing them by a single text called Constitution, is abandoned.
That was the decision made at the intergovernmental conference in Brussels. The Conservative party should recognise that that was achieved and that all our negotiating objectives, including the opt-outs, so that the charter is non-justiciable in English and British law, were also achieved. The Conservative party has got to wake up to the fact that we succeed when we negotiate in Europe, and we do not need to have an empty chair.
This is a con to call this a treaty; its not. Its exactly the same: its a constitution.
That is the man whom the Prime Minister put in the House of Lords as his trade Minister. The right hon. Gentleman says that he wants to restore trust in a Government that he has been part of for 10 years; he says that he wants to involve people in the decisions affecting their lives; and he says that he wants the state
to be the servant not the master. Yet on the key test of whether to honour the commitment that he personally gave to hold a referendum, he has failed. Why is he afraid to trust the people and hold that referendum?
The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman is back to the old agenda. It did not take long after the Ealing, Southall by-election for him to retreatthe old agenda on Europe, the old agenda on grammar schools, the old agenda on spending and the old agenda on tax cuts. The wheels are falling off the Tory bicycle, and it is just as well that he has got a car following him when he goes out on his rounds. Let me just quote what his old friend Lord Kalms has said to him:
Were having a very bad period.
Some of the policies need substantial working on.
What we should do is pack up,
and come back in the autumn
Emily Thornberry (Islington, South and Finsbury) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend join me in urging Royal Mail to enter into meaningful discussions with the Communication Workers Union and thus ensure that the jobs and the good pay and conditions of Royal Mail employees, such as those at Mount Pleasant sorting office in my constituency, are protected?
The Prime Minister: Obviously, we want decent pay for all workers in this country, but we must also tackle inflation, and people have to accept settlements that will ensure that inflation is low in the years to come. While I want to see justice for every low-paid worker in this country, we have to remember that if we do not win the battle against inflation, we will have a bigger problem next year or the year after. That is why I believe that all workers should look at pay settlements as a means by which we can conquer inflation over the next few months.
Q3.  Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD): Given the warnings from the Chief of the General Staff at the weekend that the Army was out of reserves, and given that the Defence Select Committee heard yesterday that more than 90 per cent of terrorist attacks in Basra are now being perpetrated on British forces, is it not time to bring the British forces out of Iraq and to concentrate our efforts on Afghanistan, which the west neglected by rushing to war in Iraq on a false prospectus?
The Prime Minister:
We will meet our responsibilities in Iraq. They are responsibilities in relation to the United Nations and to the new, democratic Iraqi Government. We have reduced the number of troops from 44,000 to 5,500, and in three provinces we have moved from a combat role to an overwatch role. We will have to make a decision about moving to an overwatch role in a fourth province. I do not think that we would be doing the Iraqi Government or our
commitments to the United Nations any service by setting an artificial timetable now.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman, however, that we must support the effort in Afghanistan. It is the front line against the Taliban, and this is where we would like to see greater burden sharing by all our NATO and other allies. It is also where our Army and our defence forces are doing an excellent job, as they are in Iraq. Where the Army and the defence forces ask for extra and new equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is being provided. We have already spent £0.75 billion on updating the equipment that is available to the forces, and, in Afghanistan in particular, I was able to announce new helicopters for our forces for this year and next year. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that, when it comes to the provision of equipment to deal with these emergencies, we have been forthcoming in providing the resources necessary.
Q4.  Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab): Holly Davenport from Wakefield was just five years old when she suffered burns to 50 per cent. of her body after falling into a scalding hot bath. Each year, 600 people suffer the same terrible fate as Holly, three quarters of whom are children under five. Will my right hon. Friend meet me and the Hot water burns like fire coalition, so that we can impress upon him the need to change the law to enable the installation of thermostatic mixing valves on the baths in the 3 million new homes that we are going to build over the next 13 years, to protect the most vulnerable in our society?
The Prime Minister: I want to praise my hon. Friends campaign on behalf of her constituents in the light of the terrible damage and injuries that have been inflicted. We share her concern to do everything that we can to minimise scalding as a result of failures in hot water systems. We are working closely with the industry to provide guidance and training to those who install and maintain hot water systems, and to review building regulations, which are important in regard to determining what further action is necessary. I shall be happy to meet my hon. Friend and her campaigners to talk about these issues.
Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): Today, a Scottish opinion survey shows the standing of the Prime Minister trumped by that of the Scottish National party Scottish Government. May I ask the Prime Minister to turn this around? Who is he supporting as the next leader of the Labour party in Scotland, or is he standing behind Jack McConnell?
The Prime Minister: The former First Minister has done an excellent job for Scotland. During his period in office, and those of his predecessors, 250,000 jobs were created in Scotland. I believe that the state of the Scottish economy is due in no small part to the work of this Government with the Labour Scottish Administration, when they were in power. I hope that the hon. Gentlemans party will do nothing to damage the economic record that has brought such prosperity to Scotland.
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