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Dr. Cable: The arguments about commercial confidentiality are absolutely bogus. Why should the taxpayer have rights inferior to those of the managers, directors and shareholders of the company? If the
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Prime Minister cannot tell me how much money has been lent, can he give the House an assurance that the loan will be paid back in full, with interest, in the lifetime of this Parliament?

The Prime Minister: I think the hon. Gentleman—to be fair—knows exactly what the situation is. Secured lending is being given in relation to Northern Rock, guaranteed against Northern Rock assets. However, that is a matter about the future of Northern Rock, and it would not be in the best interests of Northern Rock or its investors to speculate on possible buyers and other possible interest in the company. I hope that the hon. Gentleman agrees that such information should at the moment remain commercially confidential.

Q2. [163657] Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): May I add my sympathies to those of my right hon. Friend for my constituent Jake Alderton, who died in Afghanistan last week? I met the family this morning, and they are extremely proud of the work that Jake was doing. He was a credit to his family, to his regiment and to the country.May I also ask my right hon. Friend about youth unemployment? There are 810 young people in my constituency who are not in education, employment or training. Does he agree that that is an absolute disgrace? Will he reflect on how much that figure might be added to if it were not for education maintenance allowances? Does he further agree that, rather than suggesting that we might abolish that allowance, it is incumbent on every Member to ensure that we do everything possible to ensure that every 16-year-old is in education, employment or training and does not leave school for a lifetime of idleness and unemployment?

The Prime Minister: I agree with my hon. Friend. In addition to the major reforms that are bringing about more academies, more specialist schools and more trust schools, and the reform of the curriculum with the new standards and qualification authority, we are extending education maintenance allowances to enable more young people to stay on at school. We are raising the education leaving age to 18, as a result of the legislation that we are bringing before the House of Commons, for part-time and/or full-time training. At the same time, we are introducing diplomas that will have the status, we believe, to enable universities and businesses to back them. When Governments in the 1940s introduced the major education reforms—such as the 1944 Act—there was all-party consensus on them. I hope that even at this stage the Conservatives will reconsider their position, not only on education maintenance allowances and the new deal for young people, but on raising the education leaving age to 18. I hope that they will not a fall into the trap that they fell into on grammar schools. We want education for all, not educational opportunity just for a few.

Mr. Adrian Sanders (Torbay) (LD): The Prime Minister will be aware that today is world diabetes day. Will he commit the Government to fulfilling the objectives of the UN resolution on diabetes passed last
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year, which commits itself to the prevention of that appalling condition, and to treating those who suffer from it?

The Prime Minister: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the issue of research into diabetes. Over the next 10 years we will be spending £15 billion on medical research. One of the areas where research is most needed is in looking for both a cure and for better treatments of diabetes. We will support all the efforts of the voluntary organisations and the charitable groups that are looking to do more to cure that disease. I believe that over the next few years we can make enormous strides forward, and I hope that both the charitable world and Governments can do so together.

Q3. [163658] Mr. John Heppell (Nottingham, East) (Lab): Does the Prime Minister agree that the British Government would be left isolated and without any credibility at all if, after ratifying a treaty on Europe that had the support of this House and another place, they then ignored the authority of Parliament and called for a referendum to renege on that treaty?

The Prime Minister: If Parliament ratified the European amending treaty and then other people decided that there should be a post-ratification referendum, that is the equivalent of renegotiating our membership of the European Union. I thought that Conservative Members—I know that 49 have signed a motion saying that there should be a post-referendum ratification—will look at the damage that that will do to business, to industry and to jobs in this country. They have found a new way of creating economic instability in our country, and I hope that the leadership of the Conservative party will desist from it.

Q4. [163659] Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): Given the rising price of food and the impact that that is having on hard-pressed families and hard-pressed farmers, what is the Prime Minister intending to do to secure a steady supply of food for this country, at reasonable prices, but with a stable income for our farmers?

The Prime Minister: The first thing that I can say to the hon. Lady is that I met the National Farmers Union on Monday, and I will keep in regular contact with it. We cannot but be impressed by the resilience shown particularly by sheep farmers in the light of the difficulties that they have had to face, as a result of foot and mouth and other diseases. As for inflation and the effect on food prices, let me just say that it is only by running a stable and strong economy that we will keep inflation low and ensure that people’s living standards can rise—and that demands that we continue to pursue the policies that have given us stability and growth over 10 years.

Stephen Pound (Ealing, North) (Lab): Further to the Leader of the Opposition’s comments about honesty and transparency, may I ask my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister whether he thinks that it would be morally right or legally possible for a political party in this country to be funded by a person who was not a resident of the United Kingdom?

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The Prime Minister: No, it should not happen.

Q5. [163660] Mr. Greg Hands (Hammersmith and Fulham) (Con): The Prime Minister will be aware that his predecessor spent considerable effort trying to have Hammersmith resident Hani Youssef extradited to Egypt. Mr. Youssef appears on the United Nations list of those associated with, or belonging to, the al-Qaeda organisation. Can the Prime Minister tell us why the Home Office is considering Mr. Youssef’s indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman has raised a question about an individual; I shall look at it and write to him.

Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): Is the Prime Minister satisfied with our controls on the circulation of hate material in our schools, now that a copy of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” has been found in the King Fahad academy in London, after Ofsted gave that academy a clean bill of health?

The Prime Minister: When I make my statement in a few minutes, I will come to an issue about propaganda of an extreme nature, designed to inflame tensions within communities, being circulated in schools. The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families is proposing that a group of head teachers should be brought together to look at what we can do in those circumstances, and report back about how the circulation of this unfortunate material can be removed.

Q6. [163661] John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): In England in 2006, 4,160 children under five were taken into care and more than 60 per cent. of them—2,490—were adopted. However, in Scotland 574 left care and 373, roughly 64 per cent., went home to their parents. Can the Prime Minister explain why in England children under five who leave care get adopted, while in Scotland they go home to their parents?

The Prime Minister: Social work legislation in the two countries is, of course, different. I shall look at the figures that the hon. Gentleman has put before me. But as is known, we have made strenuous efforts to try to ensure that children in difficulty are given the proper upbringing, whether that is by returning to their parents or, where it is essential, by being fostered or adopted. I will continue to look at the matter, but the hon. Gentleman has to understand that social work practice in the two countries is different.

Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) (Lab): The Airbus factory in north Wales is the largest and most expansive factory in western Europe. In the past 10 years, Airbus has taken on 1,200 apprenticeships; it is the biggest apprentice trainer in the UK. Does my right hon. Friend agree that apprenticeships, along with opportunities in further education and schools and in the private and voluntary sectors, are the key to giving our 16-year-olds the best chance and start for adult life?

The Prime Minister: I congratulate my hon. Friend on the growing numbers of apprentices in his constituency. Ten years ago there were only 60,000
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apprentices in the country; now there are 250,000. Our aim is to raise that number to 500,000 over the next 12 years. That is the biggest expansion in educational training opportunity that the country has seen, and I hope that all parties will be prepared to support the diploma, the raising of the age to 18, the growth of apprenticeships, more young people getting to university, and, of course, the reform of the curriculum that we are bringing about. That is education reform that is genuinely giving educational opportunity to all.

Q7. [163662] Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire) (Con): What, precisely, has Lord Malloch-Brown done to deserve his grace-and-favour apartment?

The Prime Minister: Lord Malloch-Brown is a Minister of the Government, representing our country. With the experience that he brings from his previous role in the United Nations, he is helping in Darfur, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is doing a great job for the Government.

Mr. Mike Hall (Weaver Vale) (Lab): On Monday this week, Ronald Castree was convicted of the murder of Lesley Molseed 32 years ago. That conviction was possible only because we have introduced a national database on DNA, which the Opposition parties voted against. What does my right hon. Friend have to say to Members of the House who have been talking tough on crime this week, but when it comes to voting in the House, do not back that talk up?

The Prime Minister: The use of DNA has increased convictions for rape by a very high number over recent years. I hope that all Members of the House will reflect on this new evidence, which shows that where we are able to bring people to justice as a result of the use of DNA, that justifies the legislation that we have brought before the House of Commons. I hope that we can gain all-party support for that in future.

Q8. [163663] Mr. David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con): Will the Prime Minister join me in acknowledging the hard work of Bexley council, in partnership with Bexley police, in being tough on licensing issues in the borough? I know that he does not like answering questions, as we have already seen today in his responses to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, but will he recognise the detrimental effect that his Government’s Licensing Act 2003 is having on town centres in terms of antisocial behaviour, binge drinking and noise nuisance—and do something about it?

The Prime Minister: As the hon. Gentleman knows, a review of 24-hour licences is already under way. He may also want to know that I am meeting representatives of the retail industry over the next few days to talk about practices in relation to the selling and marketing of drink, particularly the dangers that befall teenagers as a result. I also want to meet representatives of the drinks industry to see what they are doing in relation to advertising and warning young people about the dangers of binge drinking. Yes, we will examine, as councils are examining, areas where young people congregate in numbers to drink, to see
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what can be done about that. I agree that we need to take action on this, and we are taking action.

Q9. [163664] Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): Does the Prime Minister agree that although 1992 will always be remembered for being the year of Black Wednesday, it was also the year of the Heseltine pit closure plan, which marked the end of every pit in the Derbyshire coalfield? Since that time, with a strong economy, we have already got 3,000 jobs on the colliery sites. Next year, with the opening of junction 29A, there will be another 5,000 jobs. We have dragged the area from the depths of Tory degradation and brought a new lease of life to the coalfields. That is what separates us from the Notting Hill mob.

The Prime Minister: Sometimes Conservative Members are in danger of forgetting that under their Government 3 million people were unemployed; they must not forget that under this Government we have reduced unemployment by 1 million, 300,000 single parents have found work, and we are reducing the numbers of people on incapacity benefit. We can do this only because we have stability and growth in the economy—something that never happened when the Leader of the Opposition was the economic adviser to the Conservative Government.

Q10. [163665] Mr. John Baron (Billericay) (Con): The Prime Minister may be aware of a recent cross-party inquiry and report that examined whether our servicemen were put in danger’s way when they were present at the British nuclear tests during the 1950s. Given that other countries have much better track records in recognising their duty of care to their veterans—including the US, which makes automatic compensation—will the Prime Minister meet me and the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) to try to progress this matter for the benefit of these dignified and loyal veterans?

The Prime Minister: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that issue. Of course I will meet him and his hon. Friend— [ Interruption ]—I mean my hon. Friend. The Government recognise and are grateful to all servicemen who participated in the nuclear testing programme. Their service ensured that Britain was protected during the cold war. I have to say that well-documented procedures were in place to ensure the safety of participating servicemen, and most ex-servicemen were found to have had little additional exposure. However, if there is any new information to be brought to bear, I shall be happy to look at it.

Building Schools for the Future

Q11. [163666] David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): What assessment he has made of the role of the private finance initiative in delivering the building schools for the future programme.

The Prime Minister: The selection of PFI as a procurement route for building schools for the future follows a detailed assessment using the Treasury’s value-for-money guidance. Since 1997, 1,106 schools have been rebuilt or refurbished and £31 billion has
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been invested. Investment through PFI has delivered 275 of those rebuilt or refurbished schools—in other words, 25 per cent.

David Taylor: The building schools for the future programme is welcomed by all parties, but half of the eventual £50 billion cost is being financed by inflexible PFI schemes with exorbitant annual costs of more than £2,000 million for 25 years or more. Will my right hon. Friend explain why local authorities have to take, on behalf of schools, risks over which they have little control? What costs will fall on the taxpayer if PFI schools prove not to be sustainable and have to be closed prematurely?

The Prime Minister: I have to tell my hon. Friend that his area of Leicestershire has benefited from £60 million of investment in projects in education, health and other areas. It simply would not have been possible to build or refurbish such a number of schools and hospitals without using the PFI model. It is because of PFI and the additional public investment we are
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prepared to make that we can look forward to every secondary school being modernised or refurbished, and a programme has now been brought in for primary schools as well. Of course, that would not have happened if we had followed the policies of the Conservatives, who want to cut investment in education and health.

Q12. [163667] Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford) (Con): The Prime Minister has a justified reputation for striking fear into the hearts and minds of junior Ministers through his micro-control of everything that goes on in his Government and his control freakery. Why will he not answer the simple question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron): when did he know about the problems in the Home Office?

The Prime Minister: This was a matter for the Home Secretary, who took all the action that was necessary, and she dealt with the problem in a calm, efficient and dignified way.

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National Security

12.31 pm

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): In advance of the national security strategy, which will be published in the next few weeks, and following the statement by the head of MI5 about the potential threat from UK-based terrorists, I want to update the House, as I promised in July, on the measures we are taking at home to root out terrorism and strengthen the resilience of communities to resist extremist influences following the incidents of 29 June and 30 June. As everyone in this House knows, to succeed, those measures will require not just military and security resources but more policing and intelligence, and an enhanced effort to win hearts and minds.

First of all, let me thank the police, the security services and the armed forces for their vigilance, their service and their courage in facing up to the terrorist threat. The terrorist attacks in June revolved around an attempted bomb attack on a London venue where hundreds congregated, and a vehicle bomb attack on Glasgow airport. The conclusions today of the review by Lord West on the protection of strategic infrastructure, stations, ports and airports, and other crowded places, identify a need to step up physical protection against possible vehicle bomb attacks. That will include, where judged necessary, improved security at railway stations—focusing first on our 250 busiest stations most at risk—and at airport terminals, ports and more than one hundred sensitive installations.

The report proposes the installation of robust physical barriers as protection against vehicle bomb attacks, the nomination of vehicle exclusion zones to keep all but authorised vehicles at a safe distance, and making buildings blast resistant. While no major failures in our protective security have been identified, companies responsible for crowded places will now be given detailed and updated advice on how they can improve their resilience against attack, both by better physical protection and greater vigilance in identifying suspicious behaviour.

New guidance will be sent to thousands of cinemas, theatres, restaurants, hotels, sporting venues and commercial centres, and all hospitals, schools and places of worship, and it will include advice on training staff to be more vigilant. Up to 160 counter-terrorism advisers will train civilian staff to identify suspect activity and to ensure premises have secure emergency exits, that CCTV footage is used to best effect, and that there are regular searches and evacuation drills. From now on, local authorities will be required as part of their performance framework to assess the measures they have taken to protect against terrorism.

We will now work with architects and designers to encourage them to “design-in” protective security measures to new buildings, including safe areas, traffic control measures and the use of blast-resistant materials. For that advice, I am grateful for the recommendations of the hon. Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer), whom I thank for his work.

Following further work, we will report back soon on what more we need to do to strengthen security to protect against the use of hazardous substances for terrorist purposes.

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