Previous Section Index Home Page

Mr. Cameron: I am grateful for the Prime Minister’s answer. Are not there three clear principles that we have to follow? First, Kosovo cannot be left in some sort of suspended constitutional limbo. Secondly, the resolution of Kosovo’s final status cannot involve the reopening of borders anywhere else in the region. Thirdly,
12 Dec 2007 : Column 295
should we not use NATO reserve force to reinforce, as a precautionary measure, the troops who are in Bosnia? Will the Prime Minister follow those very clear principles?

The Prime Minister: I think it would be premature to put forces in at this stage. There are already forces in Kosovo. A statement was made to the House yesterday. It is the last area of the Balkans where we need to have arrangements in place that will ensure peace and stability in the future. I personally believe that the Serbians have an interest in working with the European Union, and we must persuade them to do so, but the important point is that we support the supervised independence of the Kosovan people. That will be reiterated by the European Council tomorrow. The message is going out loud and clear to Serbia and Russia that this is the course we wish to take, and I hope that there will be all-party support for the action we are taking.

Helen Southworth (Warrington, South) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend find time in his schedule to look at the successes of Daresbury laboratory and the science and innovation campus there, where Government investment is being used to create world-leading science and put it into production?

The Prime Minister: I have talked to my hon. Friend and to a delegation from the north-west about the important work being done there. I know there was disappointment a few years when the synchrotron investment did not come its way, but I know, too, of the path-breaking research that is being done there. Over recent years, we have doubled the science budget, and the future of north-west science facilities is an important part of that. I will continue to work with my hon. Friend to secure the future of her area.

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD): May I add my condolences to the family of Sergeant Johnson?

When the Prime Minister tucks into his Brussels sprouts on his one day off at Christmas, which of the various disasters of the last six months will haunt him most: his indecision over the election, his inaction over Northern Rock, or the gross incompetence of the loss of 25 million people’s personal data?

The Prime Minister: It is nice to have the hon. Gentleman here, and I thank him for his appearances over the last few weeks. Given the history of the Liberal party, it may not be long before he is back in that place again, representing his party. As for the issues of the last few months, we have made long-term decisions on energy, the environment, transport, infrastructure, planning, skills and the economy, and that is what governing is all about.

Dr. Cable: Given the Prime Minister’s own position, he might not be wise to speculate about leadership elections. Is not the real disaster, for which he has personal responsibility, the continuing tragedy in Iraq? When he was in Basra this week, was he told that at least 40 women have been executed for personal immorality? Is that why 173 British troops have died—transferring power from the fascist regime of Saddam Hussein to the terror of the fascist militia who run the streets of Basra?

12 Dec 2007 : Column 296

The Prime Minister: Iraq is now a democracy. Millions of people have voted. When I went to Basra, only two days ago, I found that there had been a 90 per cent. fall in violence over the last few months. We are now able to hand over Basra to provincial Iraqi control. So instead of the British forces having to engage in a combat role, we will, over time, be engaged in a training role, supporting the Iraqi forces. Over these last few months, 50,000 people have been trained as police and security forces. This is Iraqis taking control of their own security. I would have thought that, even with the differences over the war, the hon. Gentleman would have welcomed the progress that is being made.

Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West and Royton) (Lab): Since Northern Rock has exposed widespread trading in worthless financial derivatives, gross exploitation of tax havens, opaque accountancy and gross exploitation of charity tax laws, will my right hon. Friend set up a committee of inquiry into the governance, accounting, auditing and transparency of the UK banking system?

The Prime Minister: We will investigate any specific issue that my right hon. Friend brings to our attention, but surely, for this House and for the people of this country, the most important thing is to protect the savers, depositors and mortgage holders of Northern Rock. Throughout, we have taken the right decision, so that savers, depositors and mortgage holders can be protected against the global financial turbulence that has affected them.

Q3. [173037] Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): A police officer in Linlithgow is now paid more than a police officer in Lichfield for doing exactly the same job. Is that fair? Is that right?

The Prime Minister: What is happening in Scotland is this: to pay the police more, the planned increase of 500 policemen has been suspended. I know what my constituents and the hon. Gentleman’s constituents would prefer—that there were police on the streets. We have more police in this country on the streets, helping us, than at any time in our history. I more than anybody would like to be able to say to the police that we could pay their wages and their salary rise in full, but I have to say to them that no policeman and no person across the country would thank us if their pay rise was wiped out by inflation—and no party should know that better than the Opposition, given that there was 10 per cent. inflation in the 1990s. That is why the awards are being staged. Over the last 10 years, police pay has risen by 39 per cent., and by 9 per cent. in real terms. We have managed to combine that with having rises in police numbers and the biggest police force in history. That is the policy of the Government.

Q4. [173038] Mrs. Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): Drug use and antisocial behaviour fell in my constituency with the development of Kenfig Pyle Community Youth, which offers young people opportunities to engage in arts, sports and other activities. Will my right hon. Friend agree to meet a delegation from KPCY to discuss how young people can engage further in cutting antisocial behaviour, drug use and drinking?

12 Dec 2007 : Column 297

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have to be tough on antisocial behaviour and abusive drinking among young people, and at the same time, we must say to young people that if they want to get off the streets, we will provide youth facilities for them. Yesterday’s children’s plan was historic, because it was the first announcement of youth centres for every constituency in this country, with £160 million to be spent over the next three years. That is honouring our commitments to the teenagers of this country, in the same way as we have honoured our commitments to young children with Sure Start centres. I hope that there will be all-party support for this new investment.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): In February, the present Foreign Secretary said:

Is the Prime Minister grateful to have such a far-sighted Foreign Secretary?

The Prime Minister: Once again, when the right hon. Gentleman has chances to ask questions about policy, he ducks them at every point. I will tell him what this Government are doing. Today’s employment figures are the best in history, and unemployment is falling faster. The minimum wage is rising and there is more investment in the health service. That is what a Labour Government are about.

Mr. Cameron: I will tell the Prime Minister what his policies have achieved: the first run on a bank in 140 years—and he has lost half the country’s bank details and triggered a police investigation into his own party. That is what he has achieved.

Let me try another question. Why does the Prime Minister think that Tony Blair has described his Cabinet as the B team?

The Prime Minister: Again, nothing about substance. The right hon. Gentleman said on television on Sunday that he was desperate to talk about education—but when he gets the chance, he talks about gossip. When it comes to rising to the challenges of this country, over the past few weeks we have made decisions on housing, education and health. That is what governing is about, not gimmicks.

Mr. Cameron: But it is the substance that is going wrong for the Prime Minister. Look at the big decisions. We have small businesses up and down the country that want to know about capital gains tax, but he will not decide. We have tens of thousands of pensioners wanting decisions on their pensions, but he will not decide. We have the whole reputation of the country being wrecked because of Northern Rock, but he will not decide. We have a Prime Minister who cannot even decide whether he is going to go to Lisbon—is he going to sign the European treaty? Is it not clear that we now have an utterly dysfunctional Government?

The Prime Minister: Nothing to say about the big policy issues! On pensions, this Government have brought in the winter allowance, and that is why millions of pensioners are getting the winter allowance this Christmas.
12 Dec 2007 : Column 298
On the economy, we have the fastest growing economy in Europe, which is why today’s employment figures are so good. On the health service, we have cut waiting lists as the Conservatives never did. That Government failed; this Government succeed.

Mr. Cameron: The Prime Minister’s Government are failing because they are dysfunctional. The Foreign Secretary gets his speeches rewritten after they have been briefed out. The security Minister is not allowed to speak about detention without trial. The Chancellor is so frozen out of decisions that he has become a national joke in the City of London. If the Prime Minister will not listen to his Cabinet, why should anyone else? For a decade he told us that if only he were in charge, we would have competence, trust and change. Instead, this year we have seen drift, dithering and incompetence. Is not 2007 the year that he got found out?

The Prime Minister: Pre-prepared phrases—and still, after two years as leader of the Conservative party, absolutely no substance.

When it comes to the big issues, over 10 years we have maintained stability in the economy. Over 10 years, employment has risen and rising living standards have happened. Nearly 2 million home owners have been created over the past 10 years, and more people are in jobs than ever before. That is what governing is about. The right hon. Gentleman has gimmicks; we will continue to govern.

Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend recall saying, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Mahmood) on 28 November:

Does he agree that transport costs can represent such a barrier? Will he ask the Government office for the north-east to support the campaign by the North East Regional Youth Assembly to bring about concessionary travel for young people between the ages of 14 and 18, so that they can take full advantage of the education and training opportunities available to them?

The Prime Minister: We will certainly look at anything that removes the barriers to young people getting jobs. We have introduced changes that will make it possible after the age of 16 for young people without qualifications to make the transition to work. For those who are in work, where travel costs are high, we are already helping adults as a result of an announcement made two weeks ago, and I will look at what my hon. Friend says about young people. We will take action to remove any barrier to young people getting jobs.

Q5. [173039] Mr. Adrian Sanders (Torbay) (LD): A number of my Torbay constituents are among the 125,000 people whose pension schemes collapsed between 1997 and 2005. They want to know when the long-awaited Young report on their plight is to be published.

12 Dec 2007 : Column 299

The Prime Minister: As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Young report is considering how we can move to a 90 per cent. guarantee for the 125,000 people who have lost their pensions through no fault of their own. As he also knows, we have already provided £8 billion over a number of years to make good the provision of pensions. The Young report is now showing that there are more resources available, and I am confident that in the next few days we will be able to announce that there will be a 90 per cent. guarantee for all the 125,000 pensioners.

Mr. David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): Will the Prime Minister make contact with the authorities in the United Arab Emirates to ask about the whereabouts of Alsadiq Abdullah, who disappeared on 23 September and has not been seen since?

The Prime Minister: I understand that the constituent to whom my hon. Friend refers is a British business man, but he has Sudanese nationality. It is a matter for the Sudanese to put pressure on that Government. I believe that that is happening, and we will support the Sudanese in anything they do.

Q6. [173041] Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con): Has the Prime Minister been watching a television series that I, for one, found deeply offensive? It was called “The Blair Years”. During one of those episodes, Mr. Blair claimed that it was his decision to give independence to the Governor of the Bank of England to set interest rates—a fact that surprised some of us. Will the Prime Minister tell the House, in the light of the present Government difficulties with the economy, who is responsible for the terrible shambles that the Government are in? Is it the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer or Mr. Blair—or is it all the fault of the Opposition, Mr. Bean or dear old Santa Claus?

The Prime Minister: I am happy to tell the hon. Gentleman that it was the Government who made the decision to make the Bank of England independent. I am afraid I have to remind him that that was opposed every inch of the way in the Lobby by the Conservative party. I hope that the Opposition have thought better of their ways, because that was the right decision for Britain.

Q7. [173042] Mr. Russell Brown (Dumfries and Galloway) (Lab): I warmly welcome the recent announcement on elderly care. However, will my right hon. Friend share with the House his views on councils who go out to market-test for services, ultimately leading to privatisation and cuts in services such as refuse collection and home care for the elderly, as is being proposed by the rainbow coalition of Dumfries and Galloway council, led by the Conservatives?

The Prime Minister: I understand that the Conservative- led council is cutting services in my hon. Friend’s constituency. That is damaging to the local people. Value for money is the big test of whether services are provided in the best way for people, and from what I gather, the council in that area is not providing value for money for the local people.

12 Dec 2007 : Column 300

Ann Winterton (Congleton) (Con): Will the Prime Minister join me in congratulating our superb military on driving the Taliban out of Musa Qala after a fiercely fought operation? But does he realise that a great opportunity to win hearts and minds was lost because families and friends had to learn of details of that major and critical engagement from the media, with minimal input from the Ministry of Defence? Will he ensure that this regrettable omission does not recur in future, and that the MOD drives—

Mr. Speaker: Order.

The Prime Minister: It is for the Ministry of Defence, but particularly for the commanders on the ground, to decide what is right in the particular instance of an operation that is being carried out. I understand that a lot of the information was being provided by the Taliban, who were trying to make a propaganda gain out of what was happening. I am satisfied that our commanders on the ground were doing exactly the right things by our own people, and I am only sorry that families heard about it in a roundabout way rather than directly from the reports of success.

Q8. [173043] Helen Jones (Warrington, North) (Lab): The young people of Burtonwood in my constituency have no youth club. The youth bus comes only once a week and it is difficult for them to get into town because of poor public transport. What can the Prime Minister offer them for Christmas? Does he think that spending money on our young people is much better than offering tax breaks for dead millionaires?

The Prime Minister: The expansion of youth centres in our country will be a major feature of the next few years, and I believe that it is a very important contribution to the cohesion of our communities. I have to say that people who oppose the investment of £160 million in youth centres, oppose the education leaving age going up to 18, oppose the status being given to diplomas and then refuse to support education maintenance allowances are from a party that believes in opportunity for some. We believe in opportunity for all.

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): The police in Scotland are receiving a full pay rise, including back pay, from the— [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. Let the hon. Gentleman speak.

Angus Robertson: I will enjoy saying this again. The police in Scotland are receiving a full pay rise, including back pay, from the Scottish National party Government. Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to congratulate First Minister Salmond on that fair decision?

The Prime Minister: No. The SNP said in its manifesto:

It did not honour its promises; there were only 500, not 1,000. The hon. Gentleman should be ashamed of his party.

Next Section Index Home Page