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[ That this House notes with grave concern the plight of scores of people who have received multiple penalty notices couched in the most threatening terms from Effective Car Park Management (ECPM) for allegedly parking without authorisation on private land at the Lomeshaye Business Village in Pendle owned by Bizspace; notes that ECPM is registered at Companies House as MJB Car Park Management but that neither company is registered with the umbrella trade association for the parking enforcement industry, the British Parking Association; acknowledges that only members of the British Parking Association can request and receive data
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electronically from the Driver and Vehicle Licens
i ng Agency (DVLA); is astonished to learn that the DVLA has been supplying Matthew Brough, the owner of ECPM, with personal data from the DVLA database on the grounds that the company’ s request is made by paper and not electronically and calls on the Government to close this loophole without delay; further believes that Bizspace should terminate its contract with Matthew Brough forth with; and considers that Brough’ s business practices are wholly unacceptable and that he is a cheat and a fraudster and that the debt collectors mentioned in the parking tickets have no rights of entry or rights to seize goods and that anyone with a ticket who believes they have been entrapped by Brough should refuse to pay and insist on the matter going before the courts. ]

Does my friend share my astonishment that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is giving out personal details from its database to shady operators and crooks such as Matthew Brough from Effective Car Park Management, who is stinging and fleecing my constituents by clamping their cars and trying to extort huge sums of money from people who unwittingly park on private land? It is a serious matter; I expect a serious reply.

Ms Harman: My hon. Friend raises two important issues. The first is bogus clamping, which is being looked into by the Department for Transport, as is the regulatory regime by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. We all want traffic to move freely—we do not want random parking in breach of the law clogging up the roads—but we also do not want cowboys ripping people off by clamping their cars, sometimes leaving them very vulnerable and isolated as a result of not being able to drive away. He also raises the question of the use of data, which will come within the purview of the data review set up by the Cabinet Office.

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): In compensation for the breach of his solemn promise to grant the British people a referendum on the treaty incorporating the substance of the European constitution, the Prime Minister made a further promise that this House would be able in Committee to consider that treaty line by line. Will the Leader of the House confirm that under the present timetable, no Committee consideration will be given to items in the treaty relating to immigration, asylum and border controls? Not a single amendment and not a single line of the treaty relating to those matters will be considered in Committee by this House. Is it her intention thereby to breach that promise by the Prime Minister as well? The one—

Mr. Speaker: Order. Supplementaries should be brief. We are getting into speeches; we have had a few this morning. Some of them were very nice, but they should not be speeches.

Ms Harman: Perhaps I could remind the House that we had six hours of debate—

Mr. Lilley: Not in Committee.

Ms Harman: If I could just finish, we had six hours of debate on how the House would handle the Bill—six hours of debate in which all Members had an opportunity
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to raise questions on the procedure for dealing with the Bill, followed by a vote. It has been decided how the Bill should be scrutinised by the House, and we are following through on that procedure.

Mr. Michael Clapham (Barnsley, West and Penistone) (Lab): My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware that there is a great deal of concern about the Law Lords’ decision on 17 October regarding pleural plaques. They have deemed that pleural plaques, which are caused by exposure to asbestos, are not compensatable. She will also have seen the two early-day motions, 812 and 815, which stand in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr. Jones) and my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, North (Jim Sheridan) respectively, and which ask for remedy.

[ That this House recognises the anguish that has been caused by the failure of the House of Lords to overturn the Court of Appeal decision that prevents sufferers of pleural plaques from claiming compensation on the grounds of negligence; notes that there are thousands of sufferers in former industrial heartlands such as the North East who have been left without the compensation they deserve; and calls on the Government to take urgent action to ensure those suffering from pleural plaques receive justice. ]

[ That this House calls on the Government to explore every avenue possible to reverse the recent decision of the Law Lords which has denied compensation to the victims of asbestosis pleural plaques. ]

Will she consider a debate, perhaps a topical debate, on pleural plaques, and will she convey to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Justice that the issue needs to be remedied in this place?

Ms Harman: My hon. Friend will know that much has been done on the question of those who suffer horrible and debilitating respiratory disease as a result of work that they have undertaken, and those who have lost their lives as a result of contracting such diseases, because he has raised the issues in the House and caused progress to be made on just compensation. As for his further question, the Prime Minister is considering it with Ministers. If further proposals are made, they will no doubt be brought to the House.

Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): Might we have an urgent debate or statement on the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which is the subject of a number of reports today? There has been one from Oxfam, and one in The Times concerning the possibility of military training. I draw the Leader of the House’s attention particularly to the front page of The Independent today, which highlights the case of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, a journalism student who is apparently facing the death penalty, after having had very little by way of a fair trial and being denied independent legal representation, for the crime of downloading and distributing a report on the oppression of women. Surely, given our current involvement in that country, the Government must have a view on the situation. Surely we will not just sit back and allow that monstrous act to take place without doing anything about it.

Ms Harman: There is concern at all times about the situation in Afghanistan; indeed, the issue was raised yesterday during Prime Minister’s questions. The
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Government are determined to stand up for human rights, including freedom of speech, in all countries, and are of course concerned about the matter.

Ms Dari Taylor (Stockton, South) (Lab): My right hon. and learned Friend will know that there are many children in care establishments throughout Great Britain. We have a serious shortage of foster parents, and many children remain in care establishments until the age of 16, when they are deemed adults who can be independent. It is a serious situation. They are our tomorrows—children who will define Great Britain. The issue is important enough for the Government to have a debate on it. They must have a view about how the situation can be repaired.

Ms Harman: There is concern in Government that we should do more for those children who are most dependent on the state and who often appear to be most failed by it, namely children taken into care. She will know of the strategy for children in care, which started in the Department for Education and Skills, and of the work being taken forward in the Department for Children, Schools and Families. I will draw her comments to the attention of my right hon. Friends.

Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere) (Con): A short question on the European Union (Amendment) Bill: does the imagination of the Leader of the House stretch so far as to say that what has taken place to date amounts to detailed, line-by-line consideration of the contents of the Bill and the treaty? Yes or no will do as an answer.

Ms Harman: Yes.

Mr. Don Touhig (Islwyn) (Lab/Co-op): Will my right hon. and learned Friend find time for a debate on Network Rail and the delay in running trains from the Ebbw valley to Newport? When the line eventually opens, trains will run to Cardiff but not Newport. Network Rail says that it is because major investment in signalling is needed, yet my constituents Mrs. Ruth Gray and Mr. Ted Beacham and my local paper, the South Wales Argus, say that freight trains are running on the line, and indeed that trains used for driver training in the Ebbw valley all come out of Newport. A debate would at least give us the opportunity to find out what is really going on.

Ms Harman: I will consider that as a question for debate, but I will also raise my right hon. Friend’s comments, and his concern for his constituents and the important matter of their transport access, with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): The Leader of the House has announced motions for debate next Thursday relating to European scrutiny reform. Is she aware that this morning, the Liaison Committee discussed those proposals and registered deep anxiety about aspects of them? Will she now respect the Liaison Committee’s request that next Thursday those motions be not moved?

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Ms Harman: The question of European scrutiny by the House is a matter for the whole House, rather than for Government policy. We know that we have to improve the way that the House scrutinises European legislation. We undertook to see whether we could come up with a better process of scrutiny to bring back to the House to debate and to decide upon. We need to do that as soon as we can because the old rules under which we have been operating run out three months after the time when we decided to review them, so we face some time constraints. Above all, we want to reach agreement across the House on the matter. I shall therefore consider how to respond to the points that the right hon. Gentleman has raised on behalf of the Liaison Committee. We want to get something that everyone agrees is an improvement on the way that we currently scrutinise European business.

Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley) (Lab): Would it be possible to have an early debate on the explicable reluctance of senior schools to display and distribute information and advice on the avoidance of forced marriages to their students? Last summer, the Department for Education and Skills sent round some good guidelines on the subject, which seem to have been ignored.

Ms Harman: I will bring the issue to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. Perhaps Ofsted can shed some light on the matter. We need to be sure that all children in every school get the highest quality teaching, education and information.

John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): May we please have a statement on the intended programming of the Report stage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill? Given that criticism was expressed in some quarters about the limited scope for parliamentary scrutiny of the sexual orientation regulations and of the new offence of incitement to homophobic hate crime, both of which Government measures I enthusiastically supported, may I suggest to the Leader of the House that it is in the Government’s interest, in Parliament’s interest and, above all, in the public interest that when the Report stage of the Bill takes place, she should err on the side of generosity in ensuring that all points of view on the controversial features of the Bill are comprehensively aired?

Ms Harman: The hon. Gentleman makes a point that has been drawn to my attention by a number of Members in all parts of the House. We have all been impressed by the way that the House of Lords has dealt with the Bill and discussed it in an informed and responsible way. I intend to ensure that we have sufficient time for a serious and good debate on that important measure in this House.

Gwyn Prosser (Dover) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the failures of the Tory-controlled South East England regional assembly to address major transport problems in east Kent, in particular its failure to designate Dover as a regional transport hub, and the failure to dual the last few miles of the A2, which is the road to the busiest ferry port in the world?

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Ms Harman: I will bring my hon. Friend’s comments on transport, which is very important indeed to his constituents, to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): Successive Leaders of the House have promised me and the House that there would be a further debate on the tragic situation in Zimbabwe. Elections are due in that country shortly. This is absolutely the right time that the House should express its views on that tragedy. Will the Leader of the House accept a request from me to have even a short debate—a topical debate—on the subject next week or as soon as there is time for it?

Ms Harman: I accept that request for a debate. I know that there is support from Members in all parts of the House for the points that the hon. Gentleman makes.

Mr. Jim Devine (Livingston) (Lab): May we have a debate in Government time about the behaviour of Britain’s six leading energy companies, which at a time of making record profits are increasing prices by eight, nine and even 10 times the rate of inflation? We are capping public sector workers’ pay in the fight against inflation. It is time we capped those price increases as well.

Ms Harman: My hon. Friend will know, as the Prime Minister told the House yesterday, that there is a concern about increasing energy costs on the back of increasing fuel prices. The regulator is required to look at that. As my hon. Friend knows, we have dramatically increased the winter fuel payments and we are moving forward on the matter of insulation. We want to ensure that despite the increasing price of oil and gas, people can afford to keep their homes warm.

Stewart Hosie (Dundee, East) (SNP): The Treasury yesterday published a consultation document on financial stability and protecting depositors. It contains a large number of suggestions for consultation, including proposals
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that would mean a swingeing reduction in transparency by the Bank of England in the case of its offering support to another failing bank. Notwithstanding the merits or demerits of that case, the consultation was issued without an oral statement and there has been no opportunity yet to probe the Chancellor or the Government about their thinking on that matter. Will the Leader of the House ask the Chancellor to make an oral statement on the new consultation in good time before the end of the consultation period in three months, so that those in the House and outside can take on board the Government’s thinking when finalising their submissions to the report?

Ms Harman: No doubt the hon. Gentleman can contribute to the consultation along the lines that he set out in his comments, and no doubt they will be considered.

On the subject of the economy, we usually hear a great deal of doom and gloom from the Opposition. I take the opportunity to welcome the 800 new jobs in Nissan in the north-east, and congratulate all those in the Nissan team who were involved in bringing those jobs to the north-east.

Ann Coffey (Stockport) (Lab): Two weeks ago I visited Stockport academy to see the progress of the new £27 million building. I was struck by the enthusiasm of the students for their new school, which has had an impact on attendance and behaviour. Will my right hon. and learned Friend make time for a debate so that I can persuade the Minister for Schools and Learners to include more Stockport schools in the Government’s successful Building Schools for the Future programme?

Ms Harman: I congratulate the Stockport academy and the schools in Stockport on whose behalf my hon. Friend speaks. Perhaps she will have an opportunity to put those points to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families at oral questions next Monday.

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Standards and Privileges

12.17 pm

Motion made, and Question proposed,

The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): It is always highly regrettable when the House has to debate a motion of this kind. The matter has come to the House after a full process of investigation and consideration by a recognised due process. The Committee on Standards and Privileges, following the work of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, published on Monday its fourth report of this Session, entitled “Conduct of Mr. Derek Conway”.

The Government have arranged this debate at the earliest practicable time. The debate will consider the case in the context of the standards of conduct that are set out by the House and that the public who elect us expect us all to uphold. The matters before us have been investigated by the Commissioner and then considered by the Committee on Standards and Privileges. I thank the former commissioner, Sir Philip Mawer, for his work and commitment to this, his last inquiry. I also thank the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young), the Chairman of the Committee on Standards and Privileges, and all hon. Members who served on that Committee for their work on behalf of the House. It is very important work.

The Committee has concluded that there has been a failure to meet the standards expected and the Committee regarded the conduct as

The motion before the House today approves the report of the Committee on Standards and Privileges, endorses the recommendations of the Committee and proposes suspension for 10 days. I ask the House to support the motion.

12.19 pm

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): My Committee’s report, which forms the basis for this debate, was published at 11 o’clock on Monday. The hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Derek Conway), the subject of the report, came to the House that afternoon to make his personal statement. He said that he accepted our criticisms in full and unreservedly apologised. That prompt admission, which I welcome, will hopefully enable the House to agree to the three-paragraph motion on the Order Paper.

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