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30 Apr 2008 : Column 297

However, the Prime Minister did not answer my question, so let me ask him again. He tells us how much this matters and that he will not make any more concessions, so is this an issue of confidence?

The Prime Minister: We will put this before the House. If I may say so, the head of the Metropolitan police also has some idea of the sophisticated investigations involved. The independent reviewer has been examining all the cases and he is convinced of the need to go beyond 28 days. The Home Affairs Committee looked at the matter and said that there may be a case for going beyond 28 days. Equally, at the same time, the Conservative party, Liberty and the Liberal party have agreed that there might be a case, and they want to trigger the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. If there is a case that some instances will involve going beyond 28 days, surely the right thing for a Government to do is to respect the civil liberties of the individual by avoiding arbitrary treatment, but to take the power that could be triggered again only by the Home Secretary coming before the House. That is the right and responsible way to proceed. We are talking about the security of every citizen in this country.

Mr. Cameron: The Prime Minister will not answer the question about a vote of confidence, so I think that everyone knows what is going to happen: another rebellion, another backdown, another U-turn, and the collapse of stout party. Is not the truth of the 42 days provision exactly the same as the fiasco of the 10p tax rate? He is pushing this not because it is right, but because it is part of a political calculation. With the 10p tax rate, it was about trying to pose as a tax cutter. This time, it is about trying to pose as being tough on terror. Everybody knows what is happening. Today, apparently, he is admitting mistakes. Why does he not admit the biggest mistake of all: that he puts political calculation and self-interest— [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order.

Mr. Cameron: The Prime Minister is putting political calculation and self-interest ahead of the right decisions and the national interest.

The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman never addresses the substance of the question. This is the man who wants to be both tough on crime and hug-a-hoodie at the same time. This is the man for whom political calculation meant that he cycled to work but, at the same time, had a chauffeur-driven car coming behind. This is the man who is a shallow salesman and never addresses the substance of the issue. The important substance of this issue is how we protect the people of this country against terrorism. That is about more than trading a few quotes in the House of Commons. It is about looking at the evidence before us, and the evidence before us is that we will need 42 days. I urge the Conservative party to think again.

Stephen Pound (Ealing, North) (Lab): May I point out that the great and noble borough of Ealing is actually represented by three Labour Members, none of whom made the statement attributed to one of them? However, may I say that the Leader of the
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Opposition is doing a simply marvellous job of auditioning for the sadly vacant chair of “I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue”?

Does the Prime Minister agree that it would be the height of irresponsibility for any candidate standing for the mayoralty of London to talk about slashing the Metropolitan police—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I will not invite the Prime Minister to answer that one.

Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): If someone — [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. Remember what I have said to the House. It is unfair to the right hon. Gentleman, and he should be able to put his two questions.

Mr. Clegg: It is obvious why someone who is a low earner in Britain today would not support the Conservatives tomorrow. However, after doubling the tax rate for the poor, leaving more than 4.5 million people in fuel poverty and closing thousands of post offices, can the Prime Minister explain why any low earner should support his Government?

The Prime Minister: Because we have taken a million pensioners out of poverty. Because we are on the road to taking a million children out of poverty. Because we introduced the new deal to get people in work—opposed by the Liberal party. Because we have introduced child tax credits and raised child benefit, and child tax credits were opposed by the Liberal party. The reason why people should support Labour is that our policies for social justice are not only taking people out of poverty, but giving people the chance of work.

Mr. Clegg: The Prime Minister is living in denial. If he wants people to believe that he cares for the poor, he should act as though he does. Is he not ashamed of the “grotesque chaos”, to quote Neil Kinnock, of a Labour Government scuttling around the country handing out closure notices to more than 5,000 local post offices? This morning, the Prime Minister said that he wants to be a listening Prime Minister. Let him prove it. Will he stop all further post office closures, right now?

The Prime Minister: Four million fewer people are using our post offices than did so a few years ago. We have put £1.7 billion into helping the post office network. Once again, the Liberal party is proposing spending huge sums of extra money without having any recognisable means of paying for it. That is why the hon. Gentleman’s shadow Home Secretary called him “Calamity Clegg”.

Q2. [202396] Mrs. Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): Gofal, Yellow, Working Links and my local youth offending team are all working hard to place vulnerable youngsters—those with mental health problems, drug and alcohol problems and low educational attainment—in work. Can I give them an assurance that despite the turn-down in the economy, work will still be available for those vulnerable youngsters, and that there is potential for their future?


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The Prime Minister: I had the privilege of meeting young people from my hon. Friend’s constituency to talk about the challenges that they face in creating and getting jobs, and about the youth facilities in the area. The fact is that in Wales, employment is up 131,000 since 1997. We have helped 120,000 people through the new deal, and we continue to create jobs for young people in Wales. That would not have happened if we had taken the Conservative party’s advice and abolished the new deal. We will create jobs; the Conservatives would create unemployment.

Q3. [202397] Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): The Public Accounts Committee has branded the Olympic budgeting process incompetent, yet Londoners are being forced to pick up the bills. Who has deceived them—the Government, the Mayor, or both?

The Prime Minister: First, we should be proud that the Olympics are coming to London. This gives me the chance to congratulate the Mayor of London on having made sure that the Olympics will come to London. The hon. Gentleman will know that a national contribution to the Olympics is also being made by the Exchequer. I believe that holding the Olympics in London will be a great boost, not just to London but to the whole of the British economy.

Q4. [202398] Paddy Tipping (Sherwood) (Lab): After years of discussion, Parliament decided that fox hunting should be banned. Is not the priority now to ensure that the legislation is implemented effectively, and not to promise that it will be repealed at some date in the future?

The Prime Minister: I understand that the Leader of the Opposition has said:

I believe that there is a settled view among the public on the matter and that it would be better if all parties in the House recognised the previous vote of the House of Commons on the issue.

Q5. [202399] Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con): On “The Politics Show West” on Sunday, the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew), whose question is, I note, next on the Order Paper, said of the Prime Minister:

He went on to say: “Gordon is a tragedy”. On Friday, after the local elections, when the Prime Minister carries out an emergency reshuffle, should the hon. Member for Stroud wait by his telephone?

The Prime Minister: This Government, in the past 11 years, have created more jobs than any other for the people of this country. We have cut poverty, we have doubled investment in the health service and we have improved investment in education. The hon. Gentleman should be congratulating us on what we have done, not criticising us.


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Q6. [202400] Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): And now we get to some real politics.May I thank my right hon. Friend for the initiative that he has taken on Darfur, having called a conference in London? I believe that yesterday, he met the Sudanese Foreign Minister and the special adviser to the President of Sudan. I had the opportunity to meet those gentlemen on Monday. Will my right hon. Friend tell me what progress is being made on the conference, and in particular what opportunities are being pursued to make sure that the rebel groups, and particularly the Arab militias, are willing to come to the conference?

The Prime Minister: Our aim is not just to get the rebel parties together, but to get the Government of Sudan to be part of the discussion process. When I spoke to the Sudanese Foreign Minister yesterday, I pressed him about the need for talks to start as soon as possible. I believe that if talks started, we could achieve a ceasefire and at the same time get to the process of reaching a political settlement. The key thing is to get the talks started. That is why approaches have been made to the rebel groups, why the United Nations Secretary-General is involved, why we have offered London as a possible centre for such talks, and why I am hopeful that if we can move matters forward in the next few weeks, there is a chance of talks taking place that could bring peace to that troubled area.

Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD): Will the Prime Minister give an undertaking to the House that by the Report stage of the Finance Bill, we will see detailed and concrete proposals on exactly how his Government plan to compensate the 5.3 million low earners who lost out when he doubled the 10p tax rate?

The Prime Minister: The Chancellor has sent a letter to the Treasury Committee Chairman and made it absolutely clear what the Government are ready to do and the action that we are taking to help 60 to 65-year-olds and people who are low paid, and that is what we will do.

Q7. [202401] Mrs. Claire Curtis-Thomas (Crosby) (Lab): The faith-based sector in my community is doing a fantastic job. Its members administer half my schools, the hospice and our care homes, and they have been involved in wonderful campaigns such as Drop the Debt, but they are very concerned about the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. We acknowledge that the Prime Minister has given people like me and those of religious conviction a free vote in the Committee stage of the Bill on the Floor of the House. Will my right hon. Friend consider allowing a free vote when the Bill finally comes before the House?

The Prime Minister: I have made it clear that there will be a free vote for Labour Members on provisions relating to saviour siblings, mixed embryos and the need for a father or supportive parenting, because this is the first time that those ethical issues have been debated on the Floor of the House of Commons. The letter that I sent to MPs set out the reasons why we should do that. It is the right way of proceeding on an important Bill. We do not want to lose the benefits of research that is available to help people, but at the same
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time we wish to acknowledge that there are new ethical issues before the House that should be debated on a free vote of the House.

Q8. [202402] Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) (DUP): Does the Prime Minister recall, when he was Chancellor, appointing Sir David Varney to carry out a review of the Northern Ireland economy? Sir David’s second report is due out later today. Will the Prime Minister ensure that the Government’s response to that report is issued before the Northern Ireland-United States investment conference, and will he ensure that part of the Government’s response to that report deals with the commitment made by his predecessor five years ago in the joint declaration that they would hand over to the Northern Ireland Executive many of the military and police bases that are now redundant, to enhance the assets that the Executive would have?

The Prime Minister: Let me first, on behalf of the whole House, congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on becoming the leader of his party. I wish him well in the task ahead as we move forward with the devolution proposals for Northern Ireland. He is right: we have talked on a number of occasions about the Varney report and what it can do to bring new investment for Northern Ireland. The investment conference, which will include representation from America, will take place next week and I look forward to meeting him and the American delegation there. The Varney report which is published today will offer a number of proposals on how we can increase the attractiveness of Northern Ireland for inward investment. Some of that is in the incentives for innovation that should be available for companies coming into Northern Ireland or developing there. Some of it is in the area of skills, where we ought to be able to increase and build on the good education offered in Northern Ireland. I look forward to talking to the hon. Gentleman about that and the military bases when we have a chance to meet soon.

Q9. [202403] Chris Mole (Ipswich) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend congratulate the ward deep cleaning team, who won team of the year at the staff awards at the Ipswich hospital last Thursday evening, on their success and on the 68 per cent. reduction in the number of MRSA cases that has been achieved in the past two years? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the colleagues who nominated them and patients would regard that initiative and others from my right hon. Friend, such as extended GP opening hours, as anything other than a gimmick?

The Prime Minister: The deep clean of our hospitals and the doubling of the number of matrons to make sure that all hospital wards are clean are a very important aspect of making the health service better in the future. I join my hon. Friend in congratulating those in his constituency and the hospital, who have done so much good work to make their hospital a better place.

It is also true that GP access is incredibly important to every citizen in this country. That is why it is regrettable that the Conservative spokesman has said that he is against the progress on GP access that has been made, and that he would hand back to GPs the power to decide whether there was access for their patients. That would be a retrograde step.


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Q10. [202404] Mr. Douglas Carswell (Harwich) (Con): The Prime Minister claims that he had no knowledge of the dodgy loans used to fund the 2005 election campaign, which he ran. Lord Levy has revealed that the Prime Minister knew everything. Is Lord Levy lying?

The Prime Minister: I knew nothing of these loans.

Q11. [202405] Mr. Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow) (Lab): The Prime Minister will be aware that European workers receive twice as many bank holidays as British workers. Is he going to give UK workers one extra bank holiday?

The Prime Minister: We are consulting on the nature of citizenship, and one part of the consultation is on potential bank holidays. I have to say also that as a result of the changes that we have made, it will be the legal entitlement of every worker, from 1 April 2009, that statutory paid leave be raised from 24 days to 28 days. That is because of the actions of a Labour Government.

Q12. [202406] Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere) (Con): Is the Prime Minister aware that next week marks the sixth anniversary of the Potters Bar rail crash, yet still no public inquiry or inquest has been held? Is that not most regrettable?

The Prime Minister: We are determined to ensure the safety of passengers on the railways, and I will look into what the hon. Gentleman has said. But I believe that we are taking all the precautions necessary to ensure that our railways are safe.

Mr. Don Touhig (Islwyn) (Lab/Co-op): Wales is a much more prosperous country now than it was 10 years ago, thanks to the policies of this Government. Does my right hon. Friend share my despair that the Welsh people will be betrayed once again by the nationalists, who will do a deal to put the Tories into government, as they put Thatcher into government? Does he agree that a vote for the nationalists tomorrow is a vote for the Tories?

The Prime Minister: There are 131,000 more people in work in Wales as a result of a Labour Government. The only way of safeguarding jobs and prosperity in Wales is to support the Labour party.

Q13. [202407] Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): Further to the Prime Minister’s reply to the hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Curtis-Thomas) about the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, will the Prime Minister confirm whether there will be a free vote on Third Reading?

The Prime Minister: That is not the intention. If I may say so, for the legislation passed under the Conservative Government, there was a whipped vote on Third Reading.

Q14. [202408] John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be aware that for a number of years I have been trying to get my Employment Retention Bill through Parliament.
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Unfortunately, on Friday the Conservatives objected to my Bill once again. Will he use his high office to talk to the Department for Work and Pensions and try to get the Bill through, to make sure that people who are disabled during employment will receive employment and be able to contribute to the rest of this nation?

The Prime Minister: I congratulate my hon. Friend on introducing a Bill for the employment of the disabled. I also congratulate him on keeping alive the very important idea that every disabled person should have the chance to get employment opportunities in our country. We recognise the importance of helping disabled people into work, we welcome my hon. Friend’s concern and we share his aims and determination to do more. The Government launched the cross-party independent living strategy in March 2008, and we will move forward on that. I will be very happy to talk with my hon. Friend about how we can move forward with his proposals, including within the Disability Discrimination Act 2005.


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