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16 May 2008 : Column 1718

Bridget Prentice: Our current system is better than those available elsewhere, which is why we should continue with it. The monarch decides on the appointment of the Government through constitutional convention, so it is important to note that the introduction of fixed-term Parliaments in the United Kingdom would not necessarily eliminate the use of the royal prerogative in dissolution. We do not intend to take away the important and historical tradition of referring to the monarch, but the system requires updating to reflect the more democratic time in which we live.

We intend to change the convention so that the Prime Minister is required to seek the approval of the House of Commons before asking the monarch for a dissolution. In effect, that would empower Parliament to influence the general election process, a role that it does not currently have. Evidently, any new arrangements will have to provide for a situation in which it proves impossible to form a Government who command the support of the House of Commons and Parliament refuses to dissolve itself. In short, the Government are already implementing a process of review for the dissolution of Parliament and considering an alternative mechanism, by which Parliament, rather than just the Prime Minister, will be more responsible, and therefore more accountable, in that process.

Mrs. Laing: Does that mean that the Government would still keep the rule whereby a vote of no confidence in a Prime Minister leads to a general election, which could be important in the next few months?

Bridget Prentice: While I disagree with the hon. Lady about whether that is likely to become important in the next few months, the Bill does not take account of what Parliament can do if there were a vote of no confidence in a Government, which is a big weakness. The Bill is too inflexible for Parliament to respond in such a situation.

Restructuring the recall of the House of Commons is another case in point. Currently, the House may be recalled by the Speaker during any period of Adjournment under Standing Order No. 13 at the request of the Government. There is no power for MPs, or even a majority of MPs, to force a recall. In the past, hon. Members have argued through early-day motions that there should be the opportunity for Members to ask the Speaker to recall Parliament. The current arrangement allows Parliament to be recalled. Indeed, in the past few years—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. The Minister is straying rather beyond the bounds of the Bill before the House.

Bridget Prentice: I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Because of the wording of the provision and the fact that Parliament can be dissolved only at certain times, the Bill would not allow the current flexibility whereby Parliament can be recalled at the Speaker’s behest, where an outside event might make it appropriate for hon. Members to gather together to discuss the matter, as we did, for example, in the cases of the Omagh bombing and Iraq.

If the hon. Gentleman wants to introduce fixed-term Parliaments in order to redress the balance of power
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between Parliament and the Executive, he should welcome the fact that we hope to introduce a system that will allow the House to be recalled at the initiative of the House rather than of the Government. That would allow a majority among Members of Parliament to request a recall, which the Speaker would then consider.

I shall go on to discuss other areas of reform that the Bill would curtail, but I want to point out that many Parliaments do not last for the full five years. Between February 1919 and the present day, very few Parliaments have gone the full term. The flexibility inherent in the current system allows for what I believe to be the principle behind the hon. Gentleman’s Bill, which—

It being half-past Two o’clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed on 6 June.

Remaining Private Members’ Bills

Human Rights Act 1998 (Meaning of Public Function) Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

Hon. Members: Object.

To be read a Second time on Friday 6 June.

Disabled Persons (Independent Living) Bill [ Lords]

Order for Second Reading read.

Hon. Members: Object.

To be read a Second time on Friday 20 June.

Environmental Protection (Airports) Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

Hon. Members: Object.

To be r ead a Second time on Friday 6 June.

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Disqualification from Parliament (Taxation Status) Bill

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [25 January], That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members: Object.

Debate to be resumed on Friday 6 June.

Citizens’ Convention Bill

Order for Second reading read.

Hon. Members: Object.

To be read a Second time on Friday 13 June.

Foreign Nationals (Statistics) Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

Hon. Members: Object.

To be read a Second time on Friday 6 June.

Drugs (Roadside TESTING) Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

Hon. Members: Object.

To be read a Second time on Friday 6 June.

Drugs (Reclassification) Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

Hon. Members: Object.

To be read a Second time on Friday 6 June.

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am rather concerned that the Public Sector Buildings (Energy Performance) Bill was not moved. I have received a lot of correspondence asking me—pleading with me, indeed—not to object to that Bill. Now it has not even been moved today. I fear that an enormous amount of energy has been wasted in that connection.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Whether Bills are moved or not is a matter entirely for the Members in charge; it is certainly not a matter for the Chair.

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London Olympics (Employment)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn. —[Alison Seabeck.]

2.33 pm

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): It gives me great pleasure to speak on the vital issue of the London 2012 Olympics and their possibilities for regenerating the lives of people in the Olympic boroughs in the east end. I clearly remember where I was when it was announced that London had won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics. In common with most Londoners, I was thrilled and excited—more than I had anticipated being. It is appropriate at this point to note the tremendous work and commitment of the then Prime Minister, the then Mayor of London and my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Olympics in helping us win the bid.

I was thrilled and excited not only because it is a huge honour for London to play host to one of the greatest international events but because of the possibilities for the regeneration of the east end. It seemed to me that not only was the country poised to host this tremendous event, but the east end of London, which includes some of the poorest communities in the country, also stood to benefit.

Three years later, I am still a strong supporter of the Olympics and hugely optimistic about what the Olympics can do for the east end of London and my constituency. As the plans have unfolded, we have all seen what an ambitious and creative project hosting the Olympics is. We now have a new Mayor in London, and whereas I knew the commitment of the old Mayor using the Olympics for regeneration, one has yet to hear in detail from the new Mayor. It therefore seemed to me appropriate to come to the House at this point to set out what the people who live in the Olympic boroughs in the east end of London were promised and what progress has been made on jobs, business and employment.

For the Olympics to be a genuine success for this country, for London and for the five east end host boroughs, the people who live in Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and the other Olympic boroughs must believe that they really will benefit from hosting the event; otherwise, the people of the east end will be like children pressing their noses against a window when something exciting and glamorous is happening on the other side. Local residents must feel that the employment possibilities for them and their children are going to rise. They must feel that the wonderful Olympic park, media centre and other buildings really will be turned into spaces that the community can use after the big event. It is important to remember that not just the local authorities of the five boroughs, and not just the streets, buildings and open land, but the people who live there are hosting the Olympics. Those people deserve to be part of the Olympics and to benefit from them.

However, it is not just a matter of principle. I remind the House that the five host boroughs—Greenwich, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest and Hackney—are among some of the poorest areas in the country. In fact, they are all among the 15 per cent. most deprived areas in the country, and my constituency of Hackney
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is in the bottom 5 per cent. Even at a time when the Government have done so much to invest in training and to put people into employment, only 55 per cent. of people of working age in Hackney are in employment. That is not just an abstract figure. There is a direct relationship between the problems that we see in our inner cities of gangs, deprivation and social exclusion and the continuing very low employment rates in the east end. As the former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, remarked, many parts of the east end of London have not seen major regeneration since the Victorian era. The importance of getting economic regeneration right is immense. The Olympics represent a significant opportunity to turn round the fortunes of these poor areas and change the lives of the people who live there. For those of us who live in the east end, that means better transport links, improved facilities, a cleaner local environment, better access to sport, particularly for young people, and jobs for local people and contracts for local businesses. I will concentrate on the last two issues—jobs for local people and contracts for local businesses—in my remarks.

Let me remind the House of what was promised to the east end from the 2012 Olympics. In June 2006, my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Olympics said:

In October 2006, Lord Coe, chairman of the London 2012 organising committee, said:

In its 2012 annual report, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport named one of the key objectives of the Olympics as:

I stress “economic”. The Olympic Delivery Authority says in its 2008 employment and skills strategy:

Those are very hopeful words.

When we add the sheer volume of investment and work that needs to be done on the Olympic site to the hopeful words that the people of the east end have heard, we can see the possibilities. Five permanent venues will be built, as well as three temporary venues, one media centre, earthworks, landscaping work, 11 highway bridges, 13 permanent footbridges, extensive land clearing, waterways and new roads. And that is just to build the park. Once the games are over, there will be a large amount of work to do to transform the park into legacy mode. Recent research by ConstructionSkills—the sector skills council for the construction industry—found that because of the Olympics construction work in Greater London, construction jobs will grow in number by 8.4 per cent. between 2008 and 2012. Its research predicts that 14,930 new recruits will be needed every
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year to meet that demand and 3,000 construction, professional and technical staff will be needed each year until the end of the games.

A huge amount of money is going in. The Government are providing at least £5.9 billion; the Greater London authority and the London Development Agency are providing £1.17 billion; and the launch of the London 2012 business network includes details of £6 billion of contracts, and an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 associated supply chain opportunities. That represents huge potential for local people and local businesses. It is perfectly true that the ODA and the LDA have produced plenty of papers. They are planning training and skills programmes and there has been a lot of talk about employment possibilities and creating an Olympic work force that looks like multicultural London. Sadly, it seems to me that the reality does not match the talk. It does not match what people have been promised, the number of jobs that will be created or the billions of pounds of public money that have been invested in the Olympics. I know that people have been meeting; there have been committees, papers have been drawn up and people have highly paid jobs that ostensibly speak to that agenda, but it is important to highlight the problems and draw attention to what is happening now before it is too late for the employment benefits of the Olympics to make a difference to my constituents. I worry that by waiting to see whether local businesses are able to access tenders and whether local people get training, we may be waiting for one, two or three years in which local people have missed out.

I am sorry to say that the current figures are dismal. Despite the billions of pounds being poured into the construction of the Olympic park, the numerous training programmes and the huge amount of labour that needs doing, the number of people from the east end who have received jobs there remains low. I understand that only 430 people from the five host boroughs are currently employed in Olympic jobs, out of a possible 2,488 jobs that have been given out so far. Employees from the host boroughs make up only 17 per cent. of the total Olympic work force, and out of those figures, sadly, Hackney has the lowest number of residents involved in Olympic jobs. Just 48 Hackney residents have Olympic jobs out of the 2,488 people employed.

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