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The Prime Minister: There are 5,000 more general practitioners than in 1997. More and more general practitioners are able to undertake diagnostic and other services in their own practices, and that will continue with more power to GPs in the years to come. My hon. Friend will also be pleased to know that although this time last year there were fewer than 2,000 matrons in the national health service, today we can report that there are 5,500. That is more than a doubling of the number of matrons, and they have greater control over the cleanliness of hospitals now. So, we are giving matrons, nurses and GPs more power in the national health service, and while the Opposition smirk at that the fact of the matter is that we voted for the national health service and they opposed it.
Mr. Cameron: A year ago, I asked the Prime Minister why, under his new early release from prison scheme, dangerous criminals were being let out early against the express advice of probation officers. The Prime Minister promised me that it would be looked into, but it is still going on. One person released early under this scheme returned home and stabbed his girlfriend. He said:
I cannot believe they let me out. I told them I would do it.
The Prime Minister: Less than 1 per cent. of prisoners who have been released within 18 days of the due date of their release have been guilty of any further crimes. It is bad when any instance happens, but the right hon. Gentleman has to accept that we are talking about a very low proportion of those who have been released. We have also instructed prisons that they should now ensure that the police are notified in response to any information that they have received that a prisoner poses a risk of domestic violence. So since the incident that he is talking up, we have stepped up our checks, and these will continue to ensure that people are not released if they pose a risk of domestic violence.
Well, we brought it up last year and as far as I could see theyve done nothing.
Does the Prime Minister not realise how serious this is? Probation officers said this week that there are at least 29 cases, and in every one probation staff took the view that the men were not suitable for release. On the issue of domestic violence, which he raises, in eight cases men convicted of domestic violence who were released early went back and beat up their wives or partners. How could that possibly be allowed to happen a year after the Prime Minister said that he would stop it?
The Prime Minister: I have just explained how we have stepped up the checks in response to the National Association of Probation Officers. I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman that we are increasing the number of prison places. It has increased from 60,000 to 80,000 during the period of this Government. It is going up to over 82,000 this year and will rise again to 86,000. The idea that we are not taking action to deal with the bigger problem of the provision of prison places is wrong. We are taking the action that is necessary.
I have to remind the right hon. Gentleman that during the past 10 years there are 16,000 more police on the street, we have more community support officers and at the same time crime is down by 30 per cent. It would have helped if the Opposition had voted for some of our measures. The Opposition voted against our measures on gun crimeto five years for holding a gun. They voted against our measures on DNA. They voted against measures on antisocial behaviour in the period when he was trying to hug hoodies.
Mr. Cameron: No one will ever forget that the right hon. Gentleman was the Chancellor of the Exchequer who did not build the prisons and landed us in this mess. It is absolutely no consolation to the victims of domestic violence that he reads out that list of completely irrelevant figures. He says that they are stepping up the checks, but will he confirm that there are no proper accommodation checks about where these people are going back to and that there are no proper risk assessments? Is it not the case that under his new early release scheme, people are released even though probation officers do not know where they are going and have not assessed them for risk? They end up committing further crimes. A year ago, the Prime Minister told me in this House that he would act. Surely people will conclude that he has failed in his basic duty, which is keeping people safe.
The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. Over the past 10 years we have increased the number of prison places from 60,000 to 80,000. That was a decision that we made because we ran an economy that could deliver the resources to build the prison places. As for his questions about individual prisoners being released, any prisoner serving over 12 months who is released is subject to probation. As far as concerns about domestic violence are concerned, I have already told him that prisons have been instructed that they should now ensure that the police are notified in response to any information that they receive about a prisoner who may pose a risk of domestic violence.
So we have stepped up our checks. But the right hon. Gentleman has not answered the point that I made. We have acted against antisocial behaviour, we have acted against domestic violence, we have acted so that evidence can be constructed through DNA and we have brought in CCTV. Most of those proposals have been opposed by the Opposition. They talk tough on law and order and act soft. They talk tough on terrorism and act soft. They talk tough about the planning laws, and last week voted against them. On all the major issues, when difficult, long-term decisions are made, they duck the big issues.
Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South) (Lab): Everyone in Britain is affected by rising energy prices, but none more so than those in the 4 million households living in fuel poverty. As a result of the 2 per cent. increase in fuel duty that is scheduled to come into effect this October, the Government will receive in excess of £1 billion in tax revenue. Rather than cancelling the increase as a sweetener for lorry drivers, will the Prime Minister commit that £1 billion to meeting the 2010 targets to take all vulnerable households out of fuel poverty?
The Prime Minister: We are committed to helping those in fuel poverty. That is why we have raised the winter allowance. That is why 3 million households are benefiting from insulation schemes. That is why we have signed agreements with the utility companies to give more money to the lowest-income households, so that their fuel bills can be reduced. We will step up our insulation programme, our draught-proofing programme, and our programme for greater fuel efficiency in homes in the next few months. I have to caution my hon. Friend against the idea that if there is a downturn and oil prices go up, all the benefits go the Treasury. What actually happens is that people spend less, so VAT receipts are less; fewer people are earning, so income tax receipts are less; and less profit is made by most companies, so profits tax is less. He has to take into account the fact that during a period of world downturn, revenues are not uprevenues are down.
Q4.  Mr. Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) (Con): What is worse: coming behind the British National party in Henley, or coming behind the Scottish National party in Glasgow, East? Will the Prime Minister make the trip up to Glasgow to try to prevent that from happening?
The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman had the chance to ask about any issue. This morning, one might have thought that Conservative Membersif not those on the Front Bench, then those on the Back Bencheswould have acknowledged 60 years of the NHS. Once again, they have resorted to trivia when they could have asked sensible and serious questions.
Q5.  Gordon Banks (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Lab): With the attack in Jerusalem and the reported violence on the Egyptian border today, peace in the middle east is vital, not only for that region, but for the world. Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to tell the House what more he can do to make sure that extremism does not derail the long-term plan for peace in the region?
The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who takes a very big interest in matters in the middle east. I am sorry to hear of reports today of yet another terrorist incident in Jerusalem. I hope that we will hear reports that the casualties are minimal. To help bring about more general peace in the middle east, we have been considering what we can do. We have today laid an order before Parliament extending proscription to cover Hezbollahs entire military wing, solely on the grounds of new evidence of its involvement in terrorism in Iraq and the occupied Palestinian territories. Proscription will not affect Hezbollahs legitimate political and social wings, but we continue to call on Hezbollah to end its status as an armed group, to participate in the Lebanese democratic process, and to do so on the same terms as other political parties.
Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con):
In his answer to his hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), the Prime Minister seemed to welcome the African Unions outcome concerning Zimbabwe. Surely the real reading is that that outcome was a complete and utter sham. The reality is that President Mbekis hand is now being seen
in the process. Surely he is determined to maintain President Mugabe in his role. To do that, they will bully the MDC, try to divide it, and force it to form some sort of ludicrous union Government with President Mugabe. Surely the Government should get all the western Governments to say categorically to President Mbeki, It is time for you to get rid of this man, and if you dont, trade and aid to South Africa will come under review.
The Prime Minister: It is indeed time for Mugabe to step down, and he has blood on his hands after what happened during the election campaign, in which so many people died and were displaced. I think that the right hon. Gentleman should read into the African Union summit and its decisions, which I have before me, something more positive than what he is suggesting. The summit concludes that the African Union is
Deeply concerned with the negative reports of SADC
concerned about...the loss of life
and wants to avoid further worsening of violence. It has reported that it will have an envoy and mediation in Zimbabwe. The aim is to involve the MDC in the Government. I have asked the Secretary-General of the UN to send a UN envoy to Harare. I think that it is important to recognise that the African Union did take a step forward yesterday, but there is a lot more to do, and we should support the United Nations, through the Secretary-General, in its efforts to achieve mediation that could bring about a transition to a democratically elected Government in Zimbabwe.
Q6.  Margaret Moran (Luton, South) (Lab): Following my ten-minute Bill, may I congratulate the Government on taking action to ensure that more than 90 per cent. of domestic internet service providers block child abuse images? Is my right hon. Friend aware, however, that there are concerns that similar blocks must apply to local and central Government and to prisons? Will he agree to meet me and childrens charities to ensure that all our children will be protected from this appalling abuse?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend has been a very vigorous campaigner on behalf of safety for children in using the internet, and it was in no small measure due to her efforts and proposals that we set up the review of internet security led by Dr. Tanya Byron. That review has proposed far greater checks on the internet to ensure security. My hon. Friend is right that we should be aware of what is happening in prisons and in local and national Government, as well as taking other measures. I will be very happy to meet her. We are setting up the internet security council in the next few weeks, and I look forward to meeting her and the childrens charities that she mentions.
Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP):
I am sure that the whole House wishes David Marshall a speedy recovery. The Recess Elections Act 1975 allows for parliamentary by-elections when Parliament is not in Session. Why, then, have the Labour Government moved for the quickest possible timetable for a by-election in Glasgow, East,
corresponding with the Glasgow fair? Is not that simply down to the fact that the Prime Minister is scared of a bloody nose from the SNP?
The Prime Minister: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would be complaining if we had waited to have the by-election. It is right that the constituents of this area of Glasgow have a new MP as soon as possible.
Q7.  Mr. Mohammad Sarwar (Glasgow, Central) (Lab): My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister may be aware of my early-day motion condemning the Scottish Executives decision to slash funding for Glasgow science centre from £1.7 million to £1.08 million, which threatens its financial viability. Glasgow science centre is a unique facility that attracts thousands of visitors and has been awarded five-star status by Visit Scotland. Does he share the anger of my constituents and the people of Scotland who use this unique facility and call on the Scottish Executive to reverse this short-sighted decision?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He is asking a question about what affects the Glasgow peoplethat is, a 40 per cent. cut in funding to Glasgow science centre as a result of a decision by the SNP Administration. We have doubled science expenditure in this country and we are encouraging young people to visit science centres. It is unfortunate that funding in Glasgow has been cut as a result of the SNPs decision, and it will live to regret that.
Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle) (Con): Are we to understand that the right hon. Gentlemans bleak message to the country is that for many years to come, at Prime Ministers questions, he and his successors will pay mournful tribute to the gallant men and women who in the previous week have been killed in Afghanistan fighting an unwinnable and deeply unpopular war when it is widely understood that the Taliban are not international terrorists and that the international terrorists are now mostly trained in Pakistan, Iraq and Britain?
The Prime Minister: I invite the hon. Gentleman to join the Defence Secretary in a visit to Afghanistan to see it for himself. As a result of what has happened, the Taliban have been removed from power. Some 40 nations are contributing 50,000 troops. There were no girls in education in Afghanistan at all, and as a result of what we have done, there are now 2 million in education. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take up that invitation.
Q8.  Mr. Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent, South) (Lab): On 12 July, at Britannia stadium, in the presence of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the legendary Pelé, there will be a celebration of goalkeeper Gordon Banks and his achievements. Will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to the achievements of someone who is not only a great goalkeeperperhaps the best in the worldbut a decent man?
The Prime Minister: I should also congratulate my hon. Friends club, Stoke City, on achieving promotion to the premier league. I am looking forward to meeting Gordon Banks. He was capped 73 times for England, and it is absolutely right that we unveil a statue to him at the Britannia stadium in Stoke.
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to place duties on Her Majestys Government regarding the participation in and recognition at State occasions of the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies; to make provision about educational material concerning their constitutional and historical status; and for connected purposes.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is fortunate to enjoy a history of which each and every one of us in this House can be truly proud. Our forebears sailed the oceans to the four corners of the globe, discovering new territories and helping to build the modern world by establishing a rule of law, providing education, teaching the English language, spreading the values of Christianity and building a lasting constitutional framework under the British Crown.
Today, most countries have chosen to seek independence from Britain while retaining a special link to both the Crown and the United Kingdom through their membership of the Commonwealth of nations. Many, such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, continue to retain Her Majesty the Queen as their Head of State. However, 17 territories in the world have chosen not to seek independence and instead remain a part of the great British family, spanning from the tip of Europe to the Pacific ocean, from the Caribbean to the south Atlantic and from the Indian ocean to the west coast of Africa.
There are also the five dependencies of the Crownfour in the English channel and one in the Irish seathat have never been colonies, but enjoy a unique constitutional status as part of the British isles, but not the United Kingdom itself. Their loyalty to the British Crown has remained steadfast for many centuries and continues to this day. The British overseas territories and Crown dependencies are Britains extended family, and they are also our truest friends who have stood by us through good times and bad, and through conflict and peacetimealways remaining true to their British roots and heritage, to the Union flag and the Crown itself.
Today, many young men and women from overseas territories and Crown dependencies are serving in the British armed forces on the front line in conflicts around the world, fighting for Queen and country. I pay tribute to all the people of the British overseas territories and Crown dependencies, including Gibraltar, a rock so British, with its magnificent people, who have shown time and again the strength of their determination to keep the Union Jack flying over their homeland.
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