|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Anne Moffat (East Lothian) (Lab):
May we have a debate on delivering quality public services? I should like to congratulate Lothian Busesthe only publicly owned bus company in Scotland and the largest in the UKon winning the prestigious best bus operator award 2008. Pilmar Smith, the chairman, who lives in
north Berwick in my constituency, has played an exemplary role in support of the work force and in the companys success.
Ms Harman: I join my hon. Friend in congratulating Pilmar Smith and the work force of Lothian buses. I understand that this is not the first time that it has won that award, which is a demonstration of a public company delivering quality public services.
Sir Michael Spicer (West Worcestershire) (Con): What is the exact position after the vote on 3 July on the definition of main residence for tax purposes, and that for claiming parliamentary allowances?
Ms Harman: What is clear is that we need to have a congruencethat the main residence for tax purposes should be the same as the main residence for the purposes of claiming from the additional costs allowance. However, if hon. Members think that it would be helpful, I can, following the debate, write to them setting out the changes that have been agreed to main or second residences.
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): Will my right hon. and learned Friend have discussions during the recess through the usual channels about the arrangements for 11 November, which this year is a Tuesday? She will notice that this year is the 90th anniversary of the ending of world war one, with all the social, political, military and legal implications that go with that. Would this year not be a good occasion on which to reinstate the wreath-laying ceremony, which used to take place at our war memorial at St. Stephens entrance, but which was lost when the security boxes were put there some decades ago? This year will be a great occasion for Parliament to commemorate and use our war memorial in a very decent way, so I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will discuss this with you, Mr. Speaker, and others.
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): May I thank the Leader of the House for what she has just said? In view of the fact that there are many, in all parts of the House, who do not think that Front Benchers from any party should be on Select Committees, will she at least give us the assurance that when we debate the report on regional Committees, there will be a completely free vote, as there always should be on House of Commons matters?
Ms Harman: Ever since it was established, the Modernisation Committee has been different from other Select Committees, in that not only does its membership include a Minister, but it is chaired by the Leader of the House, who is the Leader of the House, a Minister and a member of the Cabinet. On regional Committees, it is always the case that matters relating to the formation of Committees are matters for the House.
Jon Trickett (Hemsworth) (Lab):
May we have a debate on the minimum wageone of the great historic achievements of the first phase of our Labour Governmentso that we can celebrate the current
upgrading that will affect 1 million people, 100,000 of them in Yorkshire and the Humber? Could we use such a debate to say that we are going to get very tough indeed on firms such as the one in my constituency that employs young women on a day-by-day basis and gives them £25 cash after nine hours of work, only to tell them that they are no longer needed? The women are expected to keep quiet and not blow the whistle. Is it not time that we got tough with rogue or cowboy employers of that kind?
Ms Harman: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We need strict laws to protect vulnerable employees from exploitation and we also need to ensure that they are effectively enforced. I congratulate him on the work that he, along with other hon. Members, has done to make sure that that is what happens.
Will the Government make it clear that over the summer recess period they will not join other European Governments and Heads of Government in the growing campaign led by President Sarkozy, who is due to visit the Irish Republic shortly, to bully and harass people who, on a free vote, made it clear that they reject the Lisbon treaty? Will the Government use the recess period finally to make up their minds to abandon a treaty that is, frankly, unwanted and undemocratic?
Ms Harman: The reason that this House and the other place passed the provisions on the Lisbon treaty is that we recognise that, if we want a strong economy, we have to work closely with the European Union. Similarly, if we want to tackle the menace of climate change and cross-border crime, we have to work strongly with our partners in the European Union. We think that it is in Britains interest to be at the heart of Europe and that it is in Europes interest that Britain should play a leading part in it. We also recognise that, with more member states of the EU, we need to change the rules so that it works as efficiently and effectively as possible. Having established our position and discussed it here and in the other place, there is no question of the Government bullying or harassing any other country.
Mr. Ian Cawsey (Brigg and Goole) (Lab): My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware of the concern of animal welfare groups, and particularly dog welfare groups, about the growth in the use of electric shock collars. What she may not be aware of is that both the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament are looking at ways of outlawing the use of those devices. Will she arrange for a statement to highlight how our Government will work with the devolved Administrations to ensure that there is a consistent approach, so that English dogs are not dogged by devolution?
Ms Harman: I congratulate my hon. Friend on all the work that he does on the full range of animal welfare issues. I will pass on the matter that he has raised to the relevant Ministers. If we need to make any further changes to promote animal welfare, we will.
In case I created any confusion in my earlier response, let me clarify that the creation of Committees is House business, which means that the creation of regional Committees is House business and it is not whipped. The membership of Committees is whipped, but Select Committees elect their own Chairs.
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): Reverting to a question that my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) asked about Equitable Life, last week the Leader of the House invited us to wait and see what the ombudsman said. What the ombudsman has said is:
I recognise that my recommendations raise questions which are now properly ones for Parliament and Government together to consider.
Although I welcome what the right hon. and learned Lady said about the Chancellor making a statement, does she accept that that does not go far enough? What we need is a debate in Government time on a substantive motion on which the House can vote. Will she undertake to provide that?
Ms Harman: The right hon. Gentleman has made his position clear, as has the shadow Leader of the House. I think that we are all concerned about people who lost out as a result of what happened to Equitable Life and we are all concerned to understand where the responsibility lies and where regulation should have been improvedas it can and has been. There will be full consideration in government and we will see how we can ensure that this House has a proper chance to question, possibly debate[Hon. Members: And vote]and even vote on the results.
Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House consider giving time to debate the anti-family friendly policies introduced by Tesco? People can spend £50say, on alcoholand get a voucher for 5p off fuel, whereas if they spend £50 on infantile or baby food products, they do not qualify for a voucher. That seems absolutely absurd. It seems that Every little helpsexcept if you are a little one.
In respect of my previous answer to the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young), the banking reform Bill is in our draft legislative programme, so if hon. Members want to table amendments to deal with issues surrounding Equitable Life, they will have an opportunity to do so and then to debate and vote on them. That is not instead of, but in addition to what I said earlier.
Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): Given that the Chancellor has been panicked into rewriting his Budget in the face of the sustained Scottish National party challenge in Glasgow, East, will he make a full statement to the House? If the fuel duty freeze proves to be too little, too late, will it be the job of the right hon. and learned Lady to go to Downing street next Friday morning and tell this useless Prime Minister to go?
Mr. Speaker: Order. We really must use more temperate language in the House. The hon. Gentlemans question was not about next weeks business; it was more about a by-election in my native city, so we will leave it there.
Mr. Fraser Kemp (Houghton and Washington, East) (Lab): This week, the annual report of the chief medical officer was published. It dealt predominantly with tackling problems relating to young peoples health. Will the Leader of the House consider making time available for a debate on that important issue, particularly to allow Members the opportunity to raise concerns about their constituentsfor example, about the screening of young women for cervical cancer. It would be beneficial if we had an opportunity to talk about the health issues faced by young people.
Ms Harman: Perhaps we should consider that subject for a topical debate at some future time. I draw my hon. Friends attention to the fact that there will be an opportunity to raise those important issues with Health Ministers at oral questions next Tuesday.
Mr. Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): The Leader of the House will be aware that earlier this week the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government published a report on community cohesion, which found that the Governments policy of uncontrolled immigration has caused sustained damage to community relations and community cohesion across the UK, including in my constituency. When may we have a debate on the linked issues of the population statistics of the Office for National Statistics, the audit of local authorities affected by large-scale immigration and the grant funding to authoritiesincluding my own Peterborough city councilparticularly affected by this issue?
Ms Harman: The question of immigration and its effect on different local authorities has been considered, as the hon. Gentleman said, by the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government. It has produced its report, but it certainly did not include the point that the Government had a policy of uncontrolled immigration. The Government will reflect on the report and respond in due course.
Margaret Moran (Luton, South) (Lab): Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that, in their wisdom, the football authorities have penalised Luton Town football club by deducting 30 points for misdemeanours perpetrated by previous owners? Will she allow an early debate on ensuring that the football authorities impose penalties on those who are truly responsible rather than on innocent fans, and will she ensure that the football authorities do not have a remit effectively to kill football clubs such as mine?
Ms Harman: My hon. Friend has raised on many occasions the question of Luton Town football club, which clearly plays an important role in the life of the city that she represents. I will draw her point to the attention of Ministers in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con):
Next time the Leader of the House bumps into the Secretary of State for Defence [Interruption.] I know that he is
coming in a moment. Will she ask him for a statement on how much time he has been able to spend on the two medium-sized conflicts in which our armed forces are currently engaged, and how much time he has been having to spend, as Secretary of State for Scotland, on the battle for the by-election in Glasgow, East?
Sir Peter Soulsby (Leicester, South) (Lab): I welcome the announcement by the Leader of the House that she intends to publish a Command Paper next Monday responding speedily to the Modernisation Committees report on regional accountability. She will know that members of the Committee heard overwhelming evidence of the need for proper accountability for the £2.3 billion a year spent by regional development agencies, and a proper mechanism to hold regional Ministers to account. Will she be equally speedy in bringing forward to the House mechanisms to ensure that the proposals of the Modernisation Committee are put into effect?
Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): When the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government first proposed eco-towns, she brought forward a list of 15 and said that the Government hoped to have at least 10. The only difficulty is that today, the fifth of those dropped out, so from 15 we are now down to 10. Will the Leader of the House give an undertaking that no further announcement will be made on eco-towns until the House returns in the autumn, when we can have a topical debate to discuss the merits of those eco-town proposals remaining? That will give the Government an opportunity during the summer recess to reflect on the wisdom of progressing with many of those eco-town proposals.
Ms Harman: Over the past month, the House has had a number of opportunities to discuss eco-towns. As my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing set out, we will make progress on the question of eco-towns, to ensure that we have more housing and that it is sustainable.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House answered a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South about the problems with Luton Town football club, and the fact that it was being treated badly. If sheor someone on behalf of the appropriate Committeemakes representations to the Football Association, will they bear in mind that it seems significant that small clubs such as Luton, and Chesterfield a few years ago, have points deducted, but West Ham got involved in a major wrangle over two players last year and did not have points deducted as was supposed to happen? It looks to me like there is one law for the small clubs and another for those in the premier league. That ought to be brought to the FAs attention.
Ms Harman: Hon. Members are well aware that the small clubs play every bit as important a role as the big clubs, and should be treated fairly. I will bring my hon. Friends point, and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South (Margaret Moran), to the attention of Ministers in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Alistair Burt (North-East Bedfordshire) (Con): Can we have an urgent debate on the powers and effectiveness of the Healthcare Commission? In my constituency, Milton Park hospital, run by Brookdale Care, has in its first three years of existence had four inspection reports from the Healthcare Commission, all of which have ranged from poor to appalling. It is currently going through another inquiry following the death of a patient. I am not sure whether the Healthcare Commission has all the powers and effectiveness that it needs, and a debate would help to clarify that.
Mr. Mark Lancaster (North-East Milton Keynes) (Con): Can we have a debate on grandparents rights? My constituents, Terry and Iris Lightfoot, who look after their grandchild, have been told that they can enjoy the formal and financial protection of becoming foster parents only by putting their grandchild into care with the local authority. They do not want to do that, because of the potential damage that it will do to the child. Although special checks are desperately needed, is it right that grandparents should have to take such action in order to carry on looking after their grandchildren?
Ms Harman: With more and more mothers going out to work, the role of grandparents, which has become more important, is absolutely pivotal. Many families just could not cope without the active role of grandparents, and that is the case for all families, whether or not they are in difficultiesalthough it is particularly the case for families who get into difficulties. Improving support for grandparents is an ongoing concern, and I will bring the hon. Gentlemans points to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families.
Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con):
Whether the Leader of the House publishes her recommendations before or after the recess, can she give a statement on
the vexed issue of allowances in the near future, and particularly on the relationship between MPs allowances and MEPs allowances? Yesterday, she said that there is
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|