Previous Section Index Home Page

Ed Balls: I understand my hon. Friend’s concerns. I am pleased that she supports the decisions that we have made on key stage 3. However, at level 4, GCSE, the qualifications are managed, marked and processed by a combination of private and charitable companies. They
14 Oct 2008 : Column 690
do that well and with objectivity. In today’s statement we have strengthened teacher assessment at key stage 3, as we have already done at key stage 1. However, in my judgment, parents want the same certainty at key stage 2, at the end of primary school, that they currently get with GCSE qualifications. Asking schools to take on the burden of marking all those scripts would not be popular with our teaching profession and would not be the right thing to do for parents. That is why we have not gone down the road of teaching assessment at key stage 2.

Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab): I particularly welcome the inclusion of Professor Tim Brighouse in the expert group. He completely transformed education in Birmingham in the 1990s. The Secretary of State has referred to parents receiving more information. May I urge him to stress that parents also have a responsibility in regard to their children’s education, not only in the primary sector but in the secondary sector as well? Will the expert group pay as much attention to parental responsibility as it does to schools’ responsibilities?

Ed Balls: I completely agree. One of the things that secondary school teachers regularly say to me is that they find it hard to engage parents in secondary school learning. I also hear parents say that secondary schools can sometimes be rather forbidding places for them. The evidence is clear that if parents are involved, their children do better at school. Real-time reporting and the new school report cards are among the ways—there will be others—in which we can strengthen the engagement of parents in secondary schools. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that that is critical to the learning and progress of their children.

Mr. Jamie Reed (Copeland) (Lab): I particularly welcome the collegiate way in which the Secretary of State has worked with the Select Committee on these issues. Speaking as a young parent, and on behalf of young parents in my constituency, may I point out that there is particular concern among parents about the transition of pupils from primary to secondary school in relation to attainment levels? How will today’s statement help to address that issue and ensure that attainment levels remain solid, and rise, over that transition from the primary to the secondary sector?

Ed Balls: We have looked carefully at the transition issues, and will continue to do so through the expert group. One proposal was that we should hold year 6 pupils back and make them do a further year in primary school, rather than letting them go to secondary school, if they had fallen behind. Surprisingly, that was not raised by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) in his response today. I do not know whether that is still the policy of the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron). We will look very carefully at those issues, and we will ensure that there is a proper focus on pupil progress in years 7 and 8. However, holding 12 and 13-year-olds back in primary school would be totally the wrong thing to do.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): Of course, it is not just the transition from primary to secondary school; key stage 3 is absolutely crucial in
14 Oct 2008 : Column 691
enabling the right decisions to be made about which GCSE options to take. Given that the key stage 3 tests are going—I think that that is the right decision—can my right hon. Friend guarantee that there will still be an element of challenge in relation to educational attainment at key stage 3, as that is crucial to ensuring that the progress made at GCSE continues?

Ed Balls: There will be sample tests, and there will continue to be teacher assessment of 14-year-olds. Every parent will also get a report on progress in years 7, 8 and 9. The most important thing that we need to ensure is that pupils in year 9 are making the proper decisions about which GCSEs or diplomas to do. We believe that the changes that we have made today will free up time for teachers, pupils and parents to focus on those critical decisions. But people can make good decisions at that stage only if we have ensured that any problems in years 7 and 8 have been properly addressed. The focus on every child’s progress will help to deliver that objective, and to ensure that every child can go on to succeed at 16.

14 Oct 2008 : Column 692

Trading of Primates as Pets (Prohibition)

4.23 pm

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): I beg to move,

It might come as a surprise to some Members of the House—and certainly to some members of the public—that it is currently not illegal to keep a primate as a pet. Such practices do not fit well with our so-called enlightened and modern society—a Britain that is supposed to have world renown as a nation of animal lovers. Keeping primates as pets is like something from Victorian times. It is outdated, and comes from a darker period for animal welfare in this country. That was a different age, in which very few data on the declining number of primates were available. Today there is little excuse for lack of knowledge or access to information.

The Bill is about serious monkey business. It is estimated that up to 3,000 primates are currently being kept as pets in the United Kingdom. Many, although by no means all, are kept in cruel and cramped conditions. Whatever their captive conditions, these wild animals will always remain wild. These are animals that need large areas of vertical and horizontal space; they need certain room temperatures and humidity; they need long hours of natural sunlight; and they need a varied and balanced diet.

There are many examples of rescued primates having been malnourished and fed completely inappropriate diets, which often cause medical conditions such as rickets, muscular waste, curved spines, brittle bones, major psychological and mental disorders, respiratory complications and tooth decay—the list is endless. One particular example is the case of Joey the monkey who was kept in a tiny wire cage for more than nine years, so that his neck was fused to his spine; but I am glad to say that he has now been rescued through the excellent work of the monkey sanctuary trust in Cornwall.

Primates are extremely sociable animals. In the wild, they can live in colonies of up to 50 individuals and they sometimes occupy areas as large as 130 hectares per colony—not a 3 ft 2 in wire cage or a 6 ft 6 in shed in the back garden of a three-bedroom semi-detached house. Scientific evidence points to social, physical and behavioural suffering for primates kept as pets. Many owners fail to realise that many primates will live up to 40 years of age. Cheeta, the chimpanzee from the “Tarzan” movies, for example, recently celebrated his 76th birthday. I hope that some Members will support my campaign to get Cheeta an honorary Oscar so that he can highlight the cause and the plight of his cousins who do not swing on the lanyards, but are kept in wire cages. The Government, along with my colleagues on the shadow DEFRA Front-Bench team, should act to put an end to this antiquated and cruel practice.

Primates are the fathers of the forest, and the Prime Minister’s new rainforest review will be meaningless without added protection for primates. I recognise that the Government are doing some good work in some areas, particularly in respect of the convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora, known as CITES. However, it is inconsistent to talk about millennium development goals and the
14 Oct 2008 : Column 693
sustainability of ecosystems, habitats and forests when the great sowers of the seeds of the forests are themselves being eliminated and imprisoned in this country.

I am not being alarmist when I use the word “eliminate”, for as long as primates are snatched from the wild, that particular lineage will never be replaced: the gene pool is running dry. Each year, according to “Animal Issues”, 32,000 wild caught primates are sold on the international market, and according to a recent global review of the world’s primates, 48 per cent. of species face extinction. The World Conservation Union—or the International Union for Conservation of Nature—red list of threatened species suggests that 70 per cent. of primates in Asia are now endangered. The figure is 90 per cent. in Cambodia; 86 per cent. in Vietnam, 79 per cent. in China, and 84 per cent. in Indonesia. The statistics are alarming.

I hope that the Government of Portugal will do more to stop the illegal trade of primates through the port of Lisbon. I also hope that the Democratic Republic of the Congo will stop the mainly illegal markets that take place in that country. It is a blight on the international reputation of those countries and a possible threat to their future eco-tourism—particularly that of the DRC—when they take so little action to deal with this issue.

It is said that the world’s forests are the lungs of the world. If that is true, primates are the alveoli—the tiny air sacs that give vocal life to the world’s forests. I want to pay tribute today to some Governments who have taken action—the Governments of Holland, Germany, Italy, Denmark and Israel, who have already taken serious steps to restrict the keeping of primates as pets, many banning them altogether years ago, as in the case of Israel. The UK should shut off the demand for primates in this country and should take the lead, as it has on so many other issues such as climate change and CITES.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of threatened species, 11 per cent. of the 634 recognised species and sub-species are critically endangered, 22 per cent. are endangered and 15 per cent. are vulnerable. Scientists noted in the study that the data constituted

That is a worrying and damning indictment of Government and, indeed, perhaps parliamentary inaction. Bouvier’s red colobus, for example, may already be extinct: it has not been seen in the wild for 25 years, and we may never see one again.

The causes of depopulation are many and varied, including loss of habitat, hunting for bushmeat, and disease. I appreciate that the United Kingdom Government’s
14 Oct 2008 : Column 694
inability to deal with some of those issues is very limited, but the Government can and should take action to stop domestic pet owner demand in this country. Overwhelming evidence suggests that smuggling and the import of primates into the United Kingdom have a direct and adverse impact on wild populations. Government inaction, including the inaction of past Conservative Governments, also ignores the health risks that primates pose to public health: the inter-species transfer of diseases such as monkeypox—a form of smallpox—the herpes B virus, the Marburg virus and the serious flesh-eating disease Ebola.

Primates pose a severe biodiversity and bio-disease risk. I hope that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will do far more; it currently has a pretty miserable record of intercepting the illegal import of primates which could be carriers of the diseases to which I have referred, and I hope the Minister will be able to ask about that. Is he confident that no serious emerging infectious disease is being hosted by one of the United Kingdom’s pet primates?

What action should be taken? First, let us phase out the keeping of primates as pets by 2012, introduce a registration system for all existing primate pet owners so that animal welfare standards can be monitored and inspections can be made, and not de-list tamarins, squirrel monkeys, woolly lemurs and owl monkeys under the Animal Welfare Act 2006: they need licences too.

The Bill has cross-party support. We, as human beings, do not own this world; we are merely custodians for the generations that will follow us. We may have dominion over the world and its creatures, but we must also be good stewards of the natural world as much as of—as we shall hear in a moment—the material world.

My final question is this: does the Minister think that, in modern Britain and with rapidly declining primate populations, allowing the trading of primates as pets is the right and the civilised thing to do, and can we, in all good conscience, allow it to continue?

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mark Pritchard, Mr. Elliot Morley, Mr. Edward Vaizey, Michael Jabez Foster, Mr. Philip Hollobone, Mr. Stewart Jackson, Mr. Eric Martlew, David Taylor, Mr. Colin Breed and Mr. Eric Pickles.

Trading of Primates As Pets (prohibition)

Mark Pritchard accordingly presented a Bill to prohibit the breeding, selling, purchasing and keeping of primates as pets in the United Kingdom; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 17 October, and to be printed [Bill 152].

14 Oct 2008 : Column 695

Orders of the Day

Banking Bill

[Relevant document: The Seventeenth Report from the Treasury Committee, Banking Reform, HC 1008.]

Order for Second Reading read.

4.34 pm

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Alistair Darling): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Yesterday I set out the Government’s proposals to restore confidence and stability in the banking system now, and I am pleased to report that during the course of yesterday other countries in Europe, and today the United States, have made announcements along similar lines, showing that countries all over the world are now acting in order to help to stabilise and rebuild the banking system, which is absolutely essential. Yesterday’s announcement was significant and important, and it is also important that it is followed through throughout the world as we get through what is undoubtedly an extremely turbulent time.

Our proposal yesterday included comprehensive plans on both liquidity and capital, and I said yesterday that eight of our major banks and our major building society have signed up to that. I also said yesterday that HSBC had announced last Friday a transfer of £750 million of equity capital into its UK subsidiary, and I want to make it clear that it has already done that. I also said yesterday that we would take steps to strengthen the supervisory and regulatory system. That is not in this proposed legislation, but I am in no doubt that we need to learn lessons not only in this country but across the world in relation to improvements we may need to make in the regulatory system, and we will bring forward proposals after I have received recommendations from Lord Adair Turner, who chairs the Financial Services Authority.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle) (Lab): When we nationalised Northern Rock, there was some debate about whether that extended to Granite, the arm of Northern Rock that was based in Jersey. Does the Bill address the problem of offshore centres? If it does, what are we doing about it?

Mr. Darling: No, the Bill does not address the question of offshore centres directly. As I shall describe, it provides wide-ranging powers to allow us to deal with a financial institution that gets into trouble. I do not want to go over the ground of Granite again, as it was debated extensively in February. The question of offshore financial centres is interesting, but the Bill does not directly address that.

Mr. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester) (Con): As the Chancellor knows, I am a strong supporter of bank recapitalisation and of his statement yesterday. In that statement, he said the

14 Oct 2008 : Column 696

Can he say a little more about what that arm’s length body will be, and why he has decided not to use the FSA or the Bank of England for that purpose? Will he also explain what the

is, if it is not to act on a fully commercial—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. May I remind Back-Bench Members that there is a time limit, and therefore if they make interventions I request that they show some respect to their colleagues who wish to participate in the debate by asking just one question?

Mr. Darling: I shall certainly answer the hon. Gentleman’s question, but as I have not yet even got on to clause 1, I think I had better take the hint that Madam Deputy Speaker has dropped to us. The hon. Gentleman asked a perfectly pertinent question, and I will shortly be setting out how we intend to manage that. We are not using the FSA because it is the regulator, and it would be compromised if it were also managing the Government’s shareholdings. I think the hon. Gentleman is aware that the Government’s shareholdings in the private sector—such as they are, as there are not that many now—are managed by the Shareholder Executive. Obviously, it is responsible to Government and it is a public sector body, but it distances Ministers from the day-to-day business of owning shares. As I made clear yesterday, I want the banks in which we have shareholdings to be managed on a commercial basis at arm’s length from Government, because Ministers cannot possibly be making day-to-day decisions or anything like that. Fairly shortly, I will set out for the House precisely how we intend to do this, but that is not addressed in the Bill, which is essentially about dealing with failing banks. I will come back to that point, however; I can give that undertaking to the House.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Darling: I will give way to just about everybody who asks to intervene, but I would like to make— [Interruption.] Yes, “just about”, as I reserve the right not to give way to some Members. I would like to make some progress, but I know that my hon. Friend wants to make an intervention and he will have the opportunity to do so.

Northern Rock has been mentioned, and I have undertaken to keep the House informed. To bring the House up to date, in its third quarter trading statement Northern Rock reported that its outstanding loan from the Government is down from the high point of £27 billion to £11.56 billion. I have said that that money is being repaid, and that remains the case.

May I also say by way of introduction that I really do welcome the commitment from those on the Opposition Front Benches to give the Bill a fair passage? Of course there needs to be proper scrutiny, and I wish to indicate that we are open to suggestions to improve and tighten up the Bill, subject to the usual caveat that we cannot allow endless amendments so that it becomes virtually unworkable. If there are suggestions, I am happy to work with Members of all parties just as we are working with those outside who have an interest.

Next Section Index Home Page