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The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr. Tom Watson): The Power of Information Taskforce was set up in April to embrace Web 2.0 technologies. In particular, we look into how we can encourage people to innovate
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with non-personal information, and how government can take part in online conversations in the public services.

Mr. Cunningham: Given that the west midlands leads the way in digital technology, what is the taskforce doing to develop that technology, particularly to assist public services?

Mr. Watson: My hon. Friend is right. A number of agencies in the west midlands pioneer digital technologies. I commend to him the taskforce’s Show Us a Better Way competition; he can type “Power of Information Taskforce” into any search engine to find the details.

We believe that citizens can help the Government to design public services in a better way, and that co-production is the way forward. So far, 450 people have entered the competition, and I am pleased to say that it has been a tremendous success. People as far away as the United States of America, India and Australia have followed our example.

Mr. Mark Todd (South Derbyshire) (Lab): Reports have repeatedly shown that Government data provide a valuable base for added-value product development in the private sector, and that regulating private sector providers appropriately, educating them better on the assets that they hold and a more liberal approach will build new business. Does my hon. Friend agree?

Mr. Watson: I entirely agree. There is no doubt that our advance towards freeing up data and making existing public sector information more accessible to our digital entrepreneurs enables them to add value to the United Kingdom economy, and I hope very much that Government policy will take us in that direction.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): I am glad that the Government have a Power of Information Taskforce, but does the Minister agree that, in addition to power, great risks are involved in the holding of too much information electronically?

In his answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), the Minister said that he could not possibly announce the number of electronic security breaches, but then went on to say how proud he was of having been so open and transparent about the issue. Will he now undertake to inform the House every time that there is a such a breach?

Mr. Watson: I do not think it would be helpful to reveal to the hon. Gentleman the nature of the attacks that are made on Government IT systems, although I can assure him that they are investigated thoroughly. When it comes to changing the culture, it is important for us to reveal incidences of data loss so that the public and private sectors can learn from the mistakes that have been made. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Power of Information Taskforce deals only with non-personal data.

People Trafficking

5. Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes) (Con): What discussions he has had with the Home Office on support for third sector organisations in dealing with the social exclusion of trafficked persons. [234798]

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The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Kevin Brennan): The Office for Criminal Justice Reform in the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office are currently in the process of tendering for an experienced third sector partner to deliver supported accommodation and advocacy to adult victims who have been trafficked for sexual exploitation and/or domestic servitude.

Mr. Steen: As the Home Office is closing down the country’s largest dedicated police unit dealing with human trafficking, there is a real fear that the Government will ratify the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings to the minimum standards. Will the Minister therefore involve the third sector, which has experience of the subject and gives extremely good value for money—I am thinking of organisations such as ECPAT, the Helen Bamber Foundation, Anti-Slavery and the POPPY project—to ensure that victims, and victims alone, are at the centre of the process of implementing the convention?

Kevin Brennan: The hon. Gentleman is wrong to say that any such project is being closed down. He might be referring to the Metropolitan police trafficking team, to which pump-priming was provided, including £700,000 in the current financial year out of a total grant of £1.678 million. That is pump-priming money, and the Met have not yet made a final decision on it. I can confirm that the Home Secretary indicated in January that we will ratify the Council of Europe convention by the end of the year, and I make it clear that we are on track to do so.

Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): Of course we will welcome ratification when it comes. As the Minister may know, the Select Committee on Home Affairs is inquiring into human trafficking. One of our concerns is the lack of co-ordination on a policy basis between voluntary projects in this country and in other countries, such as the origin, transition and destination countries. Will he ensure better co-ordination between the third sector organisations in countries affected by human trafficking?

Kevin Brennan: My right hon. Friend makes a very important point. Obviously, what third sector organisations can do in this country about trafficking is important, but it is also important to be able to deal with the problem at source. I look forward to seeing the outcome of his Committee’s report.

Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Would the Minister like to think again about the answer that he gave my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen), because the Metropolitan police are closing that human trafficking unit? Will the Minister get in touch with his colleagues and get up to speed?

Kevin Brennan: My understanding is that the Met are reviewing the most efficient and effective way of using their resources to ensure that their future operational response has the right resources in the right place to investigate criminals at all levels of operation and to bring them to justice. As I say, it is not a case of cutting anything; the funding that has gone into that particular unit has always been pump-priming.

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Chris McCafferty (Calder Valley) (Lab): Many trafficked young women become pregnant as a direct result of enforced prostitution. Does my hon. Friend agree that compulsory and comprehensive sexual health education is vital to help all young women to protect themselves, especially those who are most vulnerable?

Kevin Brennan: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, which is why I welcome the recent announcement made by the Department for Children, Schools and Families. Teenage pregnancy and social exclusion are big problems for young women in particular communities, and the key to tackling them is to build aspiration and have early interventions, such as the family nurse partnerships and family intervention projects, which have been pioneered in the Cabinet Office.

Public Relations

6. Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): How much was spent by the Government on public relations, advertising and marketing in (a) 1997 and (b) 2007 according to figures held by the Central Office of Information. [234799]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office (Mr. Liam Byrne): The relevant figure for 1997 was £81 million and the relevant figure for 2007-08 was £265 million.

Mr. Robathan: By a quick bit of maths, I make that a threefold increase over the past 10 years. A great deal of that money has been completely wasted on spin and Government propaganda. Every household in this country is having to cut back on its spending, so will the Government pledge to cut back on this wasted spending on Government propaganda?

Mr. Byrne: This Government are proud of the extra help that they have put in place for families and businesses in this country. In tough times, that real help will make the world of difference, and now is not the time to keep it secret—it is the time to tell people about it. The Conservative party must come a bit cleaner than it has so far. It must tell us which of the recruitment campaigns for the armed forces and for teaching staff it will shut down, and which public health campaigns and road safety campaigns it will shut down. Those campaigns make a real difference, and the Conservatives, in their desperate search for money for tax cuts, could do a lot of damage to this country.

Skills Shortages

7. Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab): What steps he is taking to address skills shortages in the third sector; and if he will make a statement. [234800]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Kevin Brennan): Recently, I was pleased to announce, jointly with the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, a new third sector skills body to ensure that the skills system meets the needs of the third sector that will receive £2.5million in funding to March 2011.

Mary Creagh: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. The key to the success of any organisation is the quality of its management and accounting staff. What can my
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hon. Friend do to ensure that those in a management or accounting capacity in the voluntary sector are given access to high-quality, low-cost training in that regard?

Kevin Brennan: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that one key area where there is a shortage of skills in the third sector is in management capacity. That is why the Office of the Third Sector is investing in such training and why we set up the new training body, which has been broadly welcomed across the sector. I look forward to the work that it will undertake to try to improve the sort of management skills that my hon. Friend has rightly outlined as a key need in the third sector.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—


Q1. [234808] Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 12 November.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today.

Richard Ottaway: The Prime Minister will be painfully aware that since the 1930s, no Labour Government have left office with unemployment lower than when they entered office, and usually after a recession. Will his Labour Government be any different?

The Prime Minister: We have created 3 million jobs in the last 10 years, and even with the rise in unemployment, it is lower than having 3 million unemployed under the Conservatives. We never said that unemployment was a price worth paying; it was the Conservatives.

Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) (Lab): Paul Krugman, who has recently won the Nobel prize for economics, has said that people

He said:

If the rest of the world is following Britain, will my right hon. Friend tell the House where that will leave those at home who oppose the action that we are taking to give the economy the boost it needs?

The Prime Minister: Let me congratulate Mr. Krugman on his Nobel prize. I think that people are beginning to understand around the world that we are dealing with a new situation of lower inflation next year, a downturn and a credit crunch. That requires very special measures to deal with unprecedented circumstances. I believe that around the world there is now increasing support for the policy that we have put forward, in addition to the recapitalisation of the banks, and that is a fiscal stimulus to back up interest rate cuts. While the Conservatives say that that is unacceptable to them, it is now happening
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in Germany, France, Spain, Australia, China and America. It is about time the Conservatives entered the real world.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): Only this Prime Minister could be quite so smug on the day that 140,000 people have lost their jobs. Before turning to the economy, however, I want to ask the Prime Minister about the tragic death of Baby P. That happened in the same children’s services department that was responsible for Victoria Climbié. Yet again, nobody is taking responsibility and nobody has resigned. Does the Prime Minister agree that the Haringey inquiry is completely unacceptable? It is being led by Mrs. Shoesmith, who is the council’s own director of children’s services. Does the Prime Minister agree that she cannot possibly investigate the failure of her own department?

The Prime Minister: Let me say first—I believe that I speak for the whole country—that people are not only shocked and saddened but horrified and angered by what they have seen reported about what happened to an innocent 17-month-old boy. Every child is precious and every child is unique. Every child should have the benefit of support and protection both from their parents and from the authorities.

The tragedy that has arisen from the violence and torture of a young child, where three have already been found guilty, raises serious questions that we have to address. The first set of questions is being addressed by Lord Laming, who is now looking at social service protection for children in every part of the country. He carried out the Victoria Climbié inquiry, and I believe that his recommendations were accepted by all parties in this House as being necessary. He will now look at what at what needs to be done.

The second issue is in Haringey itself. There has been a serious case review, and the executive report already says that there have been failings and weaknesses in the system. The full report has now arrived with the Children’s Secretary this morning. It is now for the Government to take action, and we will make a decision about what procedures and processes we will adopt in relation to Haringey. I believe that that is the right thing to do—both a national review, and local action.

Mr. Cameron: Let me ask the Prime Minister again about the local review. Sharon Shoesmith, who is carrying it out, said— [ Interruption. ] Hon. Members should worry about this matter, as this is a local authority that has completely failed. She said that her service had “worked effectively”. Now, the Prime Minister’s own Children’s Minister said very recently:

So let me ask again: is it not unacceptable that the person who runs the children’s services department is responsible for looking into what her own department did?

The Prime Minister: The procedure that was created after the inquiry by Laming said that local authority directors of children’s services and local members had to accept their responsibility. We created local safeguarding children’s boards— [ Interruption. ] I am answering the
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questions. We did so to safeguard children in the area. When an incident like this happens, which is so tragic, a special report has to be done, which is then submitted to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. The report arrived on his desk this morning. We already have the executive summary that was published yesterday and which identified weaknesses in the system. A decision will be made about what to do in relation to Haringey and what procedures need to be followed. I believe that there was all-party support for the Laming report when it was done, and that this is the right way forward.

Mr. Cameron: I asked a straightforward question and have got absolutely no answer. Just on the most basic— [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. Please allow the right hon. Gentleman to be heard. It will not do for us to shout across the Chamber after this terrible news has come to us. It is best to let the right hon. Gentleman speak— [ Interruption. ] Order. I have made a decision and no one will defy the Chair.

Mr. Cameron: I tell you what is shameful, and that is trying to shout down someone who is asking reasonable questions about something that has gone wrong. Let us be honest: this is a story about a 17-year-old girl who had no idea how to bring up a child. It is about a boyfriend who could not read but who could beat a child, and it is about a social services department that gets £100 million a year and cannot look after children. That is what this is about.

In the case of failing schools, we take them over. In this department in Haringey, one in four positions for social workers is completely vacant. It does nothing to help struggling local schools that are failing, and another child has been beaten to death. I do not expect an answer now, because we never get one, but will the Prime Minister at least consider whether the time has come to take over this failing department and put someone in charge who can run it properly for our children?

The Prime Minister: I think that we are both agreed that this is a tragic and serious loss of life that has got to be investigated properly so that all the lessons can be learned. I think that the right hon. Gentleman would agree that appointing Lord Laming to go around the country and look at what is happening in each area so that we are assured about what is happening is the right thing to do. I think that the right hon. Gentleman has to accept that the executive summary, which has already been published, from the inquiry done in Haringey shows that weaknesses exist. There is an admission of weaknesses that have to be addressed. We have received the full report this morning, and we will act on it quickly. We will do it in the right way so that we come to the judgments that are necessary to protect children in the future. I regret making a party political issue of this matter— [ Interruption. ] I do regret that, because I think— [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. The Prime Minister is in order.

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