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Ms Harman: I pay tribute to the Guildford centre, which my hon. Friend mentions. We need not only a prompt criminal justice response if the woman reports an incident to the police, but prompt and good health services. That is why our sexual assault referral centres
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are so important. Often, the trauma following a sexual assault or a rape can last a lifetime, and the overwhelming majority of such assaults are never reported, so we need a system that deals effectively with those assaults that are reported, but also supports women who cannot bring themselves to report but need help to find a way forward after such trauma.

Mrs. Theresa May (Maidenhead) (Con): The Minister really needs to get herself up to date on Conservative party policy, because we have announced £2.5 million for up to 15 new rape crisis centres. I welcome the fact that today she has said that the £1 million extra funding will continue into the next financial year, but we are three weeks away from the end of this financial year. Many rape crisis centres do not know whether they can continue, such as Rape Crisis in Wycombe, which serves my constituency. It has had to cut staff hours and reduce its services because it does not know its future financial position. When will the Government adopt our policy of three-year stable funding for rape crisis centres?

Ms Harman: I am sorry, but I really am not going to accept that from the right hon. Lady: her party would cut funding to local government and to the Home Office, but we are being told that we are not spending enough. We have rolled out sexual assault referral centres and set up a special fund, and we are working with the umbrella organisations. Since we set up the special fund, not one single rape crisis centre has closed. If she is saying that more money should be put into this sector, she should say where it would come from because her party’s policies would see it cut. Unless the Conservatives can put their money where their mouth is on this, I am not going to be listening.

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Points of Order

3.35 pm

Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I seek your guidance on a matter of procedure? I note that motion 5 on today’s Order Paper proposes that the House rise for the Easter recess on Thursday 2 April. On the same day the G20 summit, which is clearly a meeting of enormous importance, will be hosted here in London. Would it be in order for any Member to table a manuscript amendment proposing that the House rise the following day, in order to give the Prime Minister a chance to make a statement about the summit that he will have hosted?

Mr. Speaker: The motion is unamendable, so it must be put forthwith, but hon. Members are, of course, entitled to oppose it.

Mr. Peter Atkinson (Hexham) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday’s Order Paper included a meeting of the new Select Committee on North East Regional Affairs, but there is no mention of it in today’s Votes and Proceedings. I subsequently discovered that it could not meet because it was inquorate, and that the quorum was only three. Surely if a Committee of that kind could not proceed, the fact that it was inquorate should be recorded in Votes and Proceedings. This initiative was trumpeted by the Government as an important regional development, yet they could not get three of their MPs together to launch it.

Mr. Speaker: I can only say that if no proceedings took place because the meeting was inquorate, there is nothing to report to the House.

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove) (Con): Further to those points of order, Mr. Speaker. The West Midlands Regional Affairs Committee was also due to meet yesterday, and failed to do so because it was similarly inquorate. As a custodian of the resources of the House, Mr. Speaker, do you not agree that if there is a consistent pattern of regional Select Committees not meeting because they are inquorate, there is a case for reviewing their very existence?

Mr. Speaker: That is a matter for members of the Committees. As hon. Members know, I have often chaired meetings of the House, and some days I have wished that those were inquorate, so that I could go for a coffee—but so often the opposite was the case. Members have a responsibility to turn up at meetings, and they should attend those meetings and do their duties. I will go no further than that.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mrs. Sharon Hodgson (Gateshead, East and Washington, West) (Lab) rose—

Mr. Speaker: I call Mr. Pritchard first, but I shall come to the hon. Lady, if she is patient. She must not worry.

Mark Pritchard: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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Sadly, the Wrekin Construction group, which is in my constituency, announced today that it was going into administration. The company has been around for nearly 50 years, and 1,100 people will be affected: 600 jobs will be affected directly, and 500 indirectly. Indeed, jobs will be affected in the great city of Glasgow as well as in Shropshire and the west midlands.

I alerted the Business Secretary to the fact that the company was experiencing short-term financial difficulty, and needed strong support and help from the Royal Bank of Scotland, back in December 2008. The Business Secretary has done absolutely nothing to help the company. Those massive job losses were avoidable. As I have said, the company has been around for nearly 50 years. It has an order book worth £50 million. It is profitable. It is an absolute scandal that although Ministers knew that this was avoidable, the Government have done nothing to save jobs. If the Business Secretary comes to Shropshire, rather than having green custard on his face, he will definitely have egg on his face.

Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman made his case and made his protest, but he went too far when he mentioned the attack on a Minister. An attack on any Minister in this Government should never be allowed, and no Member should give any indication that he or she in any way approves of such behaviour.

All of us, from time to time, face redundancies in our constituencies, and we have a duty to fight as best we can. The hon. Gentleman has been a Member of the House for long enough to know that there are Adjournment debates and there are parliamentary questions, and that he can also seek a meeting with the Minister whom he mentioned. Those are the steps that he should take to try to help the job situation in his constituency.

Mrs. Hodgson: Further to the point of order made by the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson), Mr. Speaker. I am a member of the newly formed North East Committee, and I received an e-mail from the Clerk yesterday afternoon telling me, prior to that meeting, that it had been cancelled, so that is probably why nobody attended the meeting. I have all due respect for the hon. Gentleman, but I am not sure where he got his information from. If a meeting is cancelled, is there any way of recording that in Hansard?

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Lady has managed to record that the meeting was cancelled, so there we are.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I know that you are in a difficult position on this, but the matter raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson) and for Bromsgrove (Miss Kirkbride) highlights an important issue. Two regional Select Committee meetings were scheduled to take place, but in fact they did not—although perhaps one of them did take place but because it was inquorate, nothing occurred. Surely that should be registered on the Order Paper the day following such a scheduled meeting, Mr. Speaker, so will you look at whether these matters could be reported in the Order Paper of the House, because I can only say to the Leader of the House, “We told you so”?

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman has a massive knowledge of these matters, and what I say to him is that the record shows the proceedings of the House,
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and if a meeting is inquorate and did not operate, it is not a proceeding of the House and therefore there is nothing to report. If this is a concern for hon. Members, they can take the matter up with the Procedure Committee.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your advice and guidance. During the Committee stage of the Coroners and Justice Bill, we had a lengthy discussion on clause 152, which brings in wide-ranging data-sharing powers. During the debate, as is recorded in columns 389-90 of the Committee Hansard for 26 February, the Minister replying said she would sit down with Opposition Members and bring in “a more streamlined version” of the clause. However, the Secretary of State announced in the Sunday press that he would drop clause 152 completely. Why is it that when Ministers give a commitment to deal with matters in Committee or on the Floor of the House, they then go to the press instead? Surely this must be condemned, Mr. Speaker? Because you uphold the rights of Parliament, what can you do to prevent Ministers from behaving in such a way?

Mr. Speaker: What the hon. Gentleman can do is raise the matter when the Bill comes back from the Lords. He is entitled to do that.

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): Further to the point of order made by my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard), and your comments on that, Mr. Speaker. I have followed your suggestion that we ought to seek meetings with Ministers; in respect of both JCB and Waterford Wedgwood in my constituency, I have raised questions with Ministers, but we have not so far had any meetings. I understand that there are pressures on them, but I must say that although you have remarked that we should have meetings, Mr. Speaker, that does not necessarily mean that we get them. I appreciate that is not your fault, but I wish Ministers would do what they are asked to do.

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman is a very experienced lawyer, and maybe I should have said that Members could “request” meetings, because the request is in the hands of the Minister concerned. When I was a Back-Bench MP with a difficulty, Ministers—who were not in the same political party as myself—were always very good at meeting a constituency Member. [Interruption.] Well, all I would say is that I would hope that when there is unemployment, or there are dangers regarding unemployment, in a constituency, Ministers take that seriously, and meet hon. Members. I think that is very important indeed.

Mr. David Kidney (Stafford) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I report that the West Midlands Committee, of which I am a member, did not meet yesterday?

Mr. Speaker: Well, there we are; it has all gone on the record.

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Bankers’ Pensions (Limits)

Motion for leave to introduce a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

3.44 pm

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab): I beg to move,

My Bill is born of public anger; there is hardly a household in the land in which anger has not been expressed, and outrage has not been felt, over the greed, selfishness and professional incompetence of a handful of Britain’s most prominent bankers. They, through a combination of overconfidence and professional arrogance, have completely undermined the reputation of, and public confidence in, the British banking industry.

Listening to these people’s mealy-mouthed apologies to the Treasury Committee some weeks ago, I just felt how totally detached they are from the world outside and from the daily experiences in the lives of people in my constituency. There is a total disconnect, and they seem to preside over a world wherein they are accountable to nobody. Their remuneration, pensions, and perks appear to be determined by a small tightly knit group of the privileged, who divvy out the cash like robbers stacking up the notes for the great share-out following a bank heist. Their ruthless decision taking has gone unchallenged for far too long. Since the big bang, successive Governments have progressively trusted them to operate within conditions of carefully manicured deregulation. They have exploited the opportunities that have been offered in a cavalier manner, and are now drawing us back into a period of greater regulation. They have only themselves to blame.

There has been almost a conspiracy of silence from the beneficiaries of those people’s largesse. In particular, institutional investors have rigidly remained silent, for fear of upsetting the dividend streams that have inflated the funds under their management; they themselves have feasted on a culture of fat bonuses and inflated commissions. At some stage it was all bound to come to an end, and now that we have reached that point, we must build on sturdier foundations.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has rightly said that the conduct of those bankers has been “unjustifiable and unacceptable”. If only the international community had responded more positively to his calls, made nearly 10 years ago, for greater international co-operation and supervision, things might have been different. The international banking community knew that no nation state could act in isolation, and step out of line by imposing tighter regulation, without undermining the credibility of its own national institutions. We have become the prisoners of international inaction, while greedy bankers at home have known the truth and have been able to gorge on it—they have dishonoured their profession.

Britain had once been the envy of the world for the success of its banking institutions. We had led the world in innovation with our banking products, investment management services, transfers and competition generally. Now the spivs have moved in to destroy a carefully constructed reputation. My Bill should make them sit
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up and think twice before they come running to the state for a bail-out at massive cost to the taxpayer; if they want our help they will have to pay for it, and we know that they will not like that.

My Bill would amend section 91 of the Pensions Act 1995, subsection (2) of which deals with the inalienability of occupational pensions and states:

Subsection (5) allows the amendment of an entitlement in certain conditions, such as when there has been a

Those conditions do not appear to arise in the Fred Goodwin case, although the issue of negligence is still to be decided on, following the inquiry being undertaken by United Kingdom Financial Investments Ltd. It would, however, be possible to amend subsection (5) to include the acquisition by the state of a majority of the share capital in the company when the company was deemed incapable of trading as solvent, and was faced with administration arising out of the actions of individual directors. That is the substance of my Bill.

We know from events over the past week or so that the Government are being advised that forfeiture or even amendment of the Fred Goodwin pension entitlement is problematic. We now learn in the press that an attempt might be made to sue two senior executives for negligence in the exercise of their discretion over the payment. Again, we are in unknown territory.

The pension situation for employees of RBS is very different from the one enjoyed by Mr. Goodwin. Since 2003, new employees of RBS have not been able to retire early on a pension until the age of 55. Mr. Goodwin, aged 50, closed the final salary pension scheme—the one from which he is benefiting—to new entrants. Next year no employee, irrespective of their start date, will be able to draw their occupational pension before the age of 55. Employees over the age of 50 who resign, and who might be eligible for a pension at the age of 50, can claim the pension, but it is reduced by up to 40 per cent. for early payment. For RBS employees and pensioners who were employed by the company before 2001, the company also applies a pension clawback when they reach state retirement age. Irrespective of whether they qualify for a state pension, RBS claws back up to 30 per cent. of the value of a basic state pension from their company pension. That is having a disproportionate and detrimental effect on older pensioners, especially women part-timers.

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My Bill does not deal with the Goodwin case, as it is not retrospective. However, it at least deals with conditions that might arise in the future if further banks need bailing out. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House of Commons said in a recent BBC interview, the Goodwin settlement is not a pension,

I say that it is a severance payment dressed up as a pension, and we want our money back. That is a message that the greedy and grasping Mr. Goodwin should take on board. We recognise that his pension pot, part of which was presumably transferred in, is small in comparison with the total of toxic liabilities that remain the responsibility of RBS.

Other banks, too, might wish to keep that message in mind. I am thinking of Lloyds Banking Group, which has just this week received further protection for further billions, made necessary by its takeover of HBOS. Lloyds has always been a first-class bank. Indeed, in October it ran an advert that read, “We’ve been rated Britain’s safest and most trusted bank. You could say we’re a bank you can bank on.” Within months of that advert, Lloyds, acting in the public interest to avoid HBOS’s collapse, had taken over the bank only to find that HBOS had failed to reveal the toxic nature of its liabilities, bringing Lloyds, a good bank, to its knees. When Eric Daniels and Victor Blank considered the bonus and £6 million pension pot of Peter Cummings, the former head of corporate lending at HBOS, did they really think that he deserved it?

My Bill would not sort out excessive pensions paid in banks that have been able to avoid taxpayer support and guarantees; neither is it retrospective. It is a Bill for the future. In the meantime, the country asks that those who mismanaged banks, destroyed savings, undermined share prices, depressed pension funds, threatened the existence of charities and the security of millions in retirement, and put tens of thousands on the dole should give some of their ill-gotten pension money back.

I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.


That Ann Clwyd, Rosemary McKenna, John Battle, Mr. Michael Clapham, Mr. Peter Kilfoyle, Mike Gapes, Mrs. Anne McGuire, David Taylor, Andrew Mackinlay and Mr. Dennis Skinner present the Bill.

Ann Clwyd accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 3 July and to be printed (Bill 73).

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