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Under those regulations, there must also be conditions of appropriate privacy and sufficient washing and toilet facilities; sufficient and suitable kitchen equipment; adequate facilities for the preparation and storage of food; adequate facilities for laundering linen and clothing; space for sitting, recreation and dining and for private study; sleeping accommodation that is suitable for needs, including for privacy; and appropriate furniture, storage facilities, lighting, bedding and other furnishings, including suitable window and floor coverings. Furthermore, premises may not be used for the purpose of a children’s home
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unless they are in a location and of a physical design and layout suitable for the purpose of achieving the aims and objectives set out in the homes statement of purpose. Children’s homes are also inspected to ensure they meet these and other standards. Once a young person leaves a home or foster care to live in other accommodation, however, the guidance of suitability becomes extremely broad-brush, and there is no independent inspection.

The purpose of the Bill is to sort out those problems by providing clear, simple minimum guidance—nothing bureaucratic or over-sophisticated, just the sort of simple guidelines that any decent responsible parent would ensure were in place for their child if they were looking for suitable accommodation. A lot of the work to identify standards has already been done—for example, with student accommodation where national codes of practice have been agreed, covering transparency of charges, responsibility for repairs, health and safety requirements, security, environmental standards and tenant relations. All should be specified in detail and there should be a requirement that contracts for tenancies are fair.

Foyers, which supports more than 10,000 young people each year—16 to 25-year-olds in housing need—has a lot of experience in this area. The Foyer Federation has developed an accreditation process with quality standards to ensure that accommodation is affordable accessible, safe, well maintained and appropriate to needs, and meets the needs for independence, privacy and dignity, security and health and safety.

The majority of young people choose when to leave home—perhaps to go to college or university, to take up a job or to move in with friends or a partner. Most of them decide when they want to leave and have a support network to back them up, and family to help them out and a home to go back to if they want. The average age at which people leave home is 24, but young people
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leaving care are more likely to be vulnerable and without access to family support. They are more likely to leave at a much earlier age. Last year, 24 per cent. of care leavers left care at 16, and 15 per cent. left at 17. They often have to face a huge number of changes all at once, and all too often have to deal with them without any support or help from a family, and they have nowhere to go back to if things do not work out for them.

With just a small effort from this House—it is a corporate parent and has a duty of care to these young people—we could make a huge difference to outcomes. We have to make sure these young people have accommodation and support that is suitable for them and meets their needs. We need this Bill, so I ask the House to take it forward.

Question put and agreed to.


That Helen Southworth, Ann Coffey, Dan Norris, Mr. Barry Sheerman, Mr. David Kidney, Rosemary McKenna, Mr. Kevin Barron, Derek Twigg, Hilary Armstrong, Mr. Mike Hall, John Bercow and Annette Brooke present the Bill.

Helen Southworth accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 19 June and to be printed (Bill 77).

David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. We are about to have a major debate on the economy. At 12 noon today, the Treasury published Lord Turner’s report on the causes of the current problems in the economy. As of three minutes ago, the report is not available in the Vote Office. It strikes me as outrageous that the Treasury has not made arrangements to let us know what is going on in its policy formulation.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): The right hon. Gentleman’s point will have been heard by Members on the Treasury Bench, and no doubt arrangements to make the report available are now in hand.

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Opposition Day

[8th Allotted Day]

The Economy

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): I must announce that Mr. Speaker has chosen the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

1.42 pm

Mr. George Osborne (Tatton) (Con): I beg to move,

As we heard during Prime Minister’s Question Time today, we have just seen the fastest monthly rise in unemployment on record, worse than any monthly figure during the 1980s or the 1990s. Vacancies are at a record low—which used to be the Government’s excuse on days such as this—while 2 million people are out of work, and of course the numbers climb steadily. We have also learnt today that the International Monetary Fund has produced new growth forecasts for the world, which show that Britain is set to be in recession for longer than any other major economic area. Indeed, the IMF predicts that the British economy will be the only major economy to contract next year, 2010, when the economies of America, the eurozone and Japan are all forecast to be growing again.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) has just said, Lord Turner has published his report— [Interruption.] I was sent a copy in advance, so I did not need to go to the Vote Office. However, it says something about co-ordination in the tripartite committee that the committee could not convey the report to other Members.

Tom Levitt (High Peak) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Osborne: I will give way in a while, but may I be allowed to say something about the report first? It offers a pretty devastating critique not just of the regulatory system created by the Prime Minister in 1997 but—this is in the first half of the report—of a model of economic growth that was based on unsustainable debt, over-leveraged banks and a huge macro-economic imbalance.

One would have thought that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who commissioned the report and whose policies are deepening the recession, would be here to
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debate the economy and defend his approach, but apparently not. We have not had a debate on the economy in Government time since December, and the Government have known about this debate for two weeks. When we suggested it, we were told that there was no pressing international summit or unbreakable commitment that would require the Chancellor’s absence. There is only one conclusion to be reached: the Chancellor of the Exchequer is running away from the debate because he knows that he is losing the debate. A confident Government, and a Prime Minister who meant what he said about restoring the primacy of Parliament, would have relished the chance for the Chancellor to appear before us today.

Tom Levitt: I note that the shadow shadow Chancellor is not here either.

The hon. Gentleman opened his speech with a reference to unemployment. Why is there no mention of unemployment in his motion? Is it because, as I suspect, the Tory view is still that unemployment is a price worth paying?

Mr. Osborne: First, our motion refers to the various unemployment and employment schemes that are not operational. Instead of simply taking the Whips’ handout, the hon. Gentleman might actually read the Order Paper. Secondly, may I give him some advice? I know that he has been in Parliament since 1997, and he has been taking these handout questions since then. He is still not on the ministerial rung, and he only has a year to go. Why does he not change tack, and be a bit more critical of the Government?

Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Osborne: It is normally a mistake to give way to the hon. Gentleman, but I will.

Chris Ruane: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the big difference between this recession and the last one, which took place under the Conservatives, is that under the Tories interest rates were at 15 per cent., whereas in the present recession they are at only 1 per cent.?

Mr. Osborne: The difference between this recession and the last one is that we have just seen the highest rise in unemployment on record, and it happened today.

Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): Would not the hon. Member for High Peak (Tom Levitt)—and indeed the Prime Minister, earlier today—have been well advised to read the Government amendment before making the point that they made, as the amendment also contains no reference to unemployment?

Mr. Osborne: As ever, my right hon. and learned Friend’s razor-sharp attention to detail has enabled him to make a telling point.

So we do not have the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Instead, we have the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. I know that she is not exactly busy these days. I am not sure what the role of a Chief Secretary is in a Treasury that has completely given up any attempt to control public expenditure.

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Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced in an interview in The Guardian—not to the House of Commons, of course—that there would be no spending review at all this year. The whole panoply of comprehensive spending reviews and three-year plans that we have had from the Prime Minister over the last 15 years has been junked without a word of explanation to Parliament or the public. If somebody does not review spending when they have the biggest budget deficit in the country’s history, they really must have abandoned all the basic responsibilities of government. On the plus side, however, this means that the Chief Secretary has more time on her hands—more time to plan her budding leadership campaign, of which we read in the newspapers, and more time to join us here. We welcome her to her place.

The case that we make today is simple. First, the Government’s policies to tackle the recession are simply not working—literally so, in the case of the many schemes that still exist only in the form of a press release. Secondly, the Government have not yet faced up to the fundamental failure of the debt-fuelled model of economic growth which their Prime Minister pursued for a decade, and which has led us into the longest recession in the world and the deepest recession in our recent history. Or as the right hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke)—always a friend of the Prime Minister—put it just this lunchtime on television:

Patrick Hall (Bedford) (Lab) rose—

Mr. Osborne: Does the hon. Gentleman agree with his colleague?

Patrick Hall: It is for the hon. Gentleman to answer for his party.

According to the hon. Gentleman’s motion, we are

That means that the recession started last July. During Prime Minister’s Question Time, however, the leader of the hon. Gentleman’s party said that it had started in April—12 months ago. Could the hon. Gentleman help to resolve the apparent confusion in the Conservative party?

Mr. Osborne: That was a staggeringly poor intervention. First, the Leader of the Opposition said that the economy had not been growing for a year, and I think the hon. Gentleman will find that there was zero growth in the second quarter of last year. Secondly, if he wishes to trade quotations of what was said during Prime Minister’s Question Time, I point out that the Prime Minister said that America had entered the recession before the United Kingdom, and it experienced positive growth in the second quarter of last year. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will be writing to his right hon. Friend to correct him as well.

The case we will make today is simple: the schemes are not working and the Government have not faced up to the fundamental flaws in their model of economic growth.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab) rose—

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Mr. Osborne: If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to make a little progress, I shall give way to him later—and, perhaps, hear whether he supports what Ken Livingstone has been saying about the Prime Minister today. I will give the hon. Gentleman some time to think about that. We might also hear about what the Member sitting next to him, the hon. Member for Dagenham (Jon Cruddas), has written in The Guardian today about how new Labour has lost its spirit of generosity and lost touch with the people of this country. While the hon. Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) reflects on that, let me say this— [Interruption.] May I just add that we support the campaign of the hon. Member for Dagenham for the leadership of the Labour party?

A lot of attention has been given in recent weeks in this House, and especially in the media, to the repeated bail-out of the banks and the forthcoming G20 meeting, and I will discuss those on a later occasion, but what I want to draw to the House’s attention today is the failure of the policies that, in the Government’s words, are supposed to be providing “real help now” to families and businesses struggling with the recession. That slogan of “real help now” is a cruel joke to thousands of people who have lost their jobs, and continue to lose their jobs, while this Government dither and delay.

Clive Efford: The hon. Gentleman has talked about what works and what does not work. Can he explain how cutting inheritance tax for the richest 3,000 people, at a time when we are in one of the deepest recessions in the last 100 years, will help ordinary families who are struggling to survive through this recession?

Mr. Osborne: My memory of the autumn of 2007 was that I proposed some changes to inheritance tax that the hon. Gentleman’s Government then copied about a week later. In commemoration of that occasion, I was sent a cartoon by a Labour MP showing the Chancellor and the Prime Minister climbing through a window to steal my policies from my office. Therefore, if the hon. Gentleman has a complaint, please will he take it up with those on his own Front Bench?

Mr. Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne, North) (Lab): Setting aside the political rhetoric— [Interruption.] I think we have heard a lot of that today. Setting aside the political rhetoric, does the Conservative party accept that as part of any fiscal stimulus internationally, it is inevitable in this country, as in other G20 countries that both debt and borrowing will be a higher percentage of GDP, rising in every advanced country above the 3 per cent.? If the Conservatives do accept that, what is their strategy for tackling Britain’s position?

Chris Ruane: He can’t answer that.

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