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It may well be that we can put a daily rate in the resolution until such time as the Senior Salaries Review Body produces its proposal for the daily rate. The 1 July start date is stretching, but there are a number of simple propositions here. The point is that we have to take action. Public confidence has been draining away. We do not want Sir Christopher Kelly to have to truncate his work and complete it in an unsatisfactory wayobviously, he would not be prepared
to do that anyway. He has to take some time to deliberate, but it is not acceptable to leave the present lack of confidence to continue until after Sir Christopher has reported. It is therefore right to take on the issue by way of interim proposals that can come into effect. The public do not accept the current situation and they want it to be changed. We can change it on an interim basis while Sir Christopher Kelly continues to reflect and until he comes forward with his independent proposals.
Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab): My right hon. and learned Friend will have heard earlier what I said about the shamefully low pensions that are payable under the present pension arrangements for Members staff. Before Thursdays debate, will she commission some research into the proportion of Members staff and of House staff who are women? I think that there really is a problem of gender bias in the pensions available to our staff and House staff. Will she come to the debate on Thursday well prepared to discuss the matter of transferring Members staff to the House of Commons pension scheme if their employment is transferred to the House?
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): Given the typical state of the Liberal Democrat Benches throughout business questions, it is easy to see why that party is so strongly opposed to Members having to turn up at Westminster in order to be able to claim their allowances. However, my question is about NATO. One of NATOs two supreme commands is based in America and the other in Belgium. There are reports that the one based in America might now be moved to France as part of the price for France reintegrating with the NATO military structure. That move would be important and very expensive. May we have a statement from the Foreign Secretary as soon as possible on whether Britain is involved in negotiations of that sort?
Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): Millions of people have seen the videos and photos of the incidents during the G20 demonstrations in London. I accept that my right hon. and learned Friend will not want to comment on individual incidents today, but may we have an opportunity to debate the way in which such demonstrations are policed, so that we can ensure that the right balance is struck between maintaining public orderwe all know that the police have a very difficult joband maintaining the democratic right to protest?
Ms Harman: As the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome has pointed out, there will be an Opposition day debate next Wednesday, the title of which is broad enough to allow those issues to be raised. My hon. Friend makes the important point that we want to defend the right of free speech and freedom of protest while allowing the City and the rest of the country to go about their business. There are thorough and rigorous investigations taking place into what happened to cause that tragic death during the G20 demonstration.
Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): In supporting the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack), my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) and the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), may I ask how we can enter into the debate on Thursday when the proposed per diem allowance will be no more transparent than the present arrangement? It will not deal with Members who are away carrying out duties with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the Inter-Parliamentary Union or the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or other parliamentary duties, but who still have to maintain accommodation in London. Furthermore, no mention has been made of how Members will pay for the accommodation that they have to maintain during the summer recess, when no per diem will be paid. This really is absolute nonsense. As many people have said, the proposal appears to have been decided after writing a few notes on the back of an envelope.
Ms Harman: If the criteria involve parliamentary duties, duties involving the CPA or the IPU could certainly come within that definition. Obviously, the resolution will need to address these issues and satisfy Members that they will be able to carry out their parliamentary duties. In relation to that, we need to ensure that parliamentary duties are properly defined. As far as the recess is concerned, the proposal is that the new scheme would be introduced in July and that the flat-rate daily payments would depend on the days attended. Because there would be fewer such days between July and 12 October, owing to the recess, there would have to be transitional arrangements.
It is easy to think of all the things that are wrong with every proposal. Among the 650 Members of this House there are 650 different views on what would be the best systemin fact, there are probably more, because some people change their mind from day to day. Actually, there is not a perfect system. I hope that we will all try in good faith to establish a system that recognises the extra expense of representing a constituency outside London, while satisfying the public by showing that Members are claiming expenses for coming to Westminster, rather than simply claiming them because their constituency is far away.
David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): May we have a debate on the funding, role and value of sixth forms in state comprehensive schools, including the excellent Ashby and Coalville King Edward schools in my constituency? Those schools and others around the country were seriously alarmed and unnecessarily impacted by the late changes introduced by the Learning and Skills Council in March. Yesterday, after pressure from many hon. Members, myself included, and from early-day motion 1295, which I amended, the Chancellor thankfully announced the money necessary to head off what would have been a problem.
[That this House is concerned by the late and unexpected reductions in funding allocations to schools and sixth form colleges; notes that these reductions place school managements in great difficulty balancing their budgets; is concerned that schools face the prospect of cutting staff, reducing student numbers, or both; and calls on the Learning and Skills Council and the Department for Children, Schools and Families to restore the cut in sixth form funding.]
Ms Harman: I reassure all those concerned about sixth forms that hon. Members representations about the problem were responded to by the Chancellor yesterday. More young people want to stay on in education, and the Learning and Skills Council initially indicated to sixth forms and colleges that that would be possible, but then said that the finance was not available. Now, however, in response to representations, the Chancellor has said that finance will be guaranteed, so 50,000 more students will stay on and all concerns should now be allayed. The Department for Children, Schools and Families will write to all schools and colleges to reassure them that they can now get on with their work positively in September.
[That this House notes the statement of the Director of Public Prosecutions on 16 April 2009 announcing his decision that no charges would be brought against the hon. Member for Ashford in relation to the documents leaked and stating that, Mr Green's purpose in using the documents was apparently to hold the Government to account'; and calls for the House to be given the opportunity to debate a motion to refer the matter to the Committee on Standards and Privileges.]
The motion seeks to refer the issue of the arrest of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green) to the Committee on Standards and Privileges, and it is sponsored by three very senior Members of this House from all parties, notably the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) and the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field), among others. The remit of the resolution passed on 8 December makes no reference whatever to the issue of privilege. It also insists that there should be a Government majority on the Committee in question, which is not in the spirit of the way in which the Committee on Standards and Privileges operates. The Leader of the House is now the only apparent obstruction to following the procedure set out on pages 167 and 168 of Erskine Maynamely, to refer the matter to the Committee on Standards and Privileges in the normal way. Why is she obstructing the House in that way? Is she really comfortable with being so obstructive on a purely partisan basis, when she should be representing the interests of the whole House?
Ms Harman: I object to what the hon. Gentleman says. I am happy for all these issues to be looked into. If there is strength of feeling about them, senior Members need to get together to look into all these issues, to reassure the House that they have all been examined and to produce their analysis of what went on and their proposals for changes, if any are needed. I am perfectly behind the idea that that should happen.
The House decided, at the request of the Speaker, that a Speakers Committee would be the way forward, and the resolution says that that Committee will be able
to make recommendations for the future. I could say, I dont care how many Committees look at it. As many Committees as want to look at it should be able to do so. As there is so much complaint about the issue, I will look at the matter again.
This is not about being obstructive. The idea that the House first responds to a request from the Speaker to set up a Speakers Committee and, shortly afterwards, before the Speakers Committee has even started its work, asks the Standards and Privileges Committee to look at it [ Interruption. ] They could be technically defined as different issues, but there is no reason why the Speakers Committee should not look at all the questions about privilege that Members are asking for the Committee on Standards and Privileges to look at. However, as people are complaining so much, I will have another look at it, and I might do something ill judged and unwise and set up a twin-track process. Then, when there is duplication and overlap, I will say, I told you so.
John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): May we please have a debate in Government time on the Floor of the House on the method of composition of our Select Committees? Working on the assumption that, in a modern, healthy, vibrant parliamentary democracy, the Executive should not choose the members of the Committees that scrutinise them, would not such a debate provide an opportunity for the argument to be made for scrapping the present arrangements and replacing them with a sensible system in which the members of Select Committees are elected by a secret ballot of Members of the House?
Ms Harman: Whatever peoples views on the processes for appointing the members and Chairmen of Select Committees, I think that our Select Committees do a damn good job on behalf of the House: they are robust, they are independent, and they are fair-minded and fierce in doing their duty of holding the Executive to account. I can see that there are many ways of twiddling how to get people on to Select Committees, but I would ask, Whats the problem? If it aint broke, why fix it? I think our Select Committees do a proud job; as soon as Government Members become Chairmen of them, they go native.
Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): The Leader of the House will be aware of the concern felt on both sides of the House about the number of pubs that are closing each weeka concern that is particularly important to those of us who have breweries in our constituencies. She will be aware that the number of these small businesses closing each week has now reached 40 and she will be aware of the feeling in the industry that the provisions of yesterdays Budget will only worsen the situation. Will she therefore make time for a debate on a Government motion on the future of the pub industry, particularly on the impact of pub closures on many small communities up and down the country?
I know that this is a matter of continuing concern, not just in urban areas but particularly in rural areas. A number of factors have come together to cause problems for publicans. Will the hon. Gentleman give me some time to reflect further and to talk to my ministerial colleagues before I get back to him? I know
that he and other Members have raised this matter on a number of occasions. It is an important issue to which I do not have a snap answer, but I will get back to him.
Mr. Rob Wilson (Reading, East) (Con): May we have a debate in Government time about the current squeeze on university finances? The two universities in my constituencythe universities of Reading and of the Thames Valleyare facing considerable financial pressures, so is it not time that the Government started their promised review of funding in that sector and stopped kicking the issue into the long grass? If they did that, at least the sector would know where it stands.
Ms Harman: I think the sector does know where it stands. It knows that it has the strong commitment of this Government, which has been exemplified in recent years by a steady increase in capital and revenue budgets. That is the case because we believe that the future of our economy depends on high qualifications, on our science base and on skills. The hon. Gentleman can reassure those in his constituency who are concerned about this issue that, as long as we are in government, we will maintain our commitment to capital and revenue public spending, whereas if his party were in government, they could expect cuts, starting right away.
Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): May we have a statement from the Foreign Secretary on the deteriorating situation in Pakistan, the effective surrender to the Taliban of large parts of Pakistans north-west frontier and the strategic risk that presents to British troops fighting in Afghanistan, because of the extended and exposed supply lines through Pakistan?
Ms Harman: This remains a very high priority on which we need to work multilaterally through the UN and other organisations and with the Pakistan Government. I will certainly draw the hon. Gentlemans points to the attention of the Foreign Secretary.
The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Miliband): With permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a statement on coal and carbon capture and storage. In our energy policy, we face three challenges: to transform our energy to low-carbon sources; to maintain security of supply; and to do so in a way that is right for the British economy and industry. To meet that challenge will take all the low-carbon technologies at our disposal.
We need renewable energy, and in the last five years we have tripled renewable electricity supplies. We have more offshore wind power than any country in the world, and yesterday my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced new support for offshore wind and new financial help for the wind industry to get through the credit crunch.
We need to facilitate nuclear energy, too. In the face of climate change, with assurances on safety and cost, many who once opposed nuclear power now support it. Thanks to decisions made by my predecessor, Britain is on track for a renaissance in nuclear power, and I announced last week the nominations for 11 potential sites.
The future of coal in our energy mix poses the starkest dilemma we face: it is a polluting fuel, but it is used across the world because it is low cost and it is flexible enough to meet fluctuations in demand for power. In the UK, a third of our existing coal-fired power stations are due to close in the coming decade.
To ensure that we maintain a diverse energy mix, including maximising our domestic fuel supply, we need new coal-fired power stationsbut only if they can be part of the low-carbon future. Across the world, we know the challenge that coal presents. With many countries, including China and India, reliant on coal and many building new coal-fired power stations at a rapid pace, there is an urgent international imperative for us to make coal clean. With a solution to the problem of coal, we greatly increase our chances of stopping dangerous climate change. Without it, we will not succeed.
There is a solution to the challengethrough carbon capture and storage. Capturing the CO2, transporting it and locking it permanently underground would reduce emissions by 90 per cent. While this technology has been demonstrated in its different parts and at small scalecapturing emissions from 30 MWit has never been tried on a commercial scale, and never as the complete process from start to finish on a power station, so the first task is urgently to drive the technology at scale. We are already running a competition for one of the first end-to-end demonstrations in the world, covering capture, transport and storage. It will be one of the biggest CCS projects in the worldmore than 10 times bigger than the largest existing pilot.
Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced the public funding for the next stage. We will select bidders to proceed to detailed designs, but we know that we need to go further and, because of yesterdays Budget, there will also be funding for up to three more demonstration projects, which we want to involve a mix of pre and post-combustion so that all the technologies can be tested.
To support that, the Chancellor yesterday announced plans for a new incentive mechanism to support CCS. It could be based on a CCS feed-in tariff, so that projects could receive a fixed price for electricity, or on a fixed price for carbon abated. We will consult on this alongside our new coal conditions by the summer.
We need to ally this reliable stream of funding for carbon capture and storage, which we now have, with a policy on coal-fired power stations to drive the demonstration and deployment of CCS. We consulted last year on carbon capture readiness as the condition for new coal-fired power stations, but I have concluded that while it is right to go ahead with this condition, it will not on its own drive the change we need. I believe that we need to signal a move from the building of unabated coal-fired power stationsit is right to drive our country towards low carbon as part of a progressive decarbonisation of our power supplies. That is also an essential part of a new industrial strategy, and it is necessary if we are to show international leadership on climate change.
I therefore propose two new conditions that any new coal-fired power station must meet to gain consent in England and Wales. We are proceeding with a strategic environmental assessment and will consult formally in the summer. First, we must send a decisive signal that change starts now, so I propose a requirement to demonstrate CCS on a substantial proportion of any new coal-fired power station. We will propose for consultation a requirement to demonstrate at least 300 MW of net capacity or around 400 MW of gross output as a condition of any consent. The demonstration condition would mean that henceforth unabated coal-fired power stations would not get Government consent. Secondly, alongside that, we must secure not just a commitment to demonstrate, but, when the technology is proven, a commitment that CCS will be fitted on the entire plant.
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