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Mr. Speaker: Order. We must allow the Leader of the Opposition to be heard. [ Interruption. ] Order. Allow the right hon. Gentleman to speak. [ Interruption. ] Order. I do not want a Minister pushing his luck, so I ask the right hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Khan) to behave himself.
Mr. Cameron: Labour Members shout for half an hour on a Wednesday and spend the rest of the week trying to get rid of the Prime Minister. His problem is that he is not straight with people. He was not straight over the cancelled election; he was not straight over the 10p tax; he was not straight over flying to Iraq during the Tory conference; he was not straight over Damian McBride; he was not straight about who he wanted as his Chancellor; and now he will not be straight with people about the level of Government spending. Will everyone not conclude that if you cannot be straight with people, you are simply not worthy to be our Prime Minister?
Mr. Speaker: Order. Even though it is my last day, the Leader of the Opposition knows that the term you is not something that I approve of, and I think that the candidates at all these hustings will be saying that they do not approve of it either.
The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman is learning all the time. At last he has a European policy, and he now admits that there is a European recession. As far as his last comments are concerned, is it not remarkable that he descends back into personalities? He cannot deal with a policy debate. I have said that we are taking action to deal with the recession, and that means that more people will be in work, that more businesses will be saved and that more help will be given to mortgage holders. We are spending money to take people out of recession; he would cut the money now. There would be more unemployment, more debt and more deficit. The Conservative party has to face up to its responsibility. The Conservatives are calling for public spending cuts at a time when every country in Europe and the rest of the world knows that we have to inject more money into the economy.
As for the future, everybody also knowsthis is where the serious debate liesthat what can happen depends on growth and what happens to inflation, employment and interest rates. There is good evidence that the proposals that we have put forward are working, whereas the proposals that the Conservatives have put forward would not work. As for the future of public expenditure, let us just be clear: I have read out figures showing that there are not only cash rises in all our current expenditure in each year, but real-terms rises. The Leader of the Opposition has given us no figure, except the figure of his Health Secretary, which is a 10 per cent. cut in public expenditure. The public will remember one thing about the last week: 10 per cent. cuts in public expenditure under the Tories; investment under Labour. They are the party of the few; we are the party of the many.
Mr. Cameron: Why does the Prime Minister not understand that character and policy come together in the vital question of telling the truth that public spending will be cut, according to his own plans? Everyone will have seen today that the Prime Minister has drawn one of his precious dividing lines between himself and reality. That is what we have seen. People know that they have a Prime Minister whom they never elected, a Prime Minister who cannot be straight with people and a Prime Minister who will not even give 10 per cent. of the truth.
Weve made it clear that a Conservative government would spend less than Labour.
So it is absolutely clear that the Conservatives would be spending less every time. They would be cutting spending on vital services, and people should not forget that. He wants to read out quotes from this person or that person, but why does he not face up to the policy issue? We are spending 5.5 per cent. more on the health service this year, and 4 per cent. more on education. We are building more schools, employing more nurses, building up the health service and making the policing in our community work. At every point, the Conservatives would be cutting these vital services. They should go back to their constituencies and explain how many police, nurses, doctors and teachers they would cut under policies that are in the interest not of the many but, in their case, only of the few.
Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down) (SDLP): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will be brief, but I want to thank you for your personal kindness to me and my party over your many years in the Chair and outside this Chamber.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be aware that devolution to Northern Ireland has not been completed owing to the absence of the devolution of policing and justice. This issue has now become a political football between the two parties in power, and the situation has been exacerbated by the recent European elections. Will he take a personal new initiative to complete that all-important stage of devolution, which is the prerogative of the whole community in Northern Ireland?
The Prime Minister: I think that the benefits to Northern Ireland of the devolution of policing and justice will be very considerable indeed. I realise that there are very delicate issues that have to be dealt with, and that there are conversations to be had, but I recognise that progress has been made with the commitment of the major parties to devolution in principle. Talks are now taking place that I hope will yield results, and I hope it will not be long before we complete the process of the devolution of policing and justice under terms that will give security to every community in Northern Ireland.
Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): Does the Prime Minister agree with the comments made by his Chancellor this morning when he blamed the banks boardrooms for the recession but refused fundamentally to change the way we regulate them?
The Prime Minister: We are fundamentally changing the way we regulate our banks. We are banning them from giving bonuses at the moment where we have taken over the banks. We are changing the structure of the boards by the way we are dealing with the problems that have been created in this recession, and we are introducing new financial services legislation in the next year to change the structure of regulation. In every area in which abuse has been found, we are taking action to deal with it. I hope that, when the legislation comes before the House of Commons, the right hon. Gentleman will support it, because that is the right thing to do. When people make mistakes, that has to be dealt with, and we are dealing with the mistakes that have been made in the City.
Mr. Clegg: I still think that the Prime Minister is trying to have it both ways. He cannot just blame the bankers but not change the basic way we control them. He is just passing the buck. I will tell him who is to blame for this recession: a Government who did not listen to warnings, who let the bankers get away with blue murder and who, even now, refuse to separate ordinary high street banking from casino investment banking. Can he not see that if he just keeps passing the buck, the only certainty is that this kind of crisis will happen all over again?
The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman is speaking as though high street banks and investment banks did not fail. The truth is that both failed, and we have to deal with that. The solution is to have better regulation and better supervision. It is actually about cross-border supervision at a global level as well. It is about bringing in those countries that have been outside the scope of supervision and regulation. That is what the G20 was about: to bring them all into the regulatory and supervisory net. To be honest, I think the right hon. Gentleman actually supports what we are doing but cannot bear to say so.
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Is my right hon. Friend aware that, despite all the promises, the Lloyds group of banks is planning to decimate jobs in Yorkshire and take them down south to Peterborough? Will he urgently talk to the management of the Lloyds group and point out that we are major shareholders in that bank and expect better standards?
The Prime Minister: I am very happy to talk to Lloyds, which made promises at the time it took over HBOS about what it would do to safeguard the jobs of its employees. We will look at the issue in that context; any jobs lost are to be regretted and we will do everything we can.
Q2.  Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): The Prime Minister will have satisfied virtually nobody with his private inquiry into the war in Iraq. He does, however, have the opportunity to satisfy one familythe Al-Sarraj family. Mr. Al-Sarraj, who is detained in Camp Cropper in Baghdad, is the husband of my constituent, Shereen Nasser. Will the right hon. Gentleman talk to the US authorities to try to secure a release date for Mr. Al-Sarraj?
Q3.  Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge) (Con): Will the Prime Minister confirm that the Department for Transport has been compiling dossiers on opponents of the third runway at Heathrow and handing them over to the police? Will he find out whether there is one on me and one on his hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell)?
The Prime Minister: I know nothing about this [Interruption.] Any allegation that the hon. Gentleman makes will of course be investigated, but it is not something that has been drawn to my attention. As far as the Heathrow expansion is concerned, it is a contentious issue but the House has voted on the matter.
Q4.  Mr. Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op): My right hon. Friend will know that the Lancashire police constabulary is the top-performing police force in the country. Burglary is at a 27-year low and vehicle crime at a 20-year low. The number of police officers, police community support officers, special constables and other staff has increased by 1,40030 per cent. since 1997. Will my right hon. Friend tell me what impact a 10 per cent. cut in policing will have on staff and crime in Lancashire?
The Prime Minister: It could involve the loss of about 15,000 police. Those who advocate 10 per cent. cuts in the Home Office have to face up to the consequences, as it will mean fewer policemen on the beat, less neighbourhood policing and less protection against crime. [Interruption.] I notice that Conservative Members are not worried about a 10 per cent. cut in the police; I think they would hear from their constituents if such a cut were ever to happen.
Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) (DUP): Has the Prime Minister any concern about the expressed intention of the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland to axe the full-time police reserve in Northern Ireland? Does he recognise that there is a heightened level of dissident activity and that the Chief Constable is leaving his job, so is this not a decision that should be left to the new Chief Constable?
The Prime Minister: I think the hon. Gentleman will recognise that we have committed additional resources to deal with the problems posed by the dissident groups in Northern Ireland. I spoke to the former chief of police in Northern Ireland at exactly the time of the incidents and we promised him that the resources would be there to deal with the problems arising from the actions of those dissident groups. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the security of the people of Northern Ireland will not be put at risk in any way.
Q5.  Judy Mallaber (Amber Valley) (Lab):
Mr. Speaker, may I thank you for your kindness over the years and wish you well?
Knives, age-related games and alcohol were all bought online recently by a 16-year-old acting for Greenwich trading standards without any checks being made. They were bought from Debenhams, Marks and Spencer, Argos and other stores, even though his card was registered with his real date of birth and address. Will my right hon. Friend look to extend the provisions in the Gambling Act 2005 to restrict and have simple checks on age so that our young people cannot get easy access to knives and other age-restricted goods, in accordance with the recommendations of the childrens charities digital manifesto on internet safety?
The Prime Minister: I know about the document to which my hon. Friend refers. She may be aware that yesterday we published the Digital Britain document describing the steps that the Government are taking to ensure the online safety of children, and the ways in which the Government will continue to support further action by the industry against such practices. We have also set up the UK Council on Child Internet Safety, which, as she probably knows, is examining these issues.
Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): The Calman commission reported this week that the Scottish Parliament should have additional limited powers. The First Minister has offered to test that proposal, together with the proposal for independence, in a referendum. Does the Prime Minister agree that the people should have their say?
The Prime Minister: I am sorry that the Scottish National party is not supporting the Calman recommendations. They give a new basis on which the Union can move forward, providing a measure of devolution that will allow the Union to be safeguarded for the future. The difference between us and the Scottish National party lies in the fact that the SNP wants complete independence, although all the evidence suggests that the people of Scotland do not.
Q6.  Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab): May I thank you personally for your kindness, Mr. Speaker?On policy, let me say to my right hon. Friend that my constituents are nervously awaiting the outcome of the Learning and Skills Councils review of the Building Colleges for the Future programme. We need that money. Will he give some reassurance that when the review takes place our Government will make an immediate decision, and that he will take account of our commitment to urban regeneration in Burslem and to the university quarter so that the full amounts can be provided for the campuses in Cauldon and on the Burslem site?
The Prime Minister: In the Budget, we announced an extra £300 million of capital spending on further education colleges to meet some of the demand that has arisen as a result of the number of colleges that wish to expand and build new facilities on their campuses. We are looking at all the projects. The LSC has talked to the principals of all colleges this month, and we hope to announce the projects that will proceed to their next stages as soon as possible.
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): I should like to ask the Prime Minister about a modest constitutional innovation. Will he invite the House of Commons to amend its Standing Orders to allow senior Ministers in the House of Lords to come to this Dispatch Box to defend their stewardship of their Departments, and to pilot legislation of which they are the principal architects? Even the most senior junior Minister will on occasion be nothing more than a superior parrot unless that change is made.
The Prime Minister: We have a strong team of Ministers in the House of Commons, who are perfectly able to answer questions and conduct debates in the House of Commons. If my hon. Friend has proposals for constitutional innovation, perhaps he could put them to the Committee chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock Chase (Dr. Wright).
Q8.  Mr. Paul Burstow (Sutton and Cheam) (LD): This is national elder abuse week. According to the Governments own figures, 5,980 older people are victims of abuse every week in this country. Will the Prime Minister consider the need for legislation? The overwhelming majority of organisations responding to a Government consultation said that it was necessary, not least at a time when 5,900 people every week are unprotected from assaults and those who commit the assaults go unpunished. Is it not time for legislation, and will the Prime Minister meet me to discuss the matter?
The Prime Minister: Any abuse of the elderly is completely unacceptable. I hope that the criminal law will protect them, and that the regulatory framework will be such that we can give the protection that is necessary. We will continue to keep that regulatory framework under review. In a week when the amount of abuse of the elderly is being noted, I think it right to say that no citizen should be engaged in anything that puts the dignity and security of elderly people in our country at risk.
Emily Thornberry (Islington, South and Finsbury) (Lab): I wonder whether my right hon. Friend could explain a phrase that I heard recently: Play the ball and not the man. Perhaps as an ex-rugby player he could explain both its meaning and its application to Prime Ministers questions.
The Prime Minister: It means that on only a few occasions in the past year has the Leader of the Opposition managed to raise questions about policy. We welcome the debate about policy which will be held in the country over the next few months, when we will show that we will safeguard the health, education and public services of this country against 10 per cent. cuts by the Conservative party.
Q9.  Willie Rennie (Dunfermline and West Fife) (LD):
Will the Prime Minister join me in commending the work of the Chernobyl childrens charities, which bring thousands of children over from Belarus every year for recuperative holidays? Will he also explain why the Home Office has decided not to give free visas to the
Chernobyl children from the north of Ukraine, who are suffering worse conditions than those from Belarus, and will he meet me and a delegation of the charities to discuss this important issue?
The Prime Minister: I know that the hon. Gentleman has raised this matter on many occasions and has taken a deep interest in it. I also know that he has held an Adjournment debate on it. He is asking about the Home Office and what it can do to help. I suggest that he ask for a meeting with the Home Secretary, and I am sure the Home Secretary will be happy to meet his delegation.
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