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29 Jun 2009 : Column 21

Building Britain’s Future

3.31 pm

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on the draft legislative programme—our plans to build a stronger, fairer and more prosperous Britain.

In the past year we have taken action to prevent a collapse of banks, to protect home owners against recession and to maintain vital investment in public services at the time when people need them most. Now, as we seek to move our economy out of recession, we are setting out the steps that we propose to support growth and jobs in the economy.

In the last two recessions, tens of thousands of young people were written off to become a generation lost to work. That is a mistake that this Government will not repeat. So today we are announcing new measures, to be paid for from the spending allocations made in the Budget and from switching of spending, to meet new priorities that include creating new growth, new jobs and new housing. Targeted investments to support jobs and strengthen growth are also the surest and fastest way to reduce deficits and debt in every country.

So my first announcement is about new jobs for young people. Starting from January, every young person under 25 who has been unemployed for a year will receive a guaranteed job, work experience or a training place. In return—I believe there will be public support for this—they will also, from next spring, have the obligation to accept that guaranteed offer. This is the first time that any Government have guaranteed that jobs and training will be available to young people and, crucially, made it mandatory for young people, if there is a job available, to take that work up or have their benefits cut if they do not do so. To underpin that guarantee, as part of the investments that we announced in the Budget, £1 billion is being set aside for the future jobs fund, which will provide 100,000 jobs for young people, with another 50,000 in areas of high unemployment.

From this September we will also realise our pledge to all school leavers that every 16 and 17-year-old will receive an offer of a school or college place, or a training place or apprenticeship. Also from this September, we will offer 20,000 new full-time community service places. That will complement the help for adults who have been unemployed for six months, who will get access to skills training or a jobs subsidy—part of about £5 billion that we set aside in the Budget and pre-Budget report for targeted support for jobs and training in this country.

In total, through the action taken so far, and by rejecting the view that Government should cut investment in a recession, we are preventing the loss of about 500,000 jobs. Our continued investment in giving immediate help through Jobcentre Plus to people made unemployed is already making a difference, with each month about 250,000 people moving off unemployment.

New jobs for the future will also come through making the necessary investments in low-carbon energy, digital technology, financial services, bioscience, advanced manufacturing and transport. Those are the building blocks of the competitive economy of the future, so we will use the Queen’s Speech to ensure that the British economy is best placed to take up those opportunities.

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First, the new energy Bill will enable us to support up to four commercial-scale carbon capture and storage demonstration plants for Britain. The Bill complements the £1.4 billion of public investment provided in the Budget for low-carbon energy, and up to £4 billion now on offer from the European Investment Bank. In addition, following our reforms to the policy, planning and regulatory regimes in this country, we will see between now and 2020, as we meet our renewable energy targets, around £100 billion invested by the private sector. Those investments will make Britain a major global player in low carbon, with another 400,000 green jobs by 2017, taking British employment in the sector to well over 1 million.

Secondly, the digital economy Bill will help underpin our commitment to enable broadband for all by 2012, working towards a nationwide high-speed broadband network by 2016, with additional Government investment unlocking new jobs and billions of additional investment from the private sector.

Thirdly, a new innovation fund will be announced today by the Minister for Science and Innovation. It is £150 million of public money, which will, over time, lever in up to £1 billion of private sector investment in biotechnology, life sciences, low-carbon technologies and advanced manufacturing.

Over the coming weeks, the Transport Secretary will set out plans to advance the electrification of transport, cutting rail carbon emissions on newly electrified lines by around one third. Lord Davies will lead a new drive to improve the country’s infrastructure, thus increasing the efficiency with which projects are taken forward, with the establishment of a new body, Infrastructure UK. An asset sales board will work with the shareholder executive to achieve our £16 billion assets sales target—money that can be redirected to public investment. Those investments will strengthen our economy and create new jobs. We believe that investment by the Government and the private sector will enable the economy to create 1.5 million new skilled jobs in Britain in the next five years.

In every part of the country, there is an urgent need for new social housing and for new affordable home ownership. So the Minister for Housing is announcing that in the next two years—from the re-allocation of funds—we will more than treble the extra investment in housing: from the £600 million announced in the Budget to a total of £2.1 billion from today. That will finance over the next 24 months a total of 110,000 affordable homes to rent or buy and in doing so create an estimated 45,000 jobs in construction and related industries.

By building new and additional homes we can now also reform social housing allocation, enabling local authorities to give more priority to local people whose names have been on waiting lists for far too long. We will consult on reforms to the council house finance system to allow local authorities to retain all the proceeds from their own council house sales and council rents. We want to see a bigger role and responsibility for local authorities to meet the housing needs of people in their areas.

We will continue to take forward the far-reaching reforms of financial supervision, upon which we have embarked, domestically and globally, since the financial crisis hit in 2007. For those who argue that that issue is falling off the agenda, let me make it clear: sorting out
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the irresponsibility and regulatory weaknesses that led to the crisis remains an urgent imperative, to which we will continue to give priority at home and abroad.

The financial services and business Bill will ensure better consumer protection, including a ban on unsolicited credit card cheques. In addition, the Financial Services Authority is taking action to ensure that there can be no return to the old short-termist approach to executive pay in the banking sector. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. I apologise for interrupting the Prime Minister. Mr. Barker, you need to simmer down a little.

The Prime Minister: To help tackle tax avoidance, the Treasury is publishing today a new tax code for banks.

Alongside our strategy for growth and jobs, we will introduce new legislation: for education, to address child poverty, and for policing. In doing so, we will create a new set of public service entitlements for parents, patients and citizens—securing for them more personal services tailored to their needs. For patients in the health service, that will mean enforceable entitlements to prompt treatment and high standards of care: a guarantee that no one who needs to see a cancer specialist waits more than two weeks; a guarantee of a free health check-up on the NHS for everyone over 40; and a guarantee that no one waits more than 18 weeks for hospital treatment.

The Health Secretary will bring forward proposals later this year to focus the NHS further towards prevention and early intervention; to extend the choices for people to have treatment and care at times that suit them and, whenever possible, in their own homes; and to reform and improve maternity and early-years’ services. We will shortly consult on far-reaching proposals for how we need to modernise our health and social care systems, so that our country can meet the challenge of an ageing society.

The second set of public service entitlements will be for parents, with a guarantee of individually tailored education for their children, as part of far-reaching reform in the schools system. I want all our children to have opportunities that are available today only to those who can pay for them in private education. It is right that personal tutoring should be extended to all who need it, so there will be a new guarantee for parents of a personal tutor for pupils at secondary and primary schools and catch-up tuition, including one-to-one tuition for those who need it. [Official Report, 30 June 2009, Vol. 495, c. 3MC.]

So that every school in our country is a good school and so that we meet the national challenge to eliminate underperforming schools by 2011, we will see the best head teachers working in more than one school, as we radically extend trusts, academies and federations to increase the supply of good school places throughout our country.

The third set of new public service entitlements is the offer that neighbourhood police teams can make to all citizens in every community. Already—since last April—there are 3,600 teams in place, offering to every part of the country policing tailored to the community’s needs. We will now go further and give guarantees to local
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people that they will have more power to keep their neighbourhoods safe, including the right to hold the police to account at monthly beat meetings, to have a say on CCTV and other crime prevention measures and to vote on how offenders pay back to the community.

Our policing, crime and private security Bill will give the police more time on the beat, by changing and reducing the reporting requirements for police officers on stop-and-search forms, as well as new rights to ensure that women are better protected against violence. That will take account of recommendations made in response to our consultation on violence against women and girls, which will be published this autumn. We will also legislate to ensure protection for children, with a new and strengthened system of statutory age ratings for video games.

Because British citizenship brings responsibilities as well as rights, we will now require newcomers to earn the right to stay, extending the points-based system to probationary citizenship. The more someone contributes to their community, the greater their chance of becoming a citizen.

The Foreign Secretary will introduce legislation to prohibit the use, development, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions, bringing into British law the international agreement that we led the way on signing last year.

Building Britain’s future must clearly start here in this Parliament with our commitment to cleaning up politics and establishing a new and strong democratic and constitutional settlement to rebuild trust in politics. I can announce today, on the House of Lords, that we will legislate in the next Session to complete the process of removing the hereditary principle from the second Chamber and provide for the disqualification of Members where there is reason to do so. We will set out proposals to complete Lords reform by bringing forward a draft Bill for a smaller and democratically constituted second Chamber.

There is a real choice for our country: driving growth forward or letting the recession take its course; creating jobs for the future or doing nothing. We will not walk away from the British people in difficult times. Our policy is to build the growth, the jobs and the public services that we need for Britain’s future. I commend this statement to the House.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): The Prime Minister talks about building Britain’s future, but is it not time that the British people were asked whether they want him to be part of it? There was no recognition in that statement that Labour has been in office for 12 years and no recognition of the catastrophic state of the public finances. The Prime Minister is living in a dream world where spending is going up, investment is going up and infrastructure is being boosted. When is someone going to tell him that he has run out of money? He talked, for instance, about housing. Let me give him just one figure: house building today is at its lowest level since 1947. People are entitled to ask: simply what world is he living in?

I expect that, like me, Mr. Speaker, you will have been thinking that you had heard a lot of that statement before—and not just because the Prime Minister ignored your injunction and leaked most of it in advance. It is because we have heard most of it before. How many
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times has the country been told to expect the Prime Minister’s vision? How many times have we been told to expect a string of policy announcements that was going to involve bold reform? Every single re-launch collapses, and did that not happen more quickly than usual today? At 7.50 am, Lord Mandelson took to the airwaves and promptly sank the whole thing by cancelling the Government’s spending review. So, is not what we have today a package without a price tag? It is just a combination of rehashed initiatives, ideas taken from the Opposition and some timid, bureaucratic, top-down tinkering.

I have to admit that there are some good things in the statement—[Hon. Members: “Ah!”] Yes—that is because we thought of them. The future fund, carbon capture and storage demonstrations— [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. The Leader of the Opposition must be heard.

Mr. Cameron: At least they can read and take dictation. For example, the Government are saying, “If you don’t take the job, you won’t get the benefits.” We announced that at our party conference two years ago. Every year, the Prime Minister says that we do not have any policies, yet every year he fills his draft legislative programme with them.

Much of the rest of the programme has been rehashed from previous years. The simplification of our immigration rules, for example, was announced in last year’s programme. The floods Bill was recommended in 2007, announced in 2008 and re-announced again this morning, in 2009. One-to-one tuition and the NHS check-ups were both announced last year—[Hon. Members: “We are doing that.”] Well, you should be doing it by now.

The Constitutional Renewal Bill is now back for the third time in a row. This time, it is apparently going to include Lords reform—but the Prime Minister has not been reforming the House of Lords; he has been stuffing it with his cronies. I stuffed it with one of his cronies, too; he is on our side now. Is not the real renewal that our country needs not a Bill but a general election?

Where is the Heritage Protection Bill that was announced last year? Where are the regulatory budgets that the Prime Minister announced as a way of cutting red tape on business? We have heard not a word about the legislation on the Royal Mail. That was to be the great virility test for the Prime Minister’s reforming zeal—remember? Where is it? Stuck in the post? We were promised a Second Reading before the summer recess. Where is it? Lord Mandelson said in today’s Financial Times that he was finding himself “jostled” out of the programme. I cannot believe that Lord Mandelson of upgrade has ever been jostled out of anything, but there we are.

Let me make the Prime Minister an offer. If he has not got time in his packed parliamentary schedule to get his Royal Mail reforms through, would he like to use the time allocated for our Opposition day debate next week for the Bill’s Second Reading? Would he welcome that? Just nod— [ Interruption. ] Is there anybody out there? Is there anybody in there? So much for all his talk about tough decisions: he has bottled it once again.

The Prime Minister claims that there are three themes in his statement: the economy, public services and political reform. Let me ask him a couple of questions about
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each. First, on the economy, he talks about what he is doing for the unemployed. Will he confirm that the number of young people who are not in employment or training was higher than a decade ago even before the recession began, and that there are now 1 million of our fellow citizens in that situation? On banking, do we not need to recognise that the whole system has failed? That is why we are planning to end the whole tripartite system, to give new powers to the Bank of England and to let the Bank call time on debt. Is not what we have got from the Government just tinkering with a system that does not work, from a Prime Minister who set it up and cannot afford to admit that he got it wrong?

On public finances, when will the Prime Minister address the fact that Britain is heading for the worst budget deficit in the developed world? To listen to his statement, one would think that the Treasury was rolling in money. When is someone going to tell him that it has run out? Let me read out what the OECD said only this morning. It said that the Government had to be more “ambitious” and more “explicit” about the need for spending cuts. The OECD is joining a growing list—from the Institute for Fiscal Studies to the Governor of the Bank of England, and, in private, half the Cabinet—of those who admit that he has got to be straight with people on spending. So let me ask the Prime Minister a very simple question: will there be a spending review before the general election? This morning, the First Secretary said that there would not, then the Treasury said that there might be. Who speaks for the Government? Any household or company faced with that level of debt would start to get it under control. Is it not essential to start reviewing spending now?

If the first big failure of today’s announcement is the lack of honesty on spending, the second is surely the lack of real reform in our public services. I suppose, however, that we should be grateful for one thing: year after year, this Government and this Prime Minister have promoted and defended their targets culture; today, they have finally admitted that they were wrong all along. But let us make no mistake: the proposals are about top-down, bureaucratic tinkering, not real reform.

On schools, the Prime Minister talks about putting power in parents’ hands, so why is he replacing the raw data of school league tables with manufactured report cards? On the police, why is the Prime Minister just talking about empowering citizens, rather than giving them the chance to vote for their elected representatives? On health, why is he restricting people’s choices rather than letting them and their GPs choose where they get treated?

Then there is the addiction to the initiative. Let us take just one—the parenting order. It is apparently the big, new idea on school discipline, but it was actually announced in September 2004. In the past five years, how many pupils have been disciplined in that way? A big fat zero. That is the truth behind the Government’s announcement. The truth about today’s statement is that it serves only to highlight the decline of this Government. Their money has run out, their political capital is running out, and now their time is running out.

Will the Prime Minister answer two specific questions? First, will there be a comprehensive spending review? Secondly, will he bring forward the legislation on the Royal Mail before the summer recess?

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