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The Prime Minister:
It is right to invest now to take this country out of recession; every other major economy in the world is doing so. Only the Conservative party in Britain seems to think that we should be cutting spending at this moment. The right hon. Gentleman did not mention jobs. He is a former Social Security Secretary, so he should understand that when people are unemployed and in need of help to get jobs, it is right that we make money available. That is why £5 billion has been allocated
from the pre-Budget report and the Budget to creating jobs for teenagers, creating jobs for the long-term unemployed who are under 25, and creating jobs for adults. That is money that was allocated in the Budget and is now being spent.
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): Does the Prime Minister accept that cancelling the Trident renewal programme would save a great deal of money, make the world a safer place and give us the moral authority to encourage wider nuclear demilitarisation all over the world?
The Prime Minister: We have a long-standing policy on Trident, which my hon. Friend disagrees with but which is the policy of the Government and has been voted on in the House of Commons. The most important thing to recognise is that we will work with other countries to secure multilateral disarmament. We have put forward proposals as we go forward to the renewal of the non-proliferation treaty, and we hope that other countries will join us in pushing for collective nuclear disarmament.
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): The Prime Minister has told the House that 45,000 extra jobs will be created in construction by the extra investment in housing. Should he not reduce from that figure the money that he has taken away from whichever Government Department was going to spend it before?
The Prime Minister: No, the main sources of money are underspends in Departments over the course of this year. It is absolutely right to reallocate that money so that we are in a position to spend money on housing and jobs. The £5 billion that we are spending on jobs as a whole was announced in the pre-Budget report and the Budget. We have made reallocations to get money into housing over the course of the next few months. That is the right thing to doto start building now to ensure that there are more houses for people in this country.
Liz Blackman (Erewash) (Lab): One group of children crying out for more personalised education are those with high-functioning autism, who are often misunderstood. Crucial to their support would be better training for staff, classroom assistants and others. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that attention will be paid to that?
The Prime Minister: I admire the work that my hon. Friend has done in supporting those who are concerned about and trying to help those with autism. I met people who are experts in this issue only a few weeks ago to discuss what we as a Government can do and we hope to publish further proposals in due course.
Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex) (Con): I welcome the steps that the Prime Minister has taken on social housing, but does he agree that unless urgent steps are taken to curb immigration this policy will not even begin to deal with the problem?
The Prime Minister: We have introduced a points system to deal with some of the problems that have arisen in the past from immigration. The points system is now in operation and it is working. I ask the hon. Gentleman to look at the points system and to know that it is working well.
Mr. Andy Slaughter (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush) (Lab): I, too, welcome the investment in social housing. Does my right hon. Friend realise that many areas of greatest housing need, where social rented housing is the only form of affordable housing, are the same areas in which Conservative councils are knocking down social housing and not building it? How can he ensure that the money that he has announced gets to those areas and is spent on houses?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Homes and Communities Agency will have a great responsibility to ensure that houses are built quickly. Let us remember the alternativea Conservative party that wants to cut spending now, cut spending next year and then cut most major spending Departments by 10 per cent. That will not be forgotten by the electorate.
The Prime Minister: We are moving from national targets, which have served us well in increasing standards in the national health service and in education, to individuals having personal entitlements they can enforce for the service at issue. The 18-week maximum wait for hospitals is now up and working. People can challenge a health authority if they do not feel that they are getting that entitlement for the future. The same will go for schools, giving parents more rights. Having invested in the health service and education, without which it would not be possible to raise standards, it is right that individuals now have more entitlements on which they can draw.
Mr. Russell Brown (Dumfries and Galloway) (Lab): I welcome the Prime Ministers announcement of the £150 million innovation fund, which has the potential to lever in private sector funding thatas he hopes, and as we all hopewill generate a fund of about £1 billion. Does he have a time scale in which we will be able to achieve that?
The Prime Minister: The money is now available for the innovation fund to be set up immediately. Lord Drayson, who is in charge of it, has already been talking to businesses about how they might be able to draw on it. We are determined to move forward so that we are prepared for the growth that will happen in the world economy in the most innovative industries, which include not only low-carbon technology, but advanced manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. Those are some of the big areas from which future growth can come.
Sir Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough) (Lab):
The House clearly welcomes the Prime Ministers proposals to put £500 million into housing, thus making it £2.1 billion of additional investment in two years and resulting in the
building of 110,000 homes and the creation of 45,000 jobs. How does that contrast with a policy of cutting investment in a recession and putting 500,000 on the dole queue?
The Prime Minister: There is a choice for this country to make. Last year, the Leader of the Opposition refused to support us when we had to nationalise Northern Rock, but most people now agree that it was the right thing to do. Last year, he refused to support us when we tried to help the unemployed, saying that he would make no further funds available, and he refused to make the money available to help home owners in distress. This year, he is making exactly the same mistake. At a time when we need to invest to create jobs, help people out of unemployment and create growth, the Opposition want to cut spending this year and next yearthey even want to cut spending by 10 per cent. in future years. As I say, people will not forget that that is the policy of the Conservative policy, and it will mean huge job losses in teaching, in policing and even in our defence forces.
Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire) (Con): Whatever the merits or otherwise of the part-privatisation of the Royal Mail Group and the timing of any such part-privatisation, the Prime Minister was right to say that the relevant Bill deals with other important issuesthe pension fund and regulationbut is he aware that something close to regulatory blight is being caused across the entire mail sector by the delay in proceeding with the Bill? Please will he confirm when it will be brought back to this place?
The Prime Minister: I do not accept the hon. Gentlemans first point. We are working with Royal Mail to ensure that it has a viable future. As he knows, the problem is that postal services in every country have been affected by changes in technology. Those changes affect not only the opportunity for jobs in the postal services industry, but the amount of income that is available. Some 450,000 are employed in postal services and we must take their needs into account, including in respect of pensions.
Tom Levitt (High Peak) (Lab): My right hon. Friend is right to say that the interface between the community and policing is where accountability needs to be improved. His correct approach complements what we did in the policing Bill to take the issue of elected authorities out. Will he go a stage further by examining how communities can have more influence on their local environmentson traffic management and other issues that affect those communities? He could thus empower communities, just as he wishes to empower individuals.
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is exactly right. The approach he suggests is a way in which we can move forward to give communities more control over their own affairs. He has been a long-standing campaigner for communities having more rights and being able to run their own facilities, and it is the Governments policy to advance that as much as possible.
Mr. Shailesh Vara (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con):
Will the Prime Minister give a specific answer to a question that he has pointedly refused to address so far:
which of the financial proposals he has put forward today comprise new money and which involve recycled amounts?
The Prime Minister: I have said that all the jobs proposals come from money that was allocated in the Budget to jobs but not specifically identified for individual programmes. We have been working over the past month or two to consider how best we can help young people back into work. It was absolutely amazing that when the Leader of the Opposition talked about all the things that he wanted to talk about in his statement he barely mentioned the cause of the unemployed. We are taking action; they would do absolutely nothing.
Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): My right hon. Friend is aware that this is about being brave, doing the essentials and coming up with schemes such as those he has proposed. It is right to support people at the jobcentres and to say that retraining is very important, but surely we ought to be investing in people who are already in work. That could be done through a short-time working subsidy. Young people need employment and we should have a national jobs summit followed by regional jobs summits. That would bring all the players togetherthe major employers, the small employers, the unions and the CBI. That is what we have to do, because we have to start pushing forward. Please can we spend the section 106 money held in bank accounts across the country by local authorities, as that could create the housing that we need now?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is right: we want to do more to help people who are worried about their jobs, as well as people who have lost their jobs. That is why we gave extra money to Corus last week to help the firm through difficult times. That is why, at the same time, we have introduced more places on Train to Gain, so that people who do short-time working can get help with training to ensure that they are ready with new skills for the upturn. The working tax credit is giving money to people on short-time working, so that they are kept out of poverty. We are taking whatever action we can to create jobs and to help people who are in jobs.
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): I welcome the announcement today that local authorities will be able to keep council house receipts, for which the Prime Minister will know we have been campaigning for 10 years. Would he care to reflect on how much better the situation would be had this announcement been made 10 years ago?
The Prime Minister: As a result of the investment that we have put into housing, more than 1 million houses have been repaired and modernised. That was the right thing to do so that we could upgrade our existing housing stock and improve amenities for people. At the same time, it is right now to build, and that is why we have made the announcements today.
Dr. Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab):
I welcome the statement today, but will my right hon. Friend say whether the Government are paying greater
attention to aligning some of the programmes? For example, contracts for affordable housing could require the use of more renewable energy sources and provide opportunities for training and apprenticeships for our young people and those out of work.
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is right. The announcement today about housing is for energy-efficient as well as affordable homes. Therefore, the guidelines that will be laid down will require low-carbon buildings that are better for our future. On apprenticeships and training, we now have a national apprenticeship service that can link young people who want apprenticeships to the firms that have them available. Previously, apprenticeships were very local and often depended on who the young person knew. Now, we can help to direct people to the career of their choice through the national apprenticeship service.
Some of the fine details have been held back
the new Speakers demands for an end to pre-briefing of policy changes in the media.
The Prime Minister: Once again, when it comes to issues of policy, that is all that the Conservatives can talk about. This statement is about policy for the future of this country, and I came to this House to announce it.
Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): I represent a constituency in which high unemployment and low skills have gone hand in hand for generations, something that particularly affects the under-25s. In the 1970s, we had job creation projects, in the 1980s we had youth opportunity programmes and in the 1990s we had the new deal. What I would like to hear is what is qualitatively different about what the Prime Minister proposes today that will have the desired effect, especially on those young people without work.
The Prime Minister: First, it is investment in jobs of £5 billion in total, as a result of decisions that were made in the pre-Budget report and the Budget. Secondly, it is targeted to those areas and those people who need it most100,000 jobs for young people, and 50,000 in areas of high unemployment. My hon. Friend will find that that will make a difference not only in his constituency, but in his region.
Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): In the real world, on Friday, this Government shelved 180 major capital building programmes in the college sector, as the front page of todays Colchester Gazette reports. If the Prime Minister wants to be taken seriously about building for the future for Britain, will he reinstate those shelved building programmes so that our young people may have decent places to study and unemployed building workers can be put back to work?
The Prime Minister: In 1997, there was no investment taking place in further education. In the Budget, we announced £300 million extra investment for further education, and those allocations are being made now.
Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): I welcome the innovation fund, which will be of particular importance to manufacturing, but may I correct my right hon. Friend? The Conservative party does have a policy on that sort of thing; their Front Benchers announced it on the Second Reading of the Finance Bill. It is to cut capital allowances by £3.7 billion a year, which would have a devastating effect on manufacturing. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that this Government will go nowhere near such a silly policy?
The Prime Minister: We increased capital allowances in the Budget to enable firms to invest in the future. We did so because we want the recovery to be based on large amounts of private investment in our economy. The innovation fund also moves that forward. I agree with my hon. Friend that this is not the right time to cut capital allowances.
Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): The Prime Minister confirmed that, on the Governments own figures, from 2011 public spending will grow only by less than 1 per cent. Does not that mean that whoever wins the next general election will have to make some very difficult decisions about public spending? Is it not time that we had a grown-up, adult debate in this place about how that can best be done, instead of the rather pathetic Punch-and-Judy politics that the Prime Minister has offered us this afternoon, which I do not believe
The Prime Minister: We are spending more in 2009-10; the Opposition would spend less. We are spending more in 2010-11; the Opposition would spend less. The Leader of the Opposition has already told us that he will always spend less than a Labour Government. That is the Conservatives position; they should be honest enough to admit it.
The Prime Minister: We announced in the national health service constitution how we propose to guarantee the rights of people to health care. The entitlements that we are bringing forward will be enforceable by people in relation to the authorities, but I do not envisage the need to take court action.
Mr. David Gauke (South-West Hertfordshire) (Con): Given the excuses that we have heard for the delay to the comprehensive spending review, and the outrage from the Prime Minister on cuts, does he still stand behind the projections in the Red Book for total spending up to 2013-14?
The Prime Minister: We have announced spending for 2009-10 and 2010-11 in detail. The Conservative party has announced that it would cut spending in both years substantially. As far as 2011-12 is concerned, we have set down our estimates, but of course we are not going to make detailed announcements, irrespective of the knowledge, about growth, about employment, about interest rates, and about inflation in those years. We will do so when it is the right time.
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