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Mr. Speaker: Order. May I make the point, I think for the fourth time this week-I expect it to be heeded by all Members-that I do not want loud, sedentary heckling from hon. or right hon. Members? That is not a request, that is a ruling, and I say to the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) that that is the end of the matter.
Ms Harman: As the hon. Gentleman will have seen from the resolution that defines the new Committee's remit, it will have quite wide powers to examine whatever it feels is necessary in the interests of the House. I hope that he will be among the Members who vote in support of setting up that Committee, so that it can get its work under way in the summer and throughout September.
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): Did the Leader of the House notice that many of our Scottish colleagues, in solidarity for which I am very grateful, voted so that I could attend the East of England Grand Committee in Bedford? When will I be able to reciprocate and vote for the Scottish Grand Committee to meet-maybe in West Lothian-bearing in mind that it has not met since 13 November 2003? Why has it not met? Are things so wonderful in the kingdom of Scotland, like the Garden of Eden, that it does not need to meet?
Ms Harman: There are different governance arrangements in Scotland following devolution, but there have been representations made to me by Members representing Scottish constituencies that there needs to be an opportunity for the Scottish Grand Committee to meet, and I will look for an opportunity.
Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge) (LD): May I urge the Leader of the House to ensure that we have a statement on the vetting and barring scheme, including on why prominent authors are not looking to visit schools even though they would be accompanied the whole time they were there? If the scheme is to apply, can we be sure that it will apply to all hon. Members, whether they are Back Benchers, Cabinet Ministers or the Prime Minister, and that Members will not be able to claim the £64 fee on their expenses?
Ms Harman: I think hon. Members have raised a number of points today that will be important and worth while for those who are drawing up the final recommendations to consider. Those recommendations need to be practical and sensible.
Barry Gardiner (Brent, North) (Lab): The Leader of the House was extremely helpful earlier in the year in facilitating a number of debates on the conflict in Sri Lanka. I know that she will share the concern of many hon. Members that the Sri Lankan Government have recently asked the International Committee of the Red Cross to scale back its operations in the detention camps. Will she arrange for an early debate after the recess, so that the House can examine the transparency of those camps and the facilities being made available to those detained there?
Ms Harman: My hon. Friend has been an assiduous supporter of the Tamil community in his constituency and in this country more generally, and he has been consistently concerned about what is happening to the Tamil community in Sri Lanka. I will bring his comments to the attention of my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for International Development.
David Howarth (Cambridge) (LD): The debate on the Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons has to be on either Monday or Tuesday. The Leader of the House has declined to confirm that it will be on Monday, but she has also announced that the House will meet at 2.30 pm on Tuesday. If the motion were to be debated on Tuesday, it would make far more sense for it to be the first business, with the House meeting at 11.30 am or 10.30 am. Why does she not just get it over with and announce that the debate will be on Monday, to give us all proper notice of it?
Ms Harman: Without having confirmed it 100 per cent., I do not want to keep hon. Members guessing. As there are only two days left and one is Monday and the other Tuesday, there is a 50 per cent. chance of its being on either. However, I think I can encourage Members that if they want to be around to either support or vote against the motion, Monday is probably the better day for them to be here.
Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab): May I put to my right hon. and learned Friend what is the biggest issue at my constituency surgeries, and which was the subject of my Adjournment debate a couple of weeks ago and was raised by Members on both sides of the Chamber earlier today? It is the banks and their lending policies. Can we make it clear to them before the recess that much as we supported the Government's attitude to them and the extra resources that were provided, we do not expect small businesses and young people looking for mortgages to come to tell us that the banks are completely inflexible and irresponsible?
Ms Harman: This has been of great concern to small businesses. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right, and no doubt he is listening carefully to businesses in his constituency. It was obviously right to recapitalise the banks and insist on lending agreements, and it is therefore exasperating that the lending agreements do not yet appear to be being fully honoured. We have tried to help businesses with cash-flow problems by allowing them to defer their tax payments, but it is nevertheless important that banks do not drag their feet but get lending again.
Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Given that this has been the most dreadful year yet for this Government, the Prime Minister clearly needs a holiday, and most of the country needs a holiday from him. May we therefore have a Government statement next week about which Minister will take over his responsibilities when he does go on holiday or if he is unfortunately laid low by swine flu? Will it be her good self, the First Secretary of State or the Lord High Chancellor?
It has been a most difficult year because of the economic circumstances that have faced this country, which have caused apprehension and concern among people who have built up their businesses over
many years, those who are coming into the world of work as they leave education, and those who are worried that if they lose their job they will lose their home. That is why it has been a difficult year. That has been a major challenge, which the Government have faced. We have been determined to take action to support people as they face that challenge.
The arrangements for this summer will be the same as they were for last summer. The Prime Minister of course remains in charge, but he will be ably supported by a team of Ministers, including my good self.
Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, South-West) (Lab/Co-op): Comrade Leader of the House, will the defence debate be sufficiently wide to allow those parties that have not already committed themselves to supporting the two aircraft carriers to do so?
Mr. Paul Burstow (Sutton and Cheam) (LD): The Leader of the House has already mentioned ways in which Government accountability to the House and hon. Members will be maintained over the recess. Will she consider the question of Sri Lanka and refer it to Foreign Office Ministers? More than 300,000 men, women and children are crammed into camps, where they do not have freedom of movement, there are inadequate water and other supplies and they live in fear of what will happen to them. It is important that Members who have taken an interest in those issues are kept informed of the initiatives that the Government are taking to ensure that the end of the war becomes real peace.
Ms Harman: Following my discussions with the Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State for Defence, I think I will have a further discussion with the Secretary of State for International Development so that Members who, throughout the year, have raised concerns about various humanitarian problems can be kept informed during the summer, and so that, if new issues arise, those who are likely to be most concerned are contacted and the Government make themselves accountable.
Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab): The motion on the Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, which is in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend, says that the Committee should report to this House in November. That would be impossible if the Committee were not established before the recess. I hear clearly from my right hon. and learned Friend that she and the Government are committed to the House's having sufficient time to make the decision before we go into recess. There is extremely strong feeling among all parties, and I urge her as strongly as I can to make the time available on Monday so that we do not have scrappy exchanges in the last couple of days.
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con):
I thank the right hon. and learned Lady for her help throughout the year and praise her for the occasions she has stepped in as acting Prime Minister. I woke up in a terrible sweat
after having a nightmare last night-I dreamed that Lord Mandelson had been running the country. Can we get it quite clear that when the Prime Minister packs his Speedos, picks up his bucket and spade and goes on holiday, we will know who is running the country? The public have the right to know: is it Harriet or Mandy?
Dr. John Pugh (Southport) (LD): On Tuesday this week, a baby died in my constituency in transit to hospital. The ambulance drove past the local district hospital because there was no A and E department for children in Southport. Following the resignation this week of Lord Darzi, the leading advocate of gutting district general hospitals, can the Leader of the House be encouraged to ask the Secretary of State for Health to make a statement on the future of district general hospitals and the implications for patient safety?
I say to the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members that if they look at the figures, they will see that the specialisation and bringing together of services have meant that many lives that would have been lost have been saved. Patient safety has been at the forefront of those changes at a time of massive investment-so it is not a question of cutting back resources; far from it. There has been massive investment year after year, continuing last year and this year. Specialisation of services, where it has happened, has also contributed to saving lives.
I rebut the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that Lord Darzi gutted services. I thank Lord Darzi for the great part that he has played in the improvements in the national health service. We all owe him a great tribute.
Greg Mulholland (Leeds, North-West) (LD): There is real concern about the "No Secrets" guidance on safeguarding vulnerable adults. The process seems to be neither transparent nor acceptable and is actually damaging the project's credibility. Department of Health officials have said that they will publish responses tomorrow or early next week, yet the programme board has not sat for nine months or had the chance to review them. Will the Leader of the House ensure that a Health Minister makes an oral statement in the House before publication? May we have a debate in Government time on that important initiative, which appears to be stalling?
Ms Harman: I am sure that the initiative is not stalling. I will ask whether it is appropriate for the House to be updated in some way before it rises. If not, a letter will no doubt be sent to the hon. Gentleman.
Mr. David Drew presented a Bill to require members of both Houses of Parliament and candidates for election to the House of Commons to publish financial and other information; and for connected purposes.
Mr. Barry Sheerman, supported by David Taylor, Hugh Bayley, Joan Walley, Derek Twigg, Kali Mountford, Stephen Pound, Meg Munn, Mr. Gordon Marsden and Mr. Terry Rooney, presented a Bill to reinstate rights of common and to reopen common land; to repeal the Inclosure Acts; and for connected purposes.
Sixth Report from the Environmental Audit Committee, Session 2007-08, on Reaching an international agreement on climate change, HC 355, and the Government response, HC 1055, the Fourth Report from the Committee, Session 2008-09, on Reducing CO 2 and other emissions from shipping, HC 528, and the Fifth Report from the Committee, Session 2008-09, on Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, HC 30.
That this House has considered the matter of preparation for the Copenhagen climate change conference.
Today's debate is held at an appropriate time-a week after the 17 countries of the Major Economies Forum met in L'Aquila in Italy and accepted the long-held scientific consensus that we should seek to prevent dangerous climate change above 2° C, and the day after we in Britain published our road map to 2020, the low carbon transition plan, which sets out our plans for a 34 per cent. reduction in emissions in the UK by 2020 compared with 1990.
Mr. Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): We have set some ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions-I think it is 80 per cent.-by 2050. How is that compatible with increasing the population in the same period by more than 10 million? The Home Secretary said that he was relaxed about this country's population increasing by 10 million, but that will increase the size of our carbon footprint.
Edward Miliband: It all depends on the actions that we take. Globally, there will be a significant increase in the population in the next decades. That argues for a transition to the low-carbon path and away from the high-carbon path. We must do that, whatever the size of the population, but obviously increasing population means increasing carbon emissions and we need to take action. I am confident that we can; that is within our projections.
I was saying that it was an appropriate time to hold a debate on the preparations for Copenhagen. I believe that it is a make-or-break year: President Obama in the United States is showing new leadership; China wants a deal, and the acceptance of 2° C as the yardstick by which we should judge success or failure at Copenhagen is important. However, there is a long and hard road ahead. I want to highlight in my brief remarks the five big challenges that we face between now and December.
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