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Tessa Jowell: I was waiting for the punch line. The ranking of ministerial offices reflects the significance and importance of the responsibilities carried by the post-holders within the Government. No one is in doubt about the significance of the contribution made, and the responsibility carried, by Lord Mandelson.
Jenny Willott (Cardiff, Central) (LD): Ministerial lists have to be reprinted frequently because of the Government's obsession with changing the machinery of government. Since 2005, the Department for Trade and Industry has had four incarnations, the Department for Education and Skills and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have been split up and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills abolished-the list goes on. Does the Minister agree that those reorganisations are unnecessary and expensive, and staff time would be better spent working on policy and problems than on changing the headed paper?
Tessa Jowell: If it were only as trivial as changing the headed paper, yes, but modern government has to be flexible, with the capacity to respond to new and changing demands. That is what the machinery of government changes are designed to do.
The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Angela E. Smith): I am very pleased to answer this question in the run-up to social enterprise day on 19 November, which is a celebration of the 62,000 social enterprises in the UK. Last week, I met 13 social enterprise ambassadors at the restaurant Fifteen, itself a thriving social enterprise, and they are some of the most inspiring social entrepreneurs in the country, together employing more than 1,400 people. Social enterprises contribute about £24 billion to the economy each year and employ 800,000 people. It is clear that at their best social enterprises contribute to a stronger economy and a fairer society.
Angela E. Smith: One of things that the Government need to look at-and are doing so-is how to get more capital investment into social enterprises. My hon. Friend may be aware that we have recently concluded our consultation on the creation of a social investment wholesale bank. Consultation closed on 7 October and we are looking at the responses to see how we can best ensure that we get more capital investment into social enterprise, to the benefit of the economy and the community as a whole.
Robert Key (Salisbury) (Con):
Will the Minister do her best to encourage Departments, and especially the Government offices for the regions, to participate in social enterprise organisations locally, some of which are working very hard to find practical answers to
problems such as transport in rural areas? Will they also work with organisations such as Policy Connect, which is based in this House?
Angela E. Smith: It is very good when the Government offices for the regions can co-operate with social enterprises. Indeed, I recently visited Hackney transport social enterprise, which is doing tremendous work for the local community. The public are now looking for something different from their business enterprises-social and environmental concern instead of just the financial bottom line. It is important for government at all levels to co-operate and work with social enterprise- [ Interruption. ]
Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Members for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) and for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) have been conducting an animated conversation for several minutes. I feel sure that that conversation has now been concluded.
Ms Dari Taylor (Stockton, South) (Lab): My hon. Friend will know that Community Ventures is a social enterprise that serves my constituency very well. Is her Department considering advising social enterprises to put social clauses into public contracting, so that training opportunities and employment regeneration are added to social contracts?
Angela E. Smith: My hon. Friend makes an important point, which is similar to the point that I made a moment ago about there being more to a social enterprise than the financial bottom line. There is a social return on the investment. I can tell her that yesterday the second phase of the Government's national programme for third sector commissioners began, and it is specifically looking at how to address social issues and how to provide benefit to the public through public service procurement. The short answer is yes.
Angela E. Smith:
I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we recognise the difficulties facing the sector. As I mentioned to my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Clive Efford), an increased amount of services are being provided, but at the same time there are concerns
about financial support for the sector. The Government's package of support during the recession of up to £42 million will help to address that.
Mr. Carmichael: I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Many charities in my constituency are already facing difficulties as a result of the economic climate and are now facing a further threat as a consequence of the dispute between the Lloyds TSB Foundation and the Lloyds TSB banking group. Will the Minister do what she can to intervene in that dispute and to broker some sort of settlement, so that the contribution that the foundation makes to many charities in Scotland can continue?
Angela E. Smith: I would love to be able to do so, but I think that it might be beyond my powers. Obviously, if the Government can give any support or advice, we will be happy to do so. I understand that the Scottish Executive have looked at this matter as well. It is time to place on the record-perhaps this message can go back-how much we greatly value the foundation and the support given by such organisations. We hope that efforts can be made to ensure that it continues.
Sandra Gidley: Is the Minister aware that the number of main reporting charities registered with the Charity Commission has fallen by more than 12,000 over the past year? Although some of that can be attributed to administrative changes in the commission, is it not really a sign that the Government's third sector recession action plan is not working? How can she make it more effective?
Angela E. Smith: I have to challenge the hon. Lady when she says that the £42.5 million put into the third sector is not working. Charitable organisations on the ground will tell us the difference that it makes. I can also say that she needs to talk to the Charity Commission about the reasons for the figure. Plucking out headline figures does not tell the true picture. More than 1,000 charities have chosen to merge, and the commission has said that it had to clear up the list. A number of those charities have been active for some years. Obviously, we want the number of third sector organisations to increase and those organisations to develop. That is why the Government have a plan to do that.
Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): Has the Minister been able to form any assessment of how banks are treating charities in the current context, in terms of loans, operating charges and other pressures, including on the assets that charities hold?
Angela E. Smith: There is no formal assessment, but anecdotally there is a mixed picture. Some report favourable responses and support from their banks, but in other areas we are finding that banks are perhaps not as sympathetic as they could be. That is one of the reasons that the Government have a programme in place to help charities, and that includes loans being made available.
Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con):
Charities have suffered as a result of the recession. Charities such as Age Concern and the hospice movement make a huge contribution to the well-being of certain groups of people in this country because of the large number of
volunteers who give their services free. Can the Government not do more at this time to help charities that are so well regarded in this country?
Angela E. Smith: It is a pleasure-albeit an unusual one-to agree with the hon. Gentleman. I, too, recognise the value of volunteers, and I can assure him that a number of programmes are in place to train volunteers, to help them to broker the arrangements for volunteers that enable them to volunteer in the right way and to use the right skills of volunteers. Not only do charities benefit; the economy as a whole benefits. It is often a route into work. I entirely agree, therefore, with his proposition that volunteers are essential to civic society.
8. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the work of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat natural hazards team in relation to contingency planning for floods. 
The Minister for the Cabinet Office and for the Olympics, and Paymaster General (Tessa Jowell): I know that the hon. Lady has a great interest in this matter and is concerned, as we all are, that the recommendations of the Pitt review that followed the 2007 floods be implemented swiftly. To this end, the natural hazards team in the Cabinet Office has been established and is developing a programme to reduce the disruption to critical infrastructure and essential services that caused so much suffering during those floods. A statement of policy is being developed with local authorities, regulators and the relevant industries. A wider consultation on this will follow in November and no doubt Members on both sides of the House will wish to engage in this. The-
Miss McIntosh: The Government promised to have undertaken a national assessment of all the critical infrastructure at risk by the beginning of this year. Why have they failed to do so and why have they let down those households that were flooded in 2007?
Tessa Jowell: The hon. Lady is not correct; a lot of work has already been undertaken in establishing the basis for the wider consultation, including discussions with the regulators, local authorities and other relevant industries. Wider consultation with the public will take place in November, after which the policy statement setting out how such humanitarian crises will be avoided in the future will be published.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): Before listing my engagements, I know that the whole House will want to join me in paying tribute to the members of our armed forces who have given their lives on behalf of our country in Afghanistan. Today we mourn the loss of Corporal Thomas Mason from the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland and Corporal James Oakland from the Royal Military Police. I know that the thoughts of the whole House are with the families and friends of those brave men. They will not be forgotten for the service that they gave. On behalf of the British people, this morning I have also sent a message to the UN Secretary-General offering our condolences and support, following the Taliban attack on the United Nations in Kabul this morning.
Will the Prime Minister ensure that any announcement by the Justice Secretary on pleural plaques will ensure a commitment to compensating pleural plaques victims from the past, the present and the future?
The Prime Minister: I know the anxieties that people who are diagnosed with pleural plaques have. I know also that there have been a huge amount of medical inquiries into this big issue. I know too that those who end up suffering from asbestosis suffer from one of the worst and most painful diseases imaginable, and it is right that we have the proper compensation in place for them. I am looking forward to meeting my hon. Friend and a group of MPs tomorrow to discuss this very issue with the Justice Secretary. It is important, after the legislation that has come before the House, that we get a resolution soon.
Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): May I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to Corporal James Oakland and Corporal Thomas Mason? They died serving our country and our thoughts should be with their families and friends. As the Prime Minister said, we should also think of those six UN aid workers who were killed in that dreadful attack in Kabul.
Before I get on to other questions, may I welcome the Government's complete U-turn on cutting £20 million from training in the Territorial Army? That was brought about after questions by Conservative MPs and Labour MPs, and from this Dispatch Box. Can the Prime Minister tell us what on earth he was thinking of when he was thinking of cutting Army training at a time when the country is at war?
The Prime Minister: First of all, let me repeat my condolences, as the right hon. Gentleman has, to those people who have died, one of whom was injured in the summer and subsequently died in Birmingham. Our thoughts must also be with the United Nations and the relatives of those staff today. I will be speaking to the UN Secretary-General to tell him that no terrorism should deter us from our actions in Afghanistan.
As far as the training for Afghanistan is concerned, there are three stages to it and all are important. First, we have to ensure that our regular Army has the numbers
that are necessary. That is why an additional 9,300 people have been recruited to the Army over the past year. That means that Army numbers are now at 101,000, which of course means more money. The second thing was to ensure that the Territorial Army, which was sending people to Afghanistan, had them going to Afghanistan properly trained and equipped. I was sure when I reported to the House two weeks ago that that is what we would do.
The third thing is that, having spent an additional £1 billion on Afghanistan this year and spending £1 billion extra on defence for costs associated with Afghanistan and other things, we could or would be able to spend on the Territorial Army. Having looked at all the issues, including the extra £1 billion that we are spending on Afghanistan, and having talked to the Chief of the Defence Staff, I decided that that was the right thing to do. However, I have to tell the right hon. Gentleman that we are spending £1 billion more on Afghanistan and £1 billion more on defence. It is wrong for him to say that we are not spending sufficiently on defence; we are.
Mr. Cameron: Honestly, this Prime Minister cannot even be straight and straightforward when he is performing a U-turn. He cannot get away from the fact that he was proposing cuts in basic training that would have meant cuts in the TA, and if you cut by that amount, you cannot fight a war. He says that there were three stages to this, and there were: the wrong policy, informed by the wrong values, followed by weeks of dithering in Downing street and, finally, the Government forced by the Opposition to do the right thing in a humiliating climbdown. And it all ends, once again, with a complete loss of the Prime Minister's authority. Why does this Prime Minister keep getting it wrong?
The Prime Minister: What is wrong are the Opposition's policies on the economy. What is wrong are the Opposition's policies on the health service. What is wrong are the Opposition's policies on education. Right throughout the recession, we have got things right, and the right hon. Gentleman has got it wrong.
Mr. Cameron: The Prime Minister turns to the economy, so let us turn to the economy. We learned last Friday that Britain is in the longest and deepest recession since records began. Presumably, one very simple thing has to follow from that: this Prime Minister has got to say something that, up to now, he has completely refused to say. Will he finally admit that he did not end boom and bust?
The Prime Minister: We always said that we would come out of recession by the end of this year. That has been the position that the Chancellor took in his Budget, and the position that we consistently took. It would have been wrong, and made things a lot worse, if we had taken the advice of the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition. Today, in Brussels, we have got permission to enable Northern Rock to be sustained as a company. We agreed to nationalise it, and we saved 3,000 jobs in Northern Rock. If we had taken his advice, there would be no Northern Rock and 3,000 jobs would have been lost.
Mr. Cameron: The Prime Minister tells us that he has been consistent in saying that we would be out of recession by the end of the year. I am not going to let him get away with that. In September, he said:
"We are now coming out of a recession, as a result of the actions we have taken".
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