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Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): I do not know whether the Leader of the House heard the remarkable defence by a Conservative party spokesman on "Today" this morning of Mr. Michal Kaminski, whom the chief rabbi of Poland has condemned for having been a member of a neo-Nazi party and who whitewashes the massacre of Jews in world war two. May we have an early debate on anti-Semitism and the importance of getting the history of world war two and
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the massacres of Jews right, particularly with reference to MEPs, not just these Poles but those from other countries? We need to get this matter cleared up and the Opposition's shameful alliance exposed to the whole world.

Ms Harman: Every year in this House, we have a debate on Holocaust memorial day, which is well attended and passionately supported by hon. Members of all parties. Not only what we do in this country and in this Chamber but how we conduct ourselves internationally is important. My right hon. Friend is right-no one in this country, particularly the Opposition, should consort with holocaust deniers, climate change deniers and homophobes. That is not the way that Britain wants to go.

Mr. Peter Atkinson (Hexham) (Con): The Leader of the House did not answer the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) about the dates of the Easter recess. What is her problem?

Ms Harman: I will announce the future calendar in due course. I have not got any problems, but if I do, I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be the first to know.

Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): May we have a debate on excessive bank charges? My right hon. and learned Friend may be aware of Bank of Scotland's recent announcement that it would raise its overdraft charges for current account holders. That could mean up to 300 per cent. increases for some people. May I ask her to use the Government's influence with that bank to get it to reconsider those proposals?

Ms Harman: We recognise that bank overdraft charges are a source of public frustration in dealing with banks. We issued a call this summer in our White Paper for a speedy resolution to the millions of complaints that have been lodged with the Office of Fair Trading about overdraft charges. We expect a court decision soon on that matter and we are also working on reforms that will force banks to be much more transparent about terms and conditions. There will be Treasury questions next week, when my hon. Friend will have an opportunity to raise the matter with Treasury Ministers.

David Tredinnick (Bosworth) (Con): Has the Leader of the House had time to consider the reduction by half of the guests' and Members' seating in the Terrace Cafeteria? Does she agree that that is an important facility for Members who bring guests into the House? Is she aware that there has been no consultation on the matter? Does she agree that the seating should be restored, and not after Christmas as proposed?

Ms Harman: There was less usage of the Members' part of the cafeteria than of the part for all others working in the Commons. It was a shame that those working in the House were having their meals in a place that was absolutely packed out when the Members' part was very underused. In response to that, the idea was to move the partition at a small cost to see whether that led to better usage. The matter will be kept under review, but I do not think there is any point in keeping tables and chairs empty.

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Mr. Tom Watson (West Bromwich, East) (Lab): Arts Council England is facing its second major reorganisation in a decade. A debate would allow us to examine the scope of that, the number of staff being made redundant and the number who have been rehired as consultants.

Ms Harman: Obviously, we have to ensure, particularly as we look ahead to deficit reduction, that every pound of public money is properly spent, and that includes in the arts. The British economy as well as the quality of our life in this country is massively enhanced by the arts and the Arts Council's work. We obviously want to ensure that it is not only properly funded but spends all its money properly. My hon. Friend can probably raise the matter in Treasury questions.

Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead) (Con): May I again raise Criminal Records Bureau checks with the Leader of the House? They were brought in to protect the innocent and the young, but they are also blighting the lives of innocent people who have malicious accusations made against them, which remain on record. I have several such cases in my constituency. People cannot clear those CRB checks and the law needs to be changed. May we have a debate?

Ms Harman: We all agree that we need a sensible and proportionate approach, which puts children's safety first and ensures that the system is manageable. I cannot think of an immediate opportunity to raise the matter, but I will consider whether the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families needs to update the House. I know that several developments have taken place that he might want to report to the House.

Derek Twigg (Halton) (Lab): May we have a debate on the importance of public expenditure on large infrastructure projects, which create many jobs? For instance, the proposed Mersey gateway would create hundreds of jobs through its construction and around 4,000 jobs after its construction.

Ms Harman: The Planning Act 2008 and the opportunity for a more streamlined approach to major infrastructure projects will no doubt help not only my hon. Friend's constituency but others places around the country.

Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Given that the number of annual hospital admissions for alcohol-related injuries has more than doubled in the north of Northamptonshire to 5,451 in the past six years, may we have a debate in Government time on drink-related violence and the Government's 24-hour drinking culture?

Ms Harman: I think it was the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that we have the topical debate on fireworks this afternoon, and doubtless he will make a long and interesting speech. I note that he is now making another suggestion, which we will consider alongside others. Misuse of alcohol and alcohol-related injuries are serious matters and I will consider his suggestion.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): I declare an interest as a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy. May we have a debate on better regulation of the accountancy profession? There are egregious examples of firms such as PricewaterhouseCoopers frequently having conflicts of interest by acting as company adviser, bank adviser
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and then administrator. That insolvency gravy train must be derailed as soon as possible in the interests of all so that we are not in a position whereby the practitioners get the pounds and creditors get the pence.

Ms Harman: My hon. Friend has made another important point about the way in which insolvencies are handled. It is probably more of a question for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills than for the Treasury, although it is obviously a matter for both. I will consider how it perhaps needs to be taken forward in the House.

Christopher Fraser (South-West Norfolk) (Con): Given that recent research by the Prostate Cancer Charter for Action shows great inequalities still existing in the NHS for prostate cancer services, will the Leader of the House find time for a debate in the near future on that important issue?

Ms Harman: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman might consider seeking the opportunity for a debate in Westminster Hall or on the Adjournment-

Christopher Fraser: I have done that.

Ms Harman: In addition, I will ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health to consider the matter. There is no doubt that proper awareness of the opportunity for screening for prostate cancer and early intervention are important for prevention and treatment. It is an important issue, on which we can make progress.

Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): May I support those who are calling for an urgent debate on the situation facing Royal Mail? May I also ask for consideration to be given to sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses, who face immense problems at this time? Is it not right that the Government, as the shareholder, should examine ways how they can provide support to ensure that we do not lose more of those invaluable services?

Ms Harman: We are committed to the post office network and the important work done by sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses, and my hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the fact that it is not only those directly employed by and working for Royal Mail who are affected by the dispute. Not only businesses who use the services and the people who rely on them are affected, but the post office network is too. I will draw the matter to the attention of Business, Innovation and Skills Ministers.

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Mr. Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): Thousands of people replied to the consultation on the Badman review of elective home education. Many pointed to the lack of evidence and the weakness of the data that underlay his recommendations. May we have a debate in Government time on home education so that Ministers can be informed by it before they introduce any draft legislation?

Ms Harman: Again, that is something that could usefully be debated in Westminster Hall or on the Adjournment.

Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North) (Lab): To revert to the European Union, is not the deeper issue not only the relative merits of individual candidates but the fact that so many hon. Members still oppose the Lisbon treaty, and that a considerable minority of hon. Members oppose Britain's membership of the EU? Is that not the most powerful argument for a full debate about our future relationship with the EU, and whether it should be one of isolation or of full participation? If the Government are considering any sort of referendum, should it not be on our membership so that those who oppose the consensus of the past third of a century have the opportunity to say so?

Ms Harman: The Government-the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary-have made it absolutely clear where we believe Britain's interest lies. Our interests in terms of the economy, tackling climate change and security depend on our working together with our European partners, and not in drawing away from them at precisely the time when international co-operation is absolutely essential. It is also important that we have a strong Europe to work with the United States, China and India, so we will be pressing forward for better co-operation and working in Europe, and putting Britain at the heart of Europe.

Paul Flynn (Newport, West) (Lab): May we debate early-day motion 2180 and the Government's Sustainable Development Commission's conclusion that the cost and problems of new nuclear power stations far outweigh any benefits?

[That this House notes th at on 26 October the Government' s Sustainable Developmen t Commission said that they had ' found the problems of nuclear power far outweigh the potential benefits' ; agrees with this timely and sensible assessment; and calls on the Government to abandon proposals to build new nuclear power stations.]

Ms Harman: There will be questions for the Department of Energy and Climate Change next week, when my hon. Friend can raise that issue.

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Personal Statement

12.11 pm

Mr. Tony McNulty (Harrow, East) (Lab): With permission, I would like to make a personal statement. I should like to thank the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges for the report and memorandum that was published this morning. I should like especially to thank the commissioner for his diligence and courtesy throughout this investigation. I am grateful that he recognises that I was within the rules of this House in establishing and claiming parliamentary allowances for my constituency home. I welcome his acceptance that my claims were necessarily incurred and that I consistently claimed significantly below the maximum allowed.

I accept fully that I made careless mistakes on both mortgage interest and council tax claims, for which I apologise unreservedly to the House, but I identified those errors and repaid them in full in April and May 2009.

I further accept the admonition from the commissioner about the informal nature of my arrangements. I regret that I did not recognise that a more formal arrangement would have been wise and preferable so as to avoid the risk of an appearance of benefit, and I apologise for that.

The commissioner has accepted that my claims have the effect of abating all costs except mortgage interest and council tax, and were therefore in line with advice that was given to me by the Department of Resources, which was repeated to him as recently as three months ago. He has, however, challenged that advice-that mortgage interest as a fixed cost need not be abated-and has determined that it was too narrow. He has recognised that his conclusion is at odds with the Department's advice, which he accepts I followed.

I fully accept that this investigation has been an opportunity to shine further light on both the advice given and the rules as they pertained at the time, and that the commissioner has every right to redefine such advice and apply it retrospectively. Indeed, had the advice been given to me in terms that have now been suggested by the commissioner, I would of course have acted differently.

None the less, I accept the report's conclusions in full, including the requirement to repay, with no complaint, and I apologise without reservation to the House. I should have been much clearer about my arrangements and taken steps to ensure that I was not open to any charge of benefit, and I should have had much more concern for how these rules were perceived by the public, rather than just following them.

I apologise for any part I have played in the diminution of the standing of this House in the eyes of the public. It is, however, time to move on. I apologise to the House once again without reservation, Mr. Speaker; and I thank you for allowing me to make this personal statement and for helping me to set a course to do all that I can in future to restore the trust and faith of my constituents and the public generally in our politics.

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Fireworks Safety

Topical debate

12.14 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Ian Lucas): I beg to move,

This is, of course, a most timely and topical debate, as we are one week away from 5 November, which is traditionally celebrated with fireworks to remember that small group of recalcitrant gunpowder plotters who attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.

So far, the main fireworks season this year, which included Diwali a couple of weeks ago, has passed without serious incident, and I hope that it remains that way through the rest of this week and next week. Over the next two weeks, millions of fireworks will be sold and used, safely and considerately, in back garden displays; and hundreds of thousands of others will attend professionally organised and safely fired public displays. Contacts that my officials have had so far this year with various police forces- [ Interruption. ]

Paul Flynn (Newport, West) (Lab): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it not extraordinary that we are into the debate, but nobody is sitting on the Opposition Front Bench?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): That is not a point of order for the Chair, but the hon. Gentleman's comments have been noted.

Ian Lucas: As I was saying, my Department has-

Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con) rose-

Ian Lucas: I will certainly give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Bone: The Minister is talking about injury to human beings. One of my constituents, Andrew Meads, has campaigned for a long time about the damage that fireworks do to animals. Does the Minister have a view on that?

Ian Lucas: I will be coming to that later in my speech, but I certainly have a view on the matter. The effect of fireworks on animals is a serious issue, and it is important to take animals into account in the measures that we take.

Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): I accept that fireworks are part of our culture and they are very exciting to all of us. There have been genuine campaigns on this issue, and surely it is about time that we had some restrictions on who can sell fireworks throughout the whole year. One accepts that we are a bit more lenient coming up to 5 November, but there are shops that seem to be able to sell fireworks every day of every month of the year. Surely in this day and age that is not right.

Ian Lucas: The Fireworks Act 2003 placed new restrictions on dealing in fireworks. I will be going into those in more detail later in my speech.

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