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25 Nov 2009 : Column 525

Let me turn to a completely different subject, one that I raised two years ago. I asked the Prime Minister about the extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir and why, despite an explicit promise by Tony Blair that it would be banned, it still has not been banned. Hizb ut-Tahrir's constitution states that non-Muslims are "combatants in the battlefield" and that their

Although he has not been able to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir, can the Prime Minister at least assure me that this extremist group has not received any public money?

The Prime Minister: I am not aware of Hizb ut-Tahrir receiving any public money. If the right hon. Gentleman has evidence of that, perhaps he will give it to me.

Mr. Cameron: Well, I will not only give it to the Prime Minister, but my hon. Friend- [ Interruption. ] What is extraordinary is that my hon. Friend the shadow schools Secretary wrote to the Prime Minister's right hon. Friend the schools Secretary a week ago about the issue. Let me draw the Prime Minister's attention to the fact that two schools have been established by an extremist Islamist foundation, the ISF or Islamic Shaksiyah Foundation, which is a front organisation for Hizb ut-Tahrir. The ISF has secured a total of £113,000 of Government money, some of which was from the pathfinder scheme, whose objective is meant to be preventing violent extremism. Can the Prime Minister explain how that completely unacceptable situation came about?

The Prime Minister: I am happy to say that this will be looked into in every detail. I am told that the two schools that the right hon. Gentleman referred to have been inspected. I will look at the results of those inspections and write to him. We are dealing with grants of £113,000 of public money, as he said, and two schools that I do not know the names of, and I shall look at this matter very carefully.

Mr. Cameron: I am grateful for that, but there can be no doubt that the organisation that I mentioned is a front organisation for Hizb ut-Tahrir. Two of its four trustees are members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, and the head teacher and proprietor of one of the schools-a school in Slough-are members of Hizb ut-Tahrir. I find it hard to understand why the Prime Minister does not know about that, given that we were asking- [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. Government Back Benchers are becoming far too excitable today. The Leader of the Opposition must be heard.

Mr. Cameron: Given that the Opposition have been asking questions about this issue in Parliament for almost a month and that the shadow schools Secretary wrote to his opposite number a week ago, how can the Government have an anti-extremist fund that results in a Labour local authority handing out money to extremists? This is a school set up by extremists, passed by Ofsted and approved by the Charity Commission, but in receipt of public money. Does not that prove that we need a much bigger inquiry into how things like this can happen?

The Prime Minister: Let me say that everything that the right hon. Gentleman has said will be investigated in great detail. Let me also say that the letter written by the shadow schools Secretary a few days ago will be replied to. Let me also say-let us be clear about this-that the vast majority of Muslims in our country are part of
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the law-abiding majority of this country. I do not want it to be said that those people who are citizens of our country who hold the Muslim faith are to be held responsible for acts of terrorism. Where there is abuse, it will be investigated. In the case of Hizb ut-Tahrir, we have investigated and looked at it. It is not a proscribed organisation and if the right hon. Gentleman has new evidence that should make us proscribe it, we shall look at it again. As far as the two schools are concerned, they will be properly inspected and every argument the right hon. Gentleman has made will be looked at closely, but he would not expect me, without looking at the evidence, to draw early conclusions.

Mr. Cameron: The Prime Minister talks about investigating Hizb ut-Tahrir. This is an organisation that said Jews should be killed "wherever you find them". That is what that organisation says. Let me ask the Prime Minister about another organisation because there is a sense that this Government have just not got a grip on the issue of Islamic extremism. Take the group Islam for the UK. The leader of this group, Anjum Chaudri, claims that the 9/11 bombers were "magnificent" people

The group has apparently called for

When the Prime Minister replies for the last time, perhaps he can tell us why this group has not been banned as well?

Is it not the case that people will see that we have a Government who say they want to prevent extremism, yet their money is funding extremists; that we have a Government who say we should not have extremist-led schools, yet we have those schools? Above all, when is the Prime Minister going to tell us how he is going to get a grip on this issue?

The Prime Minister: To proscribe an organisation, we need full evidence and that evidence needs to be looked at in detail in the cold light of day, and I think the right hon. Gentleman may regret some of the remarks he has made this morning. As to our activities against terrorism in this country, we have doubled the security staff available to deal with terrorism; we have doubled the number of police who are dealing with potential terrorist incidents; we have put 100 people into prison since 2001 as a result of terrorist acts; we are monitoring very closely people who enter this country, including through the use of the identity card that foreign people coming to this country have to hold; and we are using the DNA database to check up on people, much against the advice of other parties. We are doing everything in our power to deal with the terrorist threat in this country and I thought it was a matter of all-party consensus that proscription should be on the basis of evidence, which was clearly proven, of advocating violence. That is the position that both parties accepted; that is the position that we will continue to follow.

Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree with the comments of the chief inspector of constabulary today that it is time to reassert the principles of the traditional British model of approachable, impartial and accountable policing based on minimum force for major public order events such as the G20?

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The Prime Minister: I absolutely agree that it is important that policing is of the best. Where mistakes are made or where there are question marks, they have got to be answered. We have procedures for doing so. I know that the events at the G20 caused a great deal of anger and sadness for people when we had the casualty. It is very important that we take the action that reassures people that policing will always be fair.

Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): I would obviously like to add my own expressions of sympathy and condolence to the family and friends of Sergeant Robert Loughran-Dickson of the Royal Military Police, who tragically died serving in Afghanistan last week. I also add my tribute to PC Bill Barker, who lost his life in the line of duty dealing with the terrible floods in Cumbria. Our hearts go out to his wife and four children. At such times we all remember that it is the brave men and women of our emergency services who keep us safe when it really counts. We thank them for it.

It is vital that the Iraq inquiry, which started its work this week, is able to reveal the full truth about the decisions leading up to the invasion of Iraq. Will the Prime Minister therefore confirm that when Sir John Chilcot and his colleagues come to publish their final report, they will able to publish all information available to them, with the sole exception of information essential to national security?

The Prime Minister: I have set out a remit and brought it to the House of Commons. Sir John Chilcot has been given the freedom to conduct his inquiry as he wants. He has chosen to invite people to give evidence, and he will choose how to bring his final report to the public. That is a matter for the inquiry.

Mr. Clegg: As I think the Prime Minister must know, the matter is not just for the inquiry, because his Government have just issued a protocol-I have it here-to members of the inquiry, governing the publication of material in the final report. If he reads it, he will see that it includes nine separate reasons why information can be suppressed, most of which have nothing to do with national security. Outrageously, it gives Whitehall Departments individual rights of veto over the information in the final report. Why did the Prime Minister not tell us about that before? How on earth will we, and the whole country, hear the full truth of the decisions leading up to the invasion of Iraq if the inquiry is suffocated on day one by his Government's shameful culture of secrecy?

The Prime Minister: That is not what Sir John Chilcot has said. The issues affecting the inquiry that would cause people to be careful are national security and international relations. As I understand it, those are the issues referred to in the protocol. I believe that Sir John Chilcot and his team are happy with how they are being asked to conduct the inquiry.

Q2. [301118] Mrs. Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): Britain's top bankers rewarded their own financial greed and incompetence with large bonuses, while imposing huge banking charges on those who, because of need not greed, often went into the red. I am sure that many Members were dismayed at today's Supreme Court judgment. What will the Government do to ensure fairness for ordinary people-ordinary customers-within the banking system?

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The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the anxieties that people have had about the system of bank charges in our country. Although the court judgment has not upheld the case of the Office of Fair Trading, it is right that we examine how fairness can be applied in all cases to people who are banking customers in this country. As far as the banks that we are responsible for at this moment are concerned-Northern Rock, HBOS Lloyds and RBS-we have asked them to review their overdraft charges over the past few weeks in order to be fairer to their customers, and they have done so. Under the Financial Services Bill, which is now before the House, a damages fund will have to be set up by banks to deal with complaints by customers of overcharging. There is now the possibility for class actions to be taken in court, which could not happen before, so that a group of customers can take banks to court. There is now power given to the Financial Services Authority, for the first time, to impose settlements on banks to repay customers they have overcharged. The proposed legislation will strengthen the rights of customers, as we have sought to do over the past two years, so that they get a fairer deal from the banking system, as they should, in this country.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): When did the Prime Minister first realise that he was infallible?

The Prime Minister: I deal with the issues as they arise, and I do so as best I can. I believe that, over the recession, we have dealt with the issues in a far better way than we would have done had we followed the advice received from the hon. Gentleman's party.

Q3. [301119] Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): How important is the work of the North-west Regional Development Agency in delivering investment to business, science to Daresbury, and the successful "capital of culture" year to Liverpool as part of the city's ongoing regeneration? The Prime Minister: One of the biggest mistakes that could be made would be the abolition of the regional development agencies in our country. In every region of the country the business organisations, the small business organisations, the engineering employees and the local authorities say that the RDAs are doing a job that helps their businesses through a recession and creates new job opportunities for people. I think that the Conservative party would make a terrible mistake if they decided, in an act of vindictive ideology, to abolish development agencies.Q4. [301120] Mr. Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute) (LD): The Government have compiled a secret list of sites in Argyll and Bute where they are thinking of dumping nuclear waste from old submarines. There is widespread opposition to the proposal in Argyll and Bute, and many communities fear that they are on the secret list. Will the Government publish that list of secret sites today, so that a public debate can take place?The Prime Minister: I have followed this issue over the 26 years for which I have been a Member of Parliament, and it has been an issue for all those years. The question is where nuclear dismantling should happen, and where the nuclear waste from submarines should be placed in
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this country. It is right to consult MPs-as the hon. Gentleman has been consulted-and local representatives on the issue, and I understand that the Ministry of Defence is talking to MPs and elected representatives in the areas where there are potential sites. This is not happening behind closed doors. Members of Parliament are being asked for their views on these very matters.Mr. Parmjit Dhanda (Gloucester) (Lab): On the subject of tackling radicalisation, does the Prime Minister agree that in all such cases it is important that we listen to the Association of Chief Police Officers? If an organisation is proscribed, however much we may abhor its views-and we do-it will stay on the right side of the law, because such organisations are quite clever in that way. The danger is that proscription will merely create a recruiting sergeant, and possibly also lead to a judicial review. Should we not listen to ACPO before deciding whether to proscribe organisations of this kind, and should not the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) do likewise?The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend brings a great deal of experience to the issue, and he is absolutely right. Any decisions about proscription should be made on the basis not of a few exchanges in the House of Commons but of a detailed assessment of what is right and what is wrong, and part of that involves taking police evidence into account. As my hon. Friend says, we must not get into a position in which the decisions that we make act as a recruiting sergeant for militants in this country. We are taking every action that we can to deal with the terrorist threat in this country, and I think that, on an all-party basis, we should be united in saying that we are doing what we can to ensure that the al-Qaeda threat- [Interruption.] The shadow Chancellor is saying something about money. We have doubled the amount of money being spent on security. That would not happen under a Conservative Government, because they would not be prepared to make the funds available. Why, when we are dealing with the issue of spending, do they persist in their policy on inheritance tax- [Interruption]-whose beneficiaries resemble the Leader of the Opposition's Christmas card list? Q5. [301121] Paul Rowen (Rochdale) (LD): Unlock Democracy has proposed the establishment of a citizens' convention to consider a renewal of faith in the House and in Parliament. Is the Prime Minister willing to support that, and if a private Member presents a Bill to that effect following tomorrow's ballot, will he give it Government time?The Prime Minister: I welcome the report from my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock Chase (Dr. Wright) on the reform of this Parliament. It is right for us to consider how our Select Committee system can be reformed so that it is better in the future. It is also right for us to consider how non-Government business is dealt with, and how we can improve the workings of the House. I believe that there will be a warm welcome for some of the proposals in the report.As for the question of our House becoming more open to the views of people outside, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to suggest that we need to consult
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widely. The Youth Parliament met here only a few weeks ago, and we will continue to have an outreach to members of the community. That is essential in a modern-day participatory democracy.Q6. [301122] Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle) (Lab): I thank the Prime Minister for his words of comfort and encouragement to the people of Cumbria today, following last week's devastating floods. In 2005 my constituency was flooded, and the Government were very generous in providing resources for flood defences. It will cost £40 million just to rebuild the bridges in west Cumbria, and probably the same amount to rebuild the roads. Will the Prime Minister assure us that he and the Government will be able to help? The people of Cumbria cannot afford to pay that bill.

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right-100 flood protection schemes have recently been brought in. One of them is for Carlisle, where £40 million is being spent to make sure there is proper protection against the floods that did so much damage the last time, and I understand that in the recent times about 3,000 properties were prevented from being flooded as a result of those new flood defence arrangements. We will look at what we have done. I have said already that the Environment Agency budget and the other budgets for dealing with flood defences will rise to £800 million in 2010-11. That is a sign of our commitment to making sure the whole country is best protected against flooding.

Q7. [301123] Mr. David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): Is the Prime Minister aware of his schools Secretary's pre-Budget statement to the annual Youth Justice convention two weeks ago protecting the youth justice budget for the next two years? If that is true, what cuts will be made to accommodate that cross-departmental commitment?

The Prime Minister: It is the hon. Gentleman's party that wants to cut massively public spending, and it wants to cut it this year and next year. In fact, it is the only major party in Europe that wants to withdraw the fiscal stimulus now when it is absolutely necessary to keep the economy moving forward. If I were him, I would be asking the Leader of the Opposition why his policy is so designed to cut money from policing, education and all the services that the public depend upon now.

Q8. [301124] Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): May I congratulate the Prime Minister on his early decision to attend at Copenhagen, a lead that has now been followed by 60 Prime Ministers and Presidents from around the world? When he is in Copenhagen, will he seek to harness that high-level attendance to ensure that the best possible package of clean development funding is on the table in order to secure the sign-up of developing countries to a workable climate change agreement?

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