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T9. [310608] Alistair Burt (North-East Bedfordshire) (Con): This is a further comment from the chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry:

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GCSE Is the Minister entirely uninterested in this problem of the connection between science at school and the quality of science at university, or does he simply believe that so long as people are going to university, that is all right?

Mr. Lammy: It really is a disservice to our students and teachers to talk down science teaching in that way, but I refer the hon. Gentleman to the £140 million we have made available to improve teaching in science across the country.

Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): In the very week when the Crown Estate has given out the biggest contracts for wind power, would the Minister be surprised to learn that I have received a letter saying that there is no course in Scotland for training in that industry and no demand for people to be trained? Will he do something about that so we do not have people from outside the UK building those wind farms?

Mr. McFadden: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to the huge investment, employment and industrial potential of those industries. He is also absolutely right to say that if we want to maximise the opportunities presented by the transition to a lower-carbon economy, we have to give young people the skills to do the jobs that that will bring.

T10. [310609] Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): Ministers should be aware of the current financial difficulties at the university of Gloucestershire, which have come about despite its success in attracting applicants. Are they prepared to meet me and my constituents from the university to discuss the crisis and whether the flat-rate nature of the cap on student numbers is unfair to popular universities such as Gloucestershire university?

Mr. Lammy: The cap on student numbers affects all universities in the country. It is important not only that we grow participation but that we fund students, often with grants, when they are at university. That is why we have the cap. The hon. Gentleman's views on the university of Gloucestershire are best directed to the funding council if he thinks there is a problem.

Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab): Given the priority my right hon. Friend says he attaches to the new green economy, can he tell the House what new European money there is for the west midlands, in order that we can innovate?

Mr. McFadden: I can tell my hon. Friend that altogether, following announcements from across the Government, there is some £500 million-plus for low-carbon industries. That is significant backing for a range of low-carbon industries, many of which we have mentioned in our answers today.

Mr. Rob Wilson (Reading, East) (Con): Reading college has suffered from a lack of investment over the years and Thames Valley university is now pulling out. It has been announced that Oxford and Cherwell is going to be the preferred bidder, but I have significant concerns about the bid process and the due diligence that has
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taken place. Please will the Minister take a significant interest in this matter, because young people in my constituency deserve a high-quality education?

Kevin Brennan: I am very happy to look into any real concerns the hon. Gentleman has. I am not aware of any concerns about due diligence with the process-of course, Oxford and Cherwell college won the bid in a consortium with another organisation. I know he has written to me, but if has any particular concerns, I would be happy to look into them. I understand that he is meeting the consortium soon, and I hope that that helps to alleviate any concerns he has.

Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/Co-op): A number of measures such as advanced technology and manufacturing and low-carbon fuel vehicles have made a significant difference, but what can Ministers do to assist manufacturing companies that are still struggling with credit insurance? Several local companies have approached me to say that they are still struggling with that scheme. If Ministers can make some suggestions about how they can assist, that would be very helpful.

Mr. McFadden: This has been a significant issue during the recession. I agree with my hon. Friend and many companies have reported problems. It appears to me that there are flaws in a product that is insurance only for good times. After all, we want insurance for good and for bad times. The flaw in the product has been exposed during the recession, and I suggest that we need a better system in the future that helps businesses in bad times and good.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): Does the Minister accept that manufacturing industry, which I have supported for almost four decades in this House, is the only source of non-inflationary economic growth
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and should be supported by whichever Government are in power and that Departments should err on the side of buying British?

Mr. McFadden: I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of manufacturing. That is why we have given it support, and why I am so disappointed that the hon. Member for Windsor (Adam Afriyie) described that support as a disgrace. I disagree with those on his Front Bench, and I am glad that he does too.

Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) (Lab): Last, but not least.

Does the Minister agree with the view that the Lisbon treaty was a package of modest and necessary reforms, and that EU-wide co-operation was necessary to produce an efficient regulatory system? That is the view of the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), as articulated to the Japanese chamber of commerce.

Mr. McFadden: It is the case that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is reported to have told the Japanese chamber of commerce that the Lisbon treaty was a modest and sensible set of reforms. I am only sad that the rest of those on the Opposition Front Bench disagree. As on several other occasions, the right hon. and learned Gentleman shows considerable wisdom that is sadly not shared by the rest of his party.

Several hon. Members rose -

Mr. Speaker: Order. I hope Members will agree that topical questions are a valuable and valued part of our proceedings. I am keen always to accommodate as many Members as possible, but we could improve in terms of pithiness of question and answer to get everybody in within time.

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Business of the House

11.37 am

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): May I ask the right hon. and learned Lady to give us the business for next week?

The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): The business for the week commencing 18 January will be:

Monday 18 January-Second Reading of the Crime and Security Bill.

Tuesday 19 January-Consideration in Committee of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill (day 3).

Wednesday 20 January-Consideration in Committee and remaining stages of the Fiscal Responsibility Bill.

Thursday 21 January-Topical debate, subject to be announced, followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords amendments to the Video Recordings Bill. To follow, the Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration.

The provisional business for the week commencing 25 January will include:

Monday 25 January-Remaining stages of the Financial Services Bill.

Tuesday 26 January-Consideration in Committee of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill (day 4).

Wednesday 27 January-Opposition Day [3rd allotted day]. There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject to be announced.

Thursday 28 January-Topical debate, subject to be announced; to follow, the Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration.

Friday 29 January-Private Members' Bills.

I should also like to inform the House about business in Westminster Hall.

Thursday 28 January-A debate from the Environmental Audit Committee on carbon capture and storage.

Sir George Young: The House is grateful to the right hon. and learned Lady for telling us next week's business.

The whole country will be haunted by the traumatic images that are emerging from Haiti as the devastating scale of the disaster there becomes clearer. Many British non-governmental organisations are now mobilising disaster appeals. Given that in the immediate aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, millions of people donated hundreds of millions of pounds to the relief fund, I am sure that the British people will again respond with generosity. I am also sure that all colleagues will want to support fundraising events in their constituencies over the weekend. We welcome yesterday's statement from the International Development Secretary, and we hope that he will continue to keep the House informed over coming weeks. In addition, might he consider this issue as a subject for next week's topical debate?

Where is the debate on the Wright report? It has not yet appeared on the parliamentary radar. The Government's handling of the report makes the case, more effectively even than the report put it, for their relinquishing their iron grip on the business of the House. They dithered for five weeks at the beginning of the process, before the Wright Committee was set up, and now they are dithering
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at the end. The Committee set the lowest of all possible hurdles at the beginning of the course by asking for a debate within eight weeks, but the Government have totally failed to clear that hurdle. It is not just the House that is impatient for change, but the whole country, so when will the Government hold a debate on the Wright report, and will there be a decision at the end of it?

Following today's report from the National Audit Office, may we have a debate on the Government's dementia strategy? The strategy was launched with much fanfare earlier last year, but we now learn from the NAO that Ministers have failed to make the disease a priority, that they show no signs of fulfilling their pledge to provide memory clinics across the UK and that they are unable to prove that the money set aside for the strategy is even reaching those who need it. So, may we have a debate on that crucial report?

May we also have a statement on minimum pricing for alcohol? For months, the Government have said that that idea is, in the words of the Home Secretary, a "non-runner", but an article in yesterday's edition of The Daily Telegraph stated that a scheme led by the Health Secretary will fix prices for alcohol units in order to crack down on supermarkets selling cheap drink. Is that a Government U-turn?

Again, may I ask when we will get the dates for the Easter recess? Last week, the Leader of the House claimed that she would publish them "in the usual way", but the usual way is to publish all the recess dates for the year ahead, once, in October. When is she going to end this state of uncertainty?

Is the right hon. and learned Lady any clearer about whether she will give additional time to debate the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill? There is an important new clause on implementing the Kelly measures, and, if the Government have resolved their internal differences, on voting reform of the House. The House will want to scrutinise both those elements, so will she guarantee an extra two days in Committee for the Bill?

Finally, may we have a statement on the election night count? A number of senior figures, including yourself, Mr. Speaker, have said that it would be, in your words, "a travesty" for the count to be delayed by local authorities until the next day. Yesterday, no less a figure than the Government Chief Whip told his local paper that delaying the count would increase the risk of electoral fraud. Is there any doubt that having a Thursday night count is the right thing to do?

Ms Harman: I fully support the right hon. Gentleman's comments about the devastation and tragedy unfolding in Haiti. He will remember that the Secretary of State for International Development answered an urgent question about it yesterday. Indeed, the subject of Haiti and of British Government and international support for Haitians at this time was dealt with by the Prime Minister in Prime Minister's questions. I can tell the House that our search and rescue teams, who are recognised throughout the world as having great expertise and experience, have landed in the Dominican Republic and will shortly arrive in Haiti. They will be working on search and rescue, but Department for International Development humanitarian assessment work will also be done, so that, as the search and rescue carries on, the further needs for shelter, water supplies, medicine and food will
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be assessed. The work of the disaster assessment and co-ordination team is under way, and it will continue to keep the House updated regularly. Of course, we all support such voluntary work, as well as charitable donations to the Disasters Emergency Committee fund.

I said to the House last week that there will be an opportunity for it to debate the Wright Committee report and to make decisions. We strongly believe in strengthening the role of the House of Commons and that making it more effective is essential to restoring public trust in our political system. That is why the Prime Minister announced the establishment of the Wright Committee last summer and why I brought to the House the motion to establish it and got the House's support.

We have already had a 90-minute debate on the report in Westminster Hall last month-in which 17 colleagues participated, and an opportunity to debate and approve the principle of the election of Deputy Speakers by ballot, which was a Wright Committee recommendation. However, this is a complex matter on which the Government will have to take a view about what it is right to bring to the House. The report was not unanimous in all respects, and there are some complex issues to consider. We want to ensure that we offer the House the right opportunity and that we do not dictate to the House on the matter.

I do not want anybody to misunderstand the right hon. Gentleman's comments as somehow meaning that the Government have stood still on improving how the House works. We have already introduced major reforms to modernise the House, including evidence-taking Public Bill Committees, pre-legislative scrutiny of draft Bills, greater resources and core tasks for Select Committees, Regional Committees, topical questions, which we have just heard, and topical debates. We have not stood still, but we do have further to go and the Wright Committee will be an important step forward when we bring its issues to the House. I can confirm that the House will have an opportunity to debate the report and decide on its recommendations.

The right hon. Gentleman raised the important question of dementia and the National Audit Office report. He will remember that it was just a year ago that we established the first national dementia strategy, which is on track. It is very important work that is fundamental to work in primary care, in the community, in hospital-based health care and in social care. It is work across the piece and we fully accept that it will not be completed in one year, but it is under way and it is a priority. We will obviously look in detail at the NAO report.

As far as the recess is concerned, the right hon. Gentleman is already complaining about the announcement of the Easter recess when we have not yet even got to the February recess. Again, I would not want him to create the wrong impression, and he knows that although Members of Parliament work in the House, we also work in our constituencies. We work in two places at once, and I would not want him to curry favour with those people who would like to imply that when we are not here in this House we are on holiday. That is not the case.

As far as progress on the Queen's Speech programme is concerned, we have had 13 Second Readings since the Queen's Speech and we are well under way. We will consider what amount of time needs to be given to the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill when we
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bring forward the new clauses to implement Kelly, on which there have been talks with all the party leaders.

I have two concerns about election night. The first is that the count should be announced as soon as the people have voted, and the second is that it should be the right result.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): The Wright Committee produced a draft motion for the House two months ago and it is still not on the Order Paper. The Leader of the House says that she is keen to facilitate it. I hope that she will tell us when she is keen not to facilitate something, because it will be a long time coming.

Last February, the Prime Minister said:

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