|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
"The old short-term bonus culture is gone. No rewards for failure...the old bonus culture removed".
To renew a request from last week, may we have a debate on agriculture in the light of the Government's proposals for its future, the welcome announcement yesterday of the supply chain ombudsman and the ongoing difficulties faced on an everyday basis by people in rural areas, such as farm crime and fly-tipping? It is time that we had a proper debate on agriculture, so will the Leader of the House find time for it?
May we have a debate on public performance rights and music copyright licences? I do not know how well it is known that a new scheme that is to come into place in April will mean that anyone who switches on a radio or plays music in any bed and breakfast, pub, office, charity or carnival float, indeed any public place, will need a licence. I am the first to defend the right of musicians to receive proper recompense for their work, but that is an over-onerous burden to place on people across the country who will not be expecting it. We should debate that requirement, because it seems excessive.
Finally, the Leader of the House committed a heinous crime against the English language this week when she coined the word "wellderly", meaning well and elderly. Although some old people are well and elderly, may we concentrate on the "illderly" and the "poorderly"? May we have a debate on the fact that millions of pensioners in this country will not receive severe weather payments, after the cold weather of the past few weeks, simply because, although they are eligible for pension tax credits, they do not claim them, and so do not qualify for those severe weather payments? Given the extreme conditions, we should be worried about that, and I think that the House should have an opportunity to debate it.
Ms Harman: I have answered fully the question about the Wright Committee in response to the shadow Leader of the House, and I do not want to detain the House further on that because a number of hon. Members want to get in. I therefore have nothing further to add to what I said a couple of minutes ago when I responded to the shadow Leader of the House.
We believe that people find it objectionable that people get big bonuses, particularly when they appear not to have contributed but actually to have made matters worse. The hon. Member for Somerton and
Frome (Mr. Heath) will know that we have taken action through the Financial Services Authority, and in many other respects, to curb the risk-taking bonus culture. He will also know that we are looking to tackle the deficit through a tax on the pool that companies set aside for bonuses. He will also know that we want to have a new tight rein on public sector bonuses, which is especially important for the highly paid given that we are looking to reduce the deficit by half over the next four years. He will know that the Treasury Select Committee has been hearing from Ministers on the great range of measures being taken to deal with soar-away bonuses in the private sector and to encourage proper restraint in public sector bonuses.
The hon. Gentleman asked about food and agriculture, and I agree that we need to look for an opportunity to debate those things. Matters for consideration include not just food production and the food 2030 programme of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, but the rural economy and the interaction between supermarkets and consumer protection, so we might look to find time to debate that. On music copyright, Department for Culture, Media and Sport questions are next week, and it would probably be better for him to try to raise that question then.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the elderly, on whom we have debates relatively frequently-the last one was before we rose for the summer recess. He says that some people are well and elderly, but I would say that he has stressed the wrong emphasis. There is a new cohort-it represents a massive demographic change-of a large number of people who are over 65 but healthy, well, active and energetic and who have a great deal to contribute to their families, local communities and the economy. They are well and elderly, but we need the appropriate focus to be on the frail and elderly-those who are vulnerable, dependent and who have dementia. Actually, however, in this day and age, the overwhelming majority of elderly people are not like that, and it is about time that public policy recognised that fact. And if he can think of a better word than "wellderly", I would like to hear it.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Thirty-one right hon. and hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye, and the House will be conscious that there is a statement to follow. I would like to be able to accommodate everybody who wants to take part, but short questions and answers will be required if I am to have any realistic chance of doing so.
Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): May we have a debate on the Government's immigration policy. My right hon. and learned Friend might be aware of a recent BBC investigation into the exploitation of European women by non-European men paying them to enter into sham marriages so that they can get access to this country. That is clearly a loophole in immigration policy, and it should be closed. I hope that she can do something to facilitate that.
I will raise my hon. Friend's point with the Home Secretary. We are in no doubt that that
practice is a breach of immigration rules and is serious organised crime undertaken by gangs. It is the exploitation of vulnerable women from abroad, and I shall ensure that the Home Secretary keeps the House informed.
Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford) (Con): Will the Leader of the House please arrange for a statement next week so that hon. Members can familiarise themselves with the proposals and decision to turn Bellamy's and the Astor Suite into a crèche? Were the Administration Committee, the staff associations, the staff directly involved and those who use the facilities consulted? Why was there a need to close those two establishments to make room for a crèche?
Ms Harman: Having nursery facilities for Members, their children and the children of staff and Officers of the House of Commons is a great step forward taken by the Members Estimate Committee. It is long overdue. I would have liked it to have happened when I first entered the House about 25 years ago. On the question about the procedure prior to the decision, I shall look into whether the Members Estimate Committee can place a letter in the House of Commons Library about the detailed process undertaken and how the matter will progress.
Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, South-West) (Lab/Co-op): Is the Leader of the House aware that £333 million of subcontracts have just been signed for two aircraft carriers? Given that the two Opposition parties have not yet signed up to the aircraft carriers, does she agree that a debate on the future of the Royal Navy is essential?
Ms Harman: I will take my hon. Friend's suggestion into account. He is right about the aircraft carrier orders. They are essential not only to the military but to our manufacturing base, which we are determined to support. Perhaps he would like to know that I am going to Faslane tomorrow.
Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): Many carers up and down the country will be disappointed by the Leader of the House's refusal to hold a debate on the Government's dementia strategy. No one expects the entire problem to be solved within a year, but there has been scant progress in better training for GP memory clinics up and down the country and in better patient support. Will the Leader of the House reconsider and have Ministers make a statement to the House to update us on where the dementia strategy is going?
Ms Harman: I have already said that there are a number of issues relating to older people, including not only the "wellderly", but those who are not well and who have dementia, so we might be able to have a debate encompassing dementia. We are determined to make-and are making-progress on the national dementia strategy.
Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): My private Member's Bill on sunbed regulation is set to receive its Second Reading on 29 January. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that as well as debating the introduction of regulations governing sunbed use, we should debate the huge issue of why so many people, particularly young women, feel under pressure to use sunbeds and to get a tan? Ought the House not to be debating that?
Ms Harman: I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend on picking sunbed regulation as the subject of her private Member's Bill, and I wish it every success. The need for such a Bill is a sad reflection on the need that women feel to alter their image. However, her Bill also highlights the dangerous health risk that sunbeds pose. I wish it every success.
Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): Given that the Leader of the House was sitting next to the Prime Minister at Prime Minister's Question Time yesterday, she will have heard the succinct question from my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Dr. Murrison) about the Prime Minister's views on the situation in the western Sahara, and she will know that the Prime Minister became geographically challenged. His reply was confusing and will have caused concern to the Government of Morocco and the people of the western Sahara, because he clearly moved it very far east. May we now have a statement, therefore, on the western Sahara from a Minister who can give a proper answer?
Ms Harman: I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman can ask that question during Foreign and Commonwealth Office questions next week. Of course, we are concerned about the long-running dispute over the status of western Sahara. It is vital that a political solution to the conflict is found, and we remain committed, as we always have been, to a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution in the western Sahara.
Mr. Edward O'Hara (Knowsley, South) (Lab): My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware that Lord Morris of Manchester's Contaminated Blood (Support for Infected and Bereaved Persons) Bill has just completed an expeditious passage through the other place, with strong and wide support in all parts of that House. Could she indicate when the Bill will come before this House and give an assurance of Government support and time to ensure its passage through this place before the general election?
Ms Harman: It is very important that we ensure that those who have suffered from contaminated blood are properly and additionally compensated. I look forward to having an early opportunity to keep the House informed on progress on that.
Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): Is the Leader of the House aware that when most of the country was covered by snow, farmers were warned that if they did not drain the red diesel from their tractors before helping their neighbours by gritting nearby roads, they could be prosecuted? Could the Solicitor-General or a Treasury Minister come to the House and provide a reassurance that they are not living on another planet?
Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South) (Lab):
I appreciate that my right hon. and learned Friend might not have any more to say on the Wright proposals, but I do. I appreciate also that they are ultimately a matter for the House, but could the Government show a little more enthusiasm about them? Were we to vote down everything
that has been proposed, that would damage the entire political system and us as a class; and the way things are going, I think that we are heading in that direction.
Ms Harman: We are absolutely not heading in the direction of voting down all the proposals of the Wright Committee. However, my hon. Friend will recognise that the issues are complex. We want to ensure that we have unanimity and consensus, and that we start from a firm foundation, building on the Wright Committee's proposals, and that is what we will do.
Mr. Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater) (Con): Owing to the collapse of Avon and Somerset police's computer system, 30 Indians have been brought in on temporary visas to try to sort the situation out. Given the fact that they need total access to all the records held by Avon and Somerset police to do so and given the world that we live in, could we have time for a debate on the rights and wrongs of bringing in temporary workers in a very high security area?
Ms Harman: If the hon. Gentleman cannot get a satisfactory answer on that matter from the police authorities in his area, he should raise it directly with the Home Secretary. However, I would hope and expect that proper security measures have been taken.
Barry Gardiner (Brent, North) (Lab): The application of stop-and-search powers under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 was found by the European Court of Human Rights earlier this week to be illegal. Although members of the public of course want to know that the police use such powers to protect them, they equally want to be assured that they are not being used by the police to go on fishing expeditions. Will my right hon. and learned Friend ensure that we have an opportunity to debate the matter at some length?
Ms Harman: These powers are very important indeed to protect our security, and they are only used sparingly. We do not accept the Court's judgment and we are appealing against it. While we are appealing, as we are perfectly entitled to do, our law stands and the police will continue to have it at their disposal.
Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): The Leader of the House will be aware of my United Kingdom Parliamentary Sovereignty Bill, which is published today, on one sheet of paper and with only five clauses. She will also be aware of the debate that we had on the subject last night in the House. Will she now arrange for the Bill to be enacted by the Government?
Mr. Ian Cawsey (Brigg and Goole) (Lab):
The recent severe weather again underlines the need for reliable and convenient public transport services, yet many of our smaller railway stations remain underused. Tomorrow I will chair another round-table meeting to try to make more use of our local stations, but with so many different bodies involved since privatisation, experience shows that doing so is a bit like wading through treacle. Can
we therefore have a debate on the rail network and how we can simplify procedures to allow local decisions on the best solutions for each area?
Ms Harman: I will consider the opportunity for debate, but I will also draw the attention of Transport Ministers to the important initiative that my hon. Friend has taken on behalf of his constituents to address their transport needs.
Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con): I wonder whether the Leader of the House has had time to study the report published by Professor Sir Patrick Bateson about dog welfare, dangerous dogs, microchipping and all the issues relating to dog crime in this country. Will she ensure that we have a debate on that important matter and that the Government act upon it as quickly as possible?
Mr. Tom Watson (West Bromwich, East) (Lab): The United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has asked the Chinese Government to explain themselves after a tech company, Google, revealed that its internal systems had been hacked into with a view to looking at the e-mail accounts of Chinese dissidents. Does my right hon. and learned Friend think that we need a debate on cyber security, so that we can applaud Google's brave corporate decision to end the censorship of its search results and encourage other tech companies, such as Microsoft, Yahoo! and Apple, to follow suit?
Ms Harman: The points made in Google's statement raise serious allegations in respect of human rights, privacy and freedom of information. Although we are not party to Google's discussions with the Chinese authorities, we are monitoring the situation very closely indeed. My hon. Friend regularly raises such issues in the House of Commons. We are strongly committed to freedom of speech in China and everywhere else, and the matter is one that could be raised in either Foreign Office questions or Culture, Media and Sport questions next week.
Greg Mulholland (Leeds, North-West) (LD): Teachers, head teachers and staff have heroically kept many schools open in Leeds, compared with other areas of the country, yet now those schools and their pupils are to be penalised, because of the attendance records of those pupils who could not get in. That is clearly absurd and needs to be changed. Can we have a statement from the appropriate Minister to say that that will happen?
Nobody will be penalised because pupils could not reach their schools owing to transport problems. However, it is important that we should expect schools to monitor and do everything that they can to ensure that all pupils attend. If pupils do not attend, individual action must be taken to ensure that their attendance is improved, and if the whole school has a poor attendance record, action must also be taken. We must ensure that
all pupils can get to school, but we must also ensure that we deal with the problem of truancy and the lack of attendance.
Martin Salter (Reading, West) (Lab): The Leader of the House has, certainly until now, enjoyed a justifiable reputation as a parliamentary reformer, but who can doubt that this place still needs to reform its arcane and antediluvian procedures and practices? However, with yet another business statement failing to announce time for a debate and a vote on the Wright report, does she not realise that unless this House gets a specific date and time in the next couple of weeks she is, perhaps unfairly, in danger of being portrayed as a roadblock to reform,?
Ms Harman: I thank my hon. Friend for raising the issue of my reputation, but what is important is not my reputation, but that of this House and the fact that we need to make progress to restore public confidence. We have already taken many steps along that road, in sorting out the parliamentary allowance system and reforming how the House does its business, and building on that is very much the next step.
Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): Does the Leader of the House accept that the Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons was established to honour a commitment made by the Prime Minister to restore integrity and independence to the Chamber? Is that not a good reason to bring forward the Wright report for a full day's debate and for decisions by the House on a free vote? We want this House's integrity and independence to be restored, so that there is power for the Back Benchers in this Chamber.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): I refer the House to the Register of Members' Financial Interests. When can we have a debate on the situation in Yemen? The Leader of the House will know that, thanks to the generosity of Mr. Speaker, an urgent question was answered last week. However, since then the date for the conference has been moved, from 28 January to 27 January. The German Foreign Minister has flown to Sana'a and a British hostage is still being held in Yemen. Surely we should have a full debate on that important subject and not just be left to ask questions of the Foreign Secretary in the House.
Ms Harman: I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for raising the urgent question that enabled the House to discuss Yemen as soon as the issue arose. The next opportunity to raise the subject will be next week at Foreign Office questions, but I will look into whether we can have a topical debate on the matter.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|