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Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): Can the Leader of the House tell me where it would be best
25 Feb 2010 : Column 464
to raise the issue of the report published this week by members of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, headed by Dr. Adrienne Key? Dr. Key claims that there is a real link between anorexia and the size of models depicted in the media, and has suggested the establishment of a body consisting of the Government, physicians, media representatives and advertisers to consider possible guidelines on this important issue.

Ms Harman: We take an interest in the matter, because it involves serious public health issues. It chiefly concerns the Department of Health, but it is covered to some extent by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The hon. Gentleman is right to raise it, and it has also been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) and the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson). I will let the hon. Gentleman know whether it will be possible for him to make any further progress, in collaboration with other Members and the Government.

Mr. Speaker: Last but certainly not least, I call Mr. Bone.

Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In relation to next week's business, will the even-tempered and tranquil Deputy Prime Minister recommend to the Prime Minister that he attend an important meeting of an all-party parliamentary group entitled "Preventing workplace harassment and violence", or might that just ruin her life?

Ms Harman: Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the hon. Gentleman's question was not worth waiting for. He is such a disappointment sometimes. I still have not given up hope: I am sure that somewhere inside him is what we all want to hear. However, I am afraid we were not able to hear it today.

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Speaker's Statement

12.30 pm

Mr. Speaker: I want to acquaint the House with some information that I have received. I have received a report from the Tellers for the Ayes in the Division at 7 o'clock last night on alternative investment fund managers, the hon. Members for West Ham (Lyn Brown) and for Bristol, East (Kerry McCarthy). The number of Aye votes was erroneously reported as 272, instead of 271. I will direct the Clerk to correct the numbers in the Journal accordingly-Ayes 271; Noes 63.

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Points of Order

12.31 pm

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you will recognise, the Wright Committee report is going to affect how Parliament develops for some years to come, so the votes next week are of considerable importance. I was, therefore, very disturbed when the Leader of House suggested that, although she was urging Members to table amendments, there would not be adequate time to debate any of those amendments. The whole purpose of an amendment is to allow the Member who has tabled it to explain why he or she does or does not want a particular thing to happen, and for that matter then to be discussed. I therefore submit that it is a travesty of parliamentary procedure if there is not a reasonable amount of time to debate amendments, especially amendments urged by the Leader of the House and selected by you, Mr. Speaker. Is there anything that you can do in your role as protector of the interests and procedure of this House to ensure that there is sufficient-not inordinately long, but at least some-time to debate substantive amendments?

Mr. Speaker: I am happy to comment on that matter, but as the Leader of the House is present, she has an opportunity to respond, if she wishes to do so.

The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. There were two reasons why we put on Monday's Order Paper as remaining orders of the day all the motions that were going to be tabled by the Government: so that those on which there was unanimity could go through-about 11 of the 16 did go through-and so that colleagues could see our substantive motions well in advance of Monday's debate and table amendments. Indeed, more than 130 Members did exactly that, and as a result when we had Monday's debate there were amendments, as well as the Government motions, on the Order Paper. Therefore, the context of Monday's debate was not only the Wright Committee report and the substantive motions, but the amendments that were already on the Order Paper, including those tabled by the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack). We will have some time for debate next week-about 90 minutes. That is enough time to discuss issues that were already within the purview of the debate on Monday, which lasted for six hours. The reality is that the hon. Gentleman should not believe that Members will not understand some of his proposals because they have not had a chance to debate them, and that therefore they might not vote for them. The truth is that we have had eight hours of debate on this, and there is no procedural issue of substance here. The point here is that we should be clear about what is on the Order Paper and get on and vote on it.

Sir Patrick Cormack rose-

Mr. Speaker: I do not want a prolonged exchange on this matter, but I am in a very generous mood, so if the hon. Gentleman wants to speak again, he can do so.

Sir Patrick Cormack: Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am extremely grateful to you for your
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generosity, but this is a matter that affects the House, and it will do so for some years to come. I am prepared to accept there being 90 minutes to debate those amendments that were already on the Order Paper and that Members know about, but the Leader of the House has herself urged us this morning to table further amendments. My point is that there must be at least another 90 minutes to debate those new amendments, which none of us has seen or knows about, so we do not know how we are going to vote on them. I therefore ask you, Mr. Speaker, to ensure-if you possibly can-that there is an extension of that 90-minute period for that purpose.

David Tredinnick (Bosworth) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I want to raise the issue of the advice given by Clerks to Select Committee Chairmen. It is my belief that the advice the Clerks provided to the Science and Technology Committee Chairman was inadequate, in that the evidence taken by the Committee in its evidence check on homeopathy was biased, as they did not call representatives of the homeopathic profession and instead chose a professor who did not represent the alternative medicine world. They chose the one person who would give an answer that suited those who were in opposition.

Mr. Speaker: It is conceivable that that issue might be a proper matter for consideration by the Liaison Committee. I say very clearly to the hon. Gentleman and the House that the reason why I will not comment on this matter is that the Speaker does not comment on matters that appertain to Select Committees, including the provision of advice to such Committees. What advice was, or was not, offered by the Clerk to that Committee is a matter between that Clerk and his or her Committee. If, notwithstanding what I have just said, the hon. Gentleman remains dissatisfied and is unable to get satisfaction from the Committee, he could consider an approach to the Liaison Committee.

Let me just come back to the issue that preoccupied the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) and to which the Leader of the House has replied. I am afraid that I can add very little. The hon. Gentleman will know that I am almost invariably an enthusiast for the maximum debate. He will also know, on the strength of his 39 years and eight months of service in the House, that these are matters for the Government; the timetable is a matter for the Government and I cannot interfere with it. Moreover, I think it is fair to say, as the Leader of the House has done-it is important that people outside are conscious of this-that there has been a very substantial debate on these matters. Certainly, the amendments that were on Monday's Order Paper regularly featured in the speeches and interventions made in the debate of that day. I do not have the figures in front of me, but it is my recollection that more than 20 Members made speeches, and a further 10 or more Members intervened-in some cases quite frequently-during the debate. So the debate was very well attended and there were many contributions to it. It would always be good to have more time, but I am not sure that I can offer any, and there will be an hour and a half on Thursday. If the hon. Gentleman is still dissatisfied, he can put in a plea to the Leader of the House or through the usual channels, but I am not sure that I can offer anything further.

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Welsh Affairs

12.37 pm

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): I beg to move,

As we take this opportunity to debate and celebrate all that is Welsh and our pride in Wales, perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from our national team's sensational last-minute victory against Scotland the other Saturday-do not write off the red team until the final whistle. By the way, I am talking about rugby and politics, not football.

Of course, no one can deny that this year has been tough for us all-families, businesses, communities and Governments the world over. Yet, even in this difficult year, Wales has seen a number of firsts, such as our first Ashes test match and the first time that the UK Cabinet has ever met in Wales. We have showcased the very best of Wales as a great place to visit, to watch world-class sport and to do excellent business.

The people of Wales have also resolved that the rise of racist, fascist organisations must be stopped. These far-right groups first tried it on in Swansea, but then abandoned their vile demonstration plans in Newport and Wrexham in the face of decent, concerted community action. We must not be complacent, however; wherever the so-called Welsh Defence League and the British National party threaten our decent, tolerant communities in Wales, we must all stand together to resist them. I am pleased to confirm that the first ever conference of Unite Against Fascism (Wales) will take place in Cardiff in early March, and I would welcome support from any and all parties in Wales. Together, we must prevail over the poison of racism.

Our main task now is how we secure the recovery in Wales, and the fact that securing the recovery, rather than sliding back from recession into depression, is now on the agenda has not happened by chance. After the worst global recession for 80 years, other economies have experienced far higher levels of unemployment-Spain 19.5 per cent., France 10 per cent., Ireland 13.3 per cent., and America 9.7 per cent. The figure for Wales is 8.6 per cent.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): The Deputy First Minister of Wales, Ieuan Wyn Jones, has said that there is "no room for complacency" on unemployment figures. The Secretary of State refers to other parts of the world, but is it not a fact that the unemployment rate in other parts of the United Kingdom is 7.9 per cent., which should be compared with the 8.6 per cent. rate in Wales that he has mentioned? Thus, the comparison also needs to be made with what is happening within the United Kingdom; we should not just make the comparison with other parts of the world.

Mr. Hain: I am very happy to make the comparison with other parts of the United Kingdom. As I shall describe later, if we were to examine Wales's performance now compared with what happened during the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s under the previous Conservative Government, when the recessions were not nearly as bad as this recession either within the UK or across the globe, we would find that we have done far better on employment and unemployment.

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Mark Pritchard rose-

Mr. Hain: I shall come to those points in due course.

Our Government and the Welsh Assembly Government have painstakingly secured a strong Welsh economic platform to build for the future. Until Spring 2008, Britain experienced an unprecedented period of continuous growth for more than 11 years under our Government, which saw the United Kingdom's gross domestic product grow by more than 32 per cent. since we came to power in 1997. However, the global financial implosion that followed has hit that enormous achievement for six, and the Government have had to respond, not by downing tools as Conservatives did in the 1980s and 1990s to disastrous effect in Wales, but by active intervention to fill the gap left by the collapse in private sector activity and investment.

Fair-minded people now accept that our Government made the right choices. We saved the banking system, on which every business and household in this country depends-the Tories opposed that action, just as they opposed the fiscal stimulus package, which, among other things, has delivered a £1 billion future jobs fund. That has already created more than 9,900 job opportunities for young people across Wales, stopping them being thrown on to the scrap heap as happened under the Tories in the 1980s and 1990s with most never to work again.

The stimulus package has also delivered the car scrappage scheme. More than 347,000 orders have been taken since the start of the scheme, 17,350 of those in Wales, thus protecting jobs and companies in the automotive sector. It has also delivered the business support schemes, such as the time to pay arrangements, under which more than 11,100 businesses have deferred nearly £155 million of business taxes in Wales alone. That comes as a result of the action that we have taken as a Government-it is all action opposed by the Conservatives.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): May I put on record my gratitude to the Secretary of State and his fellow Ministers for the help that they have provided, first in securing Regal Fayre, which is a new company in the town of Montgomery, and secondly, in helping to save 180 jobs in the Shop Direct call centre in Newtown? It is my opinion that the Government's assistance directly contributed in a positive way to saving those jobs, and I am grateful for the assistance that he has personally provided.

Mr. Hain: It is not often that we get thanked from across the Floor of the House, so I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for those thanks. He has worked tirelessly on behalf of his constituents and has properly represented them to the Government, and we have been able to help in the way that he has described. I am very pleased for the local work force that that is the case.

We have given real support-real help for real people-requiring rises in public investment without which the Government deficit would be even higher. The irony of the Tories' opposition to our recent public investment programmes is that the very Government deficit they complain about would have been even higher had we taken their approach, because there would have been more unemployment and greater borrowing to finance people who would have been on the dole instead of in work, earning incomes and paying their taxes.

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Mr. Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) (Con): The Secretary of State has tried to make some reassuring remarks about the size of our deficit. Our deficit is £178 billion-it is even bigger than Greece's, yet I saw that the Prime Minister was trying to lecture the Government of Greece about fiscal responsibility. There is nothing reassuring and no reason to be complacent about the size of the UK's deficit-it is a disaster for the country.

Mr. Hain: Nobody, let alone members of the Cabinet, such as myself, is being complacent. My point is that if we are that concerned-as we all, including the hon. Gentleman, ought to be-about the size of the deficit, why would we make it worse? That is what the Tory policies over the past year would have done and what Tory policies over the coming year would do. If a Government closed down many more businesses and gave many more people the sack-that is what the Tories would be doing-the deficit would grow bigger. Everybody understands that; it is schoolboy and schoolgirl economics. That would be a consequence of Tory policies.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): While the right hon. Gentleman is painting such a rosy picture of Labour's time in office, could he explain why 200,000 children in Wales still live in poverty-as measured before and after housing costs in the Department for Work and Pensions report "Households Below Average Income 2007-08"? Can he also explain why Save the Children claimed last month that 96,000 children in Wales are living in severe poverty under his Government?

Mr. Hain: It was because we are concerned about the numbers on poverty that we set a target for abolishing child poverty just as soon as we can. What I cannot understand is how the hon. Lady's policies for cutting child tax credits and child trust funds will help with the well-being of children in Wales. After a period of disastrous increases in pensioner poverty, child poverty and poverty across the board in Wales under the Conservative Government whom she supported, we have reduced the level of poverty for pensioners and children in Wales.

Mark Pritchard: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. [Hon. Members: "A point of order?"] I know that this seems odd, because I do not raise many points of order. However, it is an important matter for the historical record when a Secretary of State of Her Majesty's Government comes to the Dispatch Box and says something that is completely inaccurate. He claimed that a Conservative Government would-

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order.

Mark Pritchard: He claimed that they would abolish child-

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. What is a point of order is that when the occupant of the Chair rises any other hon. Member should resume their seat. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is wise to be sparing in his points of order, if he thinks that that constituted one-it is more a matter for debate. He has said something on the record; he must be satisfied.

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