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Barbara Keeley: We have not received any representations on either the current operation of Standing Orders or suggestions for amendments. The conduct of Members in the Chamber is a matter for your judgment, Mr. Speaker, not for Standing Orders.
Michael Fabricant: May I draw the Deputy Leader's attention to early-day motion 1054? In the natural hurly-burly of debate, it is understandable that a Minister may from time to time say something that subsequently turns out not to be correct-and the Minister then, quite properly, writes a letter to say, "I made a mistake in my remarks in the Chamber." Is it not right, however, that if a mistake is made in the Chamber, that should be corrected in the Chamber, rather than being the subject of a private letter?
Barbara Keeley: As I understand it, a Minister will correct information only if he was asserting that information. In the situation to which I think the hon. Gentleman is referring, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families was challenging some figures that an Opposition Member had given, and that is not a case for correction in the Chamber. When a debate is going backwards and forwards between Members, with comments being made and assertions being made and then challenged, that is not the same as when a Minister has given figures that are then proved to be wrong.
Nick Harvey (North Devon): The petition has been noted, but the Commission remains of the view, reached on independent advice and after examining a number of options, that Bellamy's bar is the most suitable available site, and it is proceeding on that basis.
Mr. Leigh: The previous Speaker summoned me in for a dressing down because the Public Accounts Committee had dared to criticise the House of Commons authorities for overspending on Portcullis House. Will he accept, however, that we must insist on value for money not only in the wider Whitehall apparatus but here, and that we have to consider whether it represents value for money to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on equipping facilities for the staff just in order to strip them out? Is there nowhere else in the House where we can deliver this unit more cost-effectively?
Nick Harvey: A number of alternative sites for the nursery were considered, including Speaker's Green, North Curtain corridor, Lower Ground Floor secretaries' area, Cloister Court and the Oratory, the Shooting Gallery, 2 the Abbey Garden basement, 14 Tothill street and 4 Millbank, but 1 Parliament street offered the most suitable accommodation, principally because of the ease of conversion and the proximity to the Chamber.
Ms Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman accept my congratulations on the progress that has been made in this matter? I understand there has been a campaign in this place for at least 40 years for facilities of this nature, and it will not just be staff who benefit, but many hon. Members. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that many Members will benefit as a result of these developments, regardless of where they end up being located?
Nick Harvey: I sincerely hope so. The Commission felt it was important to demonstrate to both new and current Members with small children that the House will help them to combine their parliamentary work with their family responsibilities.
The Commission considered it important to have the nursery facility operating early in the new Parliament, before new Members had made other child care arrangements. This is a challenging time scale, and
in view of the time constraints the Commission decided it was not feasible to consult the FSC for appraisal in the usual way.
Mr. Chope: But under Standing Order No. 144, the Finance and Services Committee should have been consulted, and is it not correct that the Chairman of the Commission knows that the project is not a good use of resources, is a reckless waste of taxpayers' money, and would never have been approved by the FSC? Is that not the reason why it was never referred to that Committee, and will he ensure that it now is?
Nick Harvey: There would be no question whatever of the Commission proceeding with something that it considered reckless or a waste of public money. Competitive tendering will be undertaken for the contracting of works and for running the nursery, and a significant proportion of the work paid for by the money that has been referred to as having been spent on Bellamy's bar over the past couple of years will be reused in the new scheme.
Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford) (Con): May I press the hon. Gentleman on the answer he gave my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope)? Given that the hon. Gentleman attended the meeting of the Commission, can he tell the House which member of the Commission expressly voiced the opinion that the matter would not be put before the Finance and Services Committee-because it was known that Committee was not very happy with the proposal and the cost?
Mr. Speaker: Now we come to the business question- [ Interruption. ] Order. The hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) should calm himself-he has the weekend ahead, which he can enjoy- [ Interruption. ] The hon. Gentleman should calm himself.
Tuesday 16 March-Opposition Day (6th allotted day). There will be a debate entitled "The Government's Handling of Equitable Life", followed by a debate on access to higher education. Both debates will arise on an Opposition motion.
"the defence budget has been rising every year."-[ Official Report, 10 March 2010; Vol. 507, c. 291.]
That is a claim the Prime Minister made repeatedly at the Chilcot inquiry last Friday, but as he should know, spending on the Ministry of Defence was in fact cut in real terms between 2003-04 and 2004-05. The Leader of the House will know that the ministerial code requires Ministers to correct
"any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity."
May we have a debate on the failures of the system of serious case reviews into child abuse? We all assumed when we read of the Fritzl case in Austria that it could never happen in Britain, but it has, despite the involvement of 100 social workers from more than 28 different agencies. It was a particularly horrifying situation and it is right that we do everything we can to protect the privacy of the victim and their families. However, as Professor Cantrill poignantly noted yesterday, every time a horrific case of child abuse leads to a serious case review the authorities pledge to learn from their mistakes,
but we never seem to. Does the right hon. and learned Lady agree that we need to debate the wider implications of publishing serious case reviews and, indeed, learning the lessons from them?
May I again press the Leader of the House on the mystery surrounding the debate on overseas aid? I have raised it several times but never had an adequate answer. We were supposed to have had that annual debate in November, but it was cancelled. It was rescheduled for February but pulled at the last minute, and now it looks as though we may not get it before Dissolution. It is an important debate, particularly given our involvement in Haiti, and I would not want anyone to get the impression that the Secretary of State for International Development is too busy strategising the election to fulfil his ministerial duties to the House.
Turning to the Wright Committee, may I welcome the enormous progress that the House made last Thursday, particularly in persuading the Government to get the Back-Bench business committee up and running by the beginning of the next Parliament as I had originally hoped? Swift work has been done on turning the resolutions into draft Standing Orders, but, as we heard in relation to Question 21, there is now some issue as to whether the resolutions on the Order Paper will have the support of the Government. Will the right hon. and learned Lady give a commitment that this issue will be debated and resolved before we rise for the Easter recess?
When will we complete the truncated debate on the Procedure Committee's report into the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speakers? The right hon. and learned Lady will recognise the sense of dissatisfaction felt across the House about the way in which this matter has been handled. She tabled all the relevant resolutions and remaining orders, but although some were debated, others seem to have got stuck on the Order Paper. The Procedure Committee has asked for a decision to be made, but the Government are standing in the way. Is that not symptomatic of the old way of doing business that the House rejected last Thursday?
Now that we know the date of the Budget, will the right hon. and learned Lady confirm that we will have the usual four days of debate thereafter? Finally, given that it was the Prime Minister who chose to announce the date of the Budget, can I now assume that it will be the Prime Minister who will give us the date of the Easter recess? That is a bit of information that I have been seeking in vain from the right hon. and learned Lady since last October.
Ms Harman: The Prime Minister gave evidence to the Chilcot inquiry last Friday, he answered questions about defence spending in Prime Minister's questions yesterday, and there will be a defence debate on Monday. I strongly refute any suggestion or implication from the shadow Leader of the House that the Prime Minister has in any way misled the House or, indeed, anyone else. He has been absolutely forthright about the defence budget and about this Government's long-standing and strong commitment to ensuring that our defence forces have the resources they need. They have the full backing of the Government and, indeed, the British people.
As far as serious case reviews are concerned, we publish the findings of such reviews so that lessons can be learned. The serious case review process was itself reviewed in 2006, and I do not remember the Opposition
coming forward at that time with any suggestion that background information to such reviews and their conclusions should be published. The important thing is that the findings are published, which indeed they are in what is described as the executive summary, as well as the lessons that have to be learned. I think that we all share the absolute horror about the recent case. The lessons have been published and the Government have accepted the need to act on, and they are acting on, the issues that have arisen out of that case.
On overseas aid, the Government feel very committed to and proud of our record. Before we came into government, there was no Department for International Development. We now have DFID and we have doubled our aid budget, so we are strongly committed to overseas aid, to keeping the House informed of the Government's work on international development and to listening to Members' concerns. There is obviously an opportunity to raise questions with the Secretary of State and Ministers in DFID questions, and there have been numerous statements. I have not been able to announce a debate on overseas aid within the next two weeks, but the shadow Leader of the House will see that there is a general debate on defence. However, there will be the usual opportunity to raise issues of international development in the debate following the Budget statement.
As far as the Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, the Wright Committee, is concerned, as my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House said in answer to an earlier question, we should all be gratified with the progress that was made last week. We have agreed a major programme of reforms-the election of Select Committees Chairs by secret ballot, the election of Deputy Speakers by secret ballot, the election of Select Committee members, the ability of private Members to table motions that can be debated and voted on, and a new way of deciding the business of the House, whereby it will not be done by the Leader of the House at the Dispatch Box after a process of private discussions among the usual channels, but by a Committee of the whole House.
As my hon. Friend said, it is gratifying that there were very big majorities in the House last week to resolve this matter and move forward. We have the resolutions of the House. My task now is to make sure that the House is given an opportunity to endorse the Standing Orders that will give effect to them. My mandate is the will of the House as expressed in the resolutions. We need Standing Orders to give effect to them-nothing less. There is no suggestion that we should try to do anything less than what the House agreed to in the resolutions, because that would not be right.
It is helpful that a resolution has been tabled in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock Chase (Dr. Wright) and others. We have that as a basis, and we will see whether the advice to us is that it is in exact compliance and that it does no less-but probably no more-than the resolutions of the House. Whether or not that is the case, I can assure the House that we will bring forward the Standing Orders, and there will be an opportunity for the House to endorse them before the next election.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD):
The problem of course is that there are not many days left now to do these things. I am waiting in particular for
the motion to dissolve Parliament. I have asked for it for the last two weeks and got no reply. I hope that the motion will be tabled very soon now.
I do not think that the right hon. and learned Lady answered the point raised by the shadow Leader of the House about whether there would be four days for the Budget debate. I hope that we will have four full days, because no one would want to suggest that the Government are attempting to cut and run after the Budget. Let us have four days, therefore, with one devoted to the position of manufacturing industry. This week's trade figures were absolutely disastrous, especially given the weakness of sterling. That ought to be a boost to exports and manufacturing industry, but in fact we are seeing the reverse, so may we have a debate on that?
A fund-raising appeal was launched this morning at Clarence house for veterans suffering from combat stress. This is a very important issue, and I know that hon. Members on both sides of the House feel very strongly about it. May we have a statement from the Ministry of Defence about the arrangements for mental health facilities for those who have fought in wars on our behalf? Their symptoms often express themselves a long time after the episodes in which they were involved. We must make sure that we make proper provision for our veterans.
Will the Leader of the House tell us when she expects to have the Second Reading of the Digital Economy Bill? That very controversial Bill was introduced into another place in November last year. It has had three months of detailed scrutiny and it completes its proceedings there next week. We must surely give that Bill at least a Second Reading here before dissolution. Will the right hon. and learned Lady tell us when?
May we have a brief debate on nuclear power? Planning permissions are being forced through by the new procedures, on the assumption that nuclear is the right answer for our energy needs. Many people feel that it is not, and we should establish a commission to look at these matters in depth.
My last point would warm the heart of the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack), if he were in the Chamber. May we have a debate on jargon? I notice that the Local Government Association this week issued a book on banned jargon, saying that the public sector
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