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"should not hide behind impenetrable jargon and phrases".
One of the key exhibits in the book is the word "wellderly", which I believe was coined by the right hon. and learned Lady. It is now banned from use in local government, so may we have a debate on the use of jargon?
Further to the assurance that I gave to the shadow Leader of the House that the House will be given an opportunity to make a decision on the Standing Orders giving effect to the resolutions following the House's decisions on the Wright Committee recommendations, because we will simply be giving effect to decisions that the House has made already, it should be possible to deal with those Standing Orders as part of the remaining orders of the day. Pursuant to what was raised earlier, however, I will obviously have to make sure that everybody agrees that the Standing Orders give effect as the House intended; I shall send drafts to everybody who has shown interest in the issue so that people can look at the Standing Orders, which
will run to a number of pages. We simply want to get the science right. The House's position is clear. I am committed to getting the Standing Orders that give effect to the House's decision, and it ought to be possible for that to be done as part of remaining orders of the day.
As far as the days for Budget debate are concerned, I have announced the business for next week and the provisional business for the week after. Of course, there is no attempt to curtail any debate on the economic situation, on our determination to secure the recovery rather than putting it at risk, on making sure that we protect front-line services rather than cut them, as the Conservatives would, and on making sure that we have a fair tax system rather than an unfair one that would help a few people at the top, which is the Tories' proposal.
We look forward to having good debates that focus on all those issues, as well as the important issue of manufacturing in this country. Obviously, it is important that we support that, including through tax relief for business investment, which we want to keep going. We want to work to support not only manufacturing in this country but the expansion of the global economy. We are a trading nation and need to make sure that we work internationally, particularly with our partners in Europe, with whom most of our trade is, to ensure that there is growth across Europe. That will help our trade position.
As far as veterans are concerned, I completely agree with what the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) said about combat stress. We have already given priority in primary care to veterans, but there is a whole range of other things that need to be addressed. We shall have an opportunity to revisit those important issues in the defence debate next Monday.
As far as nuclear power is concerned, the hon. Gentleman will have been involved in and seen the statements about our wanting energy independence and a balanced energy policy. He will be familiar with the proceedings on the Energy Bill, which has been through the House recently. He will also know about the framework laid out by the Planning Act 2008. It allows for national policy statements and then for the issues to be looked at locally. We now have a much better framework for making sure that we have energy independence while reducing our carbon emissions.
As far as jargon is concerned, the hon. Gentleman brings me extremely bad news: the word "wellderly" had hardly got off the ground before being banned. I thought I was supposed to be the person who bans things all the time, but now I discover that I am the victim of an unfair banning order. The point about the wellderly is that we rightly spend a lot of time in the House talking about frail elderly people and our national care service that is needed to support people in their own homes and to ensure that people can have residential care if they need it. However, we need to recognise that most elderly people are fit, well and active. They contribute to their families, often go out to work and play a big part in the community. They are the well elderly-the wellderly. That is one banning order that I am not submitting to.
Mr. Speaker: Order. At least 24 right hon. and hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye. I remind the House that there is a statement to follow, as well as a topical debate and an important Second Reading debate, of interest notably, but not exclusively, to Northern Irish Members. There is much business to accomplish, so short questions and answers are required.
Jacqui Smith (Redditch) (Lab): May we have a debate about the role and independence of the excellent researchers in the House of Commons Library? This week, the shadow Home Secretary, who is a serial reoffender when it comes to dodgy crime statistics, embroiled the Library in controversy by quoting selectively from research. Would it not be better if, when using research from the House of Commons Library, all of us undertook to publish all that research, rather than selectively quoting for political advantage?
Ms Harman: I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend, who played a very big part in getting crime down in this country. As she says, the British crime survey, which is the best survey because it does not depend on reporting vagaries, shows that all crime-particularly violent crime-has gone down over the past 10 years.
Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford) (Con): May I repeat to the Leader of the House the question about when we can expect the Second Reading of the Digital Economy Bill? Does she accept that it is a substantial, complex and controversial piece of legislation, and that it would be deeply unsatisfactory if the House were not able to give it proper scrutiny?
Ms Harman: In the usual way, I have announced only the business for next week and the provisional business for the week thereafter. Obviously, any business following that will need to await announcement next Thursday.
Mr. Robert Marshall-Andrews (Medway) (Lab): As some form of peace process starts again in the middle east, my right hon. and learned Friend will be aware that 1.5 million Palestinians remain trapped, blockaded and increasingly destitute in Gaza. Will she find time in the course of the next two weeks or before Dissolution for the House to debate that continuing atrocity?
Ms Harman: There will be an opportunity following the Budget debate to raise the question of our support for Palestinians and for a middle east settlement. I think that we all share the sentiments that my hon. and learned Friend has expressed.
Justine Greening (Putney) (Con): Earlier this week, on Tuesday, the Opposition held a debate about the deeply unpopular plans for unitary councils in Norwich and Exeter, and literally the next day, on Wednesday, the statutory instruments to bring the plans into force were withdrawn. That is a complete shambles, and residents in those communities need to know where they stand, so may we have a statement about what on earth is going on with the Government's plans?
Mrs. Claire Curtis-Thomas (Crosby) (Lab): Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider holding a general debate on the Floor of the House about the training opportunities that have been presented to young people? Under this Administration we have seen a fantastic rise in the number of apprenticeship programmes, in stark contrast to the Opposition's days in government, so I really would like the opportunity for a general debate to ensure that the benefits associated with those programmes are fully understood by all.
Ms Harman: I hope that my hon. Friend and many other hon. Members will find an opportunity in the Budget debate to raise the issues of protecting young people from the scarring effects that people suffered in previous recessions and of ensuring that they have a good part to play in a prosperous future. The guarantee that no person under 24 years old will have to go any longer than six months before they obtain a job and training is very important, as is the future jobs fund. I know that my hon. Friend is strongly committed to that measure, which is important in her constituency and her region, and I hope that it will be raised in the Budget debate.
Mr. Mark Lancaster (North-East Milton Keynes) (Con): May we have a debate about community health services and the undue haste with which the Government are attempting to force through changes before the general election? Milton Keynes council has been given just 12 days to decide whether it wishes to be a provider. Given the impact of the changes on vulnerable people in my constituency, why are we forcing them through so quickly? They are complex issues, so can we not have more time?
Gwyn Prosser (Dover) (Lab): Dover Harbour Board's plans to sell off the port of Dover to the highest bidder have been thrown into chaos and confusion this morning, following the announcement by P&O and the other major port operators that the board may have been misappropriating revenue funds, and that T2, the new terminal, might not go ahead. Will the Leader of the House consider an urgent debate about the issue so that we can look at the most inappropriate and improper present and past actions of the port of Dover, which only last year laid off 200 workers and privatised their jobs?
Ms Harman: I know that my hon. Friend, as a real champion of his constituents and, particularly, the Dover port and all the people who work there and whose jobs depend on it, has close contact with the relevant Ministers, but I shall ensure that I, too, draw the issue to their attention. Perhaps they could have a meeting with him at this particularly important point.
Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD):
The Leader of the House missed an excellent 30-minute debate in Westminster Hall yesterday, which was called by her hon. Friend the Member for Lanark and Hamilton, East (Mr. Hood), about the Royal Bank of Scotland's
lending practices. Attendance was good for a short debate, and that is clear evidence of the need for a bigger debate in this Chamber, so that Members can question Treasury Ministers about how those banks, for which we have paid, can be made to work for our communities and constituents.
Ms Harman: One reason why we ensured that we had lending agreements with banks was that it was very important for banks to lend out into the economy, to individuals for mortgages and to businesses. More money is being lent. The reason why the overall lending figures appear to be lower is that more money is being paid back, so the net lending figure is smaller than the gross lending figure. That is a good sign, and it has come about because interest rates are still low. However, we keep a hawk eye on the lending practices of the banks. They are there not to pay bonuses to the fat cats at the top, but to lend out to businesses and the housing market, which need finance.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): When the debate takes place next Thursday about the annual report of the Intelligence and Security Committee, will my right hon. and learned Friend try to persuade whoever is the Minister to give us information arising from the speech of the former director-general of MI5? When was any protest made to the United States about the torture carried out by that country? When did MI5 officers know? Although I may be the only Member interested in the subject, I believe it crucial that Members of Parliament know precisely what went on, bearing in mind the speech made by the former director-general of that organisation.
Ms Harman: The sentiments that my hon. Friend raises are shared by many hon. Members. All of us are concerned and, rightly, the Government's position is that we totally abhor the use of torture. We would never condone or support its use by our security services, and we would never condone or support its use by anybody else. The very points that my hon. Friend makes were raised at Prime Minister's Question Time yesterday, and the Prime Minister answered them.
Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire) (Con): May we have an early debate about the role, performance and policies of the Driving Standards Agency? It has already closed more than 60 local test centres, and another 45 closures are in the pipeline. May I refer the Leader of the House to early-day motion 1002 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Anne Main)?
[ That this House notes that, following the introduction of a new motorcycle test on 27 April 2009, Driving Standards Agency figures show that 50,000 fewer people took the motorcycle test in the period to 31 January 2010 than in the same period in 2008; further notes that 45 learners crashed attempting the new test during its first nine weeks, resulting in 12 hospitalisations; further notes that the majority of crashes occurred during the new swerve and stop exercise, which has been combined into one exercise in Module One of the new test; further notes that this is not obligatory under the European directive which prompted the introduction of the new test; further notes that the new test has resulted in a reduction in test centres, requiring longer journeys for inexperienced
riders to access test facilities; is concerned that inaction to tackle this lack of test centres and combined swerve and stop exercise could lead to a decline in the overall number of motorcyclists and the motorcycle industry as a whole; congratulates Motorcycle News and the Motorcycle Action Group on their campaign to have these issues addressed; and calls on the Government to consider separating the two elements of the swerve and stop exercise and to investigate how the availability of test centres could be addressed. ]
Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley) (Lab): May we have an early debate about the safety and security of children who are taken to Pakistan for family holidays? May we also consider the damage caused to their education when they are removed from school during term time?
Ms Harman: All hon. Members will hope for the very speedy return of the young lad of five who has been abducted in Pakistan. My hon. Friend has long campaigned for the safety of children in her constituency who were born abroad, and I shall consider the relevant Minister with whom to raise that issue.
Christopher Fraser (South-West Norfolk) (Con): Representatives of the care home industry have told me of the regulatory difficulties that they face, which get in the way of prioritising care for those people who, in the words of the Leader of the House, are not wellderly. Those representatives criticise the Government and say that they could do more to help. In the light of that, and because of the debate about the future care of those non-wellderly people, will the Leader of the House, as a priority, bring the matter forward for a debate before the general election?
Ms Harman: It is very important that we have really tough regulation for private residential care homes. I can remember when there was almost no regulation at all, and we had to bring it in to protect people. There were protests from Conservatives, saying that it was red tape, but protecting vulnerable people in residential care is an absolute priority and we want to ensure that the regulations do that proportionately and effectively.
Mr. Tom Watson (West Bromwich, East) (Lab): May I reinforce the concerns of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee Chairman, the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale), about the Digital Economy Bill? It contains fiendishly complex copyright infringement measures that will have lasting repercussions, and I cannot be the only hon. Member who is concerned that to deal with it in a wash-up would be bad form at best.
I know that my hon. Friend has put a lot of effort into, and is extremely knowledgeable about, all these issues. We want to ensure that we have fast-speed broadband in all parts of the country that can be
accessed by business and individuals, and that we have a modernised copyright system. I will report his views to the Ministers responsible.
Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): Can the Leader of the House ensure that the Prime Minister opens Monday's defence debate from the Dispatch Box? It is now quite plain that the Government committed British forces to two wars without adequate funding. As a result, necessary equipment was lacking, particularly helicopters, armed vehicles, bomb detection kits and body armour. As a consequence of that lack, service personnel have died. The Prime Minister has a responsibility for that and needs to be brought to book in that debate.
Ms Harman: The Prime Minister gave evidence to Chilcot last week. He answers questions every week in the House of Commons. He is strongly committed to supporting the armed forces, and always has been. There will be a defence debate on Monday, and it will be opened by the Minister who is assigned by the Government to do that.
Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): You will be aware, Mr. Speaker, as will my right hon. and learned Friend, of the excellent event that took place a few months ago when we invited youths from all over the country to come and sit in this place. Will my right hon. and learned Friend therefore accommodate some of our elderly folk to enable them to come here and organise a similar event in this House, so that we can get the views of some of our "wellderly" people on the issues that matter to them?
Ms Harman: We could take further the very good precedent that was set by the UK Youth Parliament when, at a time when this House was not sitting, we allowed it to be here. All the Benches were absolutely packed, with half young men and half young women, and a great many wheelchair users; it was ethnically diverse and it was a fantastic debate. I think that we could do more of that. Perhaps the next thing that we could do would be to have the National Pensioners Convention here, with pensioners and retired people from all over the country coming to sit and debate and have their voices heard in this Parliament. I thank my hon. Friend for raising this; it is an exceptionally good idea, and I sense a great deal of support for it.
Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): May we have an early debate on the inadequacies of the UK Border Agency? Last week, one of my constituents complained to the agency; he was effectively doing a whistleblowing job on some illegal immigrants-people who had overstayed and were working illegally. He had an appointment with the agency that was then cancelled, and it said that it was indifferent to his concerns. Surely this is thoroughly unsatisfactory. People should be encouraged to blow the whistle on illegal immigrants, rather than not.
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