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27 May 2010 : Column 289

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): This morning, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions made a major speech on welfare reform. Not only did he not come first to this House; he made the speech at half-past 9, and as a result it was too late to table an urgent question. When will the Leader of the House assert himself and require his colleagues to make announcements to this House?

Sir George Young: When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has some specific policy proposals to put before the House, he will of course make them. He made a general speech about his approach to welfare reform. He is committed to abolishing the root causes of poverty; and I hope the whole House will join him in expressing that ambition.

Andrew George (St Ives) (LD): The Leader of the House will be well aware that before the general election, there was strong cross-party support for the creation of a supermarket ombudsman-yet there was no mention of that in the Queen's Speech. We know, however, that the measure needs to be implemented soon in order to enforce the regulation that the Competition Commission brought forward on 4 February, so will the Leader of the House reassure the House that the Government will find time to introduce the necessary primary legislation in order to bring forward that important measure?

Sir George Young: I would be misleading my hon. Friend if I said that we could find time. That specific measure was not in the Queen's Speech, as he will have seen; nor, from memory, was it in the coalition agreement. For that reason I cannot give the immediate commitment he has asked for. None the less, I shall raise with my right hon. Friends in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills the important point he has made, in order to clarify the coalition Government's approach to supermarkets and competition.

Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): During the general election, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) said in the north-west that he questioned the legitimacy of some of the grants and financial support that had gone to industry in the recent past. Given the importance of protecting the manufacturing base, can we have an urgent debate on whether there is any truth in some of the stories that have been running, such as the Government's seeking to claw back the loan guarantee given to Vauxhall Motors and the moneys given to Sheffield Forgemasters?

Sir George Young: I understand the hon. Gentleman's constituency interests, and he might have an opportunity to raise those either in further debates on the Queen's Speech or, when the time comes, through direct questions to the Ministers concerned.

I have now refreshed my memory of the coalition agreement, which does in fact refer to an

so I hope my hon. Friend the Member for St Ives (Andrew George) is reassured by that.

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): In opposition, my right hon. Friend, now the Leader of the House, expressed himself robustly against the permanent
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colonisation of Parliament square, and against the guillotining of Bills as they went through the House. Will he make a statement to the House on what we propose to do about those two matters now that we are in government?

Sir George Young: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for taking such an interest in the speeches I have made in the past. It is certainly the Government's intention not to guillotine Bills automatically in the way that the previous Government did, and to allow adequate opportunity for debate.

On Parliament square, we need to strike the right balance between, on the one hand, the right to protest and, on the other, the conservation of a very important site, right in the middle of the capital, next to Westminster abbey and the Houses of Parliament. In my view, the balance at the moment is not right. The House will know that the Mayor of London is seeking to enforce the byelaw under the Greater London Authority Act 1999, under which it is an offence to erect tents or other paraphernalia without permission of the Mayor, so I hope we can come up with the right balance. People should protest there but they do not have to live there all the time and create what is becoming a shanty town, which does not do credit to the environment in which Parliament square is located.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): May we have a debate to define "affordable" or "social" housing? In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander), the right hon. Gentleman referred to a commitment to build social housing, but he was asked specifically about council house building, so can we have some answers from the Government on whether they will renege on the commitment to build council housing?

Sir George Young: Those in housing need do not mind whether it is the council or a registered social landlord who provides their home. What they want is a home, and it is a fact that, for a given amount of money, one can build more homes if the money goes through registered social landlords than if it goes to the local authority. So, I would not go along with the hon. Gentleman in endorsing the idea that such housing has to be council housing. What is needed is affordable, social housing, whoever provides it.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate on the working of IPSA? Other Members have commented on that, but for staff who have been told they will have to wait until to November to know whether their employment will continue, the position is frankly unacceptable. That needs to be sorted out earlier rather than later.

Sir George Young: Of course, my hon. Friend can apply for a debate about IPSA. It is important to recall that IPSA is an independent body, and the House has decided that it will not get directly involved in fixing or paying the allowances. None the less, I agree that there is a need for a sensible debate between the House and IPSA to ensure that Members of Parliament can effectively do their job. If my hon. Friend wants to apply for a debate, he is free to do so.

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Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab): The Government have announced that they intend to review all contracts signed by the previous Government. That obviously creates much uncertainty and concern, particularly in respect of the A400M military transport aircraft, which will create thousands of jobs in the UK. May we have an early debate to try to end the uncertainty?

Sir George Young: Yes, and of course the hon. Gentleman can table questions to the appropriate Minister to get clarification of the important issue he has raised-he might like to follow that route to get a swift response. I understand the concern in his constituency.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Will the Leader of the House confirm that, in the Queen's Speech debate that he announced on constitutional and home affairs, the Government will set out clearly their position on the Human Rights Act 1998? My right hon. Friend and I both stood on a manifesto to repeal the Human Rights Act. Since the election, we have been unable to deport a suspected terrorist because of that Act. It is crucial that action be taken as soon as possible to ensure that the human rights of terrorists, criminals and illegal immigrants are not put before those of decent, law-abiding people.

Sir George Young: I am grateful to my hon. Friend and I assure him that the specific questions he has raised about human rights will be addressed in the debate on home and constitutional affairs.

Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North) (Lab): May I draw the Leader of the House's attention to early-day motion 75?

[That this House applauds the work of One North East in promoting sustainable economic growth across the North East of England since 1999; recognises the role One North East has played in regeneration and job creation in the region over the last 11 years; understands the importance of the support it gave over 4,000 businesses during the recent recession; supports its vision for a future North East economy that ensures the people of the region benefit from improved prosperity; and calls on the Government to strengthen the support given to the North East economy through One North East.]

One NorthEast, the regional development agency based in my constituency of Newcastle upon Tyne North, has brought great benefits throughout the north-east region. In the light of the recent announcement of cuts to regional development agencies, and the concern that that is causing throughout the region, will the Leader of the House make time for a debate on that extremely important issue?

Sir George Young: The hon. Lady puts forcefully the concern in her constituency. May I suggest that she apply for an Adjournment debate or a debate in Westminster Hall, where the issues she has raised can be tackled in more detail and she can get a response from Ministers? She may have heard what the Chief Secretary announced yesterday, when he outlined his commitment to laying the foundations for recovery by getting the deficit under control-a huge deficit, which we inherited from the outgoing Government.

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend recall the prayer of St. Augustine, which can be paraphrased as, "Lord make me chaste,
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but not yet"? In that context, will he explain why it will take three years to establish a business committee, a principle for which I welcome his commendation?

Sir George Young: The Wright Committee made several propositions and it suggested that they should be implemented in stages. The early recommendation dealt with the Back-Bench business committee-the one on which we plan to make immediate progress. There was a much broader recommendation about a House committee, and it was always envisaged that that would be set up towards the end of the process of implementing the Wright recommendations. We have given a commitment, which did not exist previously, to do that within three years. I hope my hon. Friend will welcome the progress that has been made on that-it is an advance on the position at the end of the previous Parliament.

Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab): May I draw the Leader of the House's attention to early-day motion 85?

[That this House expresses concern that speculation over the future of the new hospital at Wynyard is causing anxiety for staff, patients and the community; and seeks an assurance from Government that the existing commitment to build a new acute general hospital at Wynyard to replace Hartlepool University and North Tees University Hospitals will be honoured; and recognises that the new facilities will help to address issues of health inequalities that are a feature of many communities within the catchment area.]

In view of the £6 billion cuts package, will the right hon. Gentleman make time for a debate about the NHS capital programme and, in particular, grant an opportunity to clarify the Government's position on the new hospital at Wynyard?

Sir George Young: The hon. Gentleman will have heard what the Chief Secretary said yesterday about exempting the health service from the cuts.

Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): Presumably and hopefully during this Parliament we will continue the practice of holding topical debates. Therefore, may I put in an early bid for a topical debate in the week beginning 14 June, which is carers' week, to support early-day motion 14, which commands the support of colleagues on both sides of the House?

[That this House expresses its respect for the six million people of all ages in the UK who provide unpaid help, care and support to a relative or friend who, because of frailty, illness or disability, would not otherwise be able to manage; notes that despite the huge contribution carers make to society, many carers continue to remain unsupported in their caring roles without the chance of a break or respite; is concerned that many carers are hidden, unheard and unable to access relevant and practical advice, information and services; further notes that Carers Week, a partnership of national charities, takes place this year from 14 to 20 June, with the theme A life of my own; and believes that without significant reform of the care and support system carers will not be able to access support at times of crisis, will not be able to work, which has a lasting impact on the economy, and will not have the chance of a life of their own that they deserve.]

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Such a debate will be a good opportunity for the House to commend and celebrate the work of some 6 million carers throughout the UK who give invaluable support.

Sir George Young: My hon. Friend's bid is in pole position, because it is the only bid that we have received so far for a topical debate, and it would be appropriate. Of course, once we get a Back-Bench business committee up and running, it will decide the subjects for topical debates.

To pick up a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), it might be easier to have a topical debate on IPSA rather than him applying for an Adjournment debate.

Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the difference between this Con-Dem Government's rhetoric and reality? There has been lots of rhetoric about slimming down government, but so far they have created 33 commissions or other forms of inquiry-and that number is rising.

Sir George Young: All the work will take place within a constraint on public expenditure, so it does not follow at all that those commissions of inquiry will lead to an explosion in public expenditure. The hon. Lady will recall from 1997 that the then incoming Government set up one or two commissions in order to clarify, get a better outcome from, and inform their policy.

Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): May we have a statement from an Education Minister on the impact of a reduction in the subsidy provided by the teachers' Training and Development Agency, which is causing severe financial hardship, especially to small primary schools in my constituency? They must find an additional £1,000 for each graduate teacher trainee that they take on, for which they could not have budgeted-and that at a time when they are already going through financial hardship. It would be helpful to have a statement on whether that reduction can be delayed until schools can budget for it.

Sir George Young: My hon. Friend raises a good point which directly affects his constituency. During debates on the Queen's Speech there will be an opportunity to raise education issues. He might seek either to intervene or to make a speech and make his point then.

Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab): Is the Leader of the House aware of the utter dismay felt by local people and businesses in Nottingham about the deferral of the planned widening of the A453, which links the M1 to the city of Nottingham from the south, and which is absolutely vital to our economic prosperity? Will he find time for a debate on that important issue?

Sir George Young: As a former Transport Secretary, I should have been aware of the feeling on that issue. May I suggest that the hon. Lady apply for an Adjournment debate, which would be the appropriate forum to develop her case and explore with Ministers the possibility of a way forward?

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David Tredinnick (Bosworth) (Con): First, does the Leader of the House accept that the larger demonstration in Parliament square represents a real security risk? At the start of this new Parliament, he must show the dynamism to do something about it. Secondly, when will the Embankment entrance between the Norman Shaw buildings open? It is inconvenient to Members that it is closed.

Sir George Young: On the second point, I will raise the matter with the appropriate officials in the House and ensure that my hon. Friend gets a reply. On the first, I would be reluctant to comment on issues relating to security.

Mr Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): Is the Leader of the House aware that we need a very early statement on the question of Building Schools for the Future? Hundreds of schools up and down Britain are awaiting the knowledge of when the building is going to start, including two in my constituency at Shirebrook and Tibshelf. Instead of waffling on about welfare to work, would it not be sensible to get construction workers back into work, building those schools, and to start a new process-not this daft coalition?

Sir George Young: The Chief Secretary did find extra resources yesterday for construction-he announced extra investment in affordable housing. There is a debate on education next week, when I hope the hon. Gentleman raises that matter with Education Ministers and gets an answer.

Gordon Birtwistle (Burnley) (LD): Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the appalling situation following the centralisation of A and E units throughout the country that was introduced by the previous Government? My constituents have to travel 15 miles to a hospital in Blackburn-there are now no A and E units in Burnley, Pendle or Rossendale.

Sir George Young: I understand the concern, and during the campaign we proposed a moratorium on centrally driven closures of accident and emergency departments. May I suggest that the hon. Gentleman seek the opportunity of an Adjournment debate to raise that important local issue?

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): May I welcome the rowing back by the Leader of the House from the explicit commitment to extend anonymity in rape cases to defendants? It contrasted with "we will consider" finding ways to invest in new rape crisis centres. I also hear that we are now "considering" anonymity. May we have an early debate on the Stern review, which said that there was no compelling evidence that anonymity protects men, but that there is a case for more research on that?

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