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The danger is that if the Prime Minister presses on in the way he has indicated, he will be making the system less fair, not more fair. As he said, the Deputy Prime Minister acknowledged to the House this week that there is a problem with the register. The
Electoral Commission study found not just the number of people who are not on the register, but who they are: a third of all black people, half of all young people, and half of all private sector tenants are not on the register, despite the work that has been undertaken by electoral registration officers. Those people will not be counted if the Prime Minister redraws constituency boundaries now. He says he wants equal constituencies, but does he accept that he cannot have equal constituencies based on an unequal register?
The Prime Minister: I have to say to the right hon. and learned Lady that she had 13 years to sort out the issue of voter registration. What is interesting about what happened over the last 13 years is that elections used to be determined by a few officials in the Home Office. We have now got the vast bureaucracy of the Electoral Commission. It spends millions of pounds every year, employs dozens of people, holds huge great reviews, spends vast amounts of money on advertising, but has not succeeded in its task.
We will press ahead to get people to register, but I have to ask the right hon. and learned Lady this again: what on earth is unfair about equal-sized seats? My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Turner) has, I think, to look after about 110,000 constituents, but some Opposition Members have about half that. That is simply not fair.
Ms Harman: The Prime Minister has shown that he is not listening to the argument that he cannot redraw the boundaries, which is his Government's proposal, until the problem of the register is sorted out. He has shown that he is not listening to argument, but pressing on regardless. That is not the new politics; it is downright unfair.
May I move to another issue? [ Interruption. ]
Mr Speaker: Order. Quite a bad example is being set by some senior Members to newcomers- [ Interruption. ] Order. There are far too many private conversations taking place. The public are not impressed: they want to hear orderly exchanges.
Ms Harman: Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Before the election, the coalition parties talked about ending what they called the surveillance society. The coalition agreement said that the Government would further regulate the use of closed circuit television, but on Monday, the Home Secretary could not tell the House what that would mean in practice. Can the Prime Minister tell us now?
The Prime Minister: First, I am not surprised that the right hon. and learned Lady wanted to move on to another subject. Let me make one last point on the previous question- [ Interruption. ] I am sorry if it is painful, but it is important. She says that it is not right to redraw boundaries until we have sorted out the electoral register, but I have to point out that we fought the last election on redrawn boundaries, so I think we have a long way to go on that. There was, I have to say, just a whiff of special pleading.
On surveillance, let me be clear that I support CCTV cameras. I have them in my constituency and they are very effective, and when I worked at the Home Office
many years ago I championed such schemes, but I think everyone understands that the level of surveillance has become very great in our country. As well as the issue of CCTV, there is the issue of how many different sorts of officials are allowed to enter people's houses without permission. We will be bringing forward legislation to deal with that. I know that the Labour party has given up on civil liberties, and that the right hon. and learned Lady used to be head of what was the National Council for Civil Liberties-that was all a long time ago-but we on this side of the House think civil liberties are important.
Ms Harman: May I ask the Prime Minister the question again, because I was asking not about people entering people's houses, but about CCTV? Can I tell him what Theresa was saying to me on Friday? [Hon. Members: "Theresa?"] Not the Home Secretary, but Theresa from the Poets Corner estate in my constituency. That Theresa is the one who knows about living on an estate that needs CCTV. Let me tell the Prime Minister that such people do not want to be told by this Government that it is going to be made harder to get the CCTV that they need on their estates. I press him on this because it is about people feeling, and being, safe in their communities. Will he guarantee that he will not do anything to make it harder to get or to use CCTV?
The Prime Minister: The right hon. and learned Lady should understand that this is all about proportionality and making sure that we have a system that helps protect people while respecting civil liberties. It is extraordinary how the Labour party is becoming more and more authoritarian. Hearing the right hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls) talk about immigration, it seems we have the new Alf Garnett of British politics. It is one of the biggest U-turns that any of us can remember: for 13 years, not a word about immigration or our borders, but now they are all in a race. Perhaps it is time to move on to another subject, and the right hon. and learned Lady can tell us what she thinks about immigration.
Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) (Con): Is the Prime Minister aware of the closure of 12 branches of the Derbyshire building society and its head office in the village of Duffield in my constituency? Can he assure me that he and his Government will do all they can to help those constituents who will lose their jobs-nearly 250 of them-in this small, rural area? Will he please assure us that the Government will do all they can to help these constituents who are being dealt this cruel blow at this difficult time?
The Prime Minister: I understand why my hon. Friend wants to raise this issue. What has happened to the Derbyshire building society is desperately sad, and obviously the Government will stand ready to do all we can to retrain people who have lost their jobs and to ensure that they get the very best opportunities, and also to ensure that we go on having a strong financial services sector. As the Derbyshire building society reminds us, this is not just about the City of London; it is about the fact that millions of people in our country work in financial services, providing a good service, and we need to help them.
Q2.  Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): One of the projects that stands to be affected by the Government's decision to put on hold £600 million of housing investment is the housing element of the redevelopment of the Longbridge site in my constituency, which is important not just to that area but to the economic recovery of Birmingham as a whole. Given that the project is supported by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition that runs Birmingham city council, will the Prime Minister tell me what priority he will attach to the regenerative effects of such housing projects?
The Prime Minister: Everyone wants regeneration to continue in Birmingham, and I pay tribute to Birmingham city council, which is jointly run, I have to say, by Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, who are continuing with the very good work that they do. We want that regeneration to continue. The problem with the previous Government's housing commitments, particularly on social housing, is that they simply were not funded. One of the things that we and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills have been able to do, in making £6 billion of cuts this year, is plough back some of that money into social housing schemes, which the last Government promised but never funded.
Jonathan Evans (Cardiff North) (Con): Did my right hon. Friend have the opportunity to reflect overnight on the noble Lord Myners's candid and forthright remarks in the other place about the appalling financial legacy left by the Labour party? Does he share my view that Lord Myners's remarks make it clear that the Office for Budget Responsibility should clearly be supported on both sides of the House, and if anything is to be regretted, is it not the fact that he said that after, rather than before, the election?
The Prime Minister: That is a good idea, on that performance. It is great to welcome my hon. Friend back to the House of Commons. He is right that Lord Myners, who was hand-picked by the last Government to be a Treasury Minister, put his finger on the button when he said:
"There is nothing progressive about a Government who consistently spend more than they can raise in taxation, and certainly nothing progressive that endows generations to come with the liabilities incurred by the current generation." -[ Official Report, House of Lords, 8 June 2010; Vol. 719, c. 625.]
Those words are absolutely right, but what a pity he did not say it when he was in office and had the chance to do something about it.
Q3.  Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab): I would like to thank the Prime Minister for writing to me today to tell me that the decision on the Nissan grant will be fast-tracked. Waiting for this decision is causing huge economic uncertainty to the north-east economy. I hope that the Prime Minister can help me with a similar cause of concern to my constituents-the issue of whether the rebuilding of Hetton school will go ahead as planned.
The Prime Minister:
First of all, having written the hon. Lady a letter, I can now go a bit further and confirm, with respect to the specific grant for Nissan
that she raised last week, that the money will go ahead and the investment will be going in. Before Opposition Members jump to their feet, let me explain what the problem is with some of the grants. Before the last election, Lord Mandelson had a giant cheque book, which he went all round the country opening up, spending tens of billions of pounds, which he promised to 200 projects, two thirds of which were conveniently located in Labour marginal seats. Given that so much money was spent, it is only right for a responsible incoming Government to review those decisions one by one and make sure that the money is well spent. Fortunately for Lord Mandelson, someone else is now getting out their cheque book to pay for his memoirs.
Sajid Javid (Bromsgrove) (Con) rose- [ Interruption. ]
Mr Speaker: Order. Opposition Back Benchers must calm down; the hon. Gentleman is entitled to be heard.
Q4 .  Sajid Javid: NHS managers in my Bromsgrove constituency tell me that they are being strangled by the level of bureaucracy. What action will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister take to make sure that hospitals will never be allowed again to put top-down targets before patient care?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. We all know of cases where targets were getting in the way of proper clinical outcomes and clinical care. Too many people have experienced that in the health service, and our view is clear: if there is no clinical justification for targets, they will go. I can announce today that we will fulfil another important pledge-to have a public inquiry into the appalling events at the Mid Staffordshire hospital. I remember going to Stafford and meeting families, many of which had lost loved ones, some of whom went into hospital for a routine operation, but because the standards of hygiene and the management were not right and, frankly, because targets were being pursued rather than clinical outcomes, people died needlessly. This inquiry is important so that people in Staffordshire can tell their story.
Q5.  Caroline Flint (Don Valley) (Lab): "The Coalition: our programme for government" states:
"We will extend anonymity in rape cases to defendants."
The Prime Minister:
I know that the right hon. Lady cares very deeply about this issue-the key issue of getting the conviction rate for rapists up-as do I. I know that she gave a good speech on the subject in an Adjournment debate. What I would say is that none of us should ignore the fact that somehow there is a problem with this. We know that a lot of people are falsely accused, whose careers and lives can be blighted- [Interruption.] Opposition Members shake their heads, but in some cases people have committed suicide. One of the proofs is that when the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), now leader of the Labour party, was in office, she commissioned a report into this issue by Baroness Stern,
which found that 8 to 10% of reported rape cases could result in false allegations. Baroness Stern, who looked into the issue, said that defendant anonymity was often raised and that a
"full examination of the issues would be helpful to the debate".
What we are promising is to bring proposals forward so that they can be debated. Let us not ignore the fact that there is a problem, because there is one, and let us see if we can work together to find the right outcome.
Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): The people of Wootton Bassett in my constituency who, week by week, lead the nation in paying their respects to our fallen heroes seek no thanks or recognition for so doing. When the happy day comes when our soldiers are finally brought back from Afghanistan, however, I wonder whether the Prime Minister and his colleagues would consider repositioning the very fine war memorial from Camp Bastion to the High street in Wootton Bassett in commemoration of the way in which the local people carry out their service?
The Prime Minister: I think my hon. Friend makes an extremely good and positive suggestion. The whole country has seen the incredible devotion of people in Wootton Bassett, who, come rain or shine, are always out on the streets watching as that very sad procession goes by. I think it has stirred people in this country to see that, when it comes to this conflict, whatever we think of it, we all want to support our troops and their families. We all want to do what we can to recognise that. It is not just a Government thing; it is about the whole of our society wanting to recognise what these people do on our behalf. The people of Wootton Bassett are, in my view, right up there among the heroes.
Q6.  Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab): I am sure the Prime Minister is aware that a cross-party group of MPs worked extremely hard in the last Parliament to persuade the Government to adopt new measures to regulate houses in multiple occupation and to license private landlords. Can he reassure me that his Government will not seek to undermine that legislation, which is so important to my city centre community and others?
The Prime Minister: The hon. Lady has made a very good point. We all know of the problems of houses that are kept badly, and of past problems involving HMOs. I will ask the Minister for Housing to get in touch with her about his plans, so that we can ensure that we get this right.
Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): The legacy of the former Government's disastrous decision making in Iraq is still plain to see. Will the Prime Minister look at the existing Home Office guidance on the deporting of asylum seekers to Baghdad? A plane has left today. May I ask the Prime Minister to consider the matter again, personally and compassionately, to ensure that we have a firm immigration policy, but remain a bastion for people fleeing political persecution?
The Prime Minister:
I will certainly look into my hon. Friend's point. However, I think we should recognise that whatever view we took of the Iraq conflict-and I supported it-at least Iraq now has some chance of
stability and democracy. We are actually seeing some progress there. This morning I had a meeting with General Petraeus, who brought me up to date on what he considers to be the latest situation.
It is important to remember that one of the reasons why our brave servicemen and women fought and died in Iraq was that they were trying to make it a more stable country, and a country to which people who had fled it would be able to return. Yes, of course I will look at the specific issue raised by my hon. Friend, but in general, while we are here to offer people asylum when they are fleeing torture and persecution, if we help to make their country safe they should be able to go home.
Q7.  Tony Cunningham (Workington) (Lab): I thank the Prime Minister for his recent visit to west Cumbria. Will he give me a personal assurance that he will do everything in his power to help and support its people, who have suffered so grievously in recent times?
The Prime Minister: I can certainly give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. I know how hard he and other MPs in Cumbria have been working to bring people together after this appalling tragedy. They are, as someone has said, a very tough people in west Cumbria, but also very compassionate, very caring, and a very strong community. They have shown that in the way in which they have responded to these dreadful events.
As I said in answer to the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham, we will meet after Question Time to discuss what should be done next. I think that that is important, and I think it important to recognise that west Cumbria is a part of the country that sometimes feels quite cut off.
Amazing work was done by West Cumberland hospital, which proved itself when facing the most appalling tragedy, and the terrible difficulties caused by the fact that so many people with such awful injuries were coming to the hospital at once. People are inclined to say that it is a bit too small to cope with such events, but it coped magnificently, and I think it proved that big is not always beautiful.
Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central) (Con): The last Government changed the rules so that anyone claiming asylum in this country must do so in person in my constituency. Does the Prime Minister agree that it is wrong to ask one local authority to shoulder what should be a national responsibility, and if so, will the Government review the decision?
The Prime Minister: I should be happy to consider that. I recall that it has been an issue in the past for constituencies surrounding Heathrow airport, and that mechanisms were introduced in an attempt to alleviate some of the burdens. I will ensure that Home Office Ministers get in touch with my hon. Friend so that we can deal with this problem.
Q8.  Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): The European Commission recently reported that European fish stocks were being fished at unsustainable levels, and that 30% were close to collapse. Will the Prime Minister negotiate with European colleagues to seek the abandonment of the common fisheries policy, and, if they do not agree, give notice of Britain's withdrawal from the CFP?
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