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"I am not going to hide hard choices...in the small print of the Budget documents. The...public are going to hear them straight from me, here" -[ Official Report, 22 June 2010; Vol. 512, c. 167.]
The Prime Minister: The right hon. and learned Lady talks about broken promises. We remember, "No more boom and bust." What happened to that promise? We remember, "Prudence with a purpose." What happened to that one? We remember, "We'll protect the poorest," when Labour took away the 10p tax rate. The fact is that the Labour party has got absolutely nothing to say about the biggest problem facing this country, which is the massive budget deficit. It might be adopting Greekonomics, but we are sorting out the problem.
Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys) (Con): Given the size of the structural deficit that we have inherited, how many apologies has the Prime Minister received from Opposition Members for what they have left behind?
The Prime Minister: First, may I welcome my hon. Friend, who, I know, will speak with great passion for his town of Blackpool? We should congratulate it on its footballing success recently. On that note, I am sure that the whole House will want to show its support- [ Interruption ] yes, including all Members-for the England team this afternoon in their key game.
I have not yet received a single apology for the appalling mess that we have been left, but at some stage, the Labour party will have to wake up and realise what a mess it made of the British economy.
The Prime Minister: What we want to do- [ Interruption. ] Opposition Members have got to start getting serious about the task that we face. We want to do everything that we can to keep police officers on the streets, to have money going into our schools and to keep up spending on our hospitals, and the only way that we are going to be able to do it is if we deal with the problems of excessive welfare spending. So if hon. Members want to see police on the streets and if they want to see well-funded schools, they have got to back us on housing benefit and on welfare reform. That is the way that we can keep spending up.
Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con):
Will the Prime Minister join me in congratulating the Daily Mirror on highlighting the terrible 172% increase in unemployment
in Tamworth during the recession? Further, will he encourage that august journal to place the responsibility for that grizzly legacy squarely where it lies?
The Prime Minister: I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I think that I am right in saying that it was in Tamworth that I came face to face with the Daily Mirror chicken, which was one of the most enjoyable episodes of the election. He is right about the unemployment figures, and one of the most important things that we have got to do is to introduce our work programme, which will be the biggest, boldest scheme in the history of this country to get people back to work. That is what needs to be done, and that is the best route out of poverty.
Q4.  Chris Evans (Islwyn) (Lab/Co-op): A 25% cut in public spending in Wales, together with a hike in VAT, will hit Wales especially hard. Does the Prime Minister now accept that he and his Liberal friends have let Wales down?
The Prime Minister: I do not accept that at all. The worst thing for Wales would be to continue with the budget deficit and rising debt, and to see our economy slide down. The choice in terms of the Budget is the road to recovery from this party, or the road to ruin offered by the Labour party.
John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD): Is the Prime Minister aware of the interesting progress in the European project for fusion research, of the opportunity for a materials testing facility to come to the United Kingdom, and of the suitability of Dounreay to deliver that work? Will the Government support such an application?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend speaks with great knowledge about scientific issues. It is important that we lead in such areas. His constituency, with Dounreay, obviously has a huge technical edge, so I shall take his representations seriously.
Q5.  Pamela Nash (Airdrie and Shotts) (Lab): I am sure that the Prime Minister is aware of the send my friend to school campaign, in which my young constituents at Victoria primary school in Airdrie are involved and about which they will be writing to him this week. The campaign aims to ensure that the Government direct the £8.5 billion that was committed by the previous Labour Government towards universal primary education by 2015. The matter will be discussed on 7 July at the education summit in South Africa, which is tied in with the World cup. Has the Prime Minister personally spoken to President Zuma and other African leaders about their pledges, and will he confirm that a review of the Department for International Development's funding will not compromise our pledge?
The Prime Minister:
First, I welcome the hon. Lady following her election; I think that I am right in saying that she is the youngest Member of the House of Commons. She is quite right to talk about the millennium development goals and aid spending. It is good that it is common cause across the House of Commons that, despite the difficult decisions that we will have to take, we should meet the target of 0.7% of gross national
income. We are committed to doing that, which means that we can continue to support the poorest people in the poorest countries. We will be addressing such issues this weekend at the G8 in Canada.
Q6.  Graham Evans (Weaver Vale) (Con): Yesterday, there was support on both sides of the House for raising the income tax threshold by £1,000. Does the Prime Minister agree that a Government who do that have to explain where the money is coming from?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes a good point. I noticed yesterday that everyone in the House supported the idea of raising the income tax threshold so that we take 880,000 people out of tax altogether. If people are going to support such a pledge, which could cost as much as £4 billion, they have to say where the money is coming from, but so far we have not heard about one penny piece of one saving from any Labour Front Bencher. In terms of Labour's election for leader, it does not matter who that is, because they are not giving any figures to show where they would find cuts. Until they do that, they simply will not be taken seriously.
Q7.  Mr David Crausby (Bolton North East) (Lab): The building work for the new £20 million maternity supercentre in Bolton is pretty well finished, but may I be assured that the Government's decision to review the making it better programme in Greater Manchester will not affect the expansion, and particularly the funding, of Bolton's Princess Anne maternity unit?
The Prime Minister: Absolutely nobody is proposing closing the new unit that has been set up. The hon. Gentleman will know that decisions that were taken about Greater Manchester in the previous Parliament caused a huge amount of pain in that vital part of our country. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health is asking the NHS to ensure that we meet the needs of patients locally, instead of just conducting top-down reviews that lead to the closure of much loved units.
The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. I have had two discussions with President Obama so far, including a very good telephone call last night. I made the point, especially in the earlier phone call, that of course BP wants to pay for the clean up and to stop the oil gushing into the gulf, and recognises that it must pay money in respect of fishermen and others who have lost their livelihoods, but we want to ensure that the company remains strong and stable for not only our benefit, but the benefit of the United States. I believe that 40% of the company's shareholders are in the US, while 39% are in the UK, and it employs more people in the US than it does in the UK, so it is in all our interests that it is strong and secure in the future.
Q8.  Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab):
Yesterday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer told the House that, in April 2012, there would be no more children living in poverty than there are today.
Unfortunately, two thirds of the cuts in tax credits and benefits come after that date. Will the Prime Minister give the House his forecast of the number of children who will be living in poverty by the end of the Parliament?
The Prime Minister: What I would say to the hon. Lady is that, for the first time in any Budget-certainly since I have been in the House-we have actually published the distributional tables on what happens to income. Labour never did that; we have done it for 2012-13. As for what happens towards the end of the Parliament, I am pleased to say that there will be at least another three coalition Budgets, which we look forward to introducing, to make sure that we go on to protect the poorest in our country.
Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): In the closing days of the previous Parliament, Anthony Steen trafficked through the House the Anti-Slavery Day Act 2010 to highlight the problems of human trafficking. The Government are required to announce a day for anti-slavery day. What progress has been made on that front?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. I admired the work that Anthony Steen did. We have not set a date and he gives me an important reminder that I must get back to my office and make sure that we do.
Q9.  David Cairns (Inverclyde) (Lab): For more than 20 years, Sky News has provided an excellent source of impartial news and analysis. Can the Prime Minister give a guarantee that, whoever ends up owning BSkyB, it will not be allowed to turn into Fox News, and that there is no room here for shouty, reactionary propaganda passing itself off as fair and balanced news?
The Prime Minister: The very idea of shouty, reactionary propaganda being passed in the House of Commons is an appalling thought. As I am sure we all recognise, these are matters for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, who will be looking at them very closely.
Matthew Hancock (West Suffolk) (Con): Can the Prime Minister confirm that, until yesterday's Budget, the benefits for some of the poorest in society were to be increased at a rate less than inflation, and therefore cut in real terms?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. The Labour Government's plans were to increase benefits by less than consumer price inflation next year. They left a £300 million-they do not know this, the dupes behind the Front Bench- [ Interruption. ] I think dupes is an accurate description of what I am looking at. There was a £300 million black hole, and you do not have to be a "Star Trek" fan to know that when you are in a black hole, you should stop digging.
Q10.  Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab):
In the interests of informing the dupes behind either Front Bench, and in response to his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman), will the Prime Minister agree to publish the tables for
the years following the one that has been published in the Red Book, which is very welcome, so that we can advise him on how to improve the impact of his policies on child poverty?
The Prime Minister: What a pity the hon. Lady never made that point in 13 years of Government. Where were the distributional tables in the Budget after Budget that we-the poor dupes who were sitting at the back-had to listen to the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) give over and over again? We have published the table for the first time. Between now and the years the hon. Lady talks about, there will be further Budgets, where we will make further progress in helping the poorest families in our country.
Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): Does the Prime Minister agree with several generals, many members of the public and me that Trident should be included in the strategic defence and security review? Does he agree that if there is a case for retaining it, that would come out in the review; and if there is not a case, it should not be kept?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend will know that that matter was carefully negotiated in the coalition agreement between our two parties. My view is clear: Britain should retain the nuclear deterrent and we should always keep that insurance policy against great danger. Although I think that there is a case for looking at the costs of the Trident system and seeing how we can bear down on them, I do not believe that we should have the wider review that he suggests.
Q11.  Dr William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): Yesterday, we were told that resolute action was necessary to deal decisively with our country's debt. Does the Prime Minister believe that it is acceptable that Members' allowances are being paid to Members of the House who neither take their seats nor participate in the work of the House? When will that injustice be remedied, as he promised before the election?
The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. My views about this issue are on the record, and they have not changed. I would like to see if we can make the argument. There is not a case for Sinn Fein Members not to take their seats. I think that at the moment we let them off the hook, so I would like to re-examine the argument and see if we can find a new way of doing this.
Q12.  Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con): Saturday is Armed Forces day. In my constituency of Hexham in Northumberland we have hundreds of Royal Artillery servicemen who have recently returned from Afghanistan and will receive the freedom of the town. When they are off duty, they will receive multiple discounts from dozens of stores, restaurants and pubs that are doing their bit locally. Does the Prime Minister agree that it is everyone's duty, not just in the House but all around the country, to go the extra mile and show the gratitude that we all have for our brave troops?
The Prime Minister:
I very much agree with my hon. Friend. As I said earlier, this is something that the whole country needs to do, not just the Government.
Yes, we have our responsibilities to make sure that we are living up to the military covenant and are doing all that we can for our armed forces and their families, but it is something that communities, individuals and businesses can do, too. I understand that in Hexham, there will be a nine-hour forces celebration. When those servicemen and women are off duty, there will be discounts, as he said, from restaurants and pubs, so I expect that it might get a bit lively, and I am sure that he will join in the fun.
Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): A consequence of yesterday's Budget and VAT rise is £26.5 million of new overheads for the NHS in Scotland. Having promised to ring-fence health spending, will the Treasury now cover those costs, or will this be another broken promise, just like Lib Dem opposition to a VAT rise before the election?
The Prime Minister: Of course, our action on national insurance contributions has saved the NHS money, which would not be available under a Labour Government. The point I would make is that that benefits Scotland. The fact that we are protecting the NHS and NHS spending means that money will be available in Scotland as well. The shadow Health Secretary has said that health should not be protected, and that the NHS should be cut. That is now, take note, the official position. The Leader of the Opposition is nodding-cutting the NHS is now official Labour policy.
The Prime Minister: I thank my hon. Friend for his question. We are conducting a counter-insurgency operation in Afghanistan. He asked specifically about the military purpose of routine foot and vehicle patrols in Afghanistan. If we are going to win the counter-insurgency and succeed in what is called "war amongst the people", we have to be among them, protecting them from the insurgents. That is how we are going to create a more stable and peaceful Afghanistan, from which we will be able to return, leaving the Afghan forces in control.
Dr Lewis: Does the Prime Minister accept that there are other ways of fighting counter-insurgencies that do not involve sending out uniformed personnel along predictable routes, day after day, to be sniped at and blown up? Will he request that his military advisers focus on long-term strategies that could achieve our strategic aims without having to pay such an unnecessarily high price?
The Prime Minister:
I know that my hon. Friend takes a close interest in these matters, and I have arranged for him to meet senior officials and military advisers, so that he can explore his ideas with them. All that I would say is that the team that President Obama has put in place, and the team that we have in place of military and civilian leaders, have brought great impetus to the campaign. It is difficult to see, if we are trying to fight a
counter-insurgency, how we can do so without having a number of active patrols to protect the people from the insurgents.
Q14.  Jonathan Evans (Cardiff North) (Con): Bearing in mind the Opposition's claim that in Europe, Britain is now isolated, will my right hon. Friend indicate how on earth he managed to secure both French and German agreement to the announcement in relation to the bank levy in the Budget yesterday?
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