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Pat Finucane

6. Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): When he plans to establish a public inquiry into the death of Pat Finucane. [4209]

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr Owen Paterson): I am aware of the previous Government's commitments and that there has been a long-running exchange between the previous Government and the Finucane family on the question of an inquiry.

Before I explain how I propose to approach this question, I want to hear the views of the Finucane family for myself. I have written to the family to invite them to meet me.

Meg Hillier: I welcome the Secretary of State to his position and thank him for that answer. Earlier, he indicated once again that there would be no more open-ended inquiries, but when the Prime Minister responded to the Saville report, he said both that and

Although I thank the Secretary of State for his answer, I am not sure-and I wonder whether the family of Pat Finucane are sure-which of those positions holds true for that case.

Mr Paterson: As the hon. Lady knows, the issue was the subject of considerable discussion between the Finucane family and the previous Secretary of State. I think that today it is appropriate for me to talk to the family first rather than to give a black-and-white answer on how we are going to take this forward.

Mr Jeffrey M. Donaldson (Lagan Valley) (DUP): As the Secretary of State will know, there is no bar to an inquiry on this issue, except that the family are looking for some kind of special provision. If he grants that, the danger is that he will create a hierarchy of victims, and that thousands of people who have not had justice will look on and wonder why they are not getting the same justice.

Mr Paterson: I am grateful for that, and the right hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. I repeat my earlier reply-that, at this stage, the first thing that I should do is to go and talk to the family-but I also repeat that it is our policy not to have any more costly and open-ended inquiries.

Dual Mandates

8. Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): What discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues on the system of dual mandates in the House of Commons and the Northern Ireland Assembly. [4211]

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr Owen Paterson): I should be demanding time and a half.

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I have had several discussions with ministerial colleagues on the system of dual mandates. I believe that dual mandates should be brought to an end but that the best way to do so is by consensus among the Northern Ireland parties.

Robert Halfon: Does my right hon. Friend agree that so-called "double jobbing" has scarred Northern Irish politics for far too long? If local parties will not agree to end that voluntarily, will he consider introducing legislation to restrict the practice and ensure that double-jobbers take only one salary?

Mr Paterson: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question, and he is quite right. The time to end double-jobbing is upon us: quite simply, a Member cannot sit in two legislatures at once. We know from local polls that double-jobbing is very unpopular-in one poll, 71% of respondents were against it. We would like to negotiate with local parties and, if absolutely necessary, we would legislate. However, I draw attention to the example set by my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Alun Cairns). On the day that he was elected to this House, he announced his intention to stand down from the Welsh Assembly, and he has forgone his salary for the rest of this year.

Mr Speaker: Order. There are far too many private conversations taking place in the Chamber. It is very unfair on the hon. Member asking the question, and indeed on the Minister answering. The House must come to order.

Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland

9. Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood) (Lab): When the Government plan to publish their response to the consultation on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. [4212]

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr Hugo Swire): I intend to publish a summary of responses to the consultation on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland shortly.

Maria Eagle: I thank the Minister for that illuminating reply. Before the election, the Secretary of State expressed scepticism about legislating for a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights, but does the Minister accept, now that he is in office, that as there was a solemn commitment to doing so, and as that was part of the Belfast agreement, it would present difficulties in the peace process if he were to renege on that commitment now?

Mr Swire: I do not think that there is any question of reneging. The fact is that the world has moved on; we now have a coalition Government who are committed to looking into a UK-wide Bill of Rights. Of course we remain committed to fulfilling the commitments in the Good Friday agreement, and we are considering the best way of doing that within the architecture of a UK-wide commission. We genuinely believe that if we are to have a UK-wide Bill of Rights, the people of Northern Ireland are best represented within that, rather than by any stand-alone sideshow.

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Security Threat

10. Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP): What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister on the level of security threat in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. [4214]

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr Hugo Swire): As I said in answer to previous questions, the threat level in Northern Ireland remains severe.

Mr Campbell: The Minister will be aware that in north-west Northern Ireland, more pipe bombs were exploded or defused in the first five months of this year than in the entire 12 months of 2009. On the Fountain estate in Londonderry, hundreds of attacks have taken place in the past year. What resources are being put into Northern Ireland to ensure that the police-and the Army, if called on-are there to respond to such a threat?

Mr Swire: The hon. Gentleman will be glad about our announcement this morning on automatic number plate recognition. That will be a useful tool for the Police Service of Northern Ireland. He mentioned pipe bombs; we condemn all those attacks. They are indiscriminate, and they target innocent people. When we talk about policing in Northern Ireland, it is worth remembering that operational decisions are matters for the Chief Constable, in whom we have great faith and with whom we have regular meetings, and of course the Department of Justice and David Ford. It is perhaps worth remembering that in Northern Ireland, there is still an average of 4.36 police officers per 1,000 of the population. That compares with 2.87 per 1,000 of the population in England and Wales. I am not saying that that is necessarily enough-it can never be enough-but there are police and resources, and we respond to demands from the PSNI.

Dr Alasdair McDonnell (Belfast South) (SDLP): What is the Minister's assessment of the wider security threat in the context of Ulster Volunteer Force activity and the murder of Bobby Moffett?

Mr Swire: I join most people in this House, I suspect, in condemning the gunning down of Bobby Moffett in the cold light of day in a completely unacceptable way, and I pay tribute to all those people who live in that part of the city and who attended his funeral. The hon. Gentleman would not expect me to make any judgment on the case, as it is obviously the subject of ongoing investigation by the PSNI, but it is not impossible that there will need to be a hard line taken later, in the autumn, when the IMC next reports.

Presbyterian Mutual Society

11. Conor Burns (Bournemouth West) (Con): What recent discussions he has had on his Department's policy in response to the collapse of the Presbyterian Mutual Society. [4215]

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr Owen Paterson): I have held a number of discussions with both Treasury Ministers and Ministers from the Northern
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Ireland Executive in recent weeks as we seek to identify options to assist members of the Presbyterian Mutual Society. The reconvened PMS ministerial working group will meet soon to review progress.

Conor Burns: I welcome the Secretary of State's reply, which will give some reassurance to the thousands of people in Northern Ireland affected by the collapse. Does he recognise that there have been 18 months between the collapse of the society and the general election, and that this is another example of the Labour party leaving a mess for us to sort out?

Mr Paterson: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, because it was a boast of the previous Prime Minister that

That is why we have decided to grip the issue, and why I will chair the working group. I very much hope that we will come to a resolution soon.

Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): Rather than those on both sides of the House playing party politics with the needs of savers in Northern Ireland, can the Secretary of State tell the House when he will come to a conclusion, so that savers, especially pensioners who are hard pressed at this time, can access and use their money?

Mr Paterson: We have been in power only seven weeks. We have set up the working group. We will set about our work with determination, and I hope we will provide a solution soon.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): Speaking as someone who was very kindly treated by the Garda when I made a map-reading error in hot pursuit, may I ask my right hon. Friend what the relationship currently is between the Garda and the Police Service of Northern Ireland?

Mr Speaker: I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but unfortunately his question does not relate to the response to the collapse of the Presbyterian Mutual Society. I hope he will take that gentle admonition in the spirit in which it was intended.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked-


Q1. [4720] Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 30 June.

The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today.

Kevin Brennan: Is the reason that the Prime Minister wants to put fewer criminals in jail to do with cutting crime or cutting budgets?

The Prime Minister: What the Government want to do is clear up the complete mess of the criminal justice system left by the Labour party. Each prison place today costs £45,000, yet 40% of prisoners are back in
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prison within a year, more than half of them are on drugs, and around 10% of them are foreign national prisoners, who should not be here in the first place.

Nadine Dorries (Mid Bedfordshire) (Con): The American waste giant, Covanta, is proposing to build in my constituency an incinerator about the size of Wembley. Will the Prime Minister give an assurance that decisions about such matters will be made at a local level in future?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is right to raise this, and it is right that decisions should be made locally. We want to make sure that all the latest technology for alternatives to incineration is considered, so that we can make sure that we are using the best ways to achieve a green approach.

Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab): We were very concerned this morning to read reports that as a result of the right hon. Gentleman's Budget, 1.3 million jobs will be lost. Can he confirm that this was an estimate produced by Treasury officials?

The Prime Minister: The right hon. and learned Lady should know- [Interruption.] I will give a surprisingly full answer if Opposition Members just sit patiently. This morning the Office for Budget Responsibility produced the full tables for the Budget for employment in the public and the private sector. That never happened under a Labour Government, right? As shown in the Budget, unemployment is forecast to fall every year under this Government, but the tables also show public sector employment. It is interesting that from the tables we can see the effect of Labour's policy before the Budget and the effect of our policy after the Budget. What the figures show is that under Labour's plans, next year there would be 70,000 fewer public sector jobs, and the year after that, there would be 150,000 fewer public sector jobs. We have had the courage to have a two-year pay freeze. I know we have all been watching the football, but that was a spectacular own goal.

Ms Harman: I know that the right hon. Gentleman has published some new figures today, but it is the figures that he has not published that I am asking about-the figures that show that 1.3 million jobs will be lost. Why will the Prime Minister not publish those Treasury documents? Why is he keeping them hidden?

The Prime Minister: The forecasts that are published now are independent from the Government. That is the whole point. [Interruption.] It is no good Opposition Members chuntering about that. They now support the Office for Budget Responsibility, completely independent of Government. The right hon. and learned Lady's approach is extraordinary. Before the election the shadow Chancellor, the then Chancellor, was asked on BBC radio on 23 April 2010, and the transcript says:

Ms Harman: But even the OBR says that under the Prime Minister's Budget, unemployment will be higher than it would otherwise have been. It says that on today's figures and it said that on last week's figures.
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Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the secret Treasury analysis shows that under his Budget, 500,000 jobs will be lost in the public sector, but even more will be lost in the private sector?

The Prime Minister: The figures published today show 2 million more private sector jobs. They show 1.4 million more people in work at the end of this Parliament. They show unemployment falling every year. It is not really any surprise that the former Labour Minister, Digby Jones, after the Budget said- [ Interruption. ] Why not listen?

Mr Speaker: Order. I am sorry to interrupt the Prime Minister. I must ask hon. and right hon. Members to listen with some restraint. I want to hear the answers.

The Prime Minister: The Opposition gave him a peerage. They might as well listen to what he had to say. He said:

He is right. It is a pity he did not say it when he was in office.

Ms Harman: The right hon. Gentleman has not answered the question about the 1.3 million. He has not agreed to publish those documents. He should know what abject misery this unemployment will cause to individuals, to families and to communities. Can he tell us now how much extra it will cost in unemployment benefits?

The Prime Minister: The right hon. and learned Lady does not seem to understand. Unemployment will be falling during this Parliament. We have published the full figures, but it is not now us publishing the figures, it is the Office for Budget Responsibility. She must understand that this is something the Labour party now supports. Let me repeat: the figures show that unemployment in the public sector would be higher under Labour's plans next year and the year after. When she gets to her feet perhaps she will tell us whether she now supports the pay freeze to keep unemployment down?

Ms Harman: Mr. Speaker, you can always tell when the right hon. Gentleman does not want to answer a question, because he asks me a question. He should recognise that under the OBR figures published today, unemployment is higher than it would have been because of his Budget. The same is shown in the OBR report last week. He will not tell us how much more the Treasury will have to pay out in benefits to people without work as a result of his Budget. Will he tell us how much less will be coming in in taxes as a result of fewer people in work because of his Budget?

The Prime Minister: There will be more people in work. Like every Labour Government, the Opposition left us with unemployment rising and at the end of this Parliament unemployment will be falling. That is the difference. My advice would be to look at the figures before standing up and asking the question. If one looks at the figures one sees higher public sector unemployment next year and the year after under Labour. The right hon. and learned Lady has slotted the ball straight into the back of her own net.

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