Sir George Young: I commend my hon. Friend for his activity on the issue; in the previous Parliament, he initiated a number of debates on it. I am sure that all Members of the House have, in their constituency, pub

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landlords who have faced difficulties negotiating with their pubcos. I will draw to the attention of relevant Ministers in both the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills the fact that the period has now expired, and ask them to consider whether legislation is now necessary to rebalance the terms of trade between tenants and landlords.

Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): I was fortunate enough to accompany Sergeant James Main and the Respect team to see at first hand the work they are doing in Scunthorpe to reduce antisocial behaviour by young people. May we have a debate in the House on the very good work the police have done in recent years to reduce youth crime?

Sir George Young: I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman applied for a debate on the pre-recess Adjournment, which would have provided an opportunity for such a debate. Otherwise, there will be an opportunity at Home Office questions in September to highlight the excellent work being done to reduce antisocial behaviour in his constituency.

James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con): May we have a debate on transparency in Government? If we are serious about reforming public services, my constituents require data at a deep level, for example on GPs’ clinical performance, if they are truly to be able to make choices about local public services.

Sir George Young: My hon. Friend will know that the Prime Minister wrote to all Ministers earlier this month committing us to publish key data on the NHS, schools, criminal courts and transport. This represents the most ambitious open data agenda of any Government anywhere in the world and will help to drive up standards in exactly the way my hon. Friend describes.

Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): The Leader of the House knows that regular statements are made about the situation in Libya, but it is some time since we have had a substantive debate with an opportunity to put the motion to a vote. Given the duration of the conflict and the issues that are of concern, will he discuss with Government colleagues the possibility of having another debate on the situation in Libya and the long-term prospects?

Sir George Young: The hon. Gentleman will know that we have made regular statements on Libya, and indeed on Afghanistan and Iraq, and on one or two occasions we have, exceptionally, provided time for a debate. There will be an opportunity next Tuesday in Foreign and Commonwealth Office questions to press Ministers about the latest situation in Libya, and no doubt the hon. Member for North East Derbyshire (Natascha Engel), who chairs the Backbench Business Committee, will have heard the suggestion for a debate.

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): May we have a debate on the Laffer curve and petrol taxes, because figures from the AA show that the Treasury received £637 million less in revenue from petrol taxes than in the equivalent

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period three years ago? Will my right hon. Friend make representations to the Treasury to ensure that we do not raise petrol taxes next January?

Sir George Young: As someone with an economics degree, I am always happy to debate the Laffer curve. The fair fuel stabiliser means that fuel duty will rise by inflation only when oil prices are high. As he knows, the measures we have already taken mean that pump prices are about 6p a litre lower than they would have been had we simply carried forward the previous Government’s plans. We are also encouraging retailers wherever possible to pass on savings to consumers as quickly as possible.

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): Will the Leader of the House update the House on whether there has been any change in the policy on meetings of the Northern Ireland Grand Committee, and will he undertake to discuss with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland an early meeting of the Committee after the summer recess?

Sir George Young: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman and happy to have those discussions with the Secretary of State about the Northern Ireland Grand Committee and report back to him.

Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) (Con): Network Rail has given an abysmal performance, missing eight out of 10 of its own targets. Surely it is time we had a debate on that, given the impact it has on First Capital Connect, other train lines and commuters in my constituency.

Sir George Young: I hope that my hon. Friend will apply for an Adjournment debate in Westminster Hall, or indeed on the Floor of the House. Network Rail needs to be made much more accountable than it is at the moment, and its corporate governance structure is obscure to say the least. If we get that right, we will be better able to hold it to account on the specific issues she mentions.

Mr Nick Raynsford (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab): In a Westminster Hall debate on 28 June, the Minister for Housing and Local Government, speaking about his new fixed-term social housing tenancies, said:

“I am being clear, in all our language and in the tenancy standards that we will put in place, that two years is to be considered as an exceptional circumstance, and that at least five years would be the norm.”—[Official Report, 28 June 2011; Vol. 530, c. 212WH.]

Because some of us are a little cynical about Government pledges on “exceptional circumstances” following our experiences with higher education fees, I pressed the Minister on this point and was assured that there would be provision in the regulations to be issued by the Government. The Leader of the House will not be at all surprised at my horror when I saw the draft regulations appear less than two weeks later with no such provision and, even more so, when I saw a copy of a letter sent by the Minister to the hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy), who had secured the debate, stating that he had no intention of giving effect to this pledge. Will the Leader of the House confirm that it is completely out of order for a Minister to give a pledge in a parliamentary

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debate and then break it within a matter of weeks without coming to the House to explain himself, and will he ensure that the Minister answers for this issue in the House before it rises for the summer recess?

Sir George Young: I take the right hon. Gentleman’s point seriously. He and I have a mutual interest in housing matters and I know how important security of tenure is to tenants. He will understand that I would like to make some inquiries about the exchange that has taken place, as I do not keep myself as up to date on housing matters as I used to, but I will convey his concerns to my right hon. Friend the Minister and see whether we can get a reply to him addressing those concerns before the House rises.

Karen Bradley (Staffordshire Moorlands) (Con): Sixteen-year old Hayley Bates from Biddulph was killed in a road traffic accident last year. Her parents have recently discovered that a Facebook page has been created called “Hayley Smash Nissan”, displaying shocking and disgusting images relating to Hayley and the accident. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on this important issue so that we can determine what we can do to protect other families from this shocking crime?

Sir George Young: This is a horrifying case and our sympathies go out to the family and friends. I know that it can cause great distress if these incidents are mishandled. I will raise the points my hon. Friend has just made with the relevant Ministers and ask them to write to her.

Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): Has the right hon. Gentleman seen early-day motion 2070, which stands in my name and those of several other hon. Members?

[That this House notes that previous Prime Ministers, including Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher and John Major, were meticulous in replying personally to letters from hon. and right hon. Members; and further notes the present Prime Minister does not.]

May we have a debate so that the Prime Minister can come to the House and explain whether he feels that he is more important than his predecessors, or is just too lazy?

Sir George Young: I understand the right hon. Gentleman’s concern. I think I am right in saying that there have been occasions when, having written to a Prime Minister, I have received a reply from someone else, which I do not think is wholly unusual. However, in view of the length of time that the right hon. Gentleman has been in the House and the fact that he is a Privy Counsellor, I will raise the matter with the Prime Minister and see whether any changes are necessary in his correspondence office.

Mr David Ruffley (Bury St Edmunds) (Con): Select Committees will have a vital role in getting to the truth behind the allegations of phone hacking and other corrupt practices, but in modern times this place has not used criminal sanctions against witnesses who lie to Select Committees. In the light of the inquiries announced this week and the public interest, would it be possible to have an urgent debate when the House returns in September on why this is?

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Sir George Young: If a Select Committee feels that there has been a contempt, the procedure is that it makes a report to the House and then the Speaker decides whether to give it priority, and if he does it is put on the Order Paper and referred to the Standards and Privileges Committee. If that Committee finds that there has been a contempt, it has at its disposal a wide range of penalties, including fines.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): Wrong!

Sir George Young: It is entirely a matter for the Standards and Privileges Committee, and ultimately the House, what sanctions should then be applied to anyone who has committed a contempt.

Mr Speaker: Mr Chris Bryant.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): Thank you, Mr Speaker; you are very cheeky.

As I understand it, the Deputy Serjeant at Arms has already served the summons on the lawyers of the two Murdochs, and as I understand it, there is no bar on foreign nationals being summoned. Let me make a suggestion to the Leader of the House. There is a degree of urgency about this. Parliament is going into recess next Tuesday, and the Select Committee is only going to meet on Tuesday. If the Murdochs still refuse to come next Tuesday, an alternative route would be for him to table an emergency motion on Monday to require the Serjeant at Arms to bring the Murdochs either to the Bar of the House or to the Committee. I think that he would have the support of the whole House in doing so.

Sir George Young: I think I would like to take some advice before I go down that particular route. The position is that if a witness fails to attend when summoned, the Committee reports the matter to the House and it is then for the House to decide what further action to take. As I said, there has not been a case of that kind for some considerable time. The House can order a witness to attend a Committee; apparently this has not happened since 1920. I would like to take some advice on the rather dramatic course of action that the hon. Gentleman has recommended to me, whatever the consequences might be with regard to News International.

Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con): With regard to the terms of reference for the Leveson inquiry, will my right hon. Friend make a note of early-day motion 2088, which is signed by 14 Select Committee Chairmen from all three main parties, the chairmen of the 1922 committee and the parliamentary Labour party, and representatives of the Northern Ireland party and Scottish national party which lead the devolved Assemblies, and has been passed on to No. 10? It proposes that the terms of reference of the Leveson inquiry should

“be extended to the whole media, including sound, visual and social media, and include blagging and other unethical or illegal practices”

and not be confined to phone hacking.

Sir George Young: My hon. Friend made this point in yesterday’s exchanges. Of course, the broadcasting media already have their own statutory regulation that does

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not apply to the press. I know that the Prime Minister will take on board the suggestions that have been made about changing the terms of reference, and we will consider that before final decisions are made.

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): On Tuesday, I raised under a point of order a concern that the Ministry of Justice has written to all chief probation officers announcing the commencement of the privatisation of probation services. That was done without any statement to the House whatsoever. On Wednesday, there was a written statement to the House that dealt with probation services but also announced the closure of two prisons and the privatisation of a range of other prisons. May I suggest to the Leader of the House that that warranted an oral statement to the House, and ask that a Minister attend for that purpose next week? It is important that we discuss this issue, because it is the most significant change in the criminal justice service over the past decade. If we cannot have a statement to the House, may we have a debate in Government time in early September?

Sir George Young: The hon. Gentleman referred to the written ministerial statement. We are committed to delivering reform in our public services, and we want to improve efficiency and effectiveness in outcomes for victims, offenders and the wider community. On the question of whether the matter is dealt with in a written statement or an oral statement, I understand his point, but the Government must also have regard for the business of the House. Wednesday—yesterday—was an Opposition day with a lot of important business, and I am not sure what the reaction would have been if we had had yet another statement, compressing the business even further. We will of course always look at the balance between written and oral statements, but in this particular case I think we were right to do what we did.

Priti Patel (Witham) (Con): Will the Leader of the House follow me in condemning the appalling bombings that took place in Mumbai yesterday, which resulted in 17 deaths? In particular, does he agree that at this very difficult time for India, this House and Britain should stand firm in its support of India?

Sir George Young: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The whole House will want to send its sympathy to the friends and relatives of those who lost their lives in these terrorist atrocities. The Foreign Office consular team is already in Mumbai providing consular support to any British nationals who may have been caught up in these events. We are working very closely with the Indian authorities, and we are committed to working with the Indian Government and our allies to combat the threat from terrorism in all its forms.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): We have only two sitting days left, and it is important that this House is reported to on the progress of the Leveson inquiry in terms of securing evidence. In response to my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) on Monday, News International said that if he would give it the details of his complaint, it would investigate

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it. For us, that is not good enough. It is the police who should carry out that investigation, or the inquiry. All the information should be made available and secured now. We need a statement before the recess in order to understand what progress is being made on securing that evidence.

Sir George Young: The Prime Minister dealt with this in his statement yesterday. It is a criminal offence to destroy documents when a criminal investigation is under way.

Brandon Lewis (Great Yarmouth) (Con): When does the Leader of the House envisage our being able to debate the opening up of public services outlined in the White Paper this week? No doubt parish councils and communities across the country, as well as in Great Yarmouth, are excited about the opportunities that this may give them to be more in control of their destiny.

Sir George Young: I am delighted that there is an appetite in Great Yarmouth to take forward the agenda that the Minister of State, Cabinet Office outlined on Monday with the White Paper. We want to give everyone the choice of helping to improve and control the services they receive and to end the big Government, top-down way of running public services. I hope that it will be possible to have a debate at some point in future to explain how we plan to take this agenda forward.

Stephen Twigg (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab/Co-op): May we have a debate on patients’ rights in the national health service? My constituents, Frances and Magdalen McAleavy, have been removed from the doctors’ list at their GP surgery. They have not moved home. Frances McAleavy is 75 years old and has been with this GP practice since she was five months old in 1936. Will the Government look for more protection for patients in such situations?

Sir George Young: I am sorry to hear of the problems that confront the hon. Gentleman’s constituents. There will be an opportunity to touch on some of these issues when we debate the remaining stages of the Health and Social Care Bill, but in the meantime I will draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health.

Guto Bebb (Aberconwy) (Con): The recently published accounts of S4C, the Welsh fourth channel, showed that the interim chief executive was paid a pro rata salary of £212,000. Is it possible to have a debate in the House about how a public body such as S4C continues to prioritise high salaries at the expense of front-line services such as programming?

Sir George Young: I understand the concern that my hon. Friend has expressed. I should like to share it with the Welsh Assembly, if that is the appropriate department, or with one of my ministerial colleagues, and I will let him have a reply as soon as possible.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): May I reinforce the fact that this is a unique opportunity for the House to make very clear the responsibilities and

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powers of a Select Committee in calling people to give evidence? In the 10 years in which I was Chair of the Education Committee, the situation was never really clear, and it seems to be totally unfair. People such as the rich, the famous and celebrities used to evade us—we never managed to get Jamie Oliver to give evidence. We sometimes used to brag that we had this power—at one stage, on the basis of that threat, I forced the National Union of Teachers to come and give evidence—but it was never clear and precise what it was and who we could call.

Sir George Young: The hon. Gentleman will know that under the previous Administration there was a Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege. When it reported in 1999, it recommended that failure to appear before a Select Committee should be a criminal offence. The Administration whom he supported never took that Committee’s recommendations forward. We are committed to introducing a draft privilege Bill that will be based on the recommendations of the 1999 Joint Committee report. I therefore hope that we can begin to find a solution to the uncertainty to which he refers.

In reference to an earlier question, I am advised that it is doubtful whether the House can any longer impose a fine; this was last done in 1666. However, that could be addressed in the draft Bill.

Ian Swales (Redcar) (LD): In areas as diverse as energy-intensive industries and children with myalgic encephalomyelitis, the issues cross two or more Departments, whereas debates are traditionally answered by one Department. Will the Leader of the House investigate how cross-departmental issues can be better covered by this House in future?

Sir George Young: The hon. Gentleman may know that in the last Parliament, we had cross-cutting questions in Westminster Hall. The issues that he raises might therefore be dealt with by the House. I think I am right to say that that experiment was not an outstanding success and that that is why it lapsed. It might be worth looking at again, and perhaps the Procedure Committee or the Backbench Business Committee could do that.

Pat Glass (North West Durham) (Lab): The recent announcements of huge increases in gas and electricity prices have left many of my constituents anxious about how they will get through the next winter. They also feel angry and ripped off because Ofgem does not seem to be able to manage the small number of energy companies, which are making excessive profits. May we have an urgent debate on the energy industry and price rises, and can it be held in the autumn before this issue becomes a winter crisis?

Sir George Young: The hon. Lady may know that when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change made his statement on electricity market reform on Tuesday, the issues that she has just touched on, such as how we tackle fuel poverty, were raised. He outlined the measures that are available through the Department for Work and Pensions to help those on low incomes to meet their fuel bills. She will also know that the green deal is going through the House at the moment, which will enable people at no

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cost to themselves to have measures introduced to their home to reduce their electricity bills. We are working on a range of other initiatives. I would welcome such a debate, but it would again fall to the Backbench Business Committee to find time for it.

Mr Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): Will the Leader of the House agree to have a debate on jobs? In one year, three out of every four jobs went to foreign workers. That seems to substantiate the comments of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Does that not demonstrate why we must be stronger on employment for Britons?

Sir George Young: It is very important that as the economy recovers and the 900,000 jobs are created, as forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility, more people who are already here have the skills to apply for and secure those jobs. Part of the agenda of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is to achieve the objective, through the Work programme, of enabling more people who are already here, perhaps the long-term unemployed, to have access to the new jobs, rather than having to import people to do them.

Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) (Lab): Given that the Government launched what was described as a six-month review of our reserve forces on 19 October last year, does the Leader of the House agree that this House should have the opportunity to digest and discuss the findings of that important review before the recess?

Sir George Young: I will convey to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence the strong view of the hon. Gentleman that we should have a report on the Territorial Army and reserves review. My right hon. Friend hopes to keep the House up to date on a number of issues before we rise, such as the basing review. I will see whether this matter might be included in such a statement.

Paul Uppal (Wolverhampton South West) (Con): There has been a correlation between the rise in the gold price over the past few years and the number of gold thefts in my constituency. The police seem to have a particular problem in tracing stolen jewellery. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the individual registration of gold dealers, which would require people who sell gold to provide personal identification? That would help the police to detect and prevent these crimes.

Sir George Young: I am sorry to hear of the increase in burglaries in Wolverhampton now that the price of gold has gone up. I would like to touch base with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to see whether such a registration scheme might be cost-effective in reducing the incidence of such burglaries or tracing those responsible for carrying them out.

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): I was astonished to read in one of today’s papers that the independent Office for Budget Responsibility is predicting that income tax might have to rise by 12p in the pound. If things have got that bad after only 12 months of coalition Government, should the Chancellor not make a statement before the summer recess?

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Sir George Young: I think that the OBR was looking ahead many decades and outlining the impact of increased longevity on the national health service and pensions. It said that if nothing else was done, that might be a consequence. For the hon. Gentleman to attribute that long-range forecast to anything we have done in the past 14 months is heroic. To minimise the impact on the public finances of the sort of demographic changes that I have outlined, we have increased the state retirement age and moved from the retail prices index to the consumer prices index. We are therefore taking steps that hopefully will reduce the necessity for an increase in income tax.

Gavin Williamson (South Staffordshire) (Con): May we have a debate on the NHS, and specifically on the measures the Government are taking to reduce the number of NHS managers?

Sir George Young: Yes; we have two debates on the NHS when we come back in September. Since the general election, there are 2,500 more doctors, 200 more nurses and 2,500 fewer managers. The situation may have changed even more by the time we return.

Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab): I have been working with and on behalf of my constituent, Miriam Khan, whose mother was tragically murdered. The chief suspect, Miriam’s father, escaped justice by fleeing to Pakistan, where he lives to this day. The Pakistani authorities are aware of this case, and sadly there are many similar cases around the country. Can the Leader of the House secure a debate or at least a ministerial statement about the hope for an extradition agreement between this country and Pakistan?

Sir George Young: There will be an opportunity on Tuesday to cross-question Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers about our relationship with Pakistan and extradition. In the meantime, I will raise the case with Ministers. I quite understand the distress of the hon. Gentleman’s constituent, Miriam Khan, and her anxiety to see that whoever committed this murder is brought to justice.

Kwasi Kwarteng (Spelthorne) (Con): Given the roll-out of the academies programme, does the Leader of the House agree that it would be timely to have a debate on the Floor of the House on academies and their progress?

Sir George Young: I would very much welcome such a debate to draw attention to the huge increase in the number of academies under this Government, from 203 in May 2010 to 801 in July this year, and the many more that are in the pipeline. Perhaps my hon. Friend would go to the Backbench Business Committee and put in a bid for such a debate.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): Certain elements in our constitution are well represented in the Palace of Westminster with statues, portraits and stained-glass windows, but there is almost a total absence of memorials to progressive groups, such as the Chartists and the Tolpuddle martyrs, that did so much to shape all that is best in our modern democracy. May we debate early-day motion 2067, which suggests that we represent, for a start, the sacrifice of the Newport Chartists of 1839, 20 of whom died in what they called “a noble cause”?

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[That this House salutes the work of the Head of State; notes that the role of royalty is commemorated extensively throughout the Palace of Westminster; regrets that there are few, if any, portrayals of heroic work for democracy over recent centuries; believes that the work and sacrifices of Chartists, and many other progressive movements, should be honoured and celebrated by depictions of events in their proud histories.]

Sir George Young: It is right that we have statues in the Palace of Westminster that remind us of our traditions and the roots of our democracy. I think that whether and where new statues are erected are matters for the House of Commons Commission. If the hon. Gentleman would like me to raise the issue on the Commission’s agenda, I would be happy so to do.

Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central) (Con): May we have a debate on school discipline? Teachers, parents and pupils in my constituency tell me that the education reform they most want to see is the introduction of measures to ensure that the vast majority of young people who want to learn are not disrupted by the small minority who do not.

Sir George Young: We have published new guidance for teachers, which is greatly reduced in volume from 600 pages to 52. It restores adult authority to the classroom and makes it clear that teachers have a legal power to use reasonable force to remove a pupil who is disrupting a lesson or to prevent a child from leaving a classroom. I hope that that sets a new tone in the classroom and enables teachers to teach and children to learn.

Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab): Given that a rating agency has suspended its classification of US sovereign debt pending a review and given the problems in the Italian bond market and the rest of the eurozone, may we have a debate on the adequacy of reserving policy in UK banks before, rather than after, any economic disaster?

Sir George Young: The UK banks have been stress tested. I cannot offer the hon. Gentleman the sort of debate that he has asked for. However, he reminds the House of the importance of having adequate fiscal policies to ensure that we do not suffer the same problems as Greece, Portugal, Ireland and other countries.

Neil Carmichael (Stroud) (Con): With the growing popularity of academies in mind, may we have a debate about the school funding formula, particularly to raise the question of disparities in funding for local authorities, and to mention the need to get money where it needs to be—the schools and the pupils?

Sir George Young: My hon. Friend is right: the funding regime for academies is no longer appropriate. It was designed at a time when there were relatively few academies, and now there are many more. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education is consulting on a new funding regime for academies, which I hope will address the issues to which my hon. Friend refers.

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Thomas Docherty (Dunfermline and West Fife) (Lab): I hope that the Leader of the House, his deputy and most importantly his courteous and professional staff have a good rest.

Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis), given the huge national interest in the basing announcement that is due very shortly, can the Leader of the House confirm that the Secretary of State for Defence will come to the House on Monday and make that announcement rather than slipping it out either on Tuesday or in written form?

Sir George Young: I commend the hon. Gentleman for his tenacity on this subject. My right hon. Friend certainly plans to update the House on the basing review before we rise for the summer recess.

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): The Government can be rightly proud that we have done more in 13 months than the Labour party did to compensate victims of the Equitable Life scandal. However, there remains one group of people—the pre-September 1992 annuitants—who are trapped and vulnerable, and their cases are not even being assessed. Will my right hon. Friend find time to lean on the Treasury and encourage it to come forward with a statement on the progress of payments so far, so that we can question it on what will be done for that small group of people?

Sir George Young: My experience of leaning on the Treasury is that it tends to lean back, but I am very happy to raise with my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury the issue of those annuitants. Speaking from memory, I think the finding of the ombudsman was that the regulatory failure began after 1992, which may be why those who had policies before 1992 were excluded from compensation. None the less, I will raise the matter with my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary and ask him to write to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman).

Jon Ashworth (Leicester South) (Lab): Does the Leader of the House share my disappointment that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has still not published the equality impact assessment of cuts to the provision of English for speakers of other language? He will be aware that many Members are seeking to raise the issue of ESOL provision in Tuesday’s Adjournment debate. Will he ensure that the assessment is published by then and not sneaked out over the summer recess?

Sir George Young: I understand the hon. Gentleman’s concern, and I believe that the matter was raised a few moments ago during questions to BIS Ministers. They will publish the document to which he refers as soon as possible.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): This year has been an amazing one for the scrutiny of Parliament, the best in decades. That is down partly to the hon. Member for North East Derbyshire (Natascha Engel), the Back Bencher of the year, who chairs the Backbench Business Committee; partly to the shadow Leader of the House, who has done such a good job in parliamentary terms; partly to you, Mr Speaker, for your leadership from the Chair; partly to the star Parliamentary Private

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Secretary to the Leader of the House, my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (John Howell), who gives us a lot of suggestions, none of which I take; and partly to the Deputy Leader of the House, who has gone from poacher to gamekeeper very easily. Of course, it is mainly down to the Leader of the House, who, when I ask him a question, always gives a full, frank and honest answer, but never to the question that I asked.

To move things forward a little, has the Leader of the House had a chance to ask the Chief Whip whether, in the first week back, the Government are going to support my private Member’s Bill, which would just slightly amend the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975?

Sir George Young: If my hon. Friend is referring to some personal vendetta that he has with the Whips Office, and a Bill that I think would disqualify the Whips from being Members of Parliament, I have to say that I have a very good relationship with the Chief Whip and would not be minded to support any measure that removed from me the pleasure of having his company next to me on the Front Bench at every Prime Minister’s questions.

Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East) (Lab): In a week when the House has rightly been focused on the phone hacking scandal, there is of course an emerging humanitarian crisis in east Africa, with thousands upon thousands of people without access to adequate food and water. Will the Leader of the House monitor the situation over the summer recess and, if necessary, find parliamentary time to debate the UK’s response to the tragedy?

Sir George Young: It is an important issue, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development made a statement about our aid policy not so very long ago. There were also questions to DFID Ministers yesterday. Of course we will keep the humanitarian crisis under review. I cannot promise that the House will be recalled if there is any deterioration, but we will do all we can to keep Members in the picture on the steps that the UK is taking to reduce the human suffering.

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con): May I ask the Leader of the House for an urgent debate on the Floor of the House on the quality of care provided at Medway Maritime hospital? An independent report found that there were actions that could be construed as bullying of a senior surgeon, Mr Mufti, the former medical director at the NHS trust. Since then, other professionals at the hospital have contacted my office to say that they have encountered such behaviour. That followed a recent survey showing that one in five workers at Medway hospital had encountered harassment or been abused. My constituents are very concerned about the implications that that may have for patient care.

Sir George Young: Bullying and harassment of NHS staff by patients, members of the public or other staff is wholly unacceptable, and the NHS constitution specifically refers to measures that should be taken to reduce bullying. I understand that the Medway trust is aware of the concerns to which my hon. Friend refers, and is having discussions with the trade unions to come up with a policy that reduces such incidents to a bare minimum.

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Anas Sarwar (Glasgow Central) (Lab): My question follows the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham (Pat Glass). A little over a month ago, Scottish Power announced an energy price increase of 20%, I asked the Leader of the House for an urgent statement from the Energy Secretary detailing what discussions he had had with energy suppliers, and what measures would be taken to reduce the impact on hard-working families right across the country. Given that this week British Gas has announced that gas prices will increase by 18% and electricity prices by 16%—perhaps a cynical attempt to hide bad news when everyone is focusing on the hacking scandal—may we now have an urgent statement from the Energy Secretary and not, as the Leader of the House suggested, a Backbench Business Committee debate?

Sir George Young: My right hon. Friend the Energy Secretary made a statement on electricity market reform on Tuesday, and he addressed precisely the concerns that the hon. Gentleman expresses. He outlined the measures that we were taking to provide security of supply and stability of prices in future. He was asked many questions about the rising cost of fuel, and he outlined the measures that the Government were taking to address it. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman looks in Hansard, where he will find an answer to some of the questions that he has raised.

Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con): Later this year, private sewers will be transferred to water and sewerage companies, and many householders will be relieved of concerns about future maintenance bills. May we have a debate to consider the implementation of the change, so that we can acknowledge the work of those who have campaigned on the issue, including the all-party group on sewers and sewerage, previous Members for Rugby and my constituent Pam Brockway of Woodlands residents association?

Sir George Young: My hon. Friend is quite right that later this year, responsibility for private sewers connected to the mains will transfer from householders to the water authorities. That is a welcome step forward that will remove the incidence of householders suddenly being confronted with huge bills for sewers for which they simply did not think they had any responsibility at all. I commend those who campaigned for that enlightened measure. It will have an impact of roughly £5 on the bills that people pay, but I think that is an acceptable price to pay for the security of mind that goes with the policy.

Mr Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West) (Lab/Co-op): Earlier, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), the Leader of the House outlined the position with regard to criminal sanctions for contempt of the House and the proposal of the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege in 1999. I am sure that it is totally coincidental, but those were the very points that I made in a letter that I copied to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House yesterday. However, we are living in a very fast-moving world. Will the Leader of the House examine the two specific provisions made in the 1999 report, and incorporate them into emergency legislation that I am sure would command support from both sides of the House?

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Sir George Young: I understand the hon. Gentleman’s concern. He is asking us to do as an emergency something that the previous Administration had 11 years to do and did absolutely nothing about. The answer that I gave the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) earlier was that we are considering a draft parliamentary privilege Bill. I welcome the suggestion of the hon. Member for West Bromwich West (Mr Bailey) that contempt should be made a criminal offence, as suggested in the 1999 report. I can assure him that it will be considered, and he will have a chance to feed his comments into future consultation on the Bill.

Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): I think everyone in the House is agreed that our pensions should be no different in principle from the pensions of others in the public sector. Will my right hon. Friend tell us when the House will have an opportunity to make it clear that we consider that our pensions should be reformed in line with the principles set out in the Hutton report, and when will he table a motion that will unequivocally pass responsibility for MPs’ pensions to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority?

Sir George Young: My hon. Friend will know that a written ministerial statement today outlines the Government’s position on MPs’ pensions, which is exactly as my hon. Friend describes. We should be treated no differently from other public servants, and I will table a motion before the House rises, but for debate subsequently, that asks the House to endorse that position. It will also propose that we transfer to IPSA responsibility for a new pension scheme for MPs. That motion will reassert the importance of the independent determination of MPs’ remuneration.

Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) (Lab): The Scottish National party has decided to impose huge tuition fees on English students who go to Scottish universities. Given that the SNP previously called those tuition fees both “discriminatory” and “anti-English”, and that it has said that the

“added cost of a 4 year degree means we won’t see English students going to Scottish Universities”,

may we have an urgent debate on the impact that those politically motivated policies, which are designed to promote a separatist agenda, will have on both English students and our wonderful Scottish universities?

Sir George Young: I gather that that matter was raised during Business, Innovation and Skills questions. How the SNP Executive manages tuition fees is a matter for them. What the hon. Gentleman describes is a consequence of devolution.

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con): I am loth to ask the Leader of the House this question just before the recess, but may we have a debate on IPSA? Earlier this week I spoke to the operations team at IPSA, which tells me that it now processes and pays claims, on average, in six or seven days, but in my experience it takes twice that long, which is in breach of its service level targets and places a real difficulty on some Members in managing their cash flow. May we therefore discuss how we can help IPSA to improve those service levels, so that it can help us to do our job?

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Sir George Young: I am sorry to hear of my hon. Friend’s problems. I understand that the director of operations at IPSA has offered a meeting with my hon. Friend, which I hope addresses his particular concerns. As he knows, we have just set up a Committee to look at the legislation that covers IPSA. He will have an opportunity to feed in to the work of that Committee his suggestions as to how we might make future changes.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): Can the Leader of the House imagine the reaction there would have been if Tony Hayward, the then chief executive officer of BP, refused to appear before the congressional committee in the US? My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) has pointed out to the Leader of the House that he has the power to introduce a motion that would require the witnesses who are refusing to come to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee to attend, and for the Serjeant at Arms to go and fetch them. Will he at least pledge today, on the Floor of the House, that he will use whatever powers are at his disposal to ensure that those witnesses turn up next week?

Sir George Young: I understand the hon. Gentleman’s concern. My view is that that is a matter for the House rather than for the Government.

Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): When does the Leader of the House expect my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to make a statement on tuberculosis? Twenty-five thousand cattle a year are being slaughtered, and it costs £100 million of taxpayers’ money, and yet that pall of disease out there in the wildlife is not being tackled. A statement from the Secretary of State is urgent.

Sir George Young: I understand my hon. Friend’s concern. TB causes real difficulties for farmers in many parts of the country. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been consulting on a range of options to tackle that disease. I cannot promise an immediate response from her, but I will convey my hon. Friend’s interest and see whether we can get a reply on the timing of any Government announcement as soon as possible.

Mr Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): Earlier this week, I was surprised and just a little shocked to learn from the National House-Building Council that only one house was started in my constituency in the last six months for which figures are available. With the massive cut in grant funding for affordable housing, and with the shambles that appears to be developing over the Government’s so-called affordable rents policy, may we have an early debate, preferably in Government time, in September, to discuss the future of affordable housing in this country?

Sir George Young: I understand that there was a debate on housing market renewal on Tuesday in Westminster Hall. I hope the hon. Gentleman welcomes the measures announced in the Budget to help first-time buyers, and that he recognises that house building starts fell to an all-time record under the Administration whom he supported.

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David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): The Leader of the House will be aware that, four times now, Opposition Members have objected to the setting up of the Committee to scrutinise the draft Financial Services Bill. Does he know what they have against better scrutiny of financial services, and in particular why they do not want that Committee to start its important work?

Sir George Young: I share my hon. Friend’s concern that we have been unable to establish that Joint Committee to look at the draft Financial Services Bill. I very much hope that when the motion comes before the House later today, it will be possible to make progress and set up the Committee. I cannot endorse what has happened on the Order Paper, where Members of one political party have sought to interfere with the nominations of another.

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): With the publication this morning of the national crime statistics showing that burglaries have gone up 14%, and that domestic violence, worryingly, has gone up 35%, may we have a debate on the risks that the Government are taking with the 20% cuts to the police force and on the 12,000 police officers who will lose their jobs?

Sir George Young: I understand where the hon. Lady is coming from on this, but I must just remind her that before the last election, the then Home Secretary made it absolutely clear that he could give no guarantee at all that the number of police officers would not be reduced were the Labour party to be re-elected. A Labour Government would have been confronted by the same sorts of decisions as this Government were, but we believe that our police reforms will put more on the front line and enable the police to make further progress in preventing and detecting crime.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): May we have a statement and debate on the increasing amount of our national debt? That would give the House the chance to highlight the fact that, despite all the measures being taken to control public spending, because of the sheer size of the budget deficit bequeathed by the previous Government, the national debt will actually increase by around £350 billion before the next election, and not decrease by that amount, which, according to a poll out this week, seven out of 10 of the British public wrongly believe will happen.

Sir George Young: I listened, as I am sure my hon. Friend did, to my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid) introducing a ten-minute rule Bill on the same theme—the size of the national debt. One reason that continues to increase is the very high interest bill on the outstanding debt, which we inherited from the previous Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) will know that we have made some difficult decisions to reduce the pressure on public finances, including bringing forward the state retirement age, changing to the consumer prices index for benefits, and accepting Lord Hutton’s recommendations to reform public service provision. I very much hope that my hon. Friend agrees that what we have begun to do will help to reduce the escalating nature of national debt.

Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab): In the next few months, Southern Cross will be broken up. During that period, the 30,000 residents in 400 constituencies will be

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very concerned about the place they call home. May we have a proper debate on this topic directly on our return in September?

Sir George Young: There will be an opportunity on our return in September to discuss health-related issues during debate on the remaining stages of the Health and Social Care Bill. The hon. Gentleman will also have heard the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Burstow), reply to an urgent question on Tuesday following Health questions. Our primary concern remains the welfare of the residents. Whatever the outcome, no one will find themselves homeless or without care, and we are working closely with the Local Government Association, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and the Care Quality Commission to ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place in the event of any need.

Julian Smith (Skipton and Ripon) (Con): May we have a debate on the Yorkshire Post “Fair Deal for Yorkshire” campaign, particularly regarding the need for a fair deal on tourism funding between Yorkshire and Scotland, and the huge benefits of locating the green investment bank in Leeds?

Sir George Young: My hon. Friend might be opening a bidding war in stating that he wants the green investment bank to be located in Leeds—I am sure that other hon. Members think it could be located in their constituencies. I would have thought that the benefits of Yorkshire spoke for themselves as a holiday destination, but I am sure that VisitBritain will do what it can to promote York, along with—I hope—Hampshire.

Gregg McClymont (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (Lab): Like so many ex-servicemen, my constituent Mr William Young has found it difficult to enter the domestic labour market. May we have a debate on what more the Government, the armed forces and the nation can do to help ex-service personnel as they transition from the forces to civilian society?

Sir George Young: The purpose behind one of the key components of the military covenant was precisely to help those leaving the armed forces to develop alternative careers. One particular opportunity was to encourage them to join the teaching profession, for which many of them have the necessary skills. However, I will raise with my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary the question of our progress, through the military covenant, on finding work for those retiring from our armed forces.

Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan) (Con): The number of jobseeker’s allowance claimants in the Vale of Glamorgan has fallen by 25% over the past year, and according to the latest figures unemployment fell across the whole of the UK. May we have a debate on unemployment to establish what policies are working best and why they are working in some areas better than in others?

Sir George Young: I am delighted to hear that unemployment has fallen in my hon. Friend’s constituency, and I hope that we will continue to make progress in bringing it down. As I said a few moments ago, the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that there

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will be 900,000 extra jobs between now and 2015. There are encouraging signs in the labour market figures. The Work programme, which has just been introduced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, is encouraging new providers into the market to provide long-term jobs for those who are unemployed. I hope we will make some progress there. The challenge is to help people into employment and to help the recovery. The Work programme is up and running and will offer jobseekers flexible support tailored to their needs in order to help them into employment.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): Food prices continue to rise at an alarming rate across the whole of the United Kingdom. In the past year, they have risen by 6.5%, whereas the overall inflation rate for June was 4.2%. Will the Leader of the House agree to a debate on an issue that affects everyone in the UK?

Sir George Young: Was the hon. Gentleman referring to fuel prices?

Jim Shannon rose—

Mr Speaker: Order. If clarification is required, we are happy to have it.

Jim Shannon: I said “food” prices. I am sorry for my accent.

Sir George Young: Food is every bit as important as fuel. I cannot promise time for an early debate on food prices, but of course the Government are taking appropriate action to try and bear down on inflation. However, for those confronted by rising food prices, support is available through the index-linked benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Mr Speaker: I thank the Leader of the House, the shadow Leader of the House and all 62 Back-Bench Members who took part in this session.

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Coastguard Modernisation

1.23 pm

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Philip Hammond): With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a statement on the Government’s intentions for taking forward the process of coastguard modernisation in the light of responses received to the consultation that ended on 5 May 2011.

The key drivers behind the modernisation proposals are the need to address the limited resilience of current arrangements, distribute more effectively the work load experienced by different coastguard stations and provide enhanced opportunities for coastguard officers to develop professional skills, with pay levels reflecting enhanced responsibilities. There is also a need to contribute to the wider deficit reduction agenda.

The consultation set out proposals to create a nationally networked coastguard system with two maritime operations centres—one in the Southampton/Portsmouth area and one in Aberdeen—together with a 24-hour centre at Dover and five daytime-only centres. In addition to delivering greater resilience and better career progression, the proposals identified ways of managing costs while still delivering high levels of service to seafarers and the public. The proposals also set out our commitment to increase by 32 the number of regular uniformed coastguards deployed to support the front-line volunteer coastguard.

These drivers for change and our strategic objectives in this exercise remain unaltered, but throughout the consultation process. I have been clear that we are willing to listen to the views of the public, coastguard staff and other interested parties on the best way to deliver the outcomes we need to achieve. More than 1,800 responses were received, including many from serving coastguards. Of the total, 27 submissions suggested specific alternative solutions, all with a reduced number of stations but with differing concepts of operations. We are very grateful to all those who responded to the consultation and to the Transport Select Committee for also looking at the issues. This has been a model consultation, with many serious and thoughtful responses recognising the need to deliver the overall objectives but proposing alternative ways of doing so.

A number of common themes emerged from the consultation responses: first, widespread acceptance, as illustrated by all the alternative solutions put forward, that change is necessary; secondly, concerns about the potential loss of local knowledge and local contacts with volunteer coastguards and other search and rescue partners; and, thirdly, concerns over how the detailed concept of operations for the MOCs and sub-centres would work in practice, particularly how a handover between a daytime centre and a 24/7 MOC would work in practice. A review of all the consultation responses has been produced under the leadership of a non-executive director of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, involving a number of serving coastguard officers and members of the Public and Commercial Services Union, and has been placed in the Library of the House. A formal response from the Government to the report of the Transport Select Committee will be provided separately.

In the light of the consultation responses, the Government have now concluded that it remains right to continue with the proposals for a nationally networked

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system with the introduction of one MOC capable of managing incidents anywhere and ensuring optimum distribution of work load across the system. Establishing one MOC, rather than the two previously proposed, allows us to address concerns over local knowledge and the robustness of the future concept of operations by retaining one of each of the current paired stations, with the retained centres operating as part of the nationally networked system 24 hours a day rather than during the daytime only. Staff in each of the current pair of stations are already familiar with, and frequently experience, managing incidents in an adjacent area.

We have also decided that the Northern Ireland coastguard station at Bangor should be retained because of the specific requirement to manage the civil contingency arrangements unique to Northern Ireland and the relationship with search and rescue partners in the Irish Republic with whom we co-ordinate closely in air sea rescues in the waters around the island of Ireland. In the light of the decision to retain one station from each pair and concerns raised about Welsh language communication, it has been decided to retain the Holyhead station, rather than the one at Liverpool. In response to concerns expressed over the resilience of infrastructure and communication links within the Scottish islands and between the islands and the Scottish mainland, we have decided to retain coastguard centres in both Stornoway and Shetland. A further review of the potential costs of vacating the existing sites in Swansea and Milford Haven has shown that there are no financial or operational reasons to favour either location, and in view of my Department’s already substantial levels of employment in Swansea, we have decided to retain the coastguard centre at Milford Haven rather than at Swansea.

In summary, subject to consultation on the changes to the previously announced approach, we will now proceed with the creation of a modernised coastguard service providing a nationally networked system comprising: one maritime operations centre in the Southampton-Portsmouth area with a disaster recovery back-up facility at the Dover station, which will retain its responsibilities for the Channel Navigation Information Service and will also serve as a sub-centre; and a further eight sub-centres, all operated on a 24-hour basis, located at Falmouth, Milford Haven, Holyhead, Belfast, Stornoway, Shetland, Aberdeen and Humber. The stations at Clyde, Forth, Portland, Liverpool, Yarmouth, Brixham, Thames and Swansea will close progressively over the period between 2012 and 2014-15. The station at Solent will be replaced by a new maritime operations centre in the Portsmouth-Southampton area. The small London station is unaffected by these proposals.

These revised proposals will deliver the modernisation required, and they are capable of delivering the same level of savings in the longer term as our previous proposals. They are right for the future of the coastguard service. I recognise, of course, that they will none the less represent a huge disappointment to those hon. Members whose constituencies are affected by the proposed closures.

The additional costs generated by retaining a total of 10 centres overall, plus London, all operating on a 24-hour basis, and the higher coastguard numbers that will be needed to do so, will be offset by operating only one maritime operations centre, in the Southampton-Portsmouth area, with a back-up centre, equipped but

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not staffed, at Dover. By moving to more efficient watch patterns, we will still be able to offer higher pay across the service to reflect higher levels of responsibility, while ensuring that costs overall remain within our planned funding for the coastguard as a whole.

The changes to the original consultation proposal that I have announced today will be the subject of a further period of consultation. This will run for 12 weeks from today, ending on 6 October 2011. Specifically, this includes the decision to retain Holyhead rather than Liverpool; the choice of Milford Haven rather than Swansea; the decision to retain stations at Shetland and Stornoway; and the decision to operate a single maritime operations centre, rather than two. These changes to our original proposals will deliver the modernised and more cost-effective service that we need for the 21st century, while also responding to the genuine concerns raised during the consultation process. I therefore commend them to the House.

Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood) (Lab): I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his statement today, and for giving me early sight of it. I also thank him for coming to the House today; this is the first time that a Minister has made a statement at the Dispatch Box on this issue at any stage of this process. I must also tell him, however, that it was wholly inappropriate for him to brief The Sunday Telegraph and the Sunday Mirror at the weekend, both of which reported a “senior Government source” as confirming the changes to the proposals. He has clearly given even more detailed information on the fate of specific stations to regional newspapers and broadcasters for use this morning. Does he not understand that it is outrageous that our brave local coastguards should be hearing about their future through anonymous briefings to the press from Department for Transport officials? This is not the way to treat those who work to make our coastline a safer place. The Secretary of State should not have sought to spin such an important announcement in advance in the way that he chose to do.

The changes that the Secretary of State has announced today are a partial victory for the tireless campaigning of coastguards up and down the country. They are the people who best know the level of provision needed to keep our coastline safe. It has been an honour to meet and hear from so many of them over the past few months and to see at first hand their dedication. The campaign that they have fought has been based entirely on their concern for the safety of the communities that they serve, and today’s changes are a tribute to their commitment and tenacity.

It is incredible to think that the Secretary of State believed that the majority of our coastguard stations should not provide round-the-clock cover. It is right that he has abandoned those plans and recognised the need for stations to operate 24 hours a day, and I commend him for doing so. However, today’s announcement will result in the loss of just under half of all of Britain’s coastguard stations. That will be a devastating blow to the stations that he proposes to close, to the coastguards, to their families and to the communities that they serve and in which they are held with such respect.

These closures are driven entirely by the Government’s decision to cut the transport budget too far and too

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fast. It is incredible that the Secretary of State’s statement today focused almost entirely on issues of cost, rather than on the safety considerations that should have driven this review from the start.

The chief executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency was very clear when he appeared before the Transport Select Committee on 8 February this year. He said that he had been

“required to find 22% budget reduction in my programme between now and 31 March 2015”.

He went on to say that the closure of coastguard stations was

“part of an overall strategy to bring my....expenditure into line with the budget provision I have been given now for the comprehensive spending review.”

These reforms are about cutting budgets, not about improving the safety of Britain’s coastline.

All along, the proposals have been ill thought out, careless and rushed. It was quite clear that Ministers had already decided exactly which stations were to close when the original consultation was published. The leaked early draft of the consultation that I was sent showed clearly that the public were to be asked for their views not on alternative options but on a decision that had clearly already been made in the Department. Only just before publication did Ministers decide to put in the choices between Liverpool and Belfast and between Shetland and Stornoway, making it clear that this was done for no other reason than to give the impression of a consultation when it was nothing of the sort.

Most incredible of all is the fact that no risk assessment was published alongside the proposals. The Select Committee found that

“by failing to publish a risk assessment of the current plans or an impact assessment of the previous round of closures until prompted, the MCA management has badly miscalculated. It has mishandled the consultation and made it appear opaque rather than clear and open-minded.”

It is clear that, had it not been for the campaign fought up and down the country, and the impressive expert work of the Transport Select Committee—I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs Ellman) for her chairmanship of that Committee—Ministers would have implemented these spending review-driven closures.

Throughout this process, there has been a failure by the Secretary of State adequately to ensure joined-up government with the Ministry of Defence, or even within his own Department, on the cumulative impact of the planned cuts. The coastguard station closures are compounded by the separate decision by his Department to end funding for emergency towing vessels. Let us not forget that they were a recommendation of Lord Donaldson’s inquiry into the Braer disaster. The Select Committee report found:

“The decision to cease the MCA’s provision of the Emergency Towing Vessels, which was made without consultation and against the findings of an independent risk assessment, is unwise and short-sighted. It is, quite literally, inviting disaster”.

The Secretary of State failed to consider the cumulative impact of the cuts being proposed by the MOD, not least the loss of the Nimrods and Sea King helicopters. The chief executive of the MCA told the Select Committee:

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“It is fair to say that with the demise of the Nimrod we do not have the extent of search and rescue top cover that we had before.”

As a result of its own cuts, the MOD will be without maritime surveillance capability after 2015, leaving a massive capacity gap that will only compound the impact of the Secretary of State’s decision to close nearly half Britain’s coastguard stations.

May I ask the Secretary of State to tell the House exactly how many jobs will be lost as a result of the closures that he has confirmed today? What is the grade and post breakdown for the jobs that will be lost? What estimate has been made of the cost of redundancy payments? Will he agree to carry out and publish a new detailed risk assessment of the revised proposals, so that it can be considered before the period of consultation begins? It is difficult to see how a genuine consultation can take place without such an assessment being carried out first. Will he also ensure that this new risk assessment is carried out jointly with the MOD? It is essential that we have joined-up government when it comes to the safety of our coastline. Will he commit to coming back to the House in person, following this further period of consultation, rather than briefing any further changes to the media—out of respect for our coastguards, if for no other reason?

The excellent report of the Transport Select Committee into these closures concluded:

“The evidence we have received raises serious concerns that safety will be jeopardised if these proposals proceed”.

The confirmation that certain stations will remain open and the decision to retain 24-hour cover will be welcomed, but the revised set of proposals that the Secretary of State has set out today will not provide the reassurance that the public need and expect. The communities served by the stations that are to close in Clyde, Forth, Portland, Yarmouth, Brixham, Thames and Swansea, and my own local station in Liverpool, will be devastated at the loss of their local coastguard. The reality is that coastguards have seen their work loads increase in recent years, as our shipping lanes have become busier and they are called out to deal with more incidents. How can the answer be fewer operating bases? Improving the interoperability between the existing centres is surely possible without a reduction in the number of coastguard stations, with the loss of local expertise that this will entail. Axing one out of each paired station will lead to a considerable loss of local knowledge; it is incomprehensible that staff based in Belfast will have the same local knowledge about Liverpool bay as the existing local coastguards.

What the right hon. Gentleman must do now is not have a consultation on the changes announced today, but have a full new consultation on the entire set of proposals, following a fresh risk assessment and covering all of the proposals across government, including from the Ministry of Defence, that impact on the future safety of our coastline.

Mr Hammond: I do not remember the hon. Lady being quite so sanctimonious about briefing during the years that she was in government. She says that this is a victory for people who have protested up and down the country. I will tell her what it is: it is a victory for common sense and a victory for the consultation process. The Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon.

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Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning), the shipping Minister, has been around coastguard stations up and down the country and received delegations from every coastguard station and every major seafaring community in the country and talked to them about their specific concerns. Working with the professional team at the coastguard agency, we have woven those concerns into the revised proposal that I have presented today.

The hon. Lady says that she cannot believe that the original proposals I presented included the loss of round-the-clock cover. That is a little strange, because the proposals I presented were those that my hon. Friend the shipping Minister found on his desk when he inherited the post in May 2010. The Labour party had failed to present those proposals publicly for fear of dealing with the fallout.

I recognise, of course, that the loss of a significant number of local stations is a blow to the communities that host them, but it is absolutely wrong for the hon. Lady to say that this process is driven only by the need to save costs, although there clearly is a need to save costs in the light of the chronic fiscal situation that we inherited from Labour. The fact is that the current structure of the coastguard does not reflect the technology or the concept of operations current today. We have to reinforce the ability to share work around the system, to deal with fluctuations in work load and variations in work load between different parts of our coastline.

I can tell the hon. Lady that risk assessments have been published and, in answer to her specific question, a further risk assessment relating to these proposals will be published. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary tells me that he thinks that will be done within the next week.

I am somewhat bemused by the hon. Lady’s foray into the area of Sea Kings and Nimrods since we are talking here specifically about the coastguard control centres. I would be happy to talk to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, but I do not believe that he wishes to make any further input into this process.

The hon. Lady asked me specifically about the total job losses. The total number of uniformed coastguards will, as a result of these proposals, fall from 573 at present to 436 once the transformation is completed by 2014-15. That includes coastguards based in the operational centres, coastguards deployed to support the front-line volunteer coastguard and a small number at Maritime and Coastguard Agency headquarters. I cannot provide an exact breakdown of the grades of the jobs that will be lost, but I am happy to write to the hon. Lady and place a copy of my letter in the Library in the usual way. I am also quite happy to confirm that I will make a further statement, either written or oral, once the consultation process is over.

If the hon. Lady had looked a little more closely at what we are proposing, she would understand that we have responded very effectively to the central thrust of the responses that we have received, which was about the loss of local knowledge and concerns about handing over from daytime operations to the 24-hour marine operation centre. The retention of one centre from each pair does answer the local knowledge question, and the example the hon. Lady gave, relating to her own constituency, is ill informed since Liverpool is actually paired with Holyhead, which will now be retained. She

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will find that the coastguards at Holyhead routinely deal with operations in Liverpool bay and have a working local knowledge of conditions in the bay.

I believe that these proposals are a robust solution to deliver a future coastguard service that will be resilient, effective and affordable into the 21st century.

Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall) (Con): I did not hear an awful lot about safety in the Secretary of State’s statement, but I did hear an awful lot about cost. Will my right hon. Friend please tell me why he has not already published the risk assessment relating to the proposals? A Minister told the House about three weeks ago in an Adjournment debate that there would be full consultation on the new proposals, so will my right hon. Friend explain why that Minister did not say then that the consultation would relate only to the adjustments? Will he reconsider and consult the experts—the coastguards themselves who work at the front line of every co-ordination centre around the coast—about these proposals and take on board what they have to say?

Mr Hammond: I understand my hon. Friend’s specific local concerns; she has campaigned extremely hard on behalf of her local community and its concerns. Of course safety is paramount. This whole process is about making the coastguard service more resilient and more effective, and creating a proper career structure that will attract and retain the quality of people we need in a service that, frankly, has not had a good experience of industrial relations and personnel issues over the last few years. My hon. Friend says I should consult the experts; that is precisely what we have done. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has been around the country, talking to coastguards and has received countless delegations here, tapping into their expert knowledge. The proposals I have announced reflect that very useful input that they have made.

Mr Iain McKenzie (Inverclyde) (Lab): Will the Secretary of State comment on two points along the same lines as questions already asked? First, with the announcement that the coastguard station on the Clyde in Greenock in my constituency is to close, I must ask the Minister whether he feels that safety has been compromised, especially on the west coast of Scotland, which is a particularly challenging coastline with demanding waters and a big increase in shipping in the area. Is safety on the west coast of Scotland being compromised? Secondly, will the right hon. Gentleman comment on the number of job losses in my constituency that will result from the closure of this station?

Mr Hammond: On the safety issue, the hon. Gentleman will know that the proposal in the original consultation was also to close the station in the Clyde—and that position still stands. This questioning of whether the closure of local stations will compromise safety betrays, I think, a failure to understand how the coastguard works and operates. What is really important is that the part of the service that receives calls and directs front-line rescue operations is effectively networked together. At the moment, we have what I consider in the 21st century to be a frankly shocking situation whereby each coastguard station is able to communicate and share work with only one other coastguard station. If there is a surge of work on the west coast, for example, due to a particular

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weather pattern, it is impossible at the moment for that work load to be shared with stations on the south coast, the east coast or elsewhere in the United Kingdom. It is to deliver that resilience that these proposals have been brought forward. The professionals who have evaluated them and who advise us are quite clear that this will enhance the resilience of the system and thus the safety of seafarers and coastal communities around the UK. I am quite happy to write to the hon. Gentleman specifically on the job loss issues relating to his constituency.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. A great many Members wish to contribute. If questions and answers are shorter, most of them will, I hope, be able to.

Brandon Lewis (Great Yarmouth) (Con): My right hon. Friend will not be surprised to learn that I am disappointed that Great Yarmouth will not retain a station. However, I have supported the modernisation programme from the outset. The good news is that our twin station at Humber will now be open for 24 hours, so local knowledge will be retained, but I should appreciate some information about the number of job losses at Great Yarmouth. I know that the station is already slightly under-resourced, but if vacancies arise at the Humber station will Great Yarmouth staff have an opportunity to relocate and take their knowledge there?

Mr Hammond: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the way in which he has dealt with the issue. We certainly hope that it will be possible to transfer staff from some of the stations that are closing to some of those that are remaining open. I can tell my hon. Friend that 25 full-time equivalent posts will be lost at Great Yarmouth; I can also save the taxpayer a stamp by telling the hon. Member for Inverclyde (Mr McKenzie) that 31 such posts will be lost at the Clyde station.

Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab): The news that Crosby coastguard is to close comes as a bitter blow to staff and to the public in my constituency and much further afield. Other Members have said the same about the closures of their own coastguard stations.

Many will view this as a cut too far, which poses a risk to public safety. Crosby has a number of experienced and outstanding staff who have key relationships with search and rescue staff, police officers and firefighters. They want to make the most of new technology, but they want to do so by using the existing network rather than through large, remotely located operations in Southampton and Aberdeen. In retaining the 24/7 stations that he has mentioned, the Minister has presumably accepted that new technology is most effective when combined with existing local knowledge and relationships, so why has he not allowed that to obtain at Crosby and the other stations that are set to close? Is the truth that this move has been driven by the Treasury?

Mr Hammond: The hon. Gentleman talks of “using the existing network”, but, as I have just explained, there are no existing networks except between the paired stations. He talks of the local knowledge at Crosby, and asks why we have not applied the principle of retaining

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it there. We have: we are retaining the station at Holyhead, which is paired with Crosby and routinely operates in tandem with it, using the same areas of local knowledge around the north Wales coast and Liverpool bay area which both stations cover.

Sir Menzies Campbell (North East Fife) (LD): My right hon. Friend predicted huge disappointment, and in that respect at least I can agree with him. The proposed closure of Forth in my constituency will be received with profound disappointment, not least because of the unsatisfactory nature of the public meeting held by the MCA in Anstruther in February. Is my right hon. Friend aware that Aberdeen, which he proposes to retain, is the most expensive station in the United Kingdom—that excludes staff costs—while Forth has the lowest running costs in the UK? Is he also aware that in 2010, 40% of lifeboat launches in Scotland took place within Forth’s area of responsibility?

The Forth station offers value for money, and is increasingly busy because of the increase in leisure and commercial traffic in and around the River Forth. Why on earth should it be a candidate for closure?

Mr Hammond: As my right hon. and learned Friend will appreciate, given that we have decided to retain one station from each pairing in order to respond to the concerns about local knowledge, there will inevitably be a series of questions such as his from Members representing the station in each pair that has not been selected for retention. A multi-criterian approach was adopted to the decisions about which station in each pair should be retained. I should be happy to explain to my right hon. and learned Friend the detailed logic behind the decision in this case.

Mrs Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): There is widespread concern at the prospect of the closure of coastguard stations, especially among the many people who use pleasure vessels and fishing vessels. Their concern matters as much as that of those in the commercial sector. I welcome the Government’s acceptance, in full, of the Select Committee’s recommendation of 24-hour cover in all stations, and their acceptance of the strong point made by the Committee about the significance of local knowledge. However, I must ask the Secretary of State whether he considers it credible that eight local closures will enable local knowledge and local team working to save the maximum number of lives.

Mr Hammond: First, let me restate my gratitude to the Select Committee for the time and trouble that it took over the inquiry. The hon. Lady will know, because she heard the evidence herself, that people who are closely involved with the service do indeed accept the need for change. As for local knowledge, it is precisely because the point about its importance was made so powerfully that we decided to look again at the original pairings of stations and see how the network could be organised around the retention of one station in each pair. Because of the way in which the pairs work, people working in either one of a pair of centres have full local knowledge of the entire coastline covered by both. We have addressed the concern expressed about local knowledge, while still building the resilience that the network needs for the 21st century.

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Caroline Dinenage (Gosport) (Con): I welcome the news that there will still be a station in the Solent area, which, after all, is one of the busiest sea lanes in the world. May I encourage the Secretary of State to consider also retaining the new command centre in the Lee-on-the-Solent area, where it is currently located? Not only does it benefit from the experience and local knowledge that, as we have learnt, is so important, and also from an ideal location between Portsmouth and Southampton, but the MCA already owns a big site at Daedalus, where there is a runway, so its retention makes good financial sense.

Mr Hammond: The Daedalus site is certainly one of the sites being considered by the agency as a possible location for the marine operations centre, which will provide 96 jobs, but no final decision has yet been made.

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): While I obviously have sympathy for Clyde and Forth, I am, of course, over the moon for Stornoway and Shetland. This has been a good campaign for my constituents in Stornoway. Praise to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, and praise to Shetland Isles council; praise also to the shipping Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning), who visited, listened and genuinely consulted, and has the respect of many in the islands. The decision took account of distance as well as local knowledge. Can the Secretary of State reassure us that this is now a settled situation, and that we can look forward to a period of stability at the coastguard operation centres in both Stornoway and Shetland?

Mr Hammond: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I also thank him on behalf of my hon. Friend the shipping Minister. It is nice to receive an acknowledgment of some of the effort that goes into getting some of these things right.

Of course the proposals are subject to the consultation that I have announced, but we envisage this as a settled situation that deals with the long-running question of how we can modernise the coastguard not just to make it technically resilient, but to create a career structure and, indeed, a pay structure that will solve the deep-rooted and long-running industrial relations problems that have existed in the service.

Mr Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): I thank my right hon. Friend and his ministerial team for listening to the representations that I, and others, have made about the Humber coastguard. While this is clearly good news for my constituents who are employed in Bridlington, is not the overriding issue the need to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the whole service? As the Humber station is in effect being asked to take on more responsibility, what will be the ultimate effect on staffing levels? Will they be increased rather than decreased?

Mr Hammond: What my right hon. Friend must take into account is that there will be a marine operations centre in the Portsmouth-Southampton area, with 96 staff operating 24/7. That will provide a great deal of back-up for all the operations in the country. At Humber there will be a loss of six full-time equivalent posts. The station, like all the other stations and sub-stations

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that are remaining open 24/7, will operate with a total of 23 staff and will work in networked tandem, 24/7, with the marine operations centre on the south coast.

Martin Caton (Gower) (Lab): The Secretary of State has completely failed to justify his decision to close Swansea and keep Milford Haven open. That makes absolutely no sense, certainly in maritime and coastal safety terms; it may make sense in terms of narrow party political advantage. Swansea is better strategically placed than Milford Haven and deals with twice as many incidents. Swansea also has a history of liaising with different police services across south Wales and south-west England, while Milford Haven has only ever dealt with Dyfed Powys. The MCA’s original proposals recognised that if we had to get rid of one of the pair, Swansea was the one to retain. What is now proposed is a huge mistake. The consultation should not be about something that is settled; it should be a real consultation where we can make the case for Swansea.

Mr Hammond: As I said to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr Knight) a few moments ago, I recognise that in the case of every pair there is likely to be some internecine warfare over which of them is to be selected. The hon. Gentleman says the original recommendation was to close Milford Haven and retain Swansea. That was based on an understanding within the agency then about onerous obligations in respect of the site and buildings at Swansea. It has subsequently become clear that they do not impose as great a financial cost as was first thought, and the view within the agency now is that there are no operational or financial considerations that dictate that the choice should be either Swansea or Milford Haven. The hon. Gentleman has completely failed to recognise that my Department already employs more than 5,000 full-time equivalent staff in and around Swansea. I am not sure whether we employ any staff in Milford Haven at present, but if we do the numbers will be very small. I believe that in these circumstances, and with no financial or operational drivers, the right decision is to distribute the employment opportunities as equitably as possible.

Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con): When the Government brought forward the original proposals, I greatly appreciated that they clearly said they were not a done deal. There has genuinely been a huge change from those original proposals, as the Government have listened to what coastguards such as mine in Falmouth have told them. However, it is clear from the contributions of my hon. Friends that there are still considerable concerns. Therefore, may I have a reassurance from the Government that over this 12-week period they will properly listen and take into account any further concerns that are raised about these proposals?

Mr Hammond: The consultation is about the parts of this proposal that differ from the previous proposal that is already being consulted on, so we will not receive further responses to the original consultation proposals, but we are open to responses to the changes in the four areas I outlined in my statement.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I thank the Secretary of State for his statement and the hard work he has clearly done. I also want to put on record my thanks to

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my colleague, the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon), who along with me fought a strong campaign on behalf of the people of North Down and Strangford. I pay tribute, too, to the staff who have worked hard as well, and been very supportive. I should add that the shipping Minister was very courteous and helpful. He came over to Northern Ireland, and to Bangor, to see exactly what needed to be done and to hear the views of the people and explain the options.

The decision that has been made reinforces the position of Bangor and its status as a 24/7 station. It was a 24/7 station before this consultation process, but there was a proposal to downgrade it to a daytime station. The current proposal, however, is to maintain it as a 24/7 station, for which we are thankful to everyone involved. I am grateful to the Minister for what he has done.

In the penultimate paragraph of the statement, the Secretary of State refers to the consultative process that will take place. He does not specifically mention Bangor, however. Can I take it that in respect of the process outlined today the position of Bangor is secure? If that is the case, we will be very happy to welcome the shipping Minister and the Secretary of State to the Bangor station in the near future.

Mr Hammond: I am glad to be able to tell the hon. Gentleman that we consider that the issue of the potential closure of the station at Bangor was addressed in the previous consultation and there is no need for further consultation on that. I acknowledge the local issues he raised, but I should say that the decision to keep Bangor was made primarily on the basis of the national importance of having a station that could deal with the specific civil contingency issues in Northern Ireland and the very important relationships with the Irish Republic in search and rescue.

Guto Bebb (Aberconwy) (Con): I warmly congratulate the Secretary of State on his announcement today, which is most welcome in relation to Holyhead. May I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen) for his leadership of what was a strong cross-party campaign? Does the Secretary of State agree that the waters around north Wales will be safer as a result of this announcement because of the retention of local knowledge in Holyhead, not least the ability to recognise Welsh language place names?

Mr Hammond: I am glad that there was that outbreak of cross-party consensus. My hon. Friend is right that the concerns about Welsh language competence, and particularly recognition of Welsh place names, was one of the factors that determined the ultimate decision.

Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): Choosing to close one of each pair is more like a party game—or “The Apprentice”—than any rationale for designing a service. I do not want either Milford Haven or Swansea to close, but given what my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Martin Caton) said about Swansea’s expertise in covering the whole of the Bristol channel and north Devon and the volume of its work compared with that of Milford Haven, am I to understand from the Secretary of State’s comments that he has made his decision not

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on who is best qualified and most experienced to do the job, but on what alternative employment is available, and is that really a rationale for providing the best service to the public?

Mr Hammond: If the hon. Lady had listened more carefully, she would have understood that there is no difference between Swansea and Milford Haven in terms of operational, technical or financial considerations. The professional advice we received was that either of those centres could provide the service required. Before the hon. Lady gets on her high horse about this, she should remember that the proposal my hon. Friend the shipping Minister inherited from the previous Administration when coming into office in May 2010 would have provided a single coastguard station in the whole of Wales. What we are proposing today gives Wales two coastguard stations and a very effective solution to protect the safety of Welsh coastal communities and seafarers.

Mr John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): The shipping Minister should be applauded for the fact that the consultation process has led to the remaining stations being a 24-hour operation. That was very important, but can the Secretary of State clarify how these stations will operate alongside the proposed single maritime operations centre and can he assure me that this will not lead to any scaling down of operations at the remaining centres?

Mr Hammond: We have already set out how the local stations will operate, with 23 full-time equivalent staff. They will be permanently networked with the marine operations centre, which will have 96 staff in total, so that each centre will deal with a core base load of work, but will easily be able to transfer overload work via the marine operations centre, either to be handled at that centre or to be transmitted on to another centre elsewhere in the UK that is experiencing low work load at the time. This will be a genuinely national networked solution.

Mr Frank Doran (Aberdeen North) (Lab): I am obviously very pleased that there will still be a coastguard station at Aberdeen, but I am deeply disappointed that it has been downgraded from a marine operations centre to I do not know what status. Aberdeen is a crucial location because of the North sea oil and gas industry. My disappointment is mitigated somewhat because we have managed to keep the stations in Shetland and Stornoway, which is one positive measure. The station in Aberdeen has been gearing up for its new status, and there has been investment in new technology. What are the jobs implications of the fact that its status has been downgraded?

Mr Hammond: I understand the hon. Gentleman’s concern, and I appreciate the measured way in which he has presented it. He will, perhaps, have to discuss the decision that has been made with my hon. Friend the shipping Minister. It is only by deciding to go for a single marine operations centre that we have been able to provide the resources to allow 24/7 operations to continue at eight other sub-centres around the country, and to deliver the result that reflects the consultation responses we received and the recommendations of the Select Committee on Transport in respect of local knowledge. To answer the hon. Gentleman’s specific

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question, Aberdeen currently has 31 staff. As a result of these proposals, it will lose eight full-time equivalent posts, operating like all the other sub-centres 24/7 with 23 full-time equivalent staff.

Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con): Twenty-five staff are employed at the Brixham maritime co-ordination rescue centre. I pay tribute to their dedication. Can the Secretary of State reassure those staff that they will be treated fairly when applying for jobs either at Falmouth or at the maritime operations centre? That is a real concern and will be essential to retaining local knowledge. I am concerned at the suggestion that those staff will not have an opportunity to contribute to the further consultation, because neither I nor anyone else in south Devon can understand how safety can be preserved with the closure of that maritime operations centre.

Mr Hammond: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the measured way in which she makes her point. First, her constituents, like anybody else, will of course be able to respond to the consultation, but the consultation itself is limited to the issues that represent changes from the previous consultation. The coastguards employed at Brixham are civil servants. They will be entitled to be considered for deployment elsewhere in the civil service. Wherever possible—and where they are willing—we will look specifically to secure their knowledge and experience by redeploying them to other stations that will remain open. This process will take place over a number of years; it is not going to happen overnight. If at the end of that process there are people remaining who cannot be accommodated elsewhere in the service, they will be offered voluntary redundancy terms. We hope that it will not be necessary to make compulsory redundancies, and any that are made will be made only as a last resort.

Stephen Twigg (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab/Co-op): There will be considerable anger in Liverpool at the Secretary of State’s announcement today. Can he tell the House how many jobs will be lost in Merseyside as a result of this decision, and what account, if any, he has taken of the concerns expressed by the Merseyside fire service about the implications for safety at sea?

Mr Hammond: We have taken account of all concerns that have been expressed to us through the consultation process. The hon. Gentleman will know that under the previous proposals, the Liverpool centre would have been reduced to 10 posts; therefore, today’s announcement that it will close represents a net loss of 10 further jobs. He should also know—as he indeed does know—that my hon. Friend the shipping Minister has bent over backwards to try to accommodate the aspirations of Liverpool city council to change the status of the cruise liner terminal in Liverpool in a way that will create jobs and enhance the status of the city.

Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con): I endorse the comments of my hon. Friend and constituency neighbour the Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis), and I take some assurance from the fact that we are keeping the 24-hour service on Humberside. When it comes to harnessing local knowledge, my concern relates to leisure and tourism. Norfolk has a long coast, with remote beaches and currents that change, and Suffolk and Essex have plenty of estuaries. We are about to embark

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on the holiday season. I would be grateful for an assurance that it will be possible to transfer that detailed local knowledge to Humberside.

Mr Hammond: The Humber station already covers the coastline of Norfolk and part of Suffolk, and the people working there will have the experience and knowledge that my hon. Friend talks of. I would like to take this opportunity to remind hon. Members that part of the proposal involves reinforcing professional coastguard support for the volunteer coastguard operation. An additional net total of 32 uniformed officers will be deployed in direct support of the volunteer coastguard, further reinforcing the resilience and effectiveness of the service.

Dr Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): When the Minister was proposing two marine operations centres, he proposed to have 96 staff at the Solent centre. Now that he is proposing one marine operations centre, he is still proposing to have 96 staff at the Solent centre. Does he envisage the service being half as good nationally or the staff working twice as hard?

Mr Hammond: Neither. The point about reducing the proposal to a single marine operations centre is that resources that are not deployed in the other centre will remain deployed in local stations around the country, which is the thrust of most of the representations that we received—that we should seek to protect and maintain local knowledge deployed in local stations. Resilience in the event of disaster will be provided by a ghost facility at Dover, which would allow the marine operations centre in the Southampton-Portsmouth area to be transferred en masse to Dover in the event of any catastrophe befalling the Southampton-Portsmouth area.

Simon Hart (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire) (Con): I warmly welcome the news that, subject to the consultation, Milford Haven will remain open. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating the work of the Save Milford Haven Coastguard group, the Western Telegraph and the Milford and West Wales Mercury, and my hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) on the measured way in which they put the case for our area and the wider Welsh community? Can he assure me that during the consultation, the unique nature of Milford as an energy hub for the whole of the UK will be taken into account?

Mr Hammond: I am happy to congratulate all those who have taken part in the process for the measured way in which, on the whole, they have done so. As he has travelled round the country, my hon. Friend the shipping Minister has found that behind what can sometimes be the public rhetoric, well thought through, well argued and sensibly considered proposals and cases have been put to him.

My hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart) has asked me about the status of Milford Haven as a major port. I have said before—I will repeat it—that the professional advice that we have received is that either Milford Haven or Swansea could have delivered the requirement in south Wales from a technical, operational and financial point of view. Ultimately, we made the decision to come down on the side of Milford Haven in the interests of equity.

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Albert Owen (Ynys Môn) (Lab): First, I pay tribute to all the volunteers, coastguards and full-time search and rescue crews operating helicopters and lifeboats around our coastline. I welcome the retention of the Holyhead station, which is based not only on the importance of the Welsh language, as has been noted, but on the links with 22 Squadron at RAF Valley. The Secretary of State mentioned a nationally networked system, as well as consultation. When that is set up, will he ensure that there is internal consultation of individual front-line coastguards, so that they can contribute to the best and safest network, one that is fit for the 21st century?

Mr Hammond: Yes, of course, that process is already under way.

Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): Well, well, what a surprise! Faced with the choice, a Tory Minister decides to close a facility in Liverpool. I genuinely do not believe for a moment that the closure of the Liverpool coastguard station was agreed for any reason other than political expediency. If it was not, why was Liverpool left out of the original consultation document? The Minister cannot justify his decision. He has just mentioned that Liverpool may well get a cruise liner turnaround facility that will increase traffic along our corridors, but he has taken the easy political way out. He should reconsider his decision, based on the information that he has just presented—that Liverpool could indeed get a cruise liner turnaround facility.

Mr Hammond: Perhaps I am guilty of making a rod for my own back, Mr Deputy Speaker. I mentioned the cruise liner turnaround facility simply to demonstrate that my hon. Friend the shipping Minister is leaving no stone unturned in trying to help the maritime community around Liverpool, but the decision has been properly made, after a full assessment. The station at Holyhead will provide proper cover for the maritime areas that were previously covered by Crosby. To suggest that there is some kind of party political advantage—[Hon. Members: “Shameful!”] Frankly, it is not just shameful; it is also illiterate. The hon. Gentleman should look at the map.

Mr Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute) (LD): I welcome the retention of both Stornoway and Shetland on a 24-hour basis, which is a big improvement on the original proposals. However, the closure of the Clyde station leaves a huge area of sea between Bangor and Stornoway without any station, as can be seen from the illustrative map. As I said in the Westminster Hall debate, that coastline presents unique challenges. So far, we have had a genuine consultation. I think that the Clyde coastguard station should be kept. Will the Secretary of State agree to receive representations on that in the coming consultation?

Mr Hammond: No. I have made it clear that that will be outside the scope of the coming consultation. My hon. Friend said that the Clyde station covers a “huge area of sea”. I understand that it is difficult to get out of that mode of thinking, but that is not the way to think about a networked 21st-century coastguard service. Belfast has been twinned with Clyde. The station in Belfast has the working local knowledge of the huge area of sea that has previously been covered by the Clyde station, and the arrangements that we have put in place are resilient and will serve us well for the 21st century.

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Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South) (Con): I very much welcome the Secretary of State’s statement. I am a member of the Select Committee on Transport, so I know that he has clearly listened to many of the concerns that were identified, particularly on daylight-only operating. When we spoke to coastguards as part of our inquiry we were very struck by their willingness to modernise the service. May I invite him to say a little more about how the new maritime operations centre will harness new technology to augment the safety that the existing stations provide?

Mr Hammond: I am grateful to my hon. Friend and to the Committee for the work that it did. I suspect that he may get the prize for being the Member with the constituency furthest from the coast who has contributed to this discussion today. I would be happy to talk to him offline, but I sense that Mr Deputy Speaker would not encourage me to explain in detail the technical features of the new maritime operations centre.

Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (PC): What discussions has the Secretary of State had with the new Welsh Government about the proposal to aim the axe at Swansea rather than Milford Haven? Has he received any representations from new Welsh Ministers?

Mr Hammond: No, I have received no representations about the choice between Swansea and Milford Haven.

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): I welcome the improvements to the original proposals that were floating around for some years. I particularly welcome not only the switch to 24-hour cover, which is essential, and the increase in the number of stations from that originally proposed, but the opportunity to improve coastguards’ pay. Morale in the coastguard service has been very poor, and under the previous Government strikes took place—a very rare thing in this service. Ultimately, the purpose of this whole system is not about providing jobs, but about public safety. Can the Secretary of State assure the House that public safety will be preserved or improved by the modernisation and changes that he proposes?

Mr Hammond: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that comment, and I can give him that reassurance. I can assure him further that the result we have come to and announced today is based on the input of professionals, who understand the needs of the system and the safety issues at stake. As he rightly says, not only the communications resilience and the IT resilience, but, above all, the improvement in morale that will be delivered by lancing the boil of the long-running industrial relations problem that has been festering in this service for many, many years will hugely improve the way in which the service is delivered and the safety it affords to our communities.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): Given what the Secretary of State told my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen North (Mr Doran) about the loss of jobs under the new plans at the Aberdeen centre, it is hard to see that there will be any opportunity for workers from the Forth coastguard station to be redeployed to Aberdeen. Therefore, there is a real risk that their local knowledge will be lost.

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Does the Secretary of State really expect us to believe that two stations on the entire east coast mainland of Scotland and England, at Aberdeen and Humber, will be able to provide the same kind of local knowledge that we have at the moment?

Mr Hammond: I am sorry to be repetitious, Mr Deputy Speaker, but those stations will be working fully networked with the marine operations centre at Southampton, which itself will have a much bigger complement of staff, and much better equipment and communications technology, 24/7. It will deliver the level of resilience and safety that we require.

On the first part of the hon. Gentleman’s question, I understand why he made the statement that he did, but there is a degree of turnover going on within coastguard stations now, and we expect that, even in areas where the natural twin will not be recruiting additional staff, there will be opportunities for the redeployment of many, if not all, of the staff over the next three or four years.

Julie Hilling (Bolton West) (Lab): The Secretary of State said that he had listened to the consultations. All the coastguard stations said that they should remain open, reluctantly accepted that there should be change and also said that there should be more than 10 stations, so it seems to me that they were not particularly heard. I am disappointed that he is limiting the next bit of the consultation to the few points he has listed. Will he reconsider that decision, particularly if safety issues are raised?

Mr Hammond: No, I am afraid not, as a very extensive consultation has taken place. It lasted for 20 weeks, which is much longer than the Government’s normal standard for consultation. We have responded in detail—the response is in the Library today—to that consultation process. The further consultation is simply about the changes that we have proposed since that document was published.

Fiona O'Donnell (East Lothian) (Lab): I am extremely grateful for your generosity in calling me, Mr Deputy Speaker, given that my Public Bill Committee duties meant that I could not be here earlier. The Minister may recall that I tabled a written question on the number of vacancies for watch officers at Fife Ness station, and I was alarmed to hear the number given. On Saturday, I will be at the Dunbar lifeboat day, celebrating, with the local community, the bravery, service and sacrifice of the Dunbar crew. I want to be able to reassure them that this decision was not taken before the end of the consultation and that Fife Ness was not being wound down. Did the Minister visit Fife Ness during the consultation?

Mr Hammond: The hon. Lady makes the important point that the uncertainty that this process has inevitably introduced has led, in some cases, to recruitment difficulties; there are unfilled posts within the coastguard service as we speak. Our hope is that the signals we are sending today on certainty, better pay, better conditions, better career progression and improved industrial relations will make it possible for the coastguard service to man up to the level it needs to be at to implement these changes and keep our coasts safe for the future.

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Points of Order

2.26 pm

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Would it be in order under the Parliamentary Witnesses Oaths Act 1871 for the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, if it so chooses next week, to require witnesses appearing before it to do so under oath? Can you confirm that if they did appear under oath, any false evidence would be subject to the penalties for perjury under the Perjury Act 1911?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): You are correct about the Act; the decision on whether to take evidence on oath is a matter for the Select Committee and therefore it would be for the Committee to do that. On perjury, you are absolutely correct.

Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the Secretary of State for Transport to table a written ministerial statement, as he has done today, that says only that an oral statement will be made later the same day? This appears to be a clear attempt to avoid committing to an oral statement on a matter of great importance prior to seeing whether Members of the House apply for and are granted an urgent question. It was only after an urgent question was granted that he agreed to make an oral statement today, thus leaving a written ministerial statement on the Order Paper purposeless and empty of content. Is this not an abuse of the WMS procedure? Surely it cannot be right for Ministers to attempt to manipulate the procedures of the House to attempt to avoid facing it in person in this manner. May we have your guidance please, Mr Deputy Speaker?

Mr Deputy Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving me notice of that point of order. I do not believe that there has been any breach of the House rules.

Jim McGovern (Dundee West) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I recently tabled a question for oral answer from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. In fact, I believe that it would originally have been Question 11 on the Order Paper today. I subsequently received a letter telling me that my question was outwith the Department’s remit. It was about the computer games industry, which is a big business in my constituency—I repeat the word “business”. Many people are involved in developing the games, which is innovation, and most people involved are graduates from the university of Abertay, which would suggest a high level of skills. I am at a loss as to why the question was refused. In which circumstances can Departments refuse to answer questions from people in this House?

Mr Deputy Speaker: I can completely understand the hon. Gentleman’s frustration at losing the opportunity to ask an oral question, and that frustration builds up. Transfers are the responsibility of the Department and not me, and I know that the Table Office does its best to advise hon. Members of a possible transfer. The frustration carries on, but this is not a matter for me to decide.

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Mr Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. We are just about to proceed to our business on the Sovereign Grant Bill, but because of the timetabling that has been agreed there will be no Second Reading. I know that you are not responsible for that, but it is worth putting down a marker that these are very important subjects. We have waited since 1760 for this important reform but I am not sure that it is so desperately urgent that we do not need Second Reading. Perhaps in future we can so conduct our business, particularly with sensitive matters such as this, which concern the Head of State, so that we get a Second Reading of important Bills.

Mr Deputy Speaker: Let us see what the Minister says when he moves the motion.

Bill Presented

Cycles (protective Headgear for Children) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Annette Brooke presented a Bill to require the wearing of protective headgear by children while riding cycles; to prescribe penalties for contraventions; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday, 4 November 2011, and to be printed (Bill 220).

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Sovereign Grant Bill (Allocation of Time)

2.31 pm

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr George Osborne): I beg to move,

That the following provisions shall apply to the proceedings on the Sovereign Grant Bill:


1.–(1) Notwithstanding the practice of the House as to the interval between the various stages of a Bill brought in upon a financial resolution, proceedings on Second Reading, in Committee, on Consideration and on Third Reading shall be completed at today’s sitting in accordance with the following provisions of this paragraph.

(2) Proceedings on Second Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 2.30 pm.

(3) Proceedings in Committee and on Consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 5.00 pm.

(4) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 6.00 pm.

Timing of proceedings and Questions to be put

2. When the Bill has been read a second time—

(a) it shall (notwithstanding Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of bills not subject to a programme order)) stand committed to a Committee of the whole House without any Question being put;

(b) the Speaker shall leave the Chair whether or not notice of an Instruction has been given.

3.–(1) On the conclusion of proceedings in Committee, the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.

(2) If the Bill is reported with amendments, the House shall proceed to consider the Bill as amended without any Question being put.

4. For the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph 1, the Speaker or Chairman shall forthwith put the following Questions (but no others)—

(a) any Question already proposed from the Chair;

(b) any Question necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed;

(c) the Question on any amendment moved or Motion made by a Minister of the Crown;

(d) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded.

5. On a Motion so made for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chairman or Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.

6. If two or more Questions would fall to be put under paragraph 4(c) on successive amendments moved or Motions made by a Minister of the Crown, the Chairman or Speaker shall instead put a single question in relation to those amendments or Motions.

7. If two or more Questions would fall to be put under paragraph 4(d) in relation to successive provisions of the Bill, the Chairman shall instead put a single Question in relation to those provisions.


8. Paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business) shall apply so far as necessary for the purposes of this Order.

9.–(1) The proceedings on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement.

(2) Paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business) shall apply to those proceedings.

10. Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee) shall not apply in relation to any proceedings to which this Order applies.

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11.–(1) No Motion shall be made, except by a Minister of the Crown, to alter the order in which any proceedings on the Bill are taken or to re-commit the Bill.

(2) The Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

12.–(1) No dilatory Motion shall be made in relation to proceedings to which this Order applies except by a Minister of the Crown.

(2) The Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

13. The Speaker may not arrange for a debate to be held in accordance with Standing Order No. 24 (Emergency debates) at today’s sitting before the conclusion of any proceedings to which this Order applies.

14.–(1) Sub-paragraph (2) applies if the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before the conclusion of any proceedings to which this Order applies.

(2) No notice shall be required of a Motion made at the next sitting by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.

15. Proceedings to which this Order applies shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.

16.–(1) Any private business which has been set down for consideration at 3.00 pm at today’s sitting shall, instead of being considered as provided by Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill today.

(2) Paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill or, if those proceedings are concluded before the moment of interruption, for a period equal to the time elapsing between 3.00 pm and the conclusion of those proceedings.

We are going to follow a rather unusual procedure here, I think, because we have run out of time for Second Reading. I looked to the Chair for guidance on how to handle that and I suggest that as we have some time for debate in the Committee of the Whole House this afternoon we should use the time on clause 1 stand part to have, in effect, a Second Reading debate. Since no amendments were tabled to that clause, either, that is fine. As I understand it through the usual channels, the official Opposition are happy with that. That will address the concerns of my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr Leigh) and we can have what feels to the House like a Second Reading debate albeit on clause 1 stand part.

2.32 pm

Ed Balls (Morley and Outwood) (Lab/Co-op): We are clearly making a momentous decision today with the biggest change in the royal finances since 1760, so it is obviously important that we should have a full debate. We had a full debate a fortnight ago and we have that opportunity again today. Given the fact the statements have run on so long, the Chancellor is correct to say that we have a difficulty. The Opposition will be happy to have a full debate on clause 1 stand part and obviously the sooner we start that debate, the better.

Mr Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I just need your guidance as I have a particular general point that I wanted to make. It pertains to clause 13 but I would normally have made it on Second Reading. Will you immediately call me to order if I seek to raise it?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): I think we will need to listen to what the hon. Gentleman has to say.

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2.33 pm

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): I emphasise that my remarks have nothing to do with the measure we will debate today. We can express our views on that one way or the other if we wish. My concern is that we are going to take all stages in one day—we are not, in fact, because we will not even have Second Reading. When Ministers come along, as the Chancellor has today, and argue that it is important to deal with all stages of the Bill in one day they might make their case, but that does not mean that the House should be complacent about the procedure. Last Thursday, the same procedure applied. We had all stages of the Police (Detention and Bail) Bill in one day and the Home Secretary explained its urgency, but even on that occasion I expressed my concern over the way in which we were hurried.

I consider this way of presenting measures to the House and telling us that everything has to be done quickly in one day to be undesirable. What will happen when the Bill goes to the other place? It will have a Second Reading, perhaps, which it has not had here, but the rest of the stages will be taken formally. I want to ask a question about motions such as this one on the allocation of time. What other measures are going to be introduced in the same way? The procedure being pursued shows disrespect to the House. Yes, Ministers always have an excuse for why things must be done in such a hurried way, but it is undesirable and it should not be repeated except on very rare occasions. I want to register my protest accordingly.

2.35 pm

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): I will detain the House for only a very short time. First, I strongly agree with the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South—

Mr Winnick: Walsall North. Walsall South is your sister.

Keith Vaz: Walsall North (Mr Winnick); my hon. Friend is definitely not my sister, my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz)—I would have recognised that. I agree with what he said and I thank him.

I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the shadow Chancellor are trying to be helpful but there were issues that I wanted to raise on Second Reading concerning the Act of Settlement and my Bill on the removal of primogeniture, which is currently before the House and ought to be considered alongside the very sensible changes being made by the Chancellor in clause 9 of this Bill, which gives a female heir of the Duke of Cornwall the chance to get a settlement equal to a male heir. I agree with what the Chancellor and shadow Chancellor have said, but there is no opportunity to raise these issues if we simply have a debate on clause stand part instead of on Second Reading. Like the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr Leigh), I should like to know whether it is your intention, Mr Deputy Speaker, to allow a clause stand part debate to proceed as if it were Second Reading, thus enabling us to raise concerns about the modernisation of the Act of Settlement, which as the hon. Gentleman has said, we have been waiting to do for two centuries.

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Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): The stand part debate on clause 1 will be quite broad.