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(d) excess votes, provided that the Committee of Public Accounts has reported that it sees no objection to the amounts necessary being authorised by excess vote.’;

(f) in line 15, leave out paragraph (3);

(g) in line 29, leave out ‘, and limits on appropriations in aid,’; and

(h) in line 33, leave out ‘paragraphs (2), (3) or (4)’ and insert ‘paragraph (2) or (4)’.

Mr Heath: For the convenience of the House, it may be helpful if I say that it is not my intention later to move motion 7. There are two reasons for that: first, there is a deficiency in the printed version of the motion on the Order Paper; also, not moving it will allow further discussions with the Chair of the Liaison Committee and others on the consequences of the changes that we are proposing.

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): I welcome my hon. Friend’s willingness to use this unexpected interlude to ensure that, at the end of the day, Select Committees can be confident that they will have the opportunity to debate and report on the abolition of public bodies before such matters come to the Floor of the House or a Delegated Legislation Committee.

Mr Heath: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, with whom I have been in correspondence on these matters. I am keen to ensure that we have a system that fits the needs of the House in dealing with such important issues.

The first motion and the other four motions that we are debating with it arise from three considerations. First, they arise from the need to adapt the House’s procedures to spring-to-spring Sessions. Secondly, they arise from the alignment project, which was initiated by the last Administration and has been taken forward by this Government. Thirdly, it is proposed to take this opportunity to undertake some minor tidying-up of the relevant Standing Orders. Some of the changes before the House are quite technical, not to say rather long. The House will be pleased to know that I do not intend to go through them individually; rather, I shall explain their purposes. The provisions are explained in detail in an explanatory memorandum that has been placed in the Vote Office.

On 13 September last year, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House announced the Government’s intention to move the usual date of Prorogation and state opening from November to the spring, to create a fixed-term Parliament of five equal, 12-month Sessions. That decision has some consequences for financial business. The first motion before us today would adapt the House’s existing procedures for carry-over to enable the Finance Bill to be carried over from one Session to the next. The House has already passed legislation, in last year’s Finance Bill, to ensure that resolutions under the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act 1968 have continued legal effect from one Session to the next. The motion makes matching provision in the House’s procedures. My right hon. Friend consulted the Procedure Committee on the proposal in February. The Chair replied on 9 March indicating that the Committee was content with the proposal.

Mr Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): May I say on behalf of the Procedure Committee that we are grateful that we were consulted on this matter? Is the Deputy Leader of the House aware that we concluded that if

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the Government wish to continue to have the Budget statement in March—I can understand why they would—then carry-over seems the simplest way of proceeding? We concluded, with cross-party agreement, that this would not lead to any loss of scrutiny.

Mr Heath: I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend on several levels: first, for the work that he and his Committee do on such matters; and secondly, for the nature of his response to the proposal that we are discussing. It is important that a Committee of the House has been able to consider whether any loss of scrutiny would be involved; it is also important for the House to ensure that no such loss would be involved. He and his colleagues have concluded just that, and I am pleased that they were able to do so on an all-party basis.

The first motion modifies the general provisions for carry-over in existing Standing Orders in two main ways. First, it allows carry-over without separate debate before Second Reading. The House will have already debated the substance of the provisions in question during the Budget debate, and there may be cases where Prorogation falls before Second Reading. Secondly, the motion ensures that both the specific character of Bills brought in on Ways and Means resolutions and the practices of the House in considering such Bills are reflected in Standing Orders.

The second motion falls into the category of a tidying-up measure. Because it is seen as the practice of the House that there should be an interval between each stage of the Finance Bill, the House is asked to agree a motion for each such Bill, allowing Third Reading to take place on the same day as Report. Such motions to vary the so-called practice of the House have now been tabled for 100 years, since the chancellorship of David Lloyd George. The House has not failed to pass such a motion since 1972, and has not debated Third Reading on a day subsequent to Report since 1991. Even for the House, I submit that 100 years of settled practice is enough to overturn the presumption that the practice is otherwise.

Mr Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab): It’s too early to say.

Mr Heath: I think we may have reached a settled view by this stage. The second motion therefore changes Standing Orders to allow Third Reading to follow Report on the same day without a separate motion in each case.

The remaining motions relate to Supply, which some would say is one of the more obscure aspects of the House’s procedure. Indeed, Supply might be thought to be the House’s equivalent of the Schleswig-Holstein question. I am glad to say that there are at least a few more people who understand the business of Supply, and I believe they are alive and of sound mind—allegedly. I understand that among their number is Sir Stephen Laws, first parliamentary counsel—there is no question but that he is of sound mind—who is about to retire, and for whose services to successive Governments and, indirectly, to this House the Government are very grateful. The changes to be made are not easy to follow, and are explained in detail in the explanatory memorandum, so I will endeavour to describe what lies behind them.

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The first factor is the move to spring-to-spring Sessions. The current practice of the House requires that once Supply has been provisionally authorised, an Appropriation Act following on from that provisional authorisation needs to be passed in the same Session. At present, the first stages of authorisation of the votes on account and the limits on numbers for defence services take place in early spring, with final authorisation incorporated in the Appropriation Act, passed in June or July. The retention of that timing makes sense but, given the move to spring-to-spring Sessions, it will involve final authorisation being given in the following Session. The third motion enables this common-sense practice to continue. We are also making provision for five estimates days during the current, extended Session, following discussion with the Liaison Committee. Indeed, this responds to a request from the Liaison Committee.

The second factor is the alignment project, which was an initiative of the last Administration, but which is bearing fruit in the new Parliament. The project’s aim is to achieve better alignment between Budgets, estimates and accounts, and to simplify and streamline the Government’s financial reporting documents, thereby improving Parliament’s ability to scrutinise planning and actual public expenditure. Select Committees were closely involved at various stages in the development of the proposals, which were endorsed by the House in the last Parliament through the passage of part 5 of what became the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 and, in the present Parliament, through the resolution approving the proposals for the project that was passed following a debate on 5 July 2010. During that debate, the hon. Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas), speaking for the Opposition, welcomed

“this further opportunity to confirm support for the sensible changes that the last Government created under the alignment project”.—[Official Report, 5 July 2010; Vol. 513, c. 93.]

The changes are being implemented with effect from the estimates for the financial year 2011-12. As a result of the changes already endorsed by the House, the estimates documents requiring formal authorisation are to be published only during two periods each year—between January and February, and between April and May.

Implementation of the project means that there will be two rather than three estimates events during a normal-length Session. There will be no winter supplementary estimates and no December estimates day or votes on outstanding estimates at that time. The motions before us reflect the move to two estimates windows each Session, when estimates day debates will take place and outstanding estimates will be voted on.

As a result of these changes, there will be two estimates days close together, usually in the early spring. The fourth motion thus provides that votable motions on such days will be deferred until the House votes on all outstanding estimates, usually at the end of the second such day. This builds upon the existing practice whereby votes are deferred on estimates days until the moment of interruption.

I hope that that is sufficient to explain the thinking behind these proposals, and I commend the motions to the House.

1.41 pm

Chris Leslie (Nottingham East) (Lab/Co-op): I am grateful to the Deputy Leader of the House for explaining the rationale for these motions, He did so with a certain

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degree of nonchalance, suggesting that they are quite technical. I am quite keen—I know many hon. Members are eager to speak in the debate—to keep an open mind and I am absolutely ready to be persuaded, but I have a number of concerns about the motions, especially about the first one, which deals with carry-over. It is true that the proposed changes are a downstream consequence of the shift to a fixed-term Parliament, with Sessions divided equally and running from May to May. As ever with this Government, however, we are left wondering whether they have properly thought through the consequences.

There are good reasons for the sessional divisions of the parliamentary calendar from year to year. Let us not be under any illusions: today’s proposals would massively expand carry-over provisions for legislation, potentially ending the convention whereby Bills should normally be introduced, considered and completed within the year in which Her Majesty outlines the Government’s plans in the Queen’s Speech. Carrying over a Bill should happen in special and infrequent circumstances. The previous Government introduced carry-over procedures to accommodate complex and technical legislation, largely where there was a cross-party consensus on the need for reform or where the addition of pre-legislative scrutiny or wider-ranging provisions necessitated a longer time frame for the Bill’s passage. Carry-over has been an exception rather than a rule. The House needs to recognise that, if the proposals proceed, standard legislation such as Finance Bills will routinely span the historical firewall that is in place to protect sessional business spilling over from one year to the next. Back-Bench Members will notice that carry-over is not possible for Back Bench-initiated legislation.

Ways and Means legislation has a set of histories that go back a long time. The motion would take carry-over provisions into quite different and possibly uncharted terrain. Finance Bills are particularly important legislation: they provide, of course, the means by which the public are taxed, businesses are forced to part with their money and resources are taken from consumers and workers to pay for the collective public services such as the defence of our country. This country was at the forefront of democratic innovation through which sovereignty passed from the monarchs to the people represented in this House of Commons. We should therefore reflect seriously on the rationale for the protections and safeguards that have accrued over the centuries to defend the rights of those being taxed. It is, after all, only the House of Commons that considers money Bills. Because these changes to the law do not gain scrutiny in the other place, we should be sure that we proceed with extra care in this place.

The Crown attends Parliament at the beginning of each Session and makes a specific request of Members of the House of Commons that

“estimates for the public services will be laid before you”.

This is the beginning of an age-old process built around the sessionality of supply, guaranteeing time for consideration of votes on account and ensuring that there is no taxation without representation. It might well be that the Government do not consider this cycle of proposal, consideration and approval important enough to retain the sessional disciplines. If so, I would have thought that they would have the courtesy to ensure proper and adequate consideration of the impact of these changes.

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I am not sure that enough thought has been given to the consequences. There are some serious constitutional issues at stake. What on earth is the point of going forward with a sessional divide from year to year if the Crown is free to bunch together legislation across the years? The powers of Back Benchers are also an important issue. What powers do ordinary Members have over the timetabling of business if Ministers are not under pressure to conclude their business at the end of a Session and can merely table a motion and slip a whole Finance Bill forward? The hon. Member for North East Hertfordshire (Oliver Heald), who I believe was shadow Leader of the House at the time, said that

“the lack of pressure could encourage even more sloppiness in the drafting, programming and timetabling of legislation.”—[Official Report, 26 October 2004; Vol. 425, c. 1325.]

This pressure is useful to Parliament, to the House of Commons and to Back Benchers—a pressure that can be used to force Governments to accede to amendments and to ensure that they go forward before the end of a Session is reached. Ministers are keen not to lose their Bills. We need to consider these issues carefully. I can, of course, see the logic of the Minister’s arguments; I am simply saying that I am not sure that we have given enough proper and deep consideration to some of the issues.

Sessional disciplines matter. The Treasury, as we know, has already provided some evidence of poor drafting and a number of deficiencies have been seen in its proposals. The new powers to elongate consideration of the Bill to suit the Treasury’s timetable rather than that of Parliament could well lead to a lackadaisical, slapdash approach to what should be an efficient focus on the clear conduct of business. Parliament should, after all, have a realistic and measured work load before it and a legislative programme designed to ensure that each Bill receives fair and equal scrutiny.

Mr Knight: If the hon. Gentleman is not happy with this way of proceeding, what does he suggest as an alternative? Is he suggesting that the Government should consider having a May or June Budget, which would have serious implications for the tax year?

Chris Leslie: This is indeed a conundrum. We are misaligning the calendar of the House of Commons with the fiscal year. We have managed to cope historically, but I do not have an answer. I would have liked deeper consideration of the proposals in a form that could be properly debated, rather than to find ourselves confronted with these motions on the Order Paper. I genuinely understand the Government’s problems. I do not wish to be obstructive, but I think it important to take some time to review what are, after all, arrangements that have been in place for many hundreds of years.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): The shadow Minister is making a powerful speech. Is not one of the dangers—we hear it often—that the Government want to do something on the surface for very good reasons, but at the same time what happens strengthens the Executive and reduces the power of Parliament?

Chris Leslie: The hon. Gentleman has hit on an important point. If we have a too relaxed approach to the parliamentary calendar, we could see a repeat of the

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situation whereby this House of Commons is especially busy for a couple of months, but is then twiddling its thumbs for several months longer—perhaps when the Government are struggling to get their business through the other place.

The right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr Knight) asked the right question: how should we proceed from here? I understand the arguments in favour of some of the proposed changes, but I wish that the Government had devoted more time and care to discussing the issues through the usual channels and allowing the problems that had been raised to be considered properly and thoughtfully.

It would be useful if the Minister answered some questions, because I remain to be persuaded. For instance, why should not consideration of a Finance Bill start a month or so later? I am not suggesting that that is necessarily the solution; I am merely speculating on what the consequences might be. We could still have a Budget in March, but proceedings on the Finance Bill proper could start immediately after the Queen’s Speech in May, at the beginning of the new Session. That might be preferable to a Committee stage taking place for a couple of weeks immediately after the March Budget, followed by an elongated break and then a return to the Committee stage about halfway through the clauses that had previously been under consideration. There is, of course, virtue in avoiding a disruptive period of down time in the middle of a Committee stage. I should like to know whether the Government and, indeed, the Procedure Committee have thought about that.

Will the Minister elaborate on the proposals in motion 2 on carry-over of Ways and Means legislation? He has not chosen simply to amend Standing Order No. 80A to remove the reference to Ways and Means. Instead, an attempt seems to have been made to copy and paste carry-over provisions in respect of other Bills into a new Standing Order relating specifically to Ways and Means and money Bills. As far as I can see, however, various elements have not been transposed: for example, Standing Order No. 80A(3), which provides for no more than one Bill to be subject to a carry-over motion, and (4), which prevents a carry-over motion to apply to a Bill carried over from a previous Session. There seems to be nothing technically in place to prevent a Finance Bill that has been carried over from one Session from being carried over again to another. I accept that such a development may be very unlikely, but I do not understand why it was not covered in the copy-and-paste exercise. It could be described as the Schleswig-Holstein question squared, and I should be grateful if the Minister could seek some inspiration in order to clarify the point.

I have heard the Minister argue about the move to the automatic Third Reading of Finance Bills on the same day as Report each year. He says that that it has been happening for 100 years—which, according to my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright), may mean that it is too early to tell whether it is working. Even if it is normal practice, the Government have at least had the courtesy to table a motion seeking the House’s permission, rather than assuming that Third Reading shall always take place on the same day as Report. However, I feel that the practice may erode the purpose of Third Readings as a distinct stage in the

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passage of legislation. It may be entirely pragmatic, but although I am willing to be persuaded otherwise, I do not think that consequences of some of these changes have been properly thought through.

Can the Minister explain the rationale for the omission of the backstop date applying to the three days allotted to the consideration of estimates? I understand that he is changing the date from 5 August following line-of-sight discussions after the passage of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011—that makes sense—but why not simply shift the date forward to February or March rather than omitting it altogether?

The Minister also said that he proposed to put back the “roll-up” day for the modification of estimates by only five or six weeks—to, I believe, 18 March—which strikes me as a fairly arbitrary choice. He also touched on the fact that we would lose one of those modification days, as the number would be reduced from three to two. It is a small point, but, again, I wonder whether it should have been considered in more detail.

I have total respect for the Procedure Committee and its Chairman, who engaged in informal discussions with the Leader of the House about the proposals and did not object to them, but—with the greatest respect—I wish that the proposals had been subjected to more adequate scrutiny, and to some form of challenge or review. There have been no public hearings or discussions, and no report has been provided to enable parliamentarians to digest and consider the proposals.

I believe that the changes require serious consideration, because they could have profound and unintended constitutional consequences. I have not yet been convinced by the Minister that we need to rush them through before the Christmas recess, although I shall wait to hear what he has to say. He has, in a statesmanlike way, withdrawn motion 7, and I wonder whether it would be wise for him also to seek to withdraw the carry-over proposals. Perhaps he could ask the Procedure Committee to consider the issues relating to those proposals in more detail, because, as yet, I am not fully persuaded that it would be responsible to support them.

1.56 pm

Mr Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): The hon. Member for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie) referred to what he described as a “queue” of Members waiting to speak, and went on to express his concerns about the proposals. I think he is seeing shadows on the wall in both respects. It seems to me that if the Government were to abuse the process that they are asking us to approve—having put the matter to the Procedure Committee on the basis on which they have put it to the House today—Members in all parts of the House would seek to hold them to account. The Government have made clear that these are changes of process to accommodate occasions on which the House does not prorogue at the normal time, and I therefore think that the hon. Gentleman’s concerns are misplaced.

The Leader of the House initially wrote to the Procedure Committee on 8 February this year asking whether the Committee was content for the Government to develop proposals to set aside the principle of sessionality in respect of supply procedure, and to provide for the carry-over of Finance Bills from one session to the next. The Committee subsequently engaged in a detailed

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discussion about a number of issues relating to the proposed procedure, following which we decided that we were content with it and with the Government’s reasons for proposing it..

If the House prorogues in April or May, as the Government propose, proceedings on supply will be interrupted. At present the supply cycle begins with the provisional authorisation of expenditure in November, with legislative authorisation being given in the summer. The Votes on Account are presented in November, and the House is asked to approve 45% of Government spending to cover the period between the beginning of the next financial year in April and the passing of the Appropriation Act in the summer. The principle of sessionality meant that expenditure approved in the Votes on Account had to be appropriated before prorogation.

The problem could, of course, be overcome by means of an Appropriation Act passed in the spring, as happens before a general election, but that was not considered to be an ideal solution. It would mean that the main estimate each year would contain details of only 55% of Government expenditure, the remaining 45% having already been appropriated after the Votes on Account. A further disadvantage of that approach would be that the Votes on Account contain less detail than the main estimates, and 45% of the total of public expenditure would therefore be appropriated on the basis of less detailed spending plans. It might be considered unfortunate if, at the same time as the beginning of the alignment project, a separate change meant that the main estimate only ever included 55% of the expenditure for which parliamentary approval was needed. The Government instead propose that the resolutions on which the Appropriation Act is founded should not fall at the end of a Session but should be time-limited. The Procedure Committee, on a cross-party basis, thought this was quite a reasonable way to proceed.

With a Budget in March or April, the Finance Bill, brought in on resolutions following the Budget, will not have completed its passage before the House prorogues in April or May and will have to be carried over to the new Session. It is also necessary for the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act 1968 to be amended, because under it, the Budget resolutions cease to have effect when the House prorogues.

The Finance Bill could be introduced in the new Session rather than being carried over, but would therefore not be published until May. Although a draft Finance Bill could be published following the Budget, with the Finance Bill itself being introduced in the new Session, the Government of the day would not thereby have the flexibility to introduce some proceedings on the Bill, such as Second Reading, before the House prorogued. The Procedure Committee therefore concluded that the Government’s proposals for the carry-over of the Finance Bill would not affect the opportunities available to Members to scrutinise the Bill and vote on its provisions, and there would be no impact on the length of the Committee stage, for example.

Given that the Government wish to make the Budget statement in March, it seemed to us—again, there was cross-party agreement—that the carry-over of the Finance Bill is probably the simplest solution to the problem of

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the House proroguing in the spring, and one that does not interfere with Members’ ability to scrutinise the Bill.

We therefore concluded that these proposals were modest and reasonable, and I hope the House will reach the same conclusion.

Sir Alan Beith rose—

Thomas Docherty (Dunfermline and West Fife) (Lab): rose—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): I call Thomas Docherty.

2.2 pm

Thomas Docherty (Dunfermline and West Fife) (Lab): I am grateful to be called in this—[ Interruption. ]

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. I can assure those waiting to speak that the hon. Gentleman did give notice that he would be speaking, so if we can just hold our water. I will be coming to Sir Alan next.

Thomas Docherty: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker; I hope to keep my remarks relatively brief.

This short debate is obviously a consequence of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, which was recently passed, and is an example of why, rather than hastily charging through such legislation and fixing it in this piecemeal way after the event, it might have been more appropriate to work through all the consequences of that change. I hope the Deputy Leader of the House will reflect on what happens when proper pre-legislative scrutiny of such a major Act does not take place.

I have the greatest respect for the Chairman of the Procedure Committee, the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr Knight). I have the privilege of serving under his leadership—I joined the Committee in the summer—and he has been an excellent Chairman. I do not at all doubt the sincerity of his words today and his genuine conviction that due diligence has been shown on this important, if slightly technical issue, but I hope he will not mind if I show some dissent in that regard. When I asked the Clerk of our Committee on Monday whether it was possible to get copies of the transcript of the informal private hearing that the right hon. Gentleman convened in the spring, the Clerk made it clear that although I, as a member of the Committee, could see it, other Members of the House could not. With the greatest respect to the Chairman, that is an unsatisfactory basis on which to change the Standing Orders of this House. If not all Members of this House are able to read the deliberations of the august Procedure Committee, how can our colleagues simply take our word for it?

I do not object in principle to what the Government are suggesting. Like many Government initiatives, it appears on the surface to be a reasonable suggestion. However, as we have discovered repeatedly over the past 18 months.

Mr David Hamilton (Midlothian) (Lab): Why does my hon. Friend think that the document has not been put into print, so that the rest of us can see it?

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Thomas Docherty: I am always tempted to see the worst in this Government, but on this occasion I think it is probably a genuine oversight. They did not think things through and realise that, if the Procedure Committee simply had an informal session on this issue, it would not be able to share the wisdom of its thoughts.The Deputy Leader of the House shakes his head; perhaps there was some Machiavellian motive that he wishes to outline to the Committee. I was giving him the benefit of the doubt, but apparently it was a deliberate attempt not to have to reveal something.

Mr Heath: I remind the hon. Gentleman that the procedures of, and publication of documents by, Select Committees are matters for them, not for Government. It would quite improper for the Government even to begin to suggest how a Select Committee should do its business.

Thomas Docherty: I can assure the Deputy Leader of the House that the Chairman of the Procedure Committee would not respond favourably to such a suggestion, such is his independence of thought. However, why have the Government made it clear to my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie) that they do not believe it appropriate to pause slightly, so that the Committee can carry out a public, transparent and short inquiry in the new year? Perhaps the Deputy Leader of the House’s diary is so busy in the new year that he cannot do that.

The Government seem to be assuming that we will prorogue in the spring, and I look to the Treasury Bench for some clarity on that. My understanding is that all their Bills are currently jammed up in the House of Lords and there is absolutely no sign of their making any substantive progress on clearing the backlog. That is why, with the greatest of respect, we are having a series of Opposition debates and one-line Whips—because the Government have no business in the House of Commons.

Mr Knight: I remind the hon. Gentleman and ask him to reflect on the fact that not one single member of the Procedure Committee, including the Labour members, asked for any sessions on this issue to be held in public. I say to him seriously that if, having put to the House that this is a technical alteration to accommodate the Government’s wish to change when the House prorogues, the Government were to use this as a lever or mechanism to reduce the House’s scrutiny of its business, there would be one hell of a row which many Government Members as well as Opposition Members would join, saying that the Government had misled the House and would have to retract what they were doing. The hon. Gentleman’s fears do not therefore amount to very much, because the Committee has proceeded with this measure on the basis on which it was introduced to the House today: that it is a technical change. If it became something else, there would be one hell of a—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. Come on—this is a speech! You have already made one; we do not need a second speech, Mr Knight, do we?

Thomas Docherty: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his comments. I have to tell him that the consequences of having an informal hearing were not in my view explained, and the Liaison Committee might wish to look at this issue in future.

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I am conscious that the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith) wants to speak, so I will sit down.

2.8 pm

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): I am slightly surprised at the sudden growth of opposition to this motion among Labour Members. I wonder whether there is any other aspect of today’s timetabling, or other matters, that may have entered into consideration, but I could be wrong about that.

I want to welcome the action the Government are taking, but before doing so let me say that the hon. Member for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie) made what is in principle an important point: sessional discipline is significant in the way in which the House operates. It brings pressure to bear in circumstances where, otherwise, Government majorities tend to prevail; it causes them to stop and think as a degree of blockage occurs in the Lords at that stage of a Session.

We are talking about Bills—Finance Bills—founded on a Ways and Means resolution for a limited, specific and entirely explainable purpose related to the whole financial timetable of both the House and the Government. I was bemused by the idea of what state a Government trying to carry over a Finance Bill through three Sessions could possibly be in, other than the one envisaged by some Opposition Members in dealing with our current financial circumstances. This is not the debate to go into that, however.

I will deal first with the increase from three to five in the number of estimates days for this Session, which is a long Session. That is welcome, but I must put on the record the Liaison Committee’s request that there be five estimates days in normal Sessions, and our desire that that request be properly considered when we resume Sessions of the normal duration. There has been some Government resistance to that request—wait until we have at least seen more of the impact of the Backbench Business Committee. We have already seen the beneficial impact of that Committee, though, and I see no conflict there at all. Indeed, the Liaison Committee and the Backbench Business Committee are developing good ways of working together to ensure we maximise use of House time as Members want it to be used.

Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Robert Syms (Poole) (Con): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Alan Beith: I have a choice. I will give way first to the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr Gray), then to his hon. Friend.

Mr Gray: Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the number of estimates days will properly be a question for the House business committee, when it is established, and will he not press the Government to hasten the progress of their plan to do precisely that?

Sir Alan Beith: I am an avid and long-standing supporter of the principle of a House business committee. I think you would rule me out of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, were I to stray too far into that subject, but let me say

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that that is indeed a matter that could be so resolved were that committee in existence. For the moment, however, we must look to the Leader of the House to do such things for us.

Mr Syms: It has always seemed strange to me that on estimates days we have before us vast tomes showing where the Government have switched money from one Department or one heading to another, but we tend to debate leisure centres or swimming or something else—nothing to do with money. If this House is serious about money, surely we ought to look at the estimates rather than debate some odd other subject?

Sir Alan Beith: Absolutely so, and I have been advocating that for some time.

That brings me to my next point, which is about ensuring that Select Committees, which are the proper place to look at some of the substance of the estimates decisions and the movements of money from one thing to another, have appropriate time to consider such matters—as much time as possible, so that they can conduct meaningful scrutiny. Our discussions with the Treasury and the Leader of the House about that are reflected in the motions, but we will watch carefully to make sure that Select Committees are not expected within ridiculous periods—a few days—to produce considered views on the serious substance of estimates.

To sum up, the two major points that the Liaison Committee will certainly be considering and that we want the Government to consider are that due regard is given to the Committee’s previous recommendation of five estimates days per Session, and that Select Committees have time to consider estimates properly and so assist the House in doing what many right hon. and hon. Members have long felt should be done when we deal with estimates.

2.12 pm

Mr Heath: With the leave of the House, Mr Deputy Speaker, I shall respond to the debate. I am most grateful to the right hon. and hon. Members who have contributed to this brief debate. I am particularly grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith) for his comments. He is right to say that there are wider questions and more far-reaching changes to the way the House scrutinises spending plans which we need to discuss at some point, but I think that those wider reforms would be best debated in the context of proposals from the Liaison Committee, rather than from Government. It may well be that there are better ways of organising our business. The hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr Gray), who is not in his place—

Mr Gray: I am here.

Mr Heath: I beg the hon. Gentleman’s pardon; he is not sitting where I expected to find him. He made an important point about the advent in due course of a House business committee. We are looking at that, as we said we would, but even under existing arrangements it is open to any Select Committee, through the Backbench Business Committee, to seek time on the Floor of the House to debate a motion relating to departmental spending plans. The great advantage of that method is that the time constraints and procedural limitations arising from estimates procedure are absent.

14 Dec 2011 : Column 826

The hon. Member for Poole (Mr Syms) asked why, during estimates day debates, we talk about Select Committee reports on matters that are either at some distance from or fairly peripheral to the essential element, which is scrutiny of Government accounts. Although that is a good question, it is one for another day, as it does not fall within the narrow confines of the motion.

I am grateful to the Chair of the Procedure Committee, the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr Knight), for his assistance. The idea that this is somehow a rushed process, when we put the proposals before that Committee for its consideration back in February and it is now, let me remind the House, December, or that we did not think of these things in advance, when we passed the proposals for consideration before the announcement of the change to the sessional timetable, is something of a nonsense. These are matters on which we needed the advice of the House; we have received that advice through the Procedure Committee, and that is why the motion has been brought before the House.

Mr Bone: Were the usual channels consulted and is there agreement? If there is agreement between the usual channels, I have some concerns.

Mr Heath: I of course have no idea what goes on in the usual channels, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman agrees with me that it is far more important that a Select Committee of this House has had the opportunity to comment on proposals that affect the scrutiny of Government business by the House. Not only was the Procedure Committee consulted, but it agreed unanimously that the change would assist scrutiny by the House and would in no way diminish the opportunities for Members to have their say on Government business.

Chris Leslie: We have indeed heard that the Procedure Committee looked at the proposals, but it did so in private, informal session and there was no sharing of many of the proposals with other hon. Members until the business appeared on the Order Paper a few days ago, I think. Will the Deputy Leader of the House confirm the day on which it appeared? I saw it only recently and no one approached me to discuss it. To dismiss as nonsense the concern we have expressed about haste is a little overblown.

Mr Heath: I think the hon. Gentleman is making a valiant effort to bring some substance to his objections to the proposals, but he is not succeeding. At various times he accused me of being nonchalant. I hope that I am not nonchalant. Simply that something is technical does not imply nonchalance. Flying a jet liner is a technical business, but one should certainly not be nonchalant about doing so. As I said, we have thought through the consequences.

The hon. Gentleman said that we are massively increasing carry-over, but we are not. We are specifically and precisely dealing with the consequences for Finance Bills of the change to sessional periods. He said—at least, I think I heard him say—that having longer to scrutinise a Finance Bill made it more difficult to scrutinise it effectively. I am not sure that that is always the position of Her Majesty’s Opposition.

To deal specifically with his questions, the hon. Gentleman asked why should not the Finance Bill start in the new Session. The answer is: for the very obvious reason that if it did, the time available to the House to

14 Dec 2011 : Column 827

debate and scrutinise the Bill would be reduced. That cannot be right. He asked whether paragraphs (3) and (4) of Standing Order No. 80A apply to Finance Bills. Had he read the explanatory memorandum, he would have seen stated therein that those paragraphs will apply to Finance Bills.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether the provisions of paragraphs (12) to (14) of Standing Order No. 80A apply. Yes, the Standing Order will prevent a Finance Bill from being carried over more than once, as is stated in the explanatory memorandum. However, I have to say that if we had a Government whose Finance Bill was carried over between three Sessions, they would no longer be a Government, because they would not be a functioning Government. They would be a dead Government if they were unable to get their Finance Bill through in three Sessions of Parliament. I think we can safely assume that those circumstances will not apply.

On supply, the hon. Gentleman asked why the cut-off of 5 August under Standing Order No. 54 is being removed without being replaced. The timetable requirements for estimates procedures do continue and are set out in Standing Order No. 55. He asked why the first cut-off for supply is changing from a date in February to a date in March. That change does not affect the spring deadline. The February date was the cut-off for the winter supplementary estimates, which will no longer be published.

Despite the hon. Gentleman’s valiant efforts to try to find a cause on which he could unite his party against these very modest and sensible proposals, he has failed to establish any case for doing so. I commend the orders to the House and I hope that the House will be able to agree them without opposition.

Question put.

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the Aye Lobby.

The House having divided:

Ayes 266, Noes 187.

Division No. 412]

[2.20 pm


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Bone, Mr Peter

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Brine, Steve

Brooke, Annette

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, Paul

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Philip

Dinenage, Caroline

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fallon, Michael

Featherstone, Lynne

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Mr Roger

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Heald, Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Mr Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Huhne, rh Chris

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr David

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Lewis, Brandon

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lord, Jonathan

Luff, Peter

Lumley, Karen

Main, Mrs Anne

Maude, rh Mr Francis

May, rh Mrs Theresa

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, Richard

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Percy, Andrew

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Raab, Mr Dominic

Reckless, Mark

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reid, Mr Alan

Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, rh Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stewart, Iain

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, rh Sir Peter

Teather, Sarah

Thurso, John

Tomlinson, Justin

Truss, Elizabeth

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

Whittaker, Craig

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mark Hunter and

Jeremy Wright


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Chapman, Mrs Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Connarty, Michael

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

David, Mr Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Docherty, Thomas

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Goggins, rh Paul

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hermon, Lady

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hosie, Stewart

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jackson, Glenda

Jamieson, Cathy

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Susan Elan

Joyce, Eric

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Long, Naomi

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonnell, John

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKinnell, Catherine

Mearns, Ian

Michael, rh Alun

Mitchell, Austin

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Mudie, Mr George

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Robertson, Angus

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Sarwar, Anas

Seabeck, Alison

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Weir, Mr Mike

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wood, Mike

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Noes:

Tom Blenkinsop and

Mr David Hamilton

Question accordingly agreed to.

14 Dec 2011 : Column 828

14 Dec 2011 : Column 829

14 Dec 2011 : Column 830

14 Dec 2011 : Column 831

Ordered ,


1. Standing Order No. 80A (Carry-over of bills) shall be amended as follows—

(a) in line 7, after the word ‘motion’, insert the words ‘(other than a motion relating to a bill brought in upon a ways and means resolution)’, and

(b) in line 23, at end, insert the words ‘(other than a bill brought in upon a ways and means resolution)’; and

2. the following new Standing Order be made—

‘(1) The Speaker shall put any question necessary to dispose of proceedings on a carry-over motion of which a Minister of the Crown has given notice under Standing Order No. 80A (Carry-over of bills) relating to a bill brought in upon a ways and means resolution—

(a) forthwith if the motion is made on any day before the bill is read a second time, or on the day the bill is read a second time; or

(b) not more than one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion if the motion is made at any other time.

(2) The following paragraphs of this order shall apply to any bill ordered to be carried over to the next Session of Parliament in pursuance of a carry-over motion to which paragraph (1) applies.

(3) If proceedings in committee on the bill are begun but not completed before the end of the first Session, the chair shall report the bill to the House as so far amended and the bill and any evidence received by the committee shall be ordered to lie upon the Table.

(4) In any other case, proceedings on the bill shall be suspended at the conclusion of the Session in which the bill was first introduced.

(5) In the next Session of Parliament, a Minister of the Crown may, after notice, present a bill in the same terms as the bill reported to the House under paragraph (3) of this order or as it stood when proceedings were suspended under paragraph (4) of this order; the bill shall be read the first time without question put and shall be ordered to be printed; and paragraphs (6) to (13) shall apply to the bill.

(6) In respect of all proceedings on the bill, any resolution which the bill was brought in upon in the first Session shall be treated as if it were such a resolution of the House in the next Session and any reference in any resolution upon which the bill was brought in to a Bill or Act of the present Session shall be treated in the next Session as a reference to a Bill or Act of that Session.

(7) In respect of all proceedings on the bill, the bill shall be treated as a bill brought in upon ways and means resolutions.

(8) If the bill was read a second time in the first Session, it shall be read a second time without question put.

(9) If the bill was not set down for consideration at any time in the first Session, any committal order in respect of the bill shall apply to proceedings on the Bill in the next Session (subject to paragraphs (10) and (11)).

(10) If the bill was reported from a public bill committee under paragraph (3), it shall stand committed to a public bill committee in respect of those clauses and schedules which were committed to a public bill committee in the first Session and not ordered to stand part of the bill in that Session.

(11) If the bill was reported from a committee of the whole House under paragraph (3), it shall stand committed to a committee of the whole House in respect of those clauses and schedules which were

14 Dec 2011 : Column 832

committed to a committee of the whole House in the first Session and not ordered to stand part of the bill in that Session.

(12) If the bill was read a second time in the first Session and was not set down for consideration at any time in that Session, any order of the House giving leave for a committee on the bill to sit twice on the first day on which it meets in the first Session shall apply to the first day on which the committee meets in the next Session.

(13) If the bill was set down for consideration at any time in the first Session, the bill shall be set down as an order of the day for (as the case may be) consideration, further consideration or third reading.

(14) Notices of amendments, new clauses and new schedules given in respect of parts of the bill not disposed of in the first Session shall be reprinted as notices in respect of the bill as presented and proceeded with under paragraph (5).’.

third reading (bills brought in upon a ways and means resolution)


That Standing Order No. 77 (Third reading) be amended by adding at the end—

‘(2) The third reading of a bill brought in upon a ways and means resolution may be taken at the same sitting of the House as its consideration on report.’.— (Mr Heath.)

sessionality (SUPPLY)


That, notwithstanding the practice of the House as to the legislative authorisation of (a) appropriation of expenditure and (b) maximum numbers for defence services, legislative authorisation of appropriation of Votes on Account and maximum numbers for defence services may take place on a day not later than 5 August in the Session following that in which the founding resolutions for the forthcoming financial year were agreed to by the House.—(Mr Heath.)

consideration of estimates



(1) Standing Order No. 54 (Consideration of estimates) shall apply for the remainder of this Session as if, for the word ‘Three’ in line 1, there were substituted the word ‘Five’;

(2) Standing Order No. 54 (Consideration of estimates) shall be amended in accordance with paragraphs (3) to (7) of this order;

(3) in line 1, leave out ‘before 5 August,’;

(4) in line 13, at end, insert ‘Provided that the foregoing provisions of this paragraph shall not apply on any day on which time has been allocated pursuant to paragraph (2)(b) of Standing Order No. 24 (Emergency debates).’;

(5) leave out lines 25 to 34 and insert—

‘Provided that on days on which time has been allocated pursuant to paragraph (2)(b) of Standing Order No. 24 (Emergency debates) or the Chairman of Ways and Means has set down opposed private business under paragraph (5) of Standing Order No. 20 (Time for taking private business), proceedings under this sub-paragraph shall not be entered upon until the business in question has been disposed of and may then be proceeded with for three hours, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order No. 9 (Sittings of the House).’;

(6) in line 38, leave out ‘hour prescribed under paragraph (5)’

14 Dec 2011 : Column 833

and insert ‘day and hour prescribed under paragraph (6)’;

(7) in line 40, leave out paragraph (5) and add—

‘(5) Any estimates on which questions have been deferred to another day in accordance with the provisions of paragraphs (4) and (6) of this order, together with any questions so deferred, and all other estimates appointed for consideration on any previous day or half day allotted under this order shall be set down for consideration on the day to which the questions have been deferred.

(6) On the day to which the provisions of paragraph (2) or (4) of Standing Order No. 55 (Questions on voting of estimates, &c.) apply which falls after or on any day or half-day allotted under this order, the Speaker shall, at the time prescribed in paragraph (1) of that order, put, successively, any questions deferred under paragraph (4) of this order on any previous day or half day allotted under this order, any questions deferred under paragraph (4) of this order on the day and any questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on all other estimates appointed for consideration on any day or half day allotted under this order.’;

(8) Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business) shall be amended, in line 41, by leaving out ‘(5)’ and inserting ‘(6)’; and

(9) Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall be amended, in line 23, by leaving out ‘(5)’ and inserting ‘(6)’.— (Mr Heath.)

questions on voting of estimates, &c.


That Standing Order No. 55 (Questions on voting of estimates, &c.) shall—

(1) apply for the remainder of this Session with the following amendments—

(a) in line 1, leave out ‘paragraphs (2), (3) or (4)’ and insert ‘paragraph (2) or (4)’;

(b) in line 2, leave out ‘the Speaker shall at the moment of interruption’ and insert ‘, at the moment of interruption or as soon thereafter as proceedings under the proviso to paragraph (3)(b) of Standing

14 Dec 2011 : Column 834

Order No. 54 (Consideration of estimates) have been disposed of, the Speaker shall (after putting any questions required to be put under paragraph (6) of Standing Order No. 54)’;

(c) in line 9, leave out ‘6 February’ and insert ‘18 March’;

(d) in line 14, at end, insert—

‘(c) votes relating to numbers for defence services;

(d) excess votes, provided that the Committee of Public Accounts has reported that it sees no objection to the amounts and modifications to limits on appropriations in aid necessary being authorised by excess vote.’;

(e) in line 15, leave out paragraph (3); and

(f) in line 33, leave out ‘paragraphs (2), (3) or (4)’ and insert ‘paragraph (2) or (4)’.

(2) be amended with effect from the start of next Session as follows—

(a) in line 1, leave out ‘paragraphs (2), (3) or (4)’ and insert ‘paragraph (2) or (4)’;

(b) in line 2, leave out ‘the Speaker shall at the moment of interruption’ and insert ‘, at the moment of interruption or as soon thereafter as proceedings under the proviso to paragraph (3)(b) of Standing Order No. 54 (Consideration of estimates) have been disposed of, the Speaker shall (after putting any questions required to be put under paragraph (6) of Standing Order No. 54)’;

(c) in line 6, leave out the words ‘and limits on appropriations in aid,’;

(d) in line 9, leave out ‘6 February’ and insert ‘18 March’;

(e) in line 14, at end, insert—

‘(c) votes relating to numbers for defence services;

(d) excess votes, provided that the Committee of Public Accounts has reported that it sees no objection to the amounts necessary being authorised by excess vote.’;

(f) in line 15, leave out paragraph (3);

(g) in line 29, leave out ‘, and limits on appropriations in aid,’; and

(h) in line 33, leave out ‘paragraphs (2), (3) or (4)’ and insert ‘paragraph (2) or (4)’.--(Mr Heath.)

14 Dec 2011 : Column 835

Opposition Day

[un-allotted half day]


2.36 pm

Mr Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab): I beg to move,

That this House believes that the Government’s policies of cutting spending and raising taxes too far and too fast have resulted in the UK economy flat-lining for 12 months, well before the recent eurozone crisis; notes that unemployment has reached a 17-year high and over-50s unemployment has risen sharply; further notes that slower growth and higher unemployment makes it harder to get the deficit down and that the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts a further rise in unemployment to 8.7 per cent., a rise in the benefits bill of £29 billion, and an increase in projected borrowing of £158 billion; agrees with the IMF’s warning that ‘consolidating too quickly will hurt the recovery and worsen job prospects’ and that the Government should ‘have a heightened readiness to respond, particularly if it looks like the economy is headed for a prolonged period of weak growth and high unemployment’; and, in light of the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts published on 29 November 2011, calls on the Government to reconsider its refusal to adopt the Opposition’s five point plan for jobs which includes creating 100,000 jobs for young people and building 25,000 affordable homes using funds raised from a tax on bank bonuses, bringing forward long-term investment projects, temporarily reversing the January 2011 VAT rise, a one-year cut in VAT to 5 per cent. on home improvements, and a one-year national insurance tax break for every small firm which takes on extra workers.

It is a shame that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has chosen not to be present for the third Opposition day debate on unemployment and living standards. We rely, I hope, on the Minister for unemployment to relay back the nature of today’s debate and discussion.

The House meets to debate the motion after more grim news on jobs this morning. Grim news on jobs this month has followed grim news on the Budget last month. Once again we have seen this morning how the Chancellor’s decision to clobber the recovery is clobbering families all over our country. Once again we have heard of families losing their jobs because of this Government’s decision to cut too far and too fast, and once again we see the consequences of this Government’s decision to stand easy while millions of people in our country are now standing idle.

Not even the Minister for unemployment could spin his way through the statistics published this morning—unemployment up by 128,000, employment down, vacancies down and the public sector now losing jobs 13 times faster than the private sector is creating them. We do not have to look very far for the root cause of this unalloyed misery for families 11 days before Christmas. The Chancellor laid it out for us just a fortnight ago. Last year he was boasting about delivering cuts that were £40 billion greater than the cuts planned by Labour. Last year he was boasting about how Britain had suddenly become a safe haven. Last year he was so pleased with himself that he said this country was out of the danger zone. How hollow those words ring today.

The autumn statement laid bare the catastrophic failure of the Chancellor’s policy—growth flat lining for a year, borrowing up £37 billion higher than the

14 Dec 2011 : Column 836

plan drawn up by my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh South West (Mr Darling), welfare up by £29 billion, and debt up an extraordinary £158 billion higher than forecast, which is £6,500 more for every house in this country. Borrowing, welfare bills and national debt are all higher, but growth is nowhere to be seen.

David T. C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman appears to be criticising the Government for borrowing more money. How much more money would he have borrowed, had he been in government?

Mr Byrne: If the hon. Gentleman had been listening carefully, he would have heard me answer that question. The plan that my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh South West and I set out entailed borrowing that was £37 billion lower than that outlined by the Chancellor in his autumn statement a couple of weeks ago. That is of grave concern to the number of people who are now out of work, especially young people in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, where long-term youth unemployment has gone up by 128% this year, which must surely concern him.

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Chris Grayling): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Byrne: I will in a moment.

Amid these difficulties, people in this country expect the Minister for work to do something about it, and I think that I speak for many Members of the House when I say that most right-thinking people in this country believe that the Government should be doing more to get people back to work.

During Work and Pensions questions a month ago I pressed the Secretary of State to tell us what exactly he is doing to get Britain back to work. A vast constellation of initiatives was set out, including work clubs, work experience, apprenticeship offers, sector-based work academies, the innovation fund, the European social fund, the skills offer, the access to apprenticeships programme, Work Together, the Work programme, Work Choice and mandatory work activity. Listening to that list, I became slightly puzzled. With such sweat being worked up at the Department for unemployment, surely we could expect the country’s unemployed to be positively flowing back into jobs. Members can imagine my surprise when I saw the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast that, amid that blizzard of initiatives, unemployment is forecast to go up. How can that be?

We asked the Secretary of State to tell us just how many jobs have been created by this glorious expenditure of energy at his Department. This is what we were told in a written answer in Hansard . On Work Choice, no statistics will be available until spring 2012. On mandatory work activity, no statistics will be available until February 2012. On work clubs,

“the data requested are… not available.”

On work experience, a link was provided to a website that says nothing about jobs actually created. On apprenticeship offers, we were told:

“Information on the number of people placed in work through apprenticeship offers… is not available.”

On sector-based work academies, we were told that

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“there is no national requirement for districts to record and report job outcomes achieved.”

On the skills offer, “information… is not available.” On Work Together,

“the data requested are not available.”

On the innovation fund,

“no young people have been placed into work at this point.”—[Official Report, 21 November 2011; Vol. 536, c. 122W.]

Here we are, with unemployment going through the roof and the OBR telling us that unemployment is forecast to rise again next year, but despite the multiplicity of schemes laid out by the Secretary of State, who cannot be bothered even to come along to the debate, he cannot tell us how many people are going into work as a result of the spending his Department has in place, with the exception of one programme. The one initiative—it is buried in his answer in Hansard—run by his Department that he can claim is actually creating jobs is the programme financed by the European Union. He said:

“European Social Fund support has achieved 75,671 job outcomes from July 2008 to October 2011.”—[Official Report, 21 November 2011; Vol. 536, c. 122W.]

No doubt that is why he is urging his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to get the hell out of the EU.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Are not leadership, boldness and imagination missing from that catalogue? With 1 million young people unemployed, surely we need something that captures the imagination—for instance, by using young unemployed graduates to train other people in the community and in the environment. We need imagination now.

Mr Byrne: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and he has been a long-standing champion of the need to get young people into work and, crucially, equip them with the skills to succeed in the workplace, but I am afraid that we have a deficit of that from the Government. It is an embarrassment for the Minister that he is unable to tell the House how many people his schemes are getting into work. The Secretary of State appears to have so much confidence in the schemes that he cannot be bothered to turn up this afternoon. However, I want to make a more substantive point about the Minister’s flagship scheme.

Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) (Con): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Byrne: I will in a moment, but first I want to make one point about the Work programme.

The Work programme is a new scheme that builds on the flexible new deal. We have said that if it works and delivers value for money we will keep it in place, but the Minister must accept that worries about the programme are growing. [ Interruption. ] I am delighted that the Secretary of State has been able to join us to hear this important point. The Minister for unemployment has repeatedly told the House that he cannot produce statistics on how well the Work programme is doing, and I completely understand his caution. I think that he is the only Minister who has been formally warned by the chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, who last year said that the Minister’s use of figures was

“likely to damage public trust in official statistics”.

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No doubt he has repented for that sin and is seeking redemption, and I understand that he apologised and is certain not to repeat the offence. If the Work programme was working, surely the Department’s statistics would show that more and more people were flowing off benefits and into work. That is a simple test we can apply, but the problem is that the figures do not show that.

Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab): On that basis, how does my right hon. Friend, as a fellow Birmingham MP, react to the fact that in the past year, between November 2010 and November 2011, the number of young people in Birmingham claiming jobseeker’s allowance increased by 19%, which is the worst figure for all core cities in the country?

Mr Byrne: That is an extremely serious problem for Birmingham, and my hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw the House’s attention to it, but there is a more widespread problem if the rate of people flowing off benefits into work is not rising. Research by the House of Commons Library for my office, which we are publishing this afternoon, shows that fewer people are flowing from benefits into work than at any point since 1998. That fall coincides with the Government’s decision last year to cancel the flexible new deal and the future jobs fund. Since January, when the future jobs fund ended, the percentage of people flowing off benefits and into work has fallen by a fifth. Between May and August last year, when the new scheme was being worked up, 86,000 fewer people came off benefits and into work than the year before. Surely Government Members would accept that that is simply not good enough.

Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire) (Con): Does the right hon. Gentleman not accept that the future jobs fund was not about providing long-term jobs, but about short-term work placements of six months in the public sector? What is the point of that? If he wants to talk about solid outcomes for the future, he should not be talking about the future jobs fund, because within weeks the people involved were out of work again.

Mr Byrne: Let me say as diplomatically as I can to the hon. Gentleman that since the future jobs fund closed long-term youth unemployment in his constituency has gone up by 43%. He must accept that the future jobs fund was helping to keep young people in work. We know, as Ministers accept, that keeping young people close to the labour market, close to jobs and close to the habits of work is a good thing.

Oliver Heald: We all agree that keeping young people close to the labour market is important, and the advantage of what the Government are proposing is that it is in the private sector, where the jobs will come, where those opportunities are being given. Does the right hon. Gentleman not accept that in all the years when Labour was in government the number of people not in education, employment or training stood at a very high level and barely moved, despite all the growth?

Mr Byrne: Let me repeat that when Labour was elected in 1997, youth unemployment was about 14%. It came down to about 12% before the recession and then, yes, of course it went up during the recession, as all

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unemployment did. But rather than sit there doing nothing, as this Government have over the past year and a half, we chose to act. That is why youth unemployment was coming down before the election and why, since this Government were elected, it has gone up to record highs and has done so again this morning. That is surely not a record of which the hon. Gentleman can be proud.

Mrs Main: If the right hon. Gentleman wishes young people to be near the labour market, does he regret presiding over the lowest number of social housing units ever developed under a prosperous Government? That means that young people cannot have social housing at an affordable level and are therefore unable to access jobs in areas where there are high house values.

Mr Byrne: We do wish that more houses had been built over the past year, and that is precisely why we have said that a sensible tax on bankers’ bonuses could create the funds to build 20,000 new homes. Why does the hon. Lady oppose that policy?

John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend confirm that 65,000 jobs have been lost in the construction sector alone, and that that is because of the slump in building across the board?

Mr Byrne: That is absolutely right. The construction sector has taken an absolute hammering since this Government took office, not least because of their foolhardy decision to get rid of infrastructure projects and building projects such as Building Schools for the Future that would have equipped many of our young people with the facilities needed to deliver a world-class education in the years to come.

Chris Grayling: Will the shadow Minister be extremely careful about the information that he lays before the House? Last month, in our previous debate on this subject, I told him that Department for Work and Pensions statisticians had made a comparison between youth unemployment lasting for more than six months as of now and two years ago, and that on a like-for-like measure there has been virtually no change. He keeps insisting that there has been a substantial increase, but the civil service statisticians say that that is not correct. Will he please stop making that assertion to this House?

Mr Byrne: I know that, like me, hon. Members will have read last year’s letter to the right hon. Gentleman from Sir Michael Scholar. The letter was very assertive about the way the right hon. Gentleman had used statistics before. I am happy to lay the letter before the House for those who have not seen it. I am also happy to show the Minister figures produced by the House of Commons Library, which show that since January long-term youth unemployment has risen by over 90%. That is a badge of shame for this Government, and the Minister should be doing more to get our young people back to work.

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend share my view that the Government seem to be stuck in an ideological Tardis in their view of

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the public-private divide in the economy? A case in point is what they have done to the solar panel industry. We have seen massive job losses in the private sector because of a loss of private and public sector contracts. It is amazing that the Government cannot seem to get hold of this concept.

Mr Byrne: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We were promised that this was going to be the greenest Government ever, but a wide group of green and conservation organisations now say that the Government are comprehensively failing to meet that commitment. We all know that one of the key growth sectors for the future has to be low-carbon industries. The Government should therefore be doing more to get people into work in these sectors, not least by providing some regulatory certainty about the future.

Let me finish my point about the collapse in the rate of people flowing off benefits and into work. There is a very basic test. The Minister’s plan is not working unless it is getting more people off benefits and into work, unless the unemployment bill is coming down, and unless it is really making a difference—and right now, he is failing on every single count.

Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the 227 additional people who have joined the dole queue in Liverpool, Walton may be seen by the Conservatives as just collateral damage from their failed economic policy, but for each of those individuals, although they are a statistic to the Government, theirs is a personal tragedy? Does he agree that they are still the same old Tories who believe that unemployment is a price worth paying?

Mr Byrne: Many will draw exactly that conclusion, not least because when they see a Secretary of State who is unable to come to this House and set out how many jobs his various initiatives are creating, they must conclude that he simply cannot be bothered to find out.

I want to spell out how two particular groups are being pretty badly hit by this Government’s policies. The human cost of the Government’s failure to get people back to work, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram) alluded, will be on everybody’s minds this afternoon. When families get together this Christmas, there will be plenty of anxious talk about the year ahead. This House has debated many times before the dangers of creating a lost generation, and today that news got even worse. Youth unemployment is up by 54,000. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said earlier today, long-term youth unemployment is up this year by 93%. Two hundred and seventy of us now represent constituencies where long-term youth unemployment has risen by over 100%. That is simply not good enough.

Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (Lab): As someone who spent three years unemployed due to the activities of the Economic League, I well understand the indignity that unemployment brings. One of the things that kept me sane during that period was the ability to go along to the jobcentre and speak to people who could help me to get back into work. This Government are now closing the jobcentres.

Mr Byrne: That points to a wider problem.

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Chris Grayling: Nonsense!

Mr Byrne: The Minister says that this is nonsense. I am afraid that he will be giving the House the illusion that he is not taking the figures that we saw this morning seriously enough. He went on the media this morning and said that today’s figures, which show youth unemployment rising to the highest level this country has ever seen, represented a stabilisation in the labour market. When youth unemployment is going up, overall unemployment is going up, and women’s unemployment is going up, that is not stabilisation—it is a tragedy for the people those figures represent, and he should be doing more to get them back into work.

Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op): Does my right hon. Friend agree that it was a massive strategic error for the Government to announce over a year ago that they were going to get rid of half a million public sector jobs? Public servants spent less because they thought they were going to lose their jobs. Together with two years of a 1% pay freeze, which will reduce real incomes by 17%, and the attempt to dress up a 3% change in income tax as a pension contribution, that has massively deflated the amount of consumption in the economy and given rise to flat lining growth.

Mr Byrne: My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. The recovery has been clobbered, and as a result the welfare bill is now going through the roof. That is a bill that the rest of us are going to have to pay.

We now have, since we last met, a youth contract on the table. That is a recognition that it was a mistake to get rid of the future jobs fund and to leave instead, for two years, no active programme for getting young people back into work. That was a grave error. The shame is that this contract was paid for by a botched deal between the Deputy Prime Minister and the Chancellor; I do not think that the Secretary of State was even in the room. He should remember that if you are not in the room, it is quite hard to influence the decision. What emerged from the quartet, as I think it is quaintly called, was a shabby settlement that took money off hard-pressed parents with children to pay for this Government’s failure to get young people back to work. In the past, the Secretary of State has talked a lot about the marriage penalty, and there are sympathisers with his argument on both sides of the House. However, he too must now recognise that he is presiding over the biggest parents’ penalty that we have ever seen introduced into the benefits system, with twice the amount of money being taken off children and families than will be taken off the bankers over the course of this Parliament. Surely Government Members cannot be proud of that.

I want to ask a couple of questions about the youth contract to which I hope the Minister will be able to respond. First, will he admit that 53,000 work subsidies this coming year is far too few for the task that we have in hand? That equates to only one opportunity for every 20 young people now unemployed. Secondly, in 2009—this is perhaps of interest to the hon. Member for North East Hertfordshire (Oliver Heald)—Labour introduced a form of work subsidy, but the take-up was not great and the Conservative party attacked it remorselessly. What has accounted for the sudden change of heart over work subsidies? Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly

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given the Minister’s concern about statistics, when will we find out how many people the youth contract is getting back into work? Will it be Work programme providers who operate the schemes? If so, why do so many of them appear to be completely in the dark about the scheme and its introduction? If the contract proves not to work in short order, will the Government consider reintroducing Labour’s future jobs fund, which was such a success?

Ann McKechin (Glasgow North) (Lab): I share my right hon. Friend’s concern about the fact that we still have no details regarding the youth contract. I asked the Minister last week how much of the programme would be spent in Scotland and he could provide me with no information whatever. No one in Scotland, including Work programme providers, private employers and those in the public sector, has any idea what they have to plan with or to work with. That is simply hopeless when so many people are out of work.

Mr Byrne: That was indeed a very disappointing answer to my hon. Friend, particularly considering today’s rise in unemployment in Scotland.

I want to highlight one other group of workers who have been particularly badly hit. The over-50s are now losing jobs at a faster pace. The number of people in that group in Britain who have been unemployed for more than a year has risen by about 25% this year. Such workers often fear that they will not get back into work again and that they will be thrown on to some kind of silver scrap heap. The picture of the country that emerged this morning is terrible: long-term unemployment among the over-50s is up by 21% and in seven regions—Wales, the north-east, the east midlands, London, the north-west, the south-west and the west midlands—it is even higher. More than 50 Members of this House now represent constituencies where the rise in long-term unemployment among the over-50s is more than 50%. That is surely unacceptable and it surely demands a response from the Government.

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend bear it in mind that that situation is very much like what happened in the 1980s? People in their late 40s, let alone those in their 50s, were made redundant when there were two major recessions. Many of them were never to work again. That is the humiliation that was heaped on our fellow citizens. Although the Government and Tory Members do not seem to be much concerned—only five Tory MPs are present, leaving aside the Parliamentary Private Secretary—the tragedy is that there is now a repeat of what occurred at that time.

Mr Byrne: My hon. Friend is right to remind us of what happened in the 1980s. Of course, that was the decade when the number of those left to languish on incapacity benefit went through the roof.

Our motion calls on the Government to change course. We call on the Government to learn from today’s figures, to remember our young people, and to listen to the worries of the over-50s. We want them to change course and give us a real plan for getting people back to work and for creating growth. We think that there is another way and that the Government need to listen, and fast.

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This is perhaps the last debate that I will lead for the Opposition this year. I want to conclude by looking ahead to an important anniversary next year—the 70th anniversary of the Beveridge report. I think that it is appropriate to mark the achievement of that very different kind of alliance; an alliance that genuinely acted in the national interest. The report was commissioned by a Labour Minister, written by a Liberal and welcomed by a nation. The Beveridge report provided the foundation for the welfare state created by the Attlee Administration. It was a welfare state that freed people from fear and it was created on the proceeds of full employment. I believe that the goal of full employment should once again be our aim. I hope that next year we can celebrate the achievement of that progressive alliance by rededicating ourselves to the idea that politics can make a difference, that politics can author the policies that get this country back to work once again, and that politics once again can offer this country freedom from fear.

I commend the motion to the House.

3.4 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Chris Grayling): I rise to take part in episode two of the debate that we began a month ago.

Let me start by saying, once again, that this Government regard unemployment among people of all ages as bad, although youth unemployment is a particular concern. All unemployment is bad and it will remain a priority for this Government to deal with the issue, to help those who are unemployed back into work, and to create an environment in which businesses are able to grow, develop and create jobs. We will do everything that we can to tackle this genuine blight, which causes concern for Members on both sides of this House. It is a problem that we must tackle.

I must also say, however, that I have seldom in this House heard such a load of complete nonsense as I have just heard from the shadow Secretary of State. He used statistics that bear no relation to the truth and he made an argument based on achievements of the previous Government that bear no relation to reality. We need to remember that it was the Labour Government who brought us youth unemployment of nearly 1 million, unemployment of 2.5 million, a deep recession, the biggest peacetime financial deficit in our history, and a Chief Secretary to the Treasury who was best known not for his taste in cappuccino or the memos that he sent to his staff, but for the note that he left behind, saying that “there’s no money left”.

Mr Byrne: The whole House is enjoying the Minister’s frivolity with such a serious issue. Will he just remind us how much extra the Chancellor proposes to borrow over and above the plans that he set out before the House last year? Is it a figure not unadjacent to £158 billion more than he forecast?

Chris Grayling: Had we followed the economic strategy of the right hon. Gentleman when he was at the Treasury and of his former boss, the former Prime Minister, not only would we be in the same kind of financial predicament today that some of our European partners are in, but we would have unemployment that is much higher today than it is.

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Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East) (Lab): The report issued by the Office for Budget Responsibility at the time of the autumn statement made it clear that the boom was greater and the recession sharper and deeper than had previously been thought. It also stated that the recovery in 2009 was stronger than had previously been thought, and that it was brought to an abrupt halt in the second half of 2010. Perhaps the Minister would like to reflect on what happened in 2010 to change things.

Chris Grayling: What the hon. Lady has missed is that the OBR said at the time of the autumn statement that the structural deficit—not the cyclical deficit—that we inherited from the previous Government was much worse than it had previously believed. That means that the economic legacy that we inherited was much worse than we had previously believed. It is therefore a much bigger task to overcome that and to get the economy growing again, to get jobs being created again and to get Britain moving.

Mr Sheerman: I know that the Minister cares about this issue and that we are going to have point scoring. However, a million young people and their many millions of parents and friends are waiting for something to happen. Point scoring will not help them. The shadow Secretary of State finished by remembering the 70th anniversary of the Beveridge report. He was offering an olive branch. In that spirit, why can the Government not say, “Let’s all get around a table and find something together that helps the young unemployed people in this country.”?

Chris Grayling: The hon. Gentleman will learn, if he listens to my speech, that we are already doing things. We have delivered a package of support that will make a significant difference to the lives of the unemployed.

We keep hearing about a mythical two-year gap in provision. I remind the Opposition that the programmes that we inherited from them finished only three months ago. Today’s unemployment figures cover part of the period when the previous Government’s programmes were continuing.

Let me take up the points that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne) made about this morning’s unemployment figures. He questioned why I had said this morning that the labour market had showed some signs of stabilisation. Let me explain why. It is because over the past month, employment has risen by 38,000 and unemployment has risen by 16,000, a number that is considerably exceeded by the change in activity levels. The youth unemployment figure, excluding full-time students, has remained static, and the jobseeker’s allowance claimant count has risen by 3,000, whereas the total number of people who have moved off incapacity benefit and income support as a result of our welfare reforms is 10,000. Those are one month’s figures and certainly do not reflect a long-term change, but they are at least a sign of some stabilisation in the labour market. I think he would and should welcome that.

Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): I want to return to the Minister’s point about the previous programmes having only just come to a conclusion. He surely accepts that they were running down. If someone started on a future jobs fund programme at the very end

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of its life, that individual would inevitably be in work for a further six months. However, that does not mean that there was not a substantial gap between the announcement of the closure of some programmes and the Government finally getting around to opening up a new programme, the youth contract, which we understand will not actually come into effect until next April.

Chris Grayling: That is simply not correct. We managed a transition strategy that kept existing programmes going until the first part of this autumn, precisely to ensure that there was not a gap in provision between what we inherited and what we were putting in place.

Oliver Heald: Does my right hon. Friend share my consternation that Opposition Front Benchers are saying that they would reintroduce the future jobs fund, given that it was an entirely public sector operation providing work placements but no permanent jobs for the future? Surely it is much better to go with the private sector option, as the Government are talking about. That is a way of providing jobs for the future.

Chris Grayling: I absolutely agree, and that is central to what we are trying to achieve. The measures that we are putting in place, which I will set out for the House in a moment, are designed to ensure that we help young people, indeed people of all ages, to move into roles in the private sector, where there is a long-term, sustained opportunity for them to build careers.

Ian Austin (Dudley North) (Lab): Is it or is it not the case that Jaguar-Land Rover in the west midlands provided placements for young people through the future jobs fund?

Chris Grayling: The hon. Gentleman will know that in order for a private sector organisation to participate in the future jobs fund, it had to set up a special purpose vehicle to work around European Union state aid rules. The result was that virtually all placements under the future jobs fund were in the public and community sector. In putting in place additional programmes, providing apprenticeships and providing a subsidy through the youth contract, we are focusing support on roles in the private sector.

Ms Gisela Stuart: I will focus not on the over-50s, because I would have to declare an interest, but on 18 to 24-year-olds. In Birmingham, 15,600 of them are claiming jobseeker’s allowance. If the Minister is so focused on private sector job creation, will he give me one example of how he is encouraging the private sector in Birmingham to get jobs for that lost generation, rather than providing a programme of aid?

Chris Grayling: I will set out in a moment how our work experience scheme, for example, is succeeding in helping young people to move into work in the private sector.

Mr Robert Syms (Poole) (Con): Youth unemployment started rising in 2004 and peaked at nearly 1 million in 2009. Will my right hon. Friend set out the facts about that in an honest and straightforward manner? The problems did not start in 2010.

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Chris Grayling: My hon. Friend makes an important point. From listening to the Opposition, one would believe that the problem had simply emerged in the past few months. One would not believe that unemployment among young people was almost 1 million when Labour left office. Indeed, the total number of young people not in education or employment passed 1 million during the last recession, but we do not hear about that from Labour.

Mr Byrne: The Minister can try to evade the truth as much as he likes, but he cannot duck the basic fact that youth unemployment was about 14% when Labour took office. Before the recession it came down to 12%. It did go up during the recession, but it was coming down before the election. Since the election, it has gone through the roof to a record high. He simply cannot duck that truth. Why does he not get on and do something about it?

Chris Grayling: I will explain what we are planning to do, but we should remember that youth unemployment was at almost 950,000 when Labour left office, which was higher than when it took office. We are not going take lessons from Labour and its record on youth unemployment.

I wish to set out the approach that we have put in place to try to support the unemployed.

Ian Austin: Will the Minister give way?

Chris Grayling: No, I am going to make some progress now.

The first priority has to be to help get business moving and growing again. That involves having a stable financial environment in which businesses are confident that this country is not going to find itself in the economic predicament that some other nations are facing. We therefore remain determined to address the deficit challenge, bring our public finances under control and send a message to the world that Britain understands the challenges that we face and is trying to do something about them. That is why we saw such a good response in the bond markets this morning to this country’s attempts to sell its bonds, and why other countries are facing difficulties. I believe that if we had not taken those measures, businesses would not be investing in this country or considering employing people here. I believe that unemployment would be higher than it is today.

We also have to take measures that, within the confines of the financial constraints upon us, do everything possible to encourage and support business. That is why my right hon. Friend the Chancellor set out in his autumn statement two weeks ago a variety of measures designed to do just that. They include investment in infrastructure; an expansion of the regional growth fund; increased capital allowances in enterprise zones; and measures to underpin bank lending to small businesses, so that they can access the finance that they need to grow. Those are essential parts of ensuring that in exceptionally difficult times, businesses at least have the best foundations that we can possibly give them to enable them to grow.

Mr Byrne: We all appreciate that summary of the autumn statement, but will the Minister remind the House to what level unemployment is projected to rise next year?

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Chris Grayling: The right hon. Gentleman and other Members can read the OBR forecasts, which state that at the end of a difficult economic period unemployment will start to fall again. I remind him that we are dealing with international circumstances that the Governor of the Bank of England described as being among the most difficult in modern times, if not the most difficult.

Of course, alongside the measures that we need to take to support and encourage business growth, we need high-quality support for the unemployed to ensure that we can get them back into work as quickly as possible.

Fiona O'Donnell (East Lothian) (Lab): The Minister has been on his feet for what feels quite a long time, and he has attacked the public sector and talked about how he will support the private sector but not once mentioned the third sector. That shows the Government’s real attitude to that sector’s role in supporting people into employment, which was what made the future jobs fund work.

Chris Grayling: If the hon. Lady will allow me, I will finish explaining what we are doing. Last night, we published figures showing that 20% of referrals taking place through the Work programme are being handled by the voluntary sector, so it is playing an extremely important part in our work. It is also helping us to deliver a number of other programmes, and it is an integral part of supporting both the short and long-term unemployed.

There are a number of elements to the package that we have put in place. The first is support for the shorter-term unemployed, with a particular focus on the young, through our work experience programme and sector-based work academies. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill would know, had he read the figures that we published, that the first statistics, for the period up until August, showed that more than 50% of the young people going through our work experience programme moved off benefits quickly afterwards. Indeed, we know that many of those young people are staying in employment with the employers who gave them their work experience place. The scheme is a great success, and we are doubling its size as part of the youth contract.

I should like to put it on record that I am very grateful to all the employers up and down the country, large and small, that are offering young people work experience and helping to break the vicious circle whereby people cannot get a job unless they have experience, but they cannot get experience unless they have a job. The scheme is cost-effective, costing one twentieth of what was spent on the future jobs fund for a broadly similar outcome. It is a great initiative, and I pay tribute to all the Jobcentre Plus staff who are working on it.

Mr Byrne: I am grateful to the Minister, who is characteristically generous in giving way. I assume that he refers to the statistics that were published on the Department’s website about work experience, which showed that between January and August 2011, 16,360 claimants started a “get Britain working” work experience placement. That is in the written answer that he gave me. Of those 16,000, how many have got jobs?

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Chris Grayling: We know that just over 50% of those people were off benefits within a total of 12 weeks from day one of their placement. It is an eight-week placement, so the answer is, in effect, within a month of the end of the work experience period. That is the first set of figures. The right hon. Gentleman said, “No more figures till February”, and he is right. He cannot berate me for misuse of national statistics—he and I can argue about that offline sometime—and at the same time demand that I misuse them to give him more evidence now. We will publish the figures for the programme at the appropriate moment, but I am confident that they will continue to show the real difference that it is making to young people.

Brandon Lewis (Great Yarmouth) (Con): Does the Minister agree that the best thing is the Government’s bringing everything together to ensure not just that private sector businesses grow to employ people, but that we put good, solid training, work experience and apprenticeships in place so that people can not only get into work but have sustainable long-term employment, unlike through some of the fad projects of the past?

Chris Grayling: I agree. The second part of the support that we are providing to young people—and, indeed, to older workers, for whom apprenticeships are also available—is a substantial increase in the number of apprenticeships. More than 100,000 new apprenticeships have been announced since the general election—the total across the Parliament will take apprenticeship provision far beyond where it has been previously. We believe that an apprenticeship that combines training and a real job for many young people is a better vehicle for delivering a long-term career option for them than simply putting them into a temporary six-month work experience placement at significant cost to the taxpayer, as we experienced with the future jobs fund. I accept that we do not agree on that: Labour Members believe that their approach was better. However, we believe that sustained employment in the private sector with an apprenticeship for a substantial proportion of young people is the best option. I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, who is responsible for that, has put in so much effort and won so many extra resources for apprenticeships.

Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab): I heard what the Minister said about the programmes that he has put in place, but how can he claim that they are successful when there has been an increase in long-term youth unemployment of 88.6% and in long-term unemployment for people over 50 of 59% in my constituency in the past six months?

Chris Grayling: I make the same point to the hon. Lady that I made to the shadow Minister: I wish they would stop producing figures that are not statistically valid. The previous Government had something called the training allowance. Somebody who had been out of work for 12 months and entered the new deal programmes went for a short time on to a training allowance. That meant that their JSA claim was moved back to day one. As a result, the previous Government claimed to have abolished youth unemployment. We have stopped doing that—we do not hide the unemployed. We accept the

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scale of the problem and try to tackle it properly. The civil service statisticians in the Department for Work and Pensions carried out a like-for-like comparison, which shows that there is virtually no difference in youth unemployment for more than six months between today and two years ago. Opposition figures are therefore simply not accurate.

The third element of the support is through the Work programme, which began at the start of July. It has been going for five months and is the most ambitious welfare-to-work programme that the country has seen. The first signs from providers are encouraging. We will not have official statistics till next year, but there are many examples of people who have been out of work for a long time getting into work. It is a payment-by-results scheme, so providers have every incentive to use the right approach to working with people in a personalised way to deliver the right support to them individually and to match them to the right job; otherwise they will not stay there. Given that the full payment is not made until a conventional jobseeker has been in work for 18 months, there is a real incentive to ensure that it is about not just placing someone in a short-term job but building a long-term career for them.

Gordon Banks (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Lab): The Minister wants accurate figures, so let me tell him that 130 people in my constituency in highly skilled engineering jobs are losing their jobs today because of cuts in public sector spending. It is a private sector business. Does the Minister not understand that cuts in the public sector impact on the private sector? Here in my hand is the proof to show that.

Chris Grayling: I regret every single redundancy in any sector in any part of this country. It is a terrible blow for the people concerned. I do not know about the case, but if the hon. Gentleman wants to talk to me afterwards, I will ensure that Jobcentre Plus support from a rapid response team is available to his constituents. I regret any such situation. However, we are having to get to grips with the challenges of the public sector because of the mess we were left. If we did not do that, unemployment would be higher, not lower. I stress that we will do everything we can to help the hon. Gentleman’s constituents and those elsewhere who are in a similar position. Any unemployment is too high, and we will do all we can to help tackle it.

Let me briefly consider the youth contract because questions have been asked about it. It was announced shortly after our debate a month ago and I think that it will enhance the programmes that we are already delivering. It builds on the programmes that are already in place and will involve doubling the work experience programme so that we should be able to guarantee every single young person who has been out of work for three months a work experience place. Through the Work programme, it provides a subsidy to employers to take on a young person who has been unemployed for a longer time. The CBI proposed it to us, but it is more generous than the programme that the CBI requested. The shadow Minister made the point about the previous Government’s scheme in 2009, but the difference is that we are delivering something to a template that leading business groups requested. They say that it will make a

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real difference to the likelihood of an employer taking on a young person. I hope and believe that will make a genuine difference.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): One of they key factors throughout the United Kingdom that perhaps the Minister has not mentioned yet is small and medium businesses. In Northern Ireland, 90% of those in employment are employed through small and medium businesses. What help does the Minister intend to give small and medium businesses to create jobs and thereby address youth unemployment?

Chris Grayling: I agree that small and medium-sized enterprises are crucial. I hope that the subsidy that is paid to employers through the youth contract will be attractive to large and small employers. We are clear that the role that small businesses play is important. Opposition Members raised issues about unemployment among the older generation and I believe that our new enterprise allowance, which is proving successful in the areas where it has been operating so far and is now available throughout the country, will provide a real route for people who want to build their own SME in future.

Mr Deputy Speaker, do not listen to what you hear from the Opposition about the Government doing nothing about unemployment. We have a comprehensive range of support, which I believe can make a real difference to the unemployed. We face huge economic challenges and some of the most difficult economic circumstances that any Government have faced. However, unemployment is and will remain a priority for the Government. We will do everything that we can to tackle it.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I remind hon. Members that I am imposing a six-minute limit due to the number who wish to speak.

3.27 pm

Albert Owen (Ynys Môn) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the Minister. The statistics I will use are from the Office for National Statistics, but my experience is as a manager of a centre for unemployed people before I came into the House. I saw at first hand the failure of economic policy. That is what unemployment is: a failure of an economic system. It is not “a price worth paying” as a previous Chancellor of the Exchequer said.

In the 1990s, I ran a centre that helped young people to get back to work. We gave them life experiences and choices. Whether in the public sector, the private sector or the voluntary sector, those experiences were valuable tools and gave skills to young people. It is a shame that Government Members rubbish schemes involving the voluntary and public sectors, because people need help to get those necessary skills; they do not need Government Members to attack the public sector.

Oliver Heald: Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that it is something of a deception to put a young person in a job for six months with the idea that it will lead to something at a time when the public sector is being cut? Surely it is better to give that young person a

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private sector job opportunity or work experience that has some prospect of leading somewhere.

Albert Owen: I will tell the hon. Gentleman what a deception is: it is the Government saying that they will introduce a scheme next April when youth unemployment is going through the roof this month and last month.

Oliver Heald: It isn’t!

Albert Owen: Of course it is! The hon. Gentleman really needs to look at the ONS statistics. In every corner of the UK, youth unemployment is going up. Young people are facing unemployment because of the Government’s record.

John Glen (Salisbury) (Con): Why is it a deception if the Government set out a well thought through policy that they are ready to deliver in three or four months’ time? That is not a deception but a well organised policy. It is ludicrous to trade such cheap remarks about people’s jobs and futures.

Albert Owen: I shall tell the hon. Gentleman my background in a moment—I certainly know what unemployment is like and have worked with unemployed people—but month on month, people are losing their jobs. Saying that there is hope in future of a scheme—he says it is well thought out, but nobody has seen it implemented—is a disgrace when the Government are doing away with schemes that were working and helping people. I met people who went on those schemes. They had the opportunity in a major global recession to gain work experience and skills. That is what the Government should be doing; they should not be talking about some generous scheme of the future that we do not know about.

The Government’s record is one of increasing unemployment, which compares with the Government of the 1980s and 1990s. The centre for the unemployed where I worked was established in the 1930s, and was re-established in the 1980s because of mass unemployment and mass depopulation. People left my area to look for jobs in the 1980s and ’90s as they did in the 1930s. The county of Anglesey, which I represent, was the only county in Wales that had a declining population in two consecutive censuses, because people went looking for work. Yes, they got on their bikes, but it harmed our community. Unemployment is not a statistic to bandy around in the Chamber; it involves real lives and real people. It affects individuals, families and communities. I have seen communities scarred by mass unemployment, which is why I am passionate about standing up here today to say that this Government’s policies are not working. We need to work together to find policies that work. When the Government scrap policies that have been successful in my community, I will stand up and say so—that is the reality of the situation not only in my constituency but in many parts of the country.

In 1992, unemployment in my constituency stood at 3,912—nearly 4,000. By October 2002 it was down to 1,516, and by October 2007 it was down to 1,093, because schemes that targeted the hardcore unemployed to help them back to work were introduced.

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I remember that there was no plan to help in the 1980s. In 1992, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that unemployment was “a price worth paying”—it was an economic tool. The Minister shakes his head, but those were the Chancellor’s words, and he cannot contradict that because they are on the record. The Chancellor said that there were shoots of growth, but people were losing their jobs and livelihoods, and communities were being destroyed.

The buzzwords of the ’80s and ’90s were “downsizing” and “redundancy”. We needed a scheme, and when the Labour Government came to power in 1997, we introduced the new deal for the unemployed. A levy from the excess profits of utility companies was used and targeted to help young people. Between 1999 and 2004, it was hugely successful. I think it should have continued, but after 2004 the scheme was targeted at other sections of society that needed help. With hindsight, perhaps we should have continued to concentrate on young people.

Youth unemployment has gone up in the past 12 months, whatever statistics we use. Young people are losing their jobs or are not able to enter the employment market. My daughter’s peers, who are in their 20s, have taken extra university courses because they cannot get jobs. They are coming out highly qualified and cannot get jobs. That is the reality of the situation today. It is incumbent on us all, whichever party we represent, to get the number down. Although bandying statistics does not help, we must, none the less, use the records of different Governments to paint a picture. The record of this Government is to do away with schemes that were successful and to say, “We’ll replace them with something in the future.” The reality is that unemployment is going up.

Ben Gummer (Ipswich) (Con) rose

Albert Owen: I am afraid that I do not have much time; I have already taken two interventions.

In the 1980s and 1990s, there was a period of stagnation in my constituency. The gross value added, or the gross domestic product, was among the worst in the United Kingdom. The historical scar is there and people are finding it difficult. Between 1997 and 2007, the number of jobs increased by some 7,000 and many skills were brought back to the area through various schemes. There was a partnership between Government, the public sector, the private sector and the voluntary sector, all working together to help people. That is the way forward.

I accept that unemployment went up in 2007, but it started to come down in 2010, which is important. When this Government took office, growth was increasing and unemployment was coming down. The trend has now been reversed and we are back to what it was like in the 1980s, and once again we are facing mass unemployment. Some 2.64 million people are unemployed, which is a disgrace for any Government. This Government should apologise for the fact that their policies are not working.

The Welsh Assembly Government are introducing additional projects to help the unemployed. Austerity alone will not create jobs; it is getting people skilled up and giving them the necessary experience, growing the economy, and bringing down unemployment that will increase the GDP and the GVA of every part of the United Kingdom. Wales has been hammered by

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unemployment. We need to move forward. Today is a bad day for unemployment and a bad day for this Government’s record.

3.36 pm

David T. C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne) and many of his colleagues have basically said that the Government should change course. I listened to them with great interest but did not hear any of them say what their course should be. I heard plenty of criticisms of the Government, but there has been no mention by the right hon. Gentleman of a coherent economic policy.

Several hon. Members rose

David T. C. Davies: I intend to give way once only.

Mr Byrne: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. We have set out a clear five-point plan for getting people back into work. The starting point is a sensible and fair tax on bankers’ bonuses. Does he think that his constituents, like mine, would support that?

David T. C. Davies: I have heard about this tax on bankers’ bonuses, which has already been spent in myriad different ways. In any case, the Government have already introduced taxes on banks, which are bringing in far more money. I point out to the right hon. Gentleman—I am sure he knows this, given what his last job was—that the financial services industry in this country is contributing about 10% of all the money that we have, or somewhere in the region of £50 billion. At this moment in time, we cannot do anything too much that will damage that.

Let me explain to the House what I think the Opposition party’s economic policy was. Up until October and the Chancellor’s statement, the economic policy of Labour Members was to borrow even more money than we are being forced to borrow at the moment. Since October, everything has changed and suddenly their policy is to borrow less money. Amazingly enough, they are not only going to borrow less money, but spend more money. The Opposition are going to borrow less money but somehow there will be no cuts in Government expenditure and no freezes on pensions and everyone will have a job. It is a totally incoherent economic policy, but completely consistent with what we have come to expect from Labour.

Albert Owen: The hon. Gentleman says that we did not outline our plans. If he reads the motion, he will find them there, and he should be speaking to the motion. He said two things that were incorrect. He said that we would be spending more than the Government. In the autumn statement, this Government said that they would spend more than Labour. One tool of employment is taxation. Does he agree that reducing VAT temporarily during the previous recession helped employment and consumers? Would he support something of that nature now?

David T. C. Davies: The hon. Gentleman ought to know that I will always support any kind of tax cut if it is affordable and I welcome his conversion to that idea. I recall him talking about what happened when Labour got in, but he forgot one or two important facts. He

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forgot to tell us that when Labour got in in 1997, the national debt was some £350 billion. By 2007, before the economic crash, the national debt had risen to £650 billion. Yes, the Labour Government had been paying off the national debt for two years but when the election started to loom, all of a sudden off went the spending taps and they were spending at a rate of £30 billion or so on average more than they were earning. That meant that by 2007 they already had a problem, yet they let the spending rip and we ended up with a national debt of £1 trillion and a deficit of £160 billion. Their response was to say up until October that we should borrow even more money—now, they suggest we borrow even less.

What the hon. Ladies and Gentlemen on the Opposition Benches do not understand is that it is very easy to create a little employment in the short-term by borrowing money that one does not actually have, but the problem is that that will always lead to greater unemployment in the longer term because at some point—they do not realise this—that money must be paid back. In the meantime, the interest on it, which is about £30 billion a year at the moment, has to be paid. The only way that money can be paid back is by raising taxes, which destroys jobs, or cutting public spending. That is a basic economic fact that Labour Governments throughout history have failed to comprehend.

Of course, there are more things that this Government can do. We have taken the brave decision as a coalition to get rid of the deficit as quickly as we can. It might take until 2017—[ Interruption. ] Yes, I accept it is not going to be an easy task, given what we have inherited. It will take a number of years, but we will stay the course and do it, and we will do more, besides.

We must consider immigration. It cannot possibly be right that 250,000 people are coming into this country at a time of recession if we have to find them all jobs, too. My wife is one of them and my sister-in-law, who is from Asia, is another. I am not in any way against those who come here; I welcome the fact that people have come here and are making a contribution, but we must consider whether that is sustainable in the long term.

We must also consider the attitude of some British people—that has to be said. Neither of my sister-in-laws had problems coming over here from Asia and eastern Europe and getting jobs, but there is unfortunately a small minority of younger British people who would prefer to stay on the dole than go out and get a job. It is a harsh fact but it needs saying and it is something that this Government will actively tackle.

We need to look at the attitudes and training of those who come out of our schools, ensuring that they can add up and have basic English and social skills, as it is often people’s attitude that gets them a job. We must consider what our universities are teaching people, because it is no good if everybody comes out with a degree in media studies. There will always be some jobs for some people in the media, but not for all those who want them.

I have spoken to a number of people working in companies that are contributing a lot to this country—gas and oil companies and so on—and they say that they have had to go abroad to find people because there are not enough with the necessary practical skills in this country. By that I mean people who do not mind getting their hands a bit dirty. I spent four or five years getting

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my hands a bit dirty, as did many people on the Opposition Benches. I have no problem with that whatsoever. Unfortunately, some young people in this country at the moment do.

Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, but may I urge him to focus on the issue of joblessness rather than worklessness? I think that was an offensive remark, although I am sure that he made it unintentionally. We have Office for National Statistics data giving the numbers of vacancies and the numbers of people who are unemployed, particularly young people. In neighbouring constituencies, such as Hartlepool, which is just to the south of me—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Briefly.

David T. C. Davies: I take the hon. Gentleman’s point. I am focusing on the fact that there are jobs out there for some people and that there are some people who will not take jobs. I accept that there are not enough jobs and we would all like to see more.

One thing the Government can do—I think they are considering this—is look at the red tape imposed on small businesses. When I ran a small family business, I was reticent to take people on because if we took on a contract to move goods from A to B that lasted for nine or 12 months and took on some extra drivers to do that, we were stuck if we suddenly lost the contract because we found it very difficult to get rid of people. We ought to look at lifting the red tape so that companies can take a risk by taking somebody on. If that does not work out, sadly, they might have to let them go but a lot of companies would hang on to people if they could. It is not the public sector out there—things are a lot harsher. The hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) is laughing, but I wonder whether she has ever tried to run a small business. We are also, I am glad to say, looking at the green taxes that have been levied on the big industries, because there is absolutely no point in hitting big manufacturing companies with carbon and environmental taxes if they are simply going to relocate to the other side of the world and make their goods over there, taking jobs with them and probably creating even more carbon as they ship back whatever it was they were making.

I have only 45 seconds left, but I must mention the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill, who was going to give way to me, but failed to do so, when he mentioned Clement Attlee. We all supported the grandiose schemes of—not Clement Attlee, sorry, Bevin, who was supported by Winston Churchill at the time, the Conservative leader—[Hon. Members: “Beveridge!”] Beveridge, sorry. Not Bevin, no, I accept that.

The right hon. Gentleman will know, however, that Beveridge’s plans were built on the back of a war loan from the United States, which had to be paid off for decades afterwards; that Callaghan’s Government ended in failure; that Wilson had to devalue the pound; and that his own, previous, Government were responsible for the biggest boom and bust in financial history—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order.