Agencies, job brokers and colleges need long-term sustainable funding to help their work with the most difficult-to-reach people, which is something we need to look at. The young people in my constituency are not interested in party politicking; they want to know that there is a career path for them. We have seen huge

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improvements in schools in my constituency, with more than 84% at one school alone getting A* to C grades at GCSE, and seven young people placed at Cambridge, including one young woman who had a baby at 15 and is now at the university with her child. There is real opportunity and a real desire to achieve in Hackney. There is no poverty of ambition among the young people in my area. Most of all, however, we need to get those young people on pathways into jobs. We need work experience available, so that they can get the experience they need to compete in the job market. I want to see the unemployment levels in my constituency fall dramatically.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. There are still six speakers, and we have to bring on the Front Benchers at 9.40 pm. I am going to have to drop the time limit to four minutes, in order to get in all the Members who want to speak.

9.17 pm

Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell) (Con): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker; I shall try to keep to four minutes.

I start by echoing what my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (John Glen) said. I do not believe that there is anybody in the House who does not want to try to do as much as possible to help the youth unemployed, and I genuinely mean that about all parts of the House. It is easy to score cheap political points, but deep down, I think that there is probably no one in this House, on either side, for whom that is not true. We feel this to be such an important issue for many of the reasons that have been outlined today.

I will come to why I think the motion is not helpful in solving the problem, but let me say that no matter how we approach the issue, everyone wants to do something about it. That is the nature of party politics: the Opposition have a different approach to those of us in government. When I look around at the unemployed young people in my constituency, I think about how to help them. Equally, I have met young people on apprenticeships—16-year-olds—and seen the difference that being able to go out has made to their lives. There are children whom I have known over many years who have got an apprenticeship and who now go out to work. One sees them visibly maturing before one’s eyes, becoming more confident in themselves and thinking about what it means to get a career and move along that path. However, the flip side of the coin is the children and young people who have not been able to get an apprenticeship or get those jobs. We think, “Well, for every high there must a low,” and we worry deeply about the effect that that will have on young people. But is it fair to offer them false hope by suggesting that taxing bankers’ bonuses could create jobs for them?

I worry about the message that we send out from this place, because there is nothing worse than false hope. We have seen so many examples of it in the history of politics. During elections, people vote for something that they believe will give them x, y or z, only to be bitterly disappointed later. It is also easy for the Opposition to make promises—I mean this not as a comment on the Labour party but as a general remark—when the

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reality of changing circumstances means that those promises cannot be fulfilled. Another good example is that, following the austerity Budget, we were hoping to reduce the structural deficit by the end of this Parliament, but because of the changes in the world economy since then, it does not look as though we will achieve that until 2016 or possibly 2017.

David Simpson (Upper Bann) (DUP): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that a further way in which the coalition could help small to medium-sized businesses would be to reduce the heavy burden of bureaucracy that they have to deal with? A further area in which they could be helped is that of energy costs.

Alec Shelbrooke: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. Bureaucracy has strangled small businesses over the past 13 years and made it almost impossible for the people running them to say, “Let’s go out and employ a few people. Let’s take a punt on it and see what happens. Let’s grow our business and see whether we can grow the economy.” If they tried to do that but did not succeed, the bureaucracy meant that it was very hard for them to scale back the business afterwards. I believe in protection for workers—I think we all do—but there has to be a reality check at some point. Just keeping people employed because of bureaucracy while watching a company go bust does not serve anybody.

That is why the Government have adopted a programme of tackling bureaucracy and some of the more nonsensical parts of the health and safety at work legislation. I have talked to the local businesses in my constituency and found that they have hired, on average, one full-time equivalent employee to deal with the increase in bureaucracy. That is not job creation; that is sapping the resources from a company that might be willing to go a step further.

I am exceptionally worried about creating false hope. My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry) made it quite clear how many promises have been made about a bankers’ bonus tax, including the suggestion that such a tax would create 100,000 jobs. Bankers are already paying 50% tax on those bonuses. Do I personally agree that the head of RBS should be getting the size of bonus that he is getting when its share price has halved? No, I do not, but I did not draw up his agreement and I do not know what the small print says. I do not know why he feels entitled to take that bonus. Do I think it right that he should do so? No, I do not, but we are not legally in a position to do anything about it. We have to look at the position that we have got ourselves into, and try not to make those mistakes again.

I do not want to get back into the same old hoo-hahs that we have across the Chamber on these issues. We see the same old faces on the other side, and we all have a history, in these ding-dongs, of talking about whether the austerity measures are working and what would happen if we did not do what we are doing. Whenever we introduce a policy to try to rebalance the economy, there will be a negative effect. There is a recession throughout Europe and the world, and growth is practically flat across the whole of the European Union. We have to do something about that. This Government are trying

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to do something. They are trying to invest in apprenticeships, for example. Their apprenticeship scheme has the advantage over the jobs scheme introduced by the previous Government in that it involves the private sector rather than the public sector. I hope that we can bring hope to the young unemployed in this country, without a false dawn.

9.24 pm

Mr Iain McKenzie (Inverclyde) (Lab): It will come as no surprise that I want to focus on the UK unemployment blackspot that is Scotland. Scotland’s unemployment crisis has become a national tragedy with 250,000 people out of work, and our young people are one of the hardest hit groups. The number of young people claiming jobseeker’s allowance for more than six months has soared by 93% in my constituency and unemployment in Scotland has risen by 8.6%, with some 19,000 more people out of work this year. Scotland now has higher unemployment than the rest of the UK, with 200 Scots losing their job every day. Those figures only confirm what families in my constituency already know, which is that we are facing an unemployment emergency.

Jake Berry: As the hon. Gentleman is addressing his concerns to unemployment in Scotland, can he confirm whether it went up or down during the last quarter?

Mr McKenzie: Unemployment in Scotland is suffering the double-whammy of not only the UK Government but the Scottish Government. It is obvious where the Scottish National Members are tonight—they are not in the Chamber debating unemployment in Scotland.

For my constituents and millions of hard-pressed families, reports in the news that RBS is preparing to offer a bonus of more than £1 million to its chief executive look like nothing more than huge reward for failure. That leaves my young constituents to ask only one question: what about us? So, what about them? Labour has for some time argued for a tax on bank bonuses to fund 100,000 jobs for young people. Our country needs a new plan for jobs, so the Government should adopt Labour’s five-point plan for jobs, incorporating the tax on bankers’ bonuses to fund those 100,000 jobs for young people and a temporary VAT cut to help people struggling with rising prices, and kick-start the economy.

Jobs for young people in my constituency of Inverclyde are of the utmost importance, which is why we cannot wait for the UK or Scottish Government to act and have commenced putting in place our own plans. I acknowledge the efforts made by the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry) in going around all the businesses in his constituency and I can tell him that I will be taking up that challenge over the coming weeks and months. Unfortunately, I might not have the handsome list of businesses that I have visited to quote, which is unfortunate and will make the challenge more difficult. I, along with my Labour-controlled council and my MSP, will commit to searching for jobs and, I hope, to attracting other businesses to the constituency.

I have highlighted in the House before the Labour-led council’s brave decision to go it alone with the future jobs fund after that initiative was scrapped such a short time ago by the Government. We are uniquely successful: we were the second best-performing local authority in

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the country as regards the future jobs fund, putting some 500 young people a year into employment, 80% of whom remained in those jobs. That again will prove successful. Now, after clever procurement by my council, which has delivered projects under budget, we are in a position to put more funds into alleviating the disgrace of youth unemployment.

As a small council we cannot continue to finance such projects indefinitely, so we need both the UK and Scottish Governments to act now and implement plans to alleviate youth unemployment. Getting people, and especially our young people, back to work is the best way to put the UK, Scotland and Inverclyde back on the right course. As the Deputy Prime Minister said:

“I think fairness starts with doing the right thing for our young people”.

He went on to outline a £1 billion plan to provide subsidised work and training placements to thousands of young people. That initiative has all the hallmarks of a watered-down version of Labour’s future jobs fund, which the coalition scrapped after coming to power. The initiative guaranteed under-24s out of work for six months or more a job or training. The young people in my constituency need work and they need opportunities. They do not wish to live on benefits, but they still await action from this Government and the one in Edinburgh on tackling youth unemployment.

Our young people cannot take another year of failure from Government to react to the crisis. They need, they deserve and they have the right to a job. It should be the duty of all Governments to eliminate unemployment.

9.29 pm

Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): It gives me huge pleasure to join this debate in which we can all surely agree with the hon. Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) that youth unemployment is too high and must be reduced. As many hon. Members have said, none of us is complacent on this issue, so what to do? The hon. Lady had three main suggestions: spend more, lower VAT, and bash the bankers. There was also a possible fourth suggestion of bringing back the future jobs fund or, as she put it, creating 100,000 jobs. The first of those suggestions has been utterly discredited and the second did not work. On the third suggestion, no Government except those of the ex-USSR and the current Democratic People’s Republic of Korea create jobs. We must be clear that the business of government is about setting the conditions in which businesses can create jobs. It simply does not work when Governments try to create jobs.

On the future jobs fund, the evidence we looked at in the Select Committee on Work and Pensions was absolutely clear: it was expensive and public sector-dominated. It was useful and it did give experience, but no future jobs came from it.

Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con): My hon. Friend makes a powerful point about the future jobs fund—that it was basically about short-term jobs that did not last. Does he agree that this Government’s approach to apprenticeships and investing in young people and skills will give us sustainable, long-term jobs for the future?

Richard Graham: My hon. Friend is entirely right and brilliantly anticipates the thread of my argument.

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Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op): If the future jobs fund was not a success, why have the Government introduced the youth contract, and is it not simply a watered-down future jobs fund?

Richard Graham: Let me be clear that I was not writing off the future jobs fund—I did say that it was useful. However, there are better ways of dealing with these issues, which the Government have identified and are going ahead with.

I was coming to a point that will answer the hon. Gentleman’s query about our alternatives to the hon. Lady’s four main ideas about how the problem of youth unemployment can be solved. I believe that we need a mixture of different things. We need to allow manufacturers to thrive again by reducing corporate tax and the bureaucracy that surrounds their activities. We need to encourage their entrepreneurial spirit. Happily, and by chance, I can show hon. Members an excellent packet of tea that is made in Gloucester and exported to China. I also have in my pocket an aluminium pedal made on the Bristol road in Gloucester and exported to Australia. These examples show that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and kicking in my constituency and I hope that all Members’ constituencies have similar companies doing great things. Both the companies I have mentioned are looking to take on apprenticeships this year. That speaks to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride) about the heavy support and increased numbers of apprenticeships that the Government are delivering.

We also need incentives for small and medium-sized enterprises and I am very grateful that the debate I led in Westminster Hall last year, in which many hon. Members spoke up in favour of SMEs, was heard by the Government, who have introduced those incentives so that SMEs can take on apprentices. If every member of the Federation of Small Businesses in the land took on one apprentice, the largest part of the problem of youth unemployment would be solved. Similarly, we can all lead by example by taking on our own apprentice. I wonder how many Members from the Labour party have taken on an apprentice. We can also encourage businesses in our communities to take on apprentices and we can create apprenticeship fairs and job fairs. I am delighted to be welcoming the employment Minister to the skillsfest in Gloucester on 9 February, when he will see what we are doing to promote all aspects of the Government’s programme and will be quizzed by businesses on what more he can do to help them to grow.

The motion mixes an unacceptable fact—high youth unemployment—with an unpopular sector: banking. It is my strong belief that hammering our financial services sector, which is vital to this country, and destroying jobs in it will not help to create jobs elsewhere, so I propose, as an alternative, an idea that I believe would resonate across the land. It came to me when opening a regenerated bank branch in Gloucester two months ago. It would enable banks to reconnect with their customers and grow cost-efficiently, and it would support our communities by reducing youth unemployment. The idea is simple: every bank in the land should take on one apprentice in each of its branches. That would include the Co-operative Bank, which is shortly, I hope, to take over the Cheltenham & Gloucester branches from Lloyds. If the financial sector pursued that idea, Members in all parts of the

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House, instead of haranguing bankers, would be able to praise them for their role in solving the problem of youth unemployment. Some talks have already taken place; I hope that there will be more. I commend that policy, rather than the motion before us, to the Minister.

9.35 pm

Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op): At the centre of this debate is the question of what the optimum balance should be between growth and cuts, and in what time scale we should bring down the deficit. I contend that the debate should not be some sort of auction about who will cut what when; it should be about who has the most creative, realistic growth strategy, predicated on what has happened in the past. Let us look at the Labour party’s record, to which people have referred. Post-1997, we created 2 million more jobs. We replaced interest rates of 10% to 15% with very low rates, thanks to the independence of the Bank of England. With those jobs and those taxpayers, we doubled our investment in the health service and reduced debt. We have a fine record to build on.

In 2008, as we all know, there was a financial tsunami, generated by sub-prime debt in the United States. Our then Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), got together with Barack Obama to ensure that we delivered a fiscal stimulus, and that there was not a depression. We had a shallow recession, and then fragile growth. Then the Tories arrived, and immediately announced 500,000 job cuts. Consumer confidence and demand were thrown out with the bathwater. Immediately, people in the public sector thought that they were going to lose their jobs, and would not spend money. People in the private sector stopped taking on employees, and we ended up with the deficit rising. The deficit forecast is now £158 billion above what it was; when Labour came in, the deficit forecast was falling. The question is what we should do to bring back confidence.

Charlie Elphicke: Will the hon. Gentleman explain whether he agrees with the shadow Chancellor, who said the other day,

“we are going to have keep all these cuts”?

Geraint Davies: I am not opposing having to make savings and cuts. I am saying that the key is growth. As a business man in Swansea said to me, “It would be no good laying off my workers and selling my tools if I was making a loss; I would need to grow my sales while making savings.” That is the focus. That is why there is a five-point plan focused on national insurance for the building industry, on VAT for extra consumption, and on taxing banker bonuses to generate jobs and infrastructure growth.

In addition, we need a credible growth strategy focused on the growth opportunities in the global economy, namely the emerging consumer markets in India, China and south America. What are we doing to re-engineer our financial markets, our modern manufacturing, and our services, so that they are tailored to those markets? What will we do about getting capital opportunities from surplus-rich countries such as China, or oil-rich countries, so that they invest in our infrastructure? What

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are we doing to skill ourselves up for future markets? Those questions do not seem to be being asked or answered tonight.

In Swansea, I am talking with prospective manufacturers from India about linking up with the university and providing a manufacturing base to build on the cutting-edge life science research taking place there. I am talking with possible investors about investing in manufacturing facilities. There are companies such as Tata near Swansea, which are already investing in the modern manufacturing of steel, which will have six layers and can create its own energy and heat, so there are new global opportunities. This debate has been completely focused on who will cut most, when. That is going nowhere. We cannot cut ourselves out of this economic problem. We have to grow, invest and reposition our industry.

Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire) (Con): I should like to give the hon. Gentleman another chance to support the Opposition’s policy of acknowledging both that they support the cuts programme introduced by the Government and that they made quite a few mistakes when they were in government.

Geraint Davies: We need a balance of savings—certainly not cuts against our productive capacity—with the main focus on growth and jobs, as has always been the case. The shadow Chancellor said that he cannot predict the future—he does not have a crystal ball—and in three years’ time, with the situation ruined by a Government who have destroyed industry and opportunity, it is likely that we will face an even worse situation, so promises cannot be made about reinstating things subject to Government cuts. The key point is that unless we have a growth strategy, as Barack Obama is trying to do—and Europe is trying to reskill in a global environment —we have no hope, given the Government mantra that all that they can do to save business is cut, cut, cut. All that that leads to is the death of industry. I shall leave it there, and let us focus on growth.

9.41 pm

Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab): We have had a very good debate. In June last year, the Prime Minister told the House that cutting the deficit faster would revive private sector confidence. That was the basis of the strategy with which we were presented for private sector investment and jobs to surge. Tragically, that has not happened. The business confidence monitor from the Institute of Chartered Accountants says:

“UK Business confidence has collapsed”.

It says:

“Confidence has declined across all sectors and all regions.”

Nobody now claims that the coalition strategy is working to boost confidence. Confidence has evaporated, and the strategy has clearly not worked.

We are debating the consequences tonight: unemployment rocketing; youth unemployment of over 1 million, and becoming worse—the highest that it has ever been. My hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) drew attention to the growing sense of hopelessness and the long-term damage to our economy. My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) pointed to the growth of long-term unemployment among young people as particularly damaging.

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As a result of that failure, the Government have to spend a great deal more on benefits. It is worth comparing the latest forecast from the end of last year showing how much they intend to spend on benefits in the year after next with the forecast a year earlier. Projected benefit spending in the year after next has gone up by £5.4 billion. The overall estimate of borrowing has gone up by £158 billion—a figure at which the Chief Secretary to the Treasury balked at admitting. The Government are determined to press ahead with their version of the benefit cap, which the Department for Communities and Local Government says will add 20,000 to annual homelessness figures, with massive Exchequer costs. The ill-judged attack by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the bishops at the weekend has led to yet another defeat for him in the other place.

All along, we have been told that the solution to all these problems was the Work programme. Let me begin by welcoming the U-turn by the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling). I welcome his change of heart, because until now he has refused to allow Work programme providers to publish any data on their performance. Today, he has announced that he is going to change his policy.

Chris Grayling rose—

Stephen Timms: Perhaps the Minister will tell us when the guidance to which he referred will be published.

Chris Grayling: I am a little puzzled. I could be wrong, but I thought I heard the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne) say that the Labour party supported the benefit cap, but the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) has just said that they do not. Would he tell us which is right?

Stephen Timms: We do support the benefit cap. The version that the Minister is pressing through is, as the House of Lords has rightly pointed out, going to cause huge costs for the Exchequer. I hope that even now the Secretary of State will think again before returning to the House with the measure next week.

The Work programme was rushed, and badly prepared. As we pointed out at the time, there should have been a plan for transition to the new programme. There was no plan. We can glimpse how the Work programme has been going by looking at the number of people coming off benefit each month. The number plummeted last May, when the flexible new deal stopped, and it stayed low as the Work programme got going. I invite the Minister to compare the months after May with the same period the previous year, because he will see that poor Work programme performance resulted in 86,000 people not getting into work who should have done. That is probably a permanent unemployment rise. The damage will be with us for years.

The Government told us that the Work programme would enlist an army of voluntary organisations to give specialist help to jobseekers. To begin with, we were told that 508 voluntary sector organisations would be involved. By August, that number had fallen to 423. Next week the Government will count once again. Last week, apparently, at a crunch meeting, voluntary sector organisations told the Minister that they were being

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used as “bid candy” to win contracts. Some of them still have not had a single referral since the Work programme began last summer.

The “Open Public Services White Paper” promised, as I quoted to the Minister earlier:

“Providers of public services from all sectors will need to publish information on performance and user satisfaction.”

I welcome the Minister’s U-turn on performance. What about user satisfaction? Let me tell him about the satisfaction of one user, the father of a constituent of mine, who came to me to complain about his daughter’s experience on the Work programme. She received a letter referring her to mandatory work activity. It was completely incomprehensible; I will send the Minister a copy. She lives in my constituency in east London. The letter appeared to require her to report on an unspecified date to an address with a postcode in Sheffield, and the telephone number was given as 000. It was a shambles. It is no wonder the Work programme is not delivering and youth unemployment is rocketing.

Esther McVey: When I read the title of today’s Opposition day debate, which mentioned youth unemployment and bank bonuses, I thought it was a list of Labour’s worst failings—youth unemployment up by 40% and a banks bonus culture developed under Labour and signed, sealed and delivered with a knighthood under Labour—so will not the right hon. Gentleman concede that where Labour messed up, the coalition is cleaning up?

Stephen Timms: We had some discussion in the debate about the future jobs fund. The Minister has awarded a contract for the evaluation of the Work programme. I welcome the fact that he has done that. He should read the evaluation of the future jobs fund carried out by the same organisation that he has commissioned to evaluate the Work programme. It points out just how effective the future jobs fund was and the crucial value for young people of

“a real job with a real wage”.

We need a new approach. We should repeat the tax on bankers’ bonuses to bring in £2 billion, funding 100,000 real jobs for young people. We need, once again, a temporary cut in VAT to rebuild momentum in the economy, as the VAT cut did before the general election. A further VAT cut on home improvements would give the construction industry, which is in a desperate state, the chance that it needs. We should bring forward investment in schools, roads and transport, and we should listen to the Federation of Small Businesses and give small firms hiring new staff a break from paying national insurance—five points that would give us, at last, a chance.

9.49 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Chris Grayling): Let me start by making it absolutely clear that tackling unemployment and youth unemployment is right at the top of the Government’s list of priorities. I share the frustration of my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (John Glen) at some of the comments from Opposition Members. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education, to whom I pay tribute, is firmly of the view that the decline in the teaching of

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history in this country is a lamentable failing in our education system, and we realise precisely why when we listen to the Opposition. They have forgotten the history not of 10 or 100 years ago, but of two years ago: the mess they left behind for us.

Someone listening to Opposition Members tonight might think that youth unemployment had been created in the past 18 months, but the truth is that when Labour left office 18 months ago youth unemployment stood at 940,000. It has since risen by 100,000, which we wish had not happened. Half of that increase has come from students in full-time education looking for part-time work. The Opposition talk about surging youth unemployment, and I get increasingly frustrated by their use of figures, because they keep up the spurious claim that long-term youth unemployment under this Government has rocketed, but that is utterly untrue. A like-for-like comparison that removes all of the ways in which they massage the figures reveals that long-term youth unemployment today is actually lower than it was two years ago. There is one other fact that they do not mention: fewer people in this country are on out-of-work benefits today than were at the time of the general election. Let us hear nothing about the failures of the past 18 months, and let us never forget the failings of 13 years of Labour government.

We have had a thoughtful debate and heard some sensible contributions, including those from my hon. Friends the Members for Bury St Edmunds (Mr Ruffley), for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry), for Bristol West (Stephen Williams), for Salisbury (John Glen), for Elmet and Rothwell (Alec Shelbrooke) and for Gloucester (Richard Graham). We have also had a snapshot of the past, present and future of the Labour party. On the future of the party, I must say that the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) made some thoughtful contributions on things the Government might do, and I listened carefully to what she said. We also had a bit of a throwback from the right hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Mr Meacher), who talked about bankers’ bonuses while conveniently forgetting that the bankers’ bonus pool in the City of London was twice as big under Labour as it is today.

I was also struck by the lack of ambition among Labour Members. When they went through their plans yet again—we have to bear it in mind that the money from their proposed bankers’ bonus tax has been announced for nine different things so far; another bit of history they have conveniently forgotten—we realised that the reality is that they are talking about creating 100,000 places in a replacement for the future jobs fund. I see that as rather unambitious, because the package of support we have put together will help, and is helping, far more young people into employment.

We have a clear strategy to support the creation of jobs in the economy and provide help for those people, older and younger, who are looking for work. We have set out some of those measures. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Treasury team set out in the autumn statement a range of proposals to do everything we can to stimulate and support the growth of business. I am particularly pleased that in the last quarter private sector employment in the economy increased at a time

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when we face huge economic challenges that were described recently by the Governor of the Bank of England as probably the most difficult in modern peace time history, if not ever. Yet against that background we are determined to give business every opportunity to grow and develop through investment in infrastructure, measures in the tax system and the measures we are taking to deregulate—for example, in relation to health and safety—in order to support business growth. There is no other way of securing the future of our work force or job creation in the economy.

We cannot go back to the uncertainty and instability under the previous Government and under the right hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls), who is chuntering away on the Front Bench and forgets the severe damage that he and his colleagues did to the economy when they were in office.

Alongside the work that we will do and are doing to ensure that business has the best possible opportunity to grow and to create jobs, however, we have put in place a package of support for the unemployed that I believe is more ambitious and more successful than anything that the previous Government did.

Let us start with our work experience scheme, which will double in size under the youth contract and is already helping large numbers of young people to move into work.

Sheila Gilmore: I am sure the Minister agrees that work experience programmes should give people skills that they do not already have, and perhaps confidence if they have not worked for a long time, so why has it been made compulsory for people who have already done the work or had the training to go into jobs such as shelf-stacking, on which I know the Conservative party is so keen? Why is that relevant to people who already have such experience?

Chris Grayling: I simply cannot understand the view that Opposition Members have of our retail sector. Our larger retailers are national and international businesses, with hugely varied career opportunities for young people. The manager of a single supermarket can run a £100 million business, so let nobody say that giving an unemployed young person the opportunity to show to a supermarket chain their ability to contribute to that organisation is nothing but a possible footstone for a long-term career.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, because more than half the young people who are going through our work experience scheme are moving off benefits quickly afterwards. When we make a comparison with the future jobs fund, from which about half moved off benefits immediately afterwards, we find the total cost of that scheme was between £5,000 and £6,000 per placement, whereas the total cost of our work experience scheme—of achieving a similar result—is about £300 per placement. Which do Opposition Members think represents better value for the taxpayer?

Alongside that, we are also delivering 170,000 wage subsidies, through the youth contract, to employers who take on young people, and that is the big difference between our philosophy and that of the Opposition, who simply want to recreate another scheme with artificial, six-month job placements in the public or voluntary sectors. We are trying to create a path to a long-term career for young people. That is what the wage subsidies

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in the youth contract will do, and it is also why we have expanded by so many the number of available apprenticeships. They are not about short-term placements; they are about building long-term career opportunities. Since we took office, we have increased massively the availability of apprenticeships in the economy, precisely because we believe that our young people are best served by creating a path that they can follow to a long-term career opportunity.

The right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) talked about the Work programme, which is providing much better and more intensive support for the long-term unemployed than previous schemes, and about the flexible new deal, which we inherited last year. Let me, however, give him some statistics about that. It cost the Department for Work and Pensions £770 million, and it achieved 50,000 job outcomes in six months—at a cost of £14,000 per job outcome. Does that represent good value for money or a programme worth keeping? Does anybody seriously believe that that programme had the effect he describes?

I am confident that, by contrast, the Work programme will deliver results because it is based on payment by results, and because we have created an environment in which the organisations, large and small, that are delivering the programme are paid only when they succeed in getting somebody into long-term employment. Having now been around the country and visited almost all the providers, I have seen a team of people who are motivated, determined and succeeding in getting the unemployed back to work. I meet people who have not worked for years but who have got back into employment, and people who did not believe they could get back into work but are getting back into employment.

When we publish the figures, and we will, I look forward to demonstrating that that approach makes a difference to the prospects of the long-term unemployed in this country—

Mr Alan Campbell (Tynemouth) (Lab) claimed to move the closure (Standing Order No. 36).

Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.

Question agreed to .

Main Question put accordingly.

The House divided:

Ayes 225, Noes 302.

Division No. 436]

[9.59 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Bell, Sir Stuart

Benn, rh Hilary

Berger, Luciana

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blears, rh Hazel

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Burden, Richard

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Chapman, Mrs Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, Rosie

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Darling, rh Mr Alistair

David, Mr Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Docherty, Thomas

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goggins, rh Paul

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jowell, rh Tessa

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Lloyd, Tony

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Long, Naomi

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Ian

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Mearns, Ian

Michael, rh Alun

Miliband, rh David

Miller, Andrew

Mitchell, Austin

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Mudie, Mr George

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Pound, Stephen

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Robertson, Angus

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Sarwar, Anas

Seabeck, Alison

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Shuker, Gavin

Simpson, David

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watson, Mr Tom

Watts, Mr Dave

Weir, Mr Mike

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Woodcock, John

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Ayes:

Graham Jones and

Susan Elan Jones


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Alexander, rh Danny

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Steve

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Malcolm

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, Paul

Burt, Alistair

Byles, Dan

Cable, rh Vince

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Chishti, Rehman

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davey, Mr Edward

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Dorries, Nadine

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Ellis, Michael

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Farron, Tim

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Fuller, Richard

Garnier, Mr Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, Mr John

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Huhne, rh Chris

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Peter

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Main, Mrs Anne

Maude, rh Mr Francis

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Mensch, Louise

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Patrick

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, Mr Stephen

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, Richard

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Paterson, rh Mr Owen

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Pritchard, Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Sir Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shepherd, Mr Richard

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, rh Sir Peter

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Stephen

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr Philip Dunne and

Mark Hunter

Question accordingly negatived.

23 Jan 2012 : Column 134

23 Jan 2012 : Column 135

23 Jan 2012 : Column 136

23 Jan 2012 : Column 137

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),


That the draft Special Educational Needs (Direct Payments) (Pilot Scheme) Order 2011, which was laid before this House on 7 December, be approved.—(Stephen Crabb.)

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Local Government

That the draft City of Birmingham (Mayoral Referendum) Order 2012, which was laid before this House on 5 December, be approved.—(Stephen Crabb.)

The Speaker’s opinion as to the decision of the Question being challenged, the Division was deferred until Wednesday 25 January (Standing Order No. 41A).

23 Jan 2012 : Column 138

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Regulatory Reform

That the draft Local Better Regulation Office (Dissolution and Transfer of Functions, Etc.) Order 2012, which was laid before this House on 6 December, be approved.—(Stephen Crabb.)

Question agreed to.


Ordered ,

That Angela Smith be discharged from the Administration Committee and Mark Tami be added.—(Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, on behalf of the Committee of Selection ..)

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Ordered ,

That Tom Blenkinsop and Cathy Jamieson be discharged from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and Iain McKenzie and Ms Margaret Ritchie be added.—(Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.)

Scottish Affairs

Ordered ,

That Graeme Morrice be discharged from the Scottish Affairs Committee and Pamela Nash be added.—(Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.)


Closure of Downhills Primary School, Tottenham

10.15 pm

Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab): The petition is from the governors, parents, teachers and community of Downhills primary school in Tottenham.

The petition states:

The Petition of residents of Tottenham,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that there has been inadequate consultation about the Secretary of State for Education’s plans to close Downhills Primary School and re-open it as an academy; that the Petitioners value the links with the community that the school has maintained over the last 100 years; that the Petitioners believe that the Secretary of State’s plans are undemocratic and undermine the recent progress that has been made towards improving standards at the school and that the Petitioners oppose any attempts to change the status of the school without the consent of the community.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Education not to exercise his powers to close Downhills Primary School and re-open it as an academy.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


23 Jan 2012 : Column 139

Gender Balance in Broadcasting

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Stephen Crabb.)

10.16 pm

Nadine Dorries (Mid Bedfordshire) (Con): I was inspired to apply for this debate when, at a Christmas party, I met a very successful and very well-known BBC broadcaster who shall remain anonymous. What I was told shocked me, not least because that very famous individual told me that should he raise the issue within the BBC, life would be made so difficult for him that the end of his career would be just around the corner. I was given a quick resumé of how the BBC behaves with regard to women and female broadcasters, and the sexism inherent not only in the BBC but throughout the broadcasting arena and journalism in general. It was a shocking story.

What is even more shocking is that in the case of the BBC, the general public, 52% of whom are women, pay a licence fee to endorse the behaviour in question. According to the Library, the BBC receives £293 million a year in Government grants, £3.5 billion in licence fee revenue, £888 million from commercial business and £12 million from selling content overseas. It could not earn the last two figures without the Government’s subsidy and the licence fee.

Before I cite some of the examples that highlight the disparity in gender balance in the BBC, may I ask the Minister whether, when the next round of negotiations with the BBC begins and he decides whether to hand over another lump sum of taxpayers’ money and agree the licence fee settlement, he would like to tell the BBC that until it gets its house in order it will not be getting the dosh? In fact, may I go further? I think it is about time the Minister set up a parliamentary Committee to scrutinise the decision-making process within the BBC. Whatever it is doing at the moment, it is simply wrong.

I am not advocating degrading quotas; I am talking about basic commercial common sense. I have only half an hour, so I will cite just a few examples of what I am talking about. First, however, I wish to name-check Kira Cochrane and Alexander Campbell, as I have taken some of what I am about to say from work that they have researched and published, and Frances Rafferty from the National Union of Journalists, who has been very kind and helpful in sending me useful links and information.

Let us begin with radio, and Radio 2. The most listened-to music radio station in the world has not a single female daytime broadcaster. Is that not shameful? Radio 1 has one daytime female presenter. However, Radio 2 has “Sally Traffic”, whose job seems to be moving in and out of one studio after another to massage the egos of the male presenters who are there throughout the day. Although she outstrips most of the presenters in wit and rapport, I imagine that she earns a fraction of what the male egos that she massages do. Sally appears far more intellectual and witty than every male broadcaster whom she has to humour. However, the BBC bosses, whoever they may be, appear not to have noticed that.

Tessa Munt (Wells) (LD): As far as I could see when preparing for this evening, there is not one woman with children in Radio 2’s management above assistant producer

23 Jan 2012 : Column 140

level. That includes the producers, the executive producers, the head of programmes and the controller of Radio 2. That situation may not come as a surprise.

Nadine Dorries: I thank the hon. Lady for that contribution. I have that table of figures, but I decided to concentrate on what the general public see from the BBC. However, I thank her very much for that intervention.

Even though the BBC is wholly funded, one way or another, by taxpayers, half of whom, as I said, are women, the BBC bosses seem to feel that the person who pays the piper does not need representing on daytime radio.

Mr Speaker, I am sure that you remember the amazing Annie Nightingale, and that you grew up, as I did, listening to her on Radio 1. She has more music knowledge in her little finger than the majority of radio presenters today on Radio 1. Do you know what Annie Nightingale does now, Mr Speaker? She presents one programme, one night a week, from 2 till 4 am. That is where the BBC has consigned Annie Nightingale. Jo Wiley is on Radio 2 three nights a week from 8 till 9.30 pm. That is as good as it gets. It is a double travesty. Vanessa Feltz is on Radio 2 weekday mornings from 5 till 6.30. Another music legend—I am sure you remember her name, too, Mr Speaker—Liz Kershaw, is on Radio 6 on Saturday afternoon from 1 till 4. That is where the BBC has placed those fantastic women.

Let us consider the male presenters on the BBC. Some of them are in their 70s and still in primetime spots, yet those women have been consigned to the graveyard. If the BBC placed a banner on top of Broadcasting House and wrote on it, “The BBC does not believe that women deserve to be represented on BBC radio”, that banner would be 100% accurate.

It is frankly amazing that Annie, Liz, Vanessa and Jo have kept hold of their jobs at all, because we all know what the BBC attitude is to women of a certain age. One female radio presenter was not so lucky. We have all heard about the treatment of Sarah Kennedy, who was harassed out of her Radio 2 early morning spot in the most appalling way after 17 years’ service. Mocked by Radio 1 male presenter Chris Moyles in a tribute evening to yet another male presenter, Terry Wogan, Sarah eventually threw in the towel, citing a campaign by two BBC male employees to get her out of her job. Sarah was not so lucky: someone was after her job. It is only because of the public outcry and anger that that graveyard spot, which was a good platform for a new male presenter trying to climb the ladder, is now hosted by Vanessa Feltz.

Let us move to news and current affairs. The “Today” programme on Radio 4 has 7 million listeners a day. Many of them are influential and decision makers. Yet only 16% of the voices heard on the “Today” programme—comprising both contributors and presenters—are women’s. As Jane Martinson states on the women’s blog, and as others have pointed out, if the female presenter is away from the presenting team, one can go two whole hours in the morning when listening to the “Today” programme without a single female voice, and have male voices speaking at you throughout all that time.

Tessa Munt: When we look at the structure of the radio system and the controllers of Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3, Radio 4 and Radio 5, we see that only Radio 4 has a female controller. The director of radio and the director-general are both male. I am sure that the hon.

23 Jan 2012 : Column 141

Lady agrees that in local radio, it is horrific that only one woman presents a breakfast show, out of 43 such flagship programmes.

Nadine Dorries: Perhaps the hon. Lady and I should apply for a joint Adjournment debate.

When questioned about the fact that there were no female voices on Radio 2 for two hours on one particular day, BBC editors said that that was okay because they did not receive any letters of complaint. I wonder whether they thought for a moment that the nation’s women are far too busy to write letters to male BBC editors. I suspect that most women believe that the BBC is so male dominated that there is no point in writing. Most women have read about the high-profile cases of Sarah Kennedy, Miriam O’Reilly, Anna Ford, Selina Scott, Moira Stuart, Arlene Phillips and others. Sensible women will think, “What’s the point of writing to such an ageist, sexist organisation—even if I am paying for it?”

If radio is not bad enough, one can only cringe at television, especially the BBC. Let us consider the more popular and highly rated programmes. It would appear that in the minds of TV bosses, the viewing public only enjoy watching ageing male hosts accompanied by young blonde females. I shall list some of the names: Forsyth and Daly, of “Strictly Come Dancing”; Chiles and Bleakley; Schofield and Willoughby; and Cowell and Holden. Even on sensible “Countdown”, we find Stelling and Riley. “Elderly male, young female” is an unchallenged formula.

It is not just that women’s representation on radio and TV is woeful, but that sexism and ageism are combined, and at their worst, in current affairs and politics. Only one in 10 women working in television are aged over 50. As the number of people that TV employs shrinks, the biggest losers are women, by two to one.

I note that on the day of this debate the “Daily Politics” show invited three female MPs as guests—a rare day indeed, and a sticking plaster over a gaping wound. At least this debate has had a tiny effect, even if for just one day. Perhaps it is time the BBC took a long hard look at its political news and current affairs programmes on both radio and TV, because the way in which they are presented says, to me and everyone else, that the BBC believes that women are not capable of presenting such programmes, and therefore by implication that they do not watch them.

Perhaps if women did watch such programmes, they could relate to the people presenting them. Let us forgive Andrew Marr’s line-up of the best 20 political moments of 2011, and the fact that each and every politician was male. Let us not include David Dimbleby or Jeremy Paxman or Jeremy Vine; let us give them an exemption, because all three are undeniable experts and silos of historical political knowledge, and considered to be more national treasures than presenters. I will do a quick round-up of the men who present TV news and current affairs: Robinson, Naughtie, Webb, Campbell, Marr, Craven, Davis, Snow, Stewart, Murnaghan, Boulton, Sopel, Mair, Simpson, Mason, Pienaar, Stourton, Portillo, Esler, Edwards, Matt Frei, Murphy, Austin, Gibbon, Crick, Thompson and Islam. That is just the top layer of news and current affairs. I challenge any hon. Member to start a list of women. They would get stuck at three names.

23 Jan 2012 : Column 142

Hon. Members may have noticed that the name of Mr Andrew Neil was not in that list, but I will give him a quick mention. I have had an outburst against this particular gentleman; I am not proud of the fact that I described him as an ageing, overweight, orange toupee-wearing has-been. One could describe a number of male presenters in those terms. However, I made that outburst because of the outwardly sexist comments that that particularly rude man has made about female politicians on his “This Week” programme, which almost every week features three ageing men and a token woman. Why are we women paying for that? Not only do we not want to watch it; we object to paying for it. Mr Neil has a verbose style that is aggressive, abrasive and often rude, which massively turns women off. He uses the shadow public health Minister as his token female only to attack her on the programme, which he does frequently, including last week. Because she declined to appear, he again made unpleasant sexist comments about her.

I remember the first time I appeared on his programme. I was asked to appear on a Monday morning; all the MPs were on their way to the House of Commons and they could not get anyone else to speak. I ran over to College green and did a little piece to camera and gave a quick quote on David Cameron’s election campaign. Mr Neil thought I could not hear him as I finished, but I still had the earpiece in, and heard him say, “Well, she looked tired and out of breath there didn’t she?” Would he have said that about a male politician who had run over to College green to do that piece? No. It was another sexist, negative Mr Andrew Neil pearler, saved just for the women politicians. How can we possibly encourage more women into Parliament, when they see men like that, and the media in general, making sexist comments about female politicians? The Home Secretary was on the front of Total Politics magazine today, but all anyone has spoken about is how she looked and what she was wearing, not what she had to say or the substance of the article. Why would any woman want to join us in this place when that is how they are regarded and spoken about?

The BBC is seen as the holy grail by the left. I believe that an irrational desire by the left to protect the BBC and not attack it or highlight its faults has allowed the present situation to occur, under the prolonged former governance by Labour. It is a worrying theme that the left irrationally protects what it regards as the issues on its turf, sometimes to the detriment of women. MPs are also loth to challenge the BBC, for fear that they will no longer be invited to make their points on television or BBC programmes—and I will probably be living proof that they are right. However, such considerations are cowardly.

In conclusion, the left may have ignored the behaviour of the BBC while it was in government, but if the Minister continues that pattern of behaviour, I and others will view it as a dereliction of the duties of his office. I would like him to tell us in his response what steps he will take, apart from using the financial hammer—which I mentioned at the beginning of my speech—with which he can hit the BBC over the head. What else is he going to do to end the culture of ageism, sexism and poor-quality male-dominated programming that we women are paying for, and are subjected to?

23 Jan 2012 : Column 143

10.31 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (Mr Edward Vaizey): I am grateful for the chance to respond to this important debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Nadine Dorries) has a formidable reputation for bringing difficult issues to the House and raising subjects that others might fear to bring to public prominence. The representation of women across the media, but particularly at the BBC, is an important issue that is worth addressing.

Many of the statistics that my hon. Friend quoted are very much a cause for concern. Some of them came from a recently established campaign group called Sound Women that aims to support and celebrate the work of women in UK radio. It published an important report called “Tuning out”—which one can find on its website,—that was commissioned by the training agency Skillset, which I work with closely to promote skills in the creative industries. The report found that women are less likely to make it to the top of radio, making up just a third of senior managers and less than a fifth at board level. It will not surprise the House to hear that women in radio are more qualified than men, with three quarters having degrees, compared with less than two thirds of men. However, women are still paid less, by an average of £2,200 a year.

Older women with children are less well represented, as the hon. Member for Wells (Tessa Munt) said. In fact, a lot of women abandon the radio industry after the age of about 35. As was also pointed out by the hon. Lady, who supported my hon. Friend so ably in this debate, out of 50 BBC local radio breakfast shows, only one is presented by a woman. Some 84% of reporters and guests on Radio 4’s “Today” programme are men. Indeed, on 5 July 2011, one would have had to wait from 6.15 am until 8.20 am to hear one female contributor, alongside the 27 male contributors to that programme. My hon. Friend therefore raises an important point.

Having raised those issues of concern, let me make it clear that I am nevertheless an admirer and respecter of the BBC, which forms the cornerstone of public service broadcasting in this country. Personally, I for one think it is the finest public service broadcaster in the world today. We want to ensure that the BBC remains a national asset, but as my hon. Friend rightly pointed out, if it is to maintain its pre-eminence and prominence, it must address the issue of gender imbalance. We are well aware of the criticism that too many of the presenters at the BBC are men, and of the calls for more women presenters.

I want to make an important point; I am sure that my hon. Friend will regard it as a cop-out, but I am going to make it anyway. It is that the BBC is independent of the Government, and I do not think that Members would want to have it any other way. I do not think that they would want politicians to use a particular issue as an excuse to interfere too closely with the operational or editorial independence of the BBC. There is therefore, quite rightly, no provision for the Government to become involved in the BBC’s day-to-day operational and editorial decisions. For the same reason, the Government are equally committed to the independence of other broadcasters, and will not seek to intervene directly in their on-screen or staff gender balance.

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The BBC agreement does, however, place a duty on the BBC executive board to make arrangements for promoting the equality of opportunity between men and women. The BBC executive board is accountable to the BBC Trust, and it is the duty of the trust to ensure that the duty on equality of opportunity is met. The BBC, Channel 4 and S4C are all subject to the Equality Act 2010, which seeks to eliminate discrimination and harassment and to advance equality of opportunity. Under the terms of the Act, all those broadcasters must publish equality objectives every four years, and publish information to demonstrate compliance with the general equality duty.

Tessa Munt: I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, but I find myself amazed that, while six of the 39 DJs at Radio 1 are women—all those DJs form the opinions of young women and young men across the country—that station had a greater number of female DJs in 1987. Setting four-year objectives does not seem to be having any impact whatever, if nothing has improved in all the intervening years.

Mr Vaizey: The hon. Lady makes her point forcefully, and I shall come to the points that she and my hon. Friend have raised.

I have mentioned the editorial independence of the BBC, and it is important to point out that all broadcasters’ content and output services are exempt from the provisions of the Equality Act, to ensure that politicians do not interfere in the editorial independence of those broadcasters.

Ofcom, the independent regulator, also has a duty in regard to the promotion of equal opportunities, and we are in the process of reforming that. I must emphasise that that does not mean that we will take those obligations any less seriously. However, with the Equality Act 2010, we believe that equality duties will be undertaken more efficiently with legislation in one place. We will be consulting shortly on our proposals, and I hope that the hon. Lady and my hon. Friend will participate in the consultation.

I think that to talk about redressing the balance is to put it too strongly, but I want to use this opportunity to point out areas in which broadcasters have made progress. My hon. Friend and the hon. Lady have both, quite rightly, highlighted the imbalance that exists in broadcasting, but it is worth pointing out that 50% of BBC Trust members are women. The proportion of females on the BBC executive board is only 42%, but that is still a far higher proportion than is found on the majority of corporate boards. Within the whole staff of the BBC, women make up 49% of the total, and more women are joining the organisation than men at the moment.

Nadine Dorries: That is an interesting figure. If we were to look at the proportions of men and women among the total number of people in the House of Commons, we would probably find that they were about the same, taking into account the administrative and secretarial jobs. It does not actually mean anything to say that half the staff of the BBC are women. Those in the key jobs—the important, opinion-forming jobs; the ones that people listen to—are men. A bit like the House of Commons.

Mr Vaizey: Certainly as far as I am concerned, the people in the House of Commons who do the administrative and behind-the-scenes work are as important, if not

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more important, than those who do the front-of-house work. I take my hon. Friend’s point, however, which is to draw attention to the public face of the BBC and to ask how female-friendly it is. I shall come to that point later. Let me finish my short defence of the BBC, however. In BBC Vision, for example, 63% of the staff are women and, in the audio music division, 53% of the staff are women.

My hon. Friend talked about The Guardian’s recent interest in the number of female presenters on BBC radio and, of course, Jane Garvey has raised the issue on “Woman’s Hour”. I noticed that today a very rare event happened on “Woman’s Hour”, as a Conservative MP appeared and it was a woman, my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Karen Lumley). That is, in a way, some progress. The BBC has some outstanding female presenters and it might amuse my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Bedfordshire to know that when the corporation sent us the list, at the top was Annie Nightingale. She can read into that what she likes. There were also Sarah Montague, Fearne Cotton, Shelagh Fogarty, who happens to be a personal favourite of mine, Jenni Murray, Lauren Laverne, Mariella Frostrup, Jo Whiley, Zoe Ball, Moira Stuart and, of course, Jane Garvey. If I might abuse my office, I am personally very disappointed that the BBC did not include Rachel Burden in that list. As hon. Members will be aware, she is the formidable female presenter on the BBC 5 Live Breakfast show, which is the show I listen to in the morning. There are some formidable presenters on the BBC.

In Channel 4, 58% of the employees are women, which represents a 1% increase on the previous year. Four out of seven of the executive team are women and so are six out of the 13 board members. Since we are trading names and numbers, as it were, Channel 4 also has a strong representation of women presenters, including Cathy Newman, obviously, who has recently joined Channel 4 News. Mary Portas, Kirstie Allsopp, Sarah Beeny, Katie Piper, Jo Frost, Anna Richardson and Davina McCall all lead their own shows.

There are also powerful women in the channel’s film and dramas: Vicky McClure in “This Is England”; Lauren Socha in “Misfits”; Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady”, who won the 2012 Golden Globe award for best

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actress; and Olivia Colman in “Tyrannosaur”. Channel 4 has the formidable Baroness King leading its equality and diversity practice and, behind the scenes, it has also tried to tackle some aspects of production where women are under-represented. Channel 4 has placed a special emphasis through its online education projects on working with female writers and developers, a group still under-represented in the digital media.

Those are the statistics and the points that might balance the formidable case made by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Bedfordshire. I noticed her reference to her spat with Andrew Neil, and I do not know whether she has talked herself out of appearing on “The Daily Politics” in future. I hesitate to make any joke about that, because when I heard that she had described Andrew Neil as an orange, overweight, toupee-wearing has-been, I was going to say that almost all those adjectives probably apply to me.

My hon. Friend made some very serious points and this has been an ongoing issue in the media, which is why we have very good campaign groups such as Women in Film and Television. The organisation Sound Women would not have been created out of thin air—there must have been a problem with women appearing on radio as presenters.

My offer to the hon. Member for Wells and to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Bedfordshire is to broker a meeting with both of them—if that would be all right with you, Mr Speaker, as they both made formidable contributions to the debate—with the director-general of the BBC, Mark Thompson, and we will sit down and discuss this issue. It is an issue that we must keep pressing at. Some people might regard it as frivolous or something that makes good copy for a parliamentary sketch, but my hon. Friend made a valid and fundamental point: we want to hear a balance of voices on the radio and to see a balance of presenters on the television. We do not want to set quotas or diktats, but we do want to maintain a dialogue and pressure. I look forward to brokering that important meeting.

Question put and agreed to.

10.44 pm

House adjourned.