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House of Commons

Wednesday 12 March 2014

The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock


[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

Cabinet Office

The Minister for the Cabinet Office was asked—

Trade Union Subscriptions

1. Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) (Lab): What his policy is on the deduction of trade union subscriptions from payroll in the civil service. [902978]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Mr Francis Maude): The deduction of trade union subscriptions from payroll through check-off is a matter delegated to Departments in the civil service.

Ian Murray: The civil service has used check-off for the last 30 years. Indeed, large companies such as BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce use it as a very efficient way to deduct trade union subscriptions from salary. Is this not just another ideological attack? Removing check-off from the civil service payroll will cost many times more than running the current system for hundreds of years.

Mr Maude: As I say, it is a matter for Departments to decide for themselves. A number of trade unions take the view that it is much better to have a direct relationship with their members than to have it intermediated through the employer—it is a rather more modern way to run things.

Priti Patel (Witham) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend think that it is fair on hard-working British taxpayers that their money is used to subsidise the administration of trade unions rather than going to front-line services?

Mr Maude: My hon. Friend has been a doughty campaigner for the use of facility time to be much better regulated. We inherited from Labour a position in which very large amounts of public money were being spent on subsidising 250 full-time officials in the civil service alone, let alone in the wider public sector. I am happy to tell her that we have got that under control.

Michael Dugher (Barnsley East) (Lab): The Minister says that this is a matter for individual Departments, but the private secretary in his Department has written to every Department in Whitehall asking them to review check-off. We know that the Government, for political reasons, want to scrap check-off, and I have seen a copy of an official letter from the Department for Work and Pensions, which was subsequently withheld by Ministers, that states:

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“The department has concluded that the figure for the financial implications of ending check-off should be disclosed…The information held states: ‘We estimate that implementation costs could exceed one million pounds’.”

In the light of that revelation, will he agree, in the interests of transparency, to publish the full financial implications of this misguided policy?

Mr Maude: I am happy to bring the hon. Gentleman up to date. The DWP has subsequently said that that was a speculative and inaccurate figure—

Michael Dugher: It did not say that.

Mr Maude: Well, with respect, I have seen more recent correspondence than the hon. Gentleman has seen. The truth is that Ministers—as he will recall from his time in government—are sometimes given figures for the cost of making a change that turn out not to be true. This is such a case.

Public Bodies

2. Nadine Dorries (Mid Bedfordshire) (Con): What progress he has made on his programme of quango and public body reform. [902979]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Mr Francis Maude): The Government have reduced the number of public bodies by more than 250. By 2015, there will be a third fewer public bodies than in 2010, ensuring increased accountability and efficiency, with continuing efficiency savings of £900 million a year.

Nadine Dorries: Many quangos are unaccountable, unelected and have great power over people’s everyday lives. They are incredibly expensive to run, with questionable outcomes. Will the Minister please consider another round of the bonfire of the quangos to continue our march towards a leaner and more efficient Government?

Mr Maude: I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s encouragement. Our quest for a leaner and more efficient Government has already yielded savings of more than £10 billion in the last financial year. Labour did nothing on that whatever, which is part of the reason why we inherited the biggest budget deficit in the developed world. We have more to do, and for the first time we have instituted a round of triennial reviews so that every three years we look at the status of every public body to decide whether it still needs to exist or whether it can be trimmed back. We find that there is scope for much more progress yet.

Mr Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab): Will the Minister confirm that the abolition of the UK Film Council and its amalgamation with the British Film Institute will ensure that we continue to make the most of British talent, in that wonderful creative industry?

Mr Maude: I am confident that that will be the case. My colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport examined this question very carefully before making the decisions they did. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the importance of the film industry

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in this country: it is a very bright star indeed, and we should certainly ensure that we do nothing that jeopardises that.

13. [902992] Mr David Amess (Southend West) (Con): Sadly, one of Tony Blair’s lasting legacies was the creation of a huge number of unelected, unaccountable, highly paid quangos, which has ruined this place and taken power from it. Will my right hon. Friend reassure me by telling me what efforts he is making to return power and accountability to the House of Commons?

Mr Maude: A major part of the programme of public bodies reform has been bringing policy functions back to the Government in a way that provides direct accountability to Parliament through Ministers. That is a big part of increasing accountability, but the secondary purpose of the reform of public bodies has been to save money, and I am glad to say that it looks as though the savings will, if anything, exceed our expectations.

Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP): The Minister has told us about the reduction in the number of quangos. Will he now tell us what progress is being made in increasing the cost-effectiveness of those that remain?

Mr Maude: That is a continuing process. There is much more to be done to increase efficiency. As I have said, we saved more than £10 billion across central Government last year, and we expect the saving to exceed £13 billion in the current financial year, which will end this month. There is much more to be done on quango reform, but as I have said, we expect to save £900 million a year, and have already saved about £1.6 billion.

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): In the course of his ongoing work on public body and quango reform, will the Minister consider adjusting the responsibilities of the Major Projects Authority? Among its options, the authority has the responsibility to

“require publication of project information consistent with the Coalition’s transparency agenda”.

That is not happening. The Government have suppressed the MPA’s detailed report on HS2, hiding behind a summary. Is it not about time that we were given an accurate description of public bodies, or that the Government published the report?

Mr Maude: As my right hon. Friend knows, we are publishing much more detail about the Government’s major projects than has ever been published before. The role of the Major Projects Authority has ensured that, for the first time, consistent oversight and assurance are being applied to the Government’s major projects portfolio, and as a result, having inherited a position in which only about a third of major Government projects were delivered on time and on budget, we now find that the proportion is more like 70%. We are making a great deal of progress, but I hear what my right hon. Friend says.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): Speaking about public body reform in 2012, the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee said that

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“the Cabinet Office must get to grips with the programme’s overall costs, benefits and key risks”.

However, a recent National Audit Office report showed that those failings were still in place. When will the Minister get a grip?

Mr Maude: It is a bit surprising that the hon. Gentleman should raise that point, given that the last Government did absolutely nothing on this front. We inherited a position in which the Government did not even know how many public bodies there were, but by the time of the next election, we will have reduced the number by a third and cut the costs significantly: we will have cut the cost of quangos by £2.6 billion. I hope that, at some stage, the hon. Gentleman will reflect on the poor record of his own Government. We would be willing, at that stage, to accept his congratulations on what we have done.

Charitable Giving

3. Steve Brine (Winchester) (Con): What the level of charitable giving was in the last year for which figures are available. [902980]

The Minister for Civil Society (Mr Nick Hurd): Three quarters of British people give money to charity, and on that measure, we are the most generous of all the G8 countries. Collectively, in 2010-11 we gave £16.5 billion to charity through direct and indirect donations, and with active Government support. I am delighted to say that the amount of giving appears to have remained constant since 2010, despite difficult times. I am sure that that is something that the whole House will welcome.

Steve Brine: Indeed it is. The Minister will be aware of the good things that we can achieve through “round the pound” schemes, and I know that he, like me, is a fan of the organisation Pennies. Will he therefore back my “Winchester penny” idea? The aim is to support the third sector in my constituency by encouraging local businesses, including those that are part of national chains, to join Winchester’s efforts to ensure that we keep it local and support those who are most in need.

Mr Hurd: I wholeheartedly support my hon. Friend’s initiative. I know that he is a great champion of the voluntary sector in Winchester. We are great fans of Pennies, which is one of the organisations that we have supported through our innovation in giving fund, and which is modernising the way in which we can make micro-donations. I am delighted that my hon. Friend has launched his initiative in Winchester. I congratulate him on his leadership, and congratulate all the businesses that he has so far succeeded in signing up to what seems an excellent initiative.

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): More and more younger donors are choosing to make their charitable donations by text, yet this group of people are being woefully failed in terms of Gift Aid. Will the Minister look into this, so that Gift Aid support is available for donors who give by text?

Mr Hurd: I wholly understand the hon. Lady’s point. People are giving in new ways, harnessing the power of new technology. One of the challenges we face is how

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we can help to make giving easy and compelling in the modern age. She will be aware that we work very hard with our colleagues at the Treasury to try to modernise Gift Aid, such as by making it easier to claim Gift Aid on small donations, and she will be aware that there is an active consultation on how we modernise Gift Aid in the digital world, including how we can harness it to support text-giving.

Public Bodies: Appointments

4. Mr Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne East) (Lab): What his policy is on the inclusion of people with different political points of view on public bodies. [902981]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Mr Francis Maude): Ministerial appointments to public bodies are made on merit.

Mr Brown: The Minister will recall that when in the 1980s the then Conservative Government abolished the metropolitan county authorities, the Government were scrupulous in making arrangements for the successor joint boards to recognise the rights of minority groups on the local authorities as well as the majority groups. Such arrangements do not pertain to the new combined authorities that I see from today’s Order Paper we are bringing in. Why is that?

Mr Maude: I will look at the point that the right hon. Gentleman raises. The truth is that in the last year for which the commissioner for public appointments has published figures on public appointments, actually slightly more appointees declared a Labour party affiliation than a Conservative party affiliation, but for appointments generally we seek people with some commercial experience of running large organisations who can bring to bear the same desire for efficiency and eradicating waste as we are showing in central Government.

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the fact that the rather artificial and silly row about Conservatives being appointed to public bodies has now thankfully come to an end? Also, I inform him and the House that the Public Administration Select Committee is going to have a look at the relationship between public bodies and their sponsoring Departments, to see how they perform in bad times as well as good, how they deal with crises and how accountability should be improved.

Mr Maude: I of course welcome that inquiry. This is an important issue that should be kept under considerable review. Where the Executive and Parliament forgo the ability for a public activity to be directly accountable to Parliament, we need to understand very clearly how that responsibility is being executed.

Jonathan Ashworth (Leicester South) (Lab): I am not sure that the row has come to an end, because in recent weeks we have learned that a Tory donor has been made chair of Natural England, that a former Tory Member of this House has been made chair of the Care Quality Commission, and indeed in the Cabinet Office an impartial civil service post, heading up the appointments unit, has gone to a former member of Conservative central

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office. So can the Minister, who is of course a former Tory party chairman, explain why an exemption was agreed to give Laura Wyld that Cabinet Office post?

Mr Maude: One has to admire the gall of the hon. Gentleman, given that the Government of whom he was a supporter relentlessly stuffed public bodies full of Labour donors and Labour lickspittles. It was the most appalling abuse of power. We are running things in a substantially better way, as the statistic I have just disclosed illustrates. Further, I can inform the hon. Gentleman that the number of women appointed to public appointments is now up to 45% for the last period, which is significantly better than anything his Government ever even began to achieve.

Procurement (Savings)

5. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): What assessment he has made of the level of savings resulting from procurement and commercial reform across central Government since May 2010; and if he will make a statement. [902982]

The Minister for Civil Society (Mr Nick Hurd): Through a range of very overdue commercial and procurement reforms across central Government, the efficiency and reform group set up by the Minister for the Cabinet Office has delivered savings of £3.75 billion in 2010-11, a further £5.5 billion in 2011-12 and an additional £10 billion in 2012-13.

Michael Fabricant: What a shame the Labour party did not do that, and did not mend the roof while the sun was shining. Nevertheless, there are still things that we need to do. My hon. Friend will know that there have been problems at the Ministry of Justice with G4S and Serco. What lessons has he learned from that, to prevent such problems from happening again?

Mr Hurd: I thank my hon. Friend for that question. It is worth reminding the House that the Labour Front Bencher who had the opportunity to realise those savings but failed to deliver them now leads the party. In answer to my hon. Friend’s question, the review that we launched after the Ministry of Justice found irregularities with contracts let under the previous Labour Government underscored the need to strengthen the commercial capability of the civil service, which was long overdue.

Sarah Champion (Rotherham) (Lab): In Rotherham, small and medium-sized charities are struggling to keep afloat because of moves towards larger-scale procurement. Does the Minister agree that, while such procurement can make savings, it can also cause suffering?

Mr Hurd: This Government are extremely committed to trying to open up the public service so that more, and more diverse, organisations can help us to deliver better value for the taxpayer. That explicitly includes charities, social enterprises and public service mutuals. Yesterday, we announced a publication that updates the House on our progress. We are making progress. We are not yet where I want to be, as this involves a quite profound cultural change, but we are committed to seeing this through.

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Government Websites

6. David Rutley (Macclesfield) (Con): What progress he has made on replacing individual Government websites with gov.uk. [902983]

9. Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): What progress he has made on replacing individual Government websites with gov.uk. [902987]

The Minister for Civil Society (Mr Nick Hurd): So far, we have closed an astonishing 1,789 Government websites. We are in the process of moving the remaining 200 on to gov.uk by July 2014. In that process, we are not just saving £42 million but providing, at long last, a single source of consistent, clear information on Government policies.

David Rutley: I welcome the action that my hon. Friend is taking. Will he update the House on the progress that is being made on digitising the apprenticeships application process, and tell us when it will be available on gov.uk?

Mr Hurd: That is a very important service, for reasons that the House understands, and it is a priority for us. We have built a prototype, which will be tested with users over the coming months, and our hope is that a version of this important service will be available from October this year.

Henry Smith: Will my hon. Friend tell us what best practice local authorities can take from this central Government initiative?

Mr Hurd: I thank my hon. Friend for that important question. There is a huge opportunity to harness best practice across local government, and that is why we have partnered with the Local Government Association and other sector partners to establish a local digital alliance. We are collaborating with and supporting local government to design and deliver local public services online. That will allow them to offer value for money and to maximise the opportunities presented by digital tools.

The Big Society

7. Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): What recent progress the Government have made on implementing the big society. [902985]

The Minister for Civil Society (Mr Nick Hurd): I hope that the hon. Lady will join me in celebrating the fact that volunteering has risen since 2010 after years of decline, and that almost 2,000 young people in Bristol and the immediate surrounding area will have the opportunity to take part in the National Citizen Service this year.

Kerry McCarthy: I am sure that the Government are embarrassed by the fact that food banks have now become by far the most visible sign of the big society in action and have now, de facto, become part of the welfare system. Jobcentres are being told to signpost them, rather than refer people to them, in order to mask their connection with benefit sanctions and

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delays. Is this a sign of the success of the big society: food banks feeding the starving because of the failures of the welfare system’s safety net?

Mr Hurd: Food banks are an impressive civil society response to a need that, as the hon. Lady knows, emerged before the last general election. We have supported a number of them through our social action fund. I hope that she agrees that they are not a long-term solution to the complex issue of food poverty. There are no simple answers, despite what Opposition Members claim, but a large part of the solution is a recovering economy and the long-overdue reform of the welfare system, and that is what we are delivering.

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that the best example of the big society is people power, and that the best example of people power is an in/out referendum on the EU, which those on the Opposition Benches oppose?

Mr Hurd: I wholly support my hon. Friend. He is a great champion of the big society and is entirely right that a large pillar of that is giving more power to the people. As we have learned today, there is only one party that will give people the power to make that important choice.

Lisa Nandy (Wigan) (Lab): The Archbishop of Westminster, Civil Exchange and the Centre for Social Justice have all delivered damning verdicts on the Government’s big society recently. They have shown that people are being thrown on to charity, because the state has failed; that there are three times as many charities in affluent neighbourhoods as in deprived ones; and that while volunteering is thriving, it is not in the places where it is needed most. Was it the intention of the big society that some would swim while others would sink?

Mr Hurd: In fact, the excellent Centre for Social Justice report actually highlighted how much progress this Government have made in doing what we said we would do, which is transferring power to people, opening up public services so that more and more organisations can come in to help us to deliver better services, and encouraging social action. As I said, giving in this country has remained constant since 2010 and volunteering has risen, which I hope the hon. Lady would welcome.

Topical Questions

T1. [902993] Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General (Mr Francis Maude): My responsibilities are for the public sector Efficiency and Reform Group, civil service issues, industrial relations strategy in the public sector, government transparency, civil contingencies, civil society and cyber-security.

Mr Davis: The Wilson doctrine is a convention whereby Government agencies do not intercept communications with Members of Parliament without explicit approval

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from the Prime Minister. In a letter to my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield North (Nick de Bois) in 2012, the Minister told him that the Wilson doctrine did not apply to metadata, thereby exposing whistleblowers to risks from which parliamentary privilege should protect them. Will he review this policy, discuss it with the Prime Minister and report to the House?

Mr Maude: I absolutely understand the point that my right hon. Friend makes and I will undertake to look at this with my right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister.

T4. [902996] Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): The Minister has a bit of a reputation as a pyromaniac, trying to have bonfires of regulations, quangos and much else. If that is the case, why is he allowing the Financial Conduct Authority to introduce a new code that will inhibit crowdfunding and local people in their communities in raising money through social media? Why do we have this new regulation?

Mr Maude: I accept the compliment that the hon. Gentleman pays me—gracefully, I hope—but the issue he raises is not one with which I am familiar. I am sure that my right hon. Friends in the Treasury will want to look at it. It is a great pleasure to have representation from the Opposition about excessive regulation. [Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order. Far too many excessively noisy private conversations are taking place. Let us have a bit of order for Mr Mel Stride.

T2. [902994] Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con): My right hon. Friend will know that the Public and Commercial Services Union, which stood up with such militancy against his pension reforms, has discovered that it has a £65 million black hole in its own pension scheme. Does he agree that the union should spend more time looking after its members and less time politicising Government reforms?

Mr Maude: All organisations that run a pension scheme have to live in the real world. I am sure that the leadership of the PCS will take pleasure in the fact that its members in the civil service continue to enjoy a pension scheme that is significantly better than the one that the PCS offers to its own staff.

T6. [902999] Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North) (Lab): There is huge concern about the Government’s proposals to sell or part-privatise the Land Registry, putting 400 civil service jobs in Durham at risk. It works and even turns a profit for the Treasury. Why fix what is not broken? Has the Minister discussed this with his Department for Business, Innovation and Skills colleagues, and if not, why not?

Mr Maude: I have indeed discussed this with my colleagues in BIS. I do not take the gloomy view that the hon. Lady takes, that any involvement of the private sector means that the Land Registry will be less effective or have less opportunity to grow. A lot of what the Land Registry does is excellent, and there is a real

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opportunity for it to grow. If that involves bringing in a private sector partner, or private sector capital of one form or another, I hope that she would support that.

T3. [902995] Mr Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton) (Con): May I welcome the Minister’s plans to improve accountability for senior civil service appointments? To ensure transparency and the scrutiny of appointments, may I also urge him to consider making the shortlists for appointments for the heads of quangos, Whitehall Departments and international courts the subject of prior scrutiny by Select Committees?

Mr Maude: My hon. Friend’s latter point is constantly reviewed, and it will come as no surprise to him that his urging is supported by many Select Committees. On his first point, for the first time all permanent secretary appointments are for a fixed tenure of five years. We publish the objectives of permanent secretaries, and all this is beginning to be more accountable than it has ever been before.

T7. [903000] Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab): This week concerns were expressed in the media about the move to a shared network for emergency services. Why are the Government refusing to share the risk assessment, saying that it will prejudice the procurement process?

Mr Maude: I am not familiar with the particular issue that the hon. Lady raises, but I will happily look at it and get back to her.

T5. [902997] David T. C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): What would be the administrative consequences for government if patients languishing on long waiting lists in Wales were given access to the far higher quality services delivered by the coalition NHS in England?

Mr Maude: As my hon. Friend knows, I was in Wales last week, and the deficiencies of the health service under Labour guidance in Wales were a subject of constant discussion.

T8. [903001] Graham Jones (Hyndburn) (Lab): Last weekend I was searching for a V14 form to return a tax disc, I did a search on Google, and a copycat website came up offering services that cost money. What efforts are being made by the Government to work with the advertising agencies to try to deal with copycat websites that are ripping people off?

Mr Maude: My colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and I had a meeting with Google and others last week to address exactly this issue. We are taking urgent steps, with Google and with the Advertising Standards Authority, to address it. It is a real concern, the hon. Gentleman is right to raise it and we are on the case.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—


Q1. [902963] Naomi Long (Belfast East) (Alliance): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 12 March.

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The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Nick Clegg): I have been asked to reply on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who is visiting Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in paying tribute to Sapper Adam Moralee from 32 Engineer Regiment, who tragically died in Camp Bastion on 5 March. He will be greatly missed by his family and friends, and our deepest sympathies are with them at this time.

On a happier note, I am sure the whole House would also like to join me in paying tribute to our first Team GB winter Paralympic gold medal winner, Kelly Gallagher, and her team mate, Jade Etherington, who has won silver and bronze medals at the Sochi games. I, of course, wish to send the best of luck to the other Team GB competitors.

This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.

Naomi Long: May I, too, send my sympathies, thoughts and prayers to the family of Sapper Moralee and my congratulations to Kelly Gallagher, from Northern Ireland of course, who competed and won the first gold medal?

Given rising racism and xenophobia, including recent racist attacks in my constituency, what more can the Government do to ensure that the public debate on issues such as European Union membership and immigration is more balanced and celebrates the huge positive contribution made to the social, cultural and economic life of the UK, particularly in the run-up to the European elections?

The Deputy Prime Minister: Of course I agree with the hon. Lady that we need to strike the right balance, explaining to the public that we are running a tough but firm immigration system where it needs to be tough and firm, but one that is open to those who want to come here, make a contribution, pay their taxes and contribute to our way of life. I was deeply saddened and shocked to hear about the incidents and what had happened to members of the Polish and Chinese community in her constituency, and even more so to hear about what has happened to her colleague Anna Lo, Member of the Legislative Assembly. I understand that she is the first Member of Chinese descent in any legislature in Europe, but she, too, has been subject to terrible abuse by bullies and racists. I rang her a few weeks ago to express my support for what she is doing to stand up against that terrible treatment.

Q2. [902964] Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): Since a £700 tax cut, free school meals and the pupil premium will improve the opportunities and lives of many of my constituents, even though these ideas were not entirely welcome to some among our coalition partners, will my right hon. Friend welcome the fact that coalition government and the compromises that go with it can deliver sound policies?

The Deputy Prime Minister: Yes, I strongly agree with my right hon. Friend, especially on those policies. One of them, as he will know, is in the papers this morning, because of the slightly inexplicable views of an entirely unknown if highly opinionated ex-party

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adviser to the Conservative party about free school meals. Free school meals, when they are delivered for those in infant school in September, will save families money, improve the health of children and improve educational outcomes. Instead of denigrating that policy, we should be celebrating it.

Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab): I join the Deputy Prime Minister in paying tribute to Sapper Adam Moralee from 32 Engineer Regiment. We honour his bravery and service, but above all send our deepest condolences to his family and friends who mourn him.

I join the Deputy Prime Minister, too, in congratulating our Paralympic medal winners, and wish all Team GB the best of luck in the rest of the games.

At the last general election, the Deputy Prime Minister said that local people should have more control over their health services. Will he explain to the House and the public why last night he voted against that?

The Deputy Prime Minister: Actually, we voted for measures that will ensure that there is local consultation. [Interruption.] I am intrigued by the right hon. and learned Lady’s line of inquiry, given the Labour party’s record on the NHS. We do not need to go any further than what is happening in Wales, where the NHS has not met its target since 2009. It was the Labour party in government that entered into a succession of sweetheart deals, with the covert privatisation of large parts of our NHS. I really do not think that, after the Francis report and all the other revelations of what happened in the NHS under Labour, it has much to stand on.

Ms Harman: The right hon. Gentleman is even prepared to justify what he voted on last night. The truth is that the Health Secretary broke the law that gave local people a say, so decided to change the law. The Lib Dems could have stepped in and stopped it, but oh no, here is what they did instead. First, they said that they were against the change, then they put down an amendment, then they sold out to the Tories—and the Tories got their way again. Is there any logic to how the Lib Dems vote other than self-interest?

The Deputy Prime Minister: This from a party that spent £250 million on sweetheart deals for the private sector, which led to operations and procedures that did not help a single patient; a party that now rants and rails against competition in the NHS, but actually introduced it; a party that suffers from collective amnesia about the terrible suffering of the patients in Mid Staffordshire and other parts of the NHS mismanaged by it.

Ms Harman: Hospitals are under threat and they want a say. People will remember what the Deputy Prime Minister has said in the House today.

At their spring conference last week, Lib Dem Ministers were falling over themselves to denounce Government policies, and even their own departmental colleagues, describing them variously as “unfair”, “absurd” and “hated”, yet they keep supporting them. Take the bedroom tax. The right hon. Gentleman’s own party president says that the bedroom tax is wrong, unnecessary and

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causing misery, but they voted for it. Now they say they want to abolish it. Are they for the bedroom tax or against it? Which is it?

The Deputy Prime Minister: There are 1.7 million people on the housing waiting lists in our country and there are 1.5 million spare bedrooms. That is a problem that we inherited, like so many problems, from the Labour party. We are trying to sort out the mess that it created. If it is incapable of taking any responsibility or expressing any apology for the mess that it has created, why should we take any of the right hon. and learned Lady’s questions seriously at all?

Ms Harman: The Liberal Democrats are for the bedroom tax—only Labour will scrap it.

The Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury said that cutting the top rate of tax would be “cloud cuckoo land”. If the Lib Dems were against this tax cut, why did they vote for it?

The Deputy Prime Minister: Guess what the top rate of tax was under Labour. Anybody? Was it 50p or 45p? Anybody? It was 40p for 13 years, and now the right hon. and learned Lady is complaining that it is 5p higher. Honestly, if she is going to try to make consistency a virtue, how about this? This week, the Labour party has been talking about the need to give young people job opportunities. Last week, it tabled an amendment to the Deregulation Bill which would tell half a million young people on level 2 apprenticeships that they are no longer apprentices. Worse than that, it issued a report a few months ago that said that hundreds of thousands of youngsters on level 2 apprenticeships are—get this—dead weight. What a kick in the teeth for the young people we should be helping on to apprenticeships.

Ms Harman: We will have a bankers’ bonus tax for youth jobs because youth unemployment has doubled—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order. I apologise for interrupting the right hon. and learned Lady. When both principals have been at the Dispatch Box, there has been far too much noise. People ought to be able to hear the questions and answers. Whether or not Members respect each other, they ought to respect the public.

Ms Harman: Long-term youth unemployment has doubled under the right hon. Gentleman’s Government. With so many people struggling to make ends meet and many even driven to relying on food banks, it is an absolute disgrace that the Lib Dems voted through a tax cut for the richest.

On Sunday, the Deputy Prime Minister shared with us everything that he loves about Britain. He loves his cup of tea, he loves the shipping forecast and he loves flip-flops—not so much footwear for the Deputy Prime Minister, but certainly a way of life. With his broken promises and posturing, does he not realise that he might love Britain, but Britain does not love him back?

The Deputy Prime Minister: The punchline was a long time in the delivery and it was not really worth waiting for. I know that the right hon. and learned Lady does not want the facts to get in the way of a pre-prepared

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joke, but how about this? Youth unemployment is lower now than when we came into office. In her last year in office, 1 million more people were in relative poverty than there are now; half a million more children were in relative poverty than there are now; 150,000 more people were unemployed than there are now; and 25,000 more young people were unemployed. What we know is that Labour is the party of a 40p top tax rate, of sweetheart deals for the private sector in the NHS and of Fred Goodwin—and now they are the party against apprenticeships.

Ms Harman: What the Deputy Prime Minister has shown is that he is siding with the Tories and is totally out of touch. Whatever was said last weekend, no one is going to be fooled by the Lib Dems’ phoney rows with the Tories when week in, week out they are justifying policies at the Dispatch Box and trotting through the Lobby with the Tories. They used to talk about two parties coming together in the national interest; now they are two parties bound together by a mutual terror of the electorate.

The Deputy Prime Minister: However the right hon. and learned Lady wishes to characterise things, she has a record that she needs to defend: of boom and bust, of sucking up to the City and of presiding—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order. The Deputy Prime Minister’s response must be heard.

The Deputy Prime Minister: She has a record of an increase in relative poverty, an increase in unemployment and an increase in youth unemployment, and of bequeathing to a generation the country’s worst peacetime deficit ever. Is that really a record that the right hon. and learned Lady is proud of? As ever, we are clearing up the mess that she left behind.

Q3. [902965] Andrew George (St Ives) (LD): The Government’s response to the recent storm damage, to help fishermen and to restore the link at Dawlish is very much appreciated, but the severe damage to Penzance-Scilly and the vital lifeline transport links to the Isles of Scilly has largely gone unnoticed, and it is not something that local authorities can resolve entirely on their own. Will the Deputy Prime Minister ensure that a delegation from my constituency can meet the appropriate Ministers and officials, so that we can seek the support necessary to find a long-term and resilient solution to the problem?

The Deputy Prime Minister: I visited my hon. Friend’s constituency to see the damage done to many communities by the terrible floods and extreme weather of recent times. I know how long he has been campaigning on the issue. I will ensure that that meeting takes place with the relevant Minister in Government.

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): This week, it is surely right to extend condolences to the family and friends of Bob Crow.

The Secretary of State for Defence has issued a ministerial correction in which he corrects the falsehood that there was no measurable change in the radiation discharge at HMS Vulcan near Dounreay. Does the

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Deputy Prime Minister agree that the Ministry of Defence should be fully answerable to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency?

The Deputy Prime Minister: I also express my condolences to the family and friends of Bob Crow. Whether one agreed with him or not, he was someone with forthright views, and he always worked tirelessly for what he believed in and for the people he represented.

On the issue of Dounreay, the Ministry of Defence sought to be as open as possible. It is important that all of us work together to ensure that the nuclear deterrent is managed and maintained safely, and that is exactly what everyone seeks to do.

Mr Speaker: I call Mr Peter Bone.

Hon. Members: Hooray!

Q4. [902966] Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): We now know that the Leader of the Opposition is opposed to an EU referendum and will not deliver one. The Deputy Prime Minister is opposed to an EU referendum and will not deliver one. The leader of the UK Independence party wants an EU referendum but cannot deliver one. The Prime Minister wants an EU referendum and will deliver it by 2017. Will the stand-in Prime Minister tell the House which of the party leaders trusts the British people and is a real democrat?

The Deputy Prime Minister: As ever, it is a pleasure! I am glad to see that the hon. Gentleman has fans on the Labour Benches. As he mentions my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, let me quote what he said at this Dispatch Box just a couple of years ago when we voted together on this very issue. He said:

“My clear view is that it is when this Parliament proposes to give up powers that there should be a referendum. That is the guarantee that we have written into the law of the land…It is important that we try to establish clear rules for the use of referendums in a parliamentary democracy, and I absolutely believe that rule 1, line 1 is: ‘If you’re giving up powers that belong to the British people, you should ask them first.’”—[Official Report, 24 October 2011; Vol. 534, c. 33-39.]

I entirely agree. That was the Government’s position then, that was what we legislated on and that remains my view.

Mr Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley) (Lab): A recent survey of the TUC reckoned that 67% of hard-working people in private industry will not be getting a rise this year. How does that square with the fat cats in the City and the bankers getting their big bonuses?

The Deputy Prime Minister: The richest in society are paying more in every year of this Parliament than they did in any year under Labour. It was the hon. Gentleman’s party that let the bankers run amok. It was his party, the party of Fred Goodwin, that went on a prawn cocktail charm offensive to suck up to the bankers in the first place. It wiped off so much of the value of the British economy—it amounts to £3,000 lost to every household in the United Kingdom. Is that a record that he is proud of?

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Q5. [902967] Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does the Deputy Prime Minister accept that the measures that have been announced so far have had no impact on President Putin and the Russian Government, who are refusing to negotiate with the Ukrainian Government and continue to strengthen their hold on Crimea? Will the Government now press for targeted economic sanctions against senior members of the Russian Government and their supporters in order to reinforce the message that the annexation of Crimea is unacceptable and wholly in breach of international law?

The Deputy Prime Minister: I am sure that my hon. Friend speaks for everyone in all parts of the House when he says that we should seek to do everything to deter the Russians from making the situation any worse and to de-escalate. That is why it is terribly important that we work together with our American allies and with countries across the European Union and use the collective economic and political clout of the European Union to set out, as we have done, a ratchet of sanctions, which can and will be deployed if de-escalation does not happen. I hope that that will start very soon with Russian agreements to enter into a contact group so that direct talks can start between Kiev and Moscow.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): On his party’s recent defeat by the Bus Pass Elvis candidate, could not the electorate’s message to the Deputy Prime Minister be summarised by paraphrasing the words of a song by the original Elvis—“You ain’t nothing but a lapdog”?

The Deputy Prime Minister: At least we are not the lapdog of the bankers, which is what Labour was in office. At least we did not crash the British economy. At least we did not cost every household £3,000. At least we did not preside over an increase in relative poverty. At least we did not preside over an increase in youth unemployment. We are creating the stronger economy and fairer society that the Labour party failed to create.

Q6. [902968] Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con): The Deputy Prime Minister will have been encouraged to hear that the economy is growing faster than expected, showing the value of this Government’s long-term economic plan. Does he share my satisfaction that that is being achieved through a resurgence in manufacturing? In my constituency, Automotive Insulations, suppliers to the motor industry, has more than doubled in size over the past three years and is investing in a new 65,000 square feet factory in Rugby.

The Deputy Prime Minister: I strongly agree. By sticking to the plan, despite all the overtures from Opposition Members to abandon it, we have provided the stability and growth to the British economy that otherwise would not have taken place. We have seen spectacular success in the automotive sector. A vehicle rolls off a British production line every 20 seconds. We are producing more cars than ever before. Of course, the Labour party presided over a decline in manufacturing three times greater than that which happened in the 1980s.

Q7. [902970] Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab): Last week my constituents in Clifton North elected a new Labour councillor. Does the Deputy

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Prime Minister think that it was his party’s support for the bedroom tax, the trebling of tuition fees, unfair cuts to the poorest families or the betrayal of the NHS that led my constituents to put the Buss Pass Elvis candidate ahead of the Liberal Democrats?

The Deputy Prime Minister: Putting Buss Pass Elvis aside for a moment—I admit that it was a novel experience for us, as it no doubt was for the people of Clifton—did the Labour candidate admit that Labour cost every household in Clifton £3,000? Did it admit that Labour allowed the bankers to run amok in 2008? Did it admit that Labour was the party that crashed the British economy? Did anyone on the doorstep apologise to the people of Clifton for what the Labour party did to this country?

Q8. [902971] Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con): The Cotswolds is a very special place because of stewardship and planning, yet in the past year that has been threatened by thousands of applications for new houses. Localism seems to have gone out the window and the area of outstanding natural beauty is simply not being protected. What can my right hon. Friend do to help resolve that?

The Deputy Prime Minister: I know that my hon. Friend feels very strongly about this. There are strong planning protections in place for areas of outstanding natural beauty, which are some of this country’s most important treasures, as he rightly said. The national planning policy framework is clear that great weight should be given to conserving areas of outstanding natural beauty, which have the highest level of protection. He might be interested to know that we announced only last week that areas of outstanding natural beauty and national parks will be excluded from new legislation allowing agricultural buildings to be converted into housing without the need for planning applications.

Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East) (Lab): Can the Deputy Prime Minister confirm that if the independent review body on health service staff pay recommends an increase the Government will accept that advice; or will they freeze the pay of some of the lowest earners in the NHS for yet another year?

The Deputy Prime Minister: We will make the announcement on our views of the pay review body’s recommendations shortly, but what we want to do is protect what is now the highest number of nurses employed in the NHS since it was founded. We need to ensure that the NHS continues to employ more clinical staff, rather than fewer, as happened under Labour, to ensure that patients get the best possible treatment under the NHS.

Q9. [902972] Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): On Monday, South Korean newspapers said that North Korea was due to execute 33 people for having had contact with a Christian missionary. Given that a quarter of a million people are in North Korean prison camps, will the Deputy Prime Minister urge the BBC World Service to use its existing transmitters to broadcast into North Korea, especially as more and more North Koreans now have access to radios?

The Deputy Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman raises a very important issue. As he knows, our embassy in Pyongyang continues to engage critically with the

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North Korean regime and tries to ensure that there are as many opportunities for dialogue as possible, including information coming into the country. The BBC World Service is of course operationally, editorially and managerially independent. I understand that at the end of last year it decided, following a review, that it could not continue to offer an effective and affordable Korean language service. That is of course a matter for the BBC World Service itself.

Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab): Victoria Liggatt of Staveley died after GPs missed several chances to spot her cancer. She is the most serious victim of the failure of the Holywell Medical Group in Chesterfield. Yet she and the 20,000 other patients there who are desperately trying to get an appointment are also victims, are they not, of the Deputy Prime Minister’s shameless, spineless capitulation to the Tories on the NHS?

The Deputy Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman might not know this, but as I pointed out earlier, it was his party that wasted a quarter of a billion pounds of taxpayers’ money on sweetheart deals with the private sector to undermine the NHS on tariffs that the NHS could not meet for operations that were not delivered. While he is asking a question, why cannot he tell the House why, only last week, he tabled an amendment to tell 500,000 youngsters that they can no longer be called apprentices? We stand up for fairness, we stand up for a strong NHS, and he does not.

Q10. [902974] David T. C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): Has the Deputy Prime Minister read the testimony of Mariana Robinson—a victim of the Labour-run NHS in Wales—in yesterday’s Western Mail? Does he have sympathy with all those suffering on longer waiting lists and with less access to drugs? Does he agree that it is time to give them the opportunity to access the far better services that are being delivered by this coalition Government for NHS patients in England?

The Deputy Prime Minister: I was appalled, and I am sure everybody would be appalled, by the experiences of one of the hon. Gentleman’s constituents. In Wales, where the NHS is run by Labour, 33%—a third—of patients wait more than eight weeks to access diagnostic services. In England, only just over 1% of patients wait longer than six weeks for the same services. I think the comparison speaks for itself.

Q11. [902975] John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) (Lab/Co-op): This week marks three years since the bloodshed began in Syria. More than 2.5 million people have fled the country, and the dead can no longer even be counted. We must all bear responsibility for our shameful failure to intervene, but the Government are supposed to be the ones running the country. So what renewed effort will the Deputy Prime Minister’s Government make to end the slaughter before all hope fails?

The Deputy Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman knows my own views. I felt that there was a case for intervention at the time when we voted on this. Of course, his party voted against it, but if he now wants to speak to his own party leadership on that matter, he is more than welcome to do so. I agree with him. The

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humanitarian catastrophe there is on an unimaginable scale, and we must do everything we can to help. That is why—I think I am right in saying—our humanitarian effort there is now the largest that this country has ever delivered. It is also why the Home Secretary and others in Government are now administering, in conjunction with the United Nations, a new programme whereby we allow the most destitute and desperate refugees some refuge in this country.

Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley) (Con): During the recent floods, the Prime Minister rightly announced grants of £5,000 for people in the homes flooded to put in flood defence measures. The Deputy Prime Minister can therefore imagine the disappointment of people from the 1,000 homes in Calder Valley who were flooded only 18 months previously but got no such support. Will he agree to look at this policy with the Prime Minister to see whether the same grants can be made available to those people in Calder Valley who were flooded as well?

The Deputy Prime Minister: Of course I will. As someone who witnessed the terrible flooding in my own constituency some years ago, I know that flooding can hit different parts of the country in different ways. As we adapt to this new, very difficult reality, we must make sure that we build up resilience in all parts of the country and provide assistance as fully and consistently as we can across the country.

Q12. [902976] Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): The hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) agrees with me that the hated bedroom tax is causing misery for those affected. Does the Deputy Prime Minister agree with the president of his party or with his friend the Prime Minister?

The Deputy Prime Minister: I think, and everybody thinks, that we need to deal with the mismatch between large numbers of people on the housing waiting list—something the hon. Lady’s party never did anything to address in 13 years—and with the fact that there are large number of spare bedrooms that are not being used. Her Government presided over the change—which we are now delivering in the social rented sector—in the private rented sector. She needs to explain why they want to support the change in one part of the housing system and not in the other.

Q13. [902977] Penny Mordaunt (Portsmouth North) (Con): Portsmouth football club made history by becoming the UK’s largest, 100% community buy-out. Today, many much-loved clubs face an uncertain future owing to lack of financial transparency, opaque football authority rules and a structure that promotes irresponsibility in business and, if the team in question happens to be a women’s team, that does not promote sporting excellence. Does the Deputy Prime Minister agree that we need to learn the lessons from Portsmouth, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s report and the work of Supporters Direct, and act to protect the interests of clubs, their fans and, ultimately, the national game?

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The Deputy Prime Minister: I certainly agree with my hon. Friend—as, I am sure, will football fans across the country—that this is a really important issue. We cannot have big money hollow out the game that everybody loves. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is looking at the issue on an ongoing basis, and I strongly urge my hon. Friend to take it up with her. It is certainly something that we need to keep a close eye on so that sports clubs large and small can thrive in our country.

Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): There are reports that the Department for Work and Pensions is proposing to stop paying benefits into the Post Office card account. Does the Deputy Prime Minister support that policy?

The Deputy Prime Minister: I do not think that is true. I will certainly confirm that for the hon. Gentleman, but it is not something that I am aware of.

Caroline Nokes (Romsey and Southampton North) (Con): Last Thursday, 16-year-old Sam Mangoro from Romsey collapsed in a school PE lesson. One of the reasons he is still alive is that the excellent Mountbatten school already had a defibrillator. It has ordered two more. What steps is my right hon. Friend prepared to take to encourage more schools to make sure that they have defibrillators, and will he commend the work of the excellent Oliver King Foundation, which has been leading the way on this issue?

The Deputy Prime Minister: I and, I am sure, many other hon. Members have also come across this issue in schools, sporting clubs and other recreational facilities in our constituencies. There are some great organisations—my hon. Friend mentioned one of them—that are promoting the need to make defibrillators more available, and I certainly think we should all work with those campaign groups to raise the profile of this important issue.

Lucy Powell (Manchester Central) (Lab/Co-op): A report out last week showed that the average nursery cost is now higher than the cost of the average mortgage and that child-care costs have risen five times faster than wages since the election. Given that the Deputy Prime Minister’s long-awaited tax-free child-care scheme will be announced soon, what discussions has he had about the scheme’s relationship with universal credit and the cliff edges it creates, and what assessment has he made of the scheme and its impact on price inflation?

The Deputy Prime Minister: The hon. Lady raises a very important issue. As it happens, child-care costs are finally starting to come down in England, but they continue to go up, of course, in Labour-run Wales. We must do all we can to help parents and families with these costs. That is why we are delivering 15 hours of free child care and pre-school support to all three and four-year-olds and, for the first time ever, to two-year-olds from this country’s the most deprived families. The hon. Lady is right: of course we need to do more. That is why we will announce shortly the details of the tax-free child-care offer, which will benefit many families across the country who face very high costs.

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Private Rented Sector

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

12.34 pm

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to prevent the charging by letting agents of above-cost fees; to provide that the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007 and Estate Agents Act 1979 apply to letting agencies; to facilitate the establishment by councils of landlord and property accreditation schemes; to establish a housing ombudsman service for tenants in the private rented sector; to require the Secretary of State to undertake a review of the legislation applying to the private rented sector; and for connected purposes.

Two of my constituents recently came to see me at my surgery. They had rented a property in Cambridge. They cleaned up very carefully when they left, but they forgot to fill in three small holes where there had been picture hooks. They were told that some of the deposit would be withheld to cover the damage—fair enough—but the sum charged for three bits of Polyfilla and a lick of paint was £600. They, quite reasonably, refused to pay so much, but were almost immediately offered a deal of half as much. They have now taken the matter to arbitration, but during that time they will not get back the £600.

The letting agency will also not get that money until the deal is settled—such days have gone—but given that many people use the deposit from one place to pay for the deposit on the next, many simply cannot afford to wait to go to arbitration and have to accept whatever deal they are offered. That creates an incentive for letting agents simply to pitch for as much as they can get away with, knowing that some people will just pay it or take whatever they are offered, but that very few will challenge it all the way, regardless of the merits of the case. That is a particular problem in areas of high demand, such as mine, where all the power lies with letting agents rather than with tenants.

There is a similar issue with fees. Letting agents can and do charge exorbitant amounts for credit checks, to put prospective tenants on a register, to extend contracts and to make many other small changes. Shelter, which has run an excellent campaign on this issue, has found that one in seven renters who use letting agents paid more than £500 in fees. That is outrageous, because agents are already paid by the landlord.

Fees bear no relation to the costs. Last night, I looked at one Cambridge site that charges £50 for a credit check and £16 to send any e-mail or letter, which is somewhat above the cost. It also charges £250 to change a name on a tenancy. That is a big problem for houses in multiple occupation, of which we have many, where the people change regularly.

The Bill I seek to introduce would help those in the private rented sector by tackling those problems. It would prevent exorbitant fees being charged, extend to letting agents the controls that apply to estate agents, strengthen local government’s powers to highlight good landlords, extend the existing housing ombudsman to cover the private rented sector as well as the social housing sector, and ensure a thorough Government review of all legislation applying to the private rented

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sector, as recommended by the Communities and Local Government Committee. The Government are already doing some consultation work.

Of course, many landlords and letting agencies are decent and honest, and do not try to make a living by ripping off their tenants. I was always fortunate to have such an experience. Those good people should have nothing to fear from the controls. Indeed, they will probably benefit as the rogues sharpen up their act or go out of business.

Demand in the private rented sector has continued to rise through changing living patterns and people struggling to pull together the money for a deposit. Shelter’s latest estimate is that about 9 million people in England rent their home, about a third of whom are families. There have been substantial changes in how this business is run, with more and more power in the hands of letting agents.

High fees, especially when they are hidden and people do not know that they are coming, have a huge effect on people’s lives. Many people rent because they cannot yet afford to buy, so they do not have much spare cash. Research has revealed that 27% of those who have used a letting agency in the past three years had to borrow or use a loan to pay fees, and that 17% had to cut spending on heating or food to cover costs. That cannot be right, and it must end.

The Bill strives to give more security and better conditions to those in the private rented sector. There is a housing ombudsman for people in the social sector, as well as for private sector landlords who choose to be covered by it, but why should it cover only the good landlords, who are probably less likely to have problems in the first place? Why should other tenants not have such protection?

We should not choke the sector in red tape, which would of course reduce investment, restrict choice and ultimately drive up costs for tenants, but we can and should do much more. The Government have already done some work in this area. I particularly welcome the £6.7 million given to local authorities to help to tackle rogue landlord activity by the very worst of the worst slum landlords. However, there is more to do to empower tenants by ensuring that they know their rights, know what they are getting and know how to complain if things go wrong.

That is why I propose that councils should be encouraged to run accreditation schemes, as has been done so well in my constituency. Lib Dem-run Cambridge city council’s landlord and property accreditation scheme has been effective. It has helped landlords and tenants, and has driven up safety and sustainability standards. There are far fewer complaints about accredited properties. In fact, there has been only one complaint about an accredited property so far, compared with roughly 250 a year about non-accredited properties. Universities up and down the country know that. They give students the information that they need to know about landlords in the area, such as who is good and who is less good.

Accreditation allows us to tackle issues of safety and sustainability. Safety is a key issue. Privately rented homes are the most likely to contain the worst hazards—category 1 hazards—according to the English housing survey. There is a mismatch in the regime. There is a mandatory requirement to check the gas safety of a

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privately rented home, but not to check its electrical safety. Given that electricity kills at least one person a week in the home and injures about 1,000 people every day, and that private tenants are affected disproportionately, we should actively seek a solution.

There are similar issues with sustainability. There will always be less of an incentive for landlords to insulate properties that are privately rented, because they do not pay the bills. Cambridge has used its accreditation process to encourage landlords to uprate the energy standards in their properties. I hope that we will see that across the country, because it would help to reduce our reliance on gas, which may come from risky territories.

We should also consider making changes because people are renting for different periods. Tenancy patterns are changing for a number of reasons. People do not always want a six-month or one-year approach. We should look at new forms of tenancy and at expanding the options. There should be appropriate rolling clauses so that people can get what they want. Six-month and one-year tenancies are very insecure for families who want to put down roots and connect with the community in which they live. We should normalise longer-term leases in the private sector and educate landlords about the advantages to them of stable, longer rents. They should do better out of them.

I hope that the House will support the motion and support the millions of families and individuals who rent. The changes that I have outlined are simple, but, if implemented, will not only help to create a fairer and more stable private sector, but improve quality and investment for everybody.

Question put and agreed to.


That Dr Julian Huppert, Caroline Lucas, Tim Farron, Sarah Teather, Lorraine Fullbrook, Mr Adrian Sanders, Greg Mulholland, Annette Brooke, Martin Horwood, Teresa Pearce, Mr John Leech and Jim Shannon present the Bill.

Dr Julian Huppert accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 6 June, and to be printed (Bill 182).

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Intellectual Property Bill [Lords]

Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee

New Clause 1

Future of intellectual property

‘(1) Subordinate legislation to implement the Government’s policy statement entitled “Modernising Copyright”, published in December 2012, may not be brought forward until the Secretary of State has published, and laid before both Houses of Parliament, a report setting out the Government’s long term plans for the future of intellectual property in the United Kingdom.’.—(Mr Iain Wright.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

12.43 pm

Mr Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 2, in clause 13, page 11, leave out lines 40 to 41.

Amendment 3, page 12, leave out lines 6 to 7.

Amendment 4, page 12, leave out line 19.

Amendment 5, page 12, line 41, at end insert—

‘(9) In this section “design right” includes an unregistered community design and a reference to the owner of the design right is also to be read as a reference to the owner of a community design right in a design.’.

Amendment 1, in clause 17, page 17, line 31, at end insert—

‘(3A) In making an order under this section which confers jurisdiction on a court, removes jurisdiction from a court or varies the jurisdiction of a court, the Secretary of State shall—

(a) ensure he takes into account the views of—

(i) HM Courts and Tribunals Service;

(ii) the Scottish Courts Services;

(iii) the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service; and

(iv) any other appropriate body;


(b) where the number of patent cases is such as to meet the requirements as set out in Article 7 of the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court, to confer local divisional court jurisdiction on—

(i) in England and Wales, the High Court;

(ii) in Scotland, the Court of Session; and

(iii) in Northern Ireland, the High Court.’.

Amendment 6, in clause 20, page 18, line 32, leave out ‘obtained in the’ and insert

‘created or obtained in the planning of, or’.

Mr Wright: It is good to be back discussing the Intellectual Property Bill.

We discussed the new clause in Committee and are returning to it on Report because, in the intervening period, there has been no progress. I will remind the House about this long-running saga.

The Government made proposals on copyright exceptions in 2012, during the passage of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013. In December 2012, the Government published “Modernising Copyright”.

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One could be forgiven for thinking that that was a simple and straightforward means of implementing the recommendations of the Hargreaves review, as the Government try to maintain. I will come on to the crucial matter of implementation in a moment. However, the level of opposition from stakeholders and the delay in implementing the Government’s proposals suggest otherwise.

In “Modernising Copyright”, Ministers stated:

“The Government will publish draft legislation for technical review in 2013. It intends to introduce the measures in the smallest possible number of statutory instruments to minimise disruption to stakeholders, make best use of Parliamentary time and ensure that the revised system is implemented in a clear and consistent manner. The intention is that measures will come into force in October 2013.”

None of those plans has proved successful.

Major changes to copyright have usually been made through primary legislation. The Copyright Act 1911 placed provisions into one piece of legislation for the first time, and the Copyright Act 1956 put into statute the UK’s accession to the universal copyright convention, and protected for the first time media such as films and broadcasts by copyright. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 provided a major reform of the copyright process, and currently remains the main legislative framework.

When modernising copyright, however, the Government do not intend to make changes via primary legislation but rather through statutory instrument. As is clear from the document I have already cited, the Government always intended to bundle up the proposals on copyright exception into

“the smallest possible number of statutory instruments.”—[Official Report, 4 February 2013; Vol. 558, c. 54W.]

On Report of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill in October 2012, the Minister stated that

“any proposed exceptions will be the subject of secondary legislation and will therefore be debated. Each separate element of a statutory instrument can be debated—that is the function of the secondary legislation procedure.”—[Official Report, 17 October 2012; Vol. 551, c. 406.]

That is certainly true; each element can be debated separately, but the key point that will concern the House is that it will not necessarily be possible to vote on each element separately, and that still seems to be the Government’s position.

On Second Reading the Minister stated that

“the regulations will not be completely bundled up.”—[Official Report, 20 January 2014; Vol. 574, c. 83.]

That is a curious phrase that I referred to in Committee, which gives rise to the strong possibility—even probability—that bundling will occur. In Committee, he said that he was not in a position to say how many different instruments there will be, and that the Government were still consulting on the matter with parliamentary counsel. It is six weeks or so since we discussed the issue in Committee on 30 January, but I do not think he is in a position to provide much of an update. In Committee the Minister said:

“The problem with IP and copyright is not insufficient reviews, but insufficient implementation. We are implementing. That is what the Bill is about,”.––[Official Report, Intellectual Property Public Bill Committee, 30 January 2014; c. 91.]

However, evidence shows that that is far from the case.

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Let us be clear and put on the record the dither and uncertainty that the Government have provided to those stakeholders involved with copyright. As I said, the Government’s response to “Modernising Copyright” was published in December 2012. In early June 2013, documents were published in relation to new exceptions for private copying, parody, quotation and amendments to exception for public administration. Later that month a new exception for data analysis for non-commercial research was published, as were amendments to exceptions for education and research, libraries and archives.

In July 2013, further amendments to copyright exceptions for people with disabilities were published. All documents were subject to consultation periods that ended in the summer or early autumn of 2013. Since then, no tangible progress has been announced. On Second Reading the Minister pledged that regulations would be laid before the House in February, and in Committee I asked whether the Government still intended February to be the target date. The Minister responded:

“That remains our intention; I cannot put it more strongly than that, can I?”––[Official Report, Intellectual Property Public Bill Committee, 30 January 2014; c. 93.]

Well, he could. We are now into mid-March, and we have still not seen any white smoke from Victoria street. That delay is causing uncertainty among the creative industries, and undermining our competitiveness and attraction as a nation for this crucial sector in the new economy.

The hon. Member for Hove (Mike Weatherley) is knowledgeable and diligent about these matters. He is the Prime Minister’s adviser on IP and served on the Committee, and I am pleased to see him in his place this afternoon. Last week, he received a response to a parliamentary question that he asked about progress made by the Department on drafting changes to copyright exceptions. I hope he will not mind my quoting the Minister’s response, because it is important and helped shape my view on whether we needed an amendment on Report. In his reply to the hon. Member for Hove, the Minister said:

“The Government are grateful for the contributions of all those who responded to the various consultations and have continued to engage with stakeholders since the review closed. We have made a number of technical changes following the helpful input of stakeholders, and we consider the regulations have been improved as a result. So, the regulations will be different in light of the valuable consultation process.

The draft regulations are subject to final checking and in accordance with routine practice the Department is currently consulting the legal advisers to the Joint Committee on statutory instruments. This process can help to avoid difficulties about powers, drafting, etc. arising at a later stage, and assists both the Department and the Committee in minimising any delay in the passage of an instrument. Unless otherwise agreed with the legal adviser, Departments should normally allow a period of not less than two sitting weeks for this advance scrutiny. The regulations will be laid before Parliament and published as soon as this process is complete. The regulations will be subject to affirmative resolution and will be debated in both Houses of Parliament.

The Government will publish a response to the technical review, explanatory notes, guidance and other supporting documents alongside the regulations. This will explain the changes we have made to the drafts on which we consulted and why. Copies of all of these documents will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and will be available on the IPO website.”—[Official Report, 6 March 2014; Vol. 576, c. 944W.]

The Minister for Universities and Science (Mr David Willetts): That was a very good speech.

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Mr Wright: Thank you very much.

Does what the Minister said mean that we will see the regulations in less than a fortnight? When will they come before the House for consideration? Will it be before the next Session begins in June? Given that, as his answer states, the Government have made a number of technical changes, and as the regulations will be different, will he confirm that a further round of wider consultation is not needed? He cannot seriously suggest that a commencement date of 1 April 2014 is still feasible. Will he give further details?

Mike Weatherley (Hove) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the earlier part of that answer, in which the Minister stated that he welcomed the contributions and had made amendments accordingly, is potentially good news?

Mr Wright: It could be good news, but we are acting in the dark. The Minister said in Committee—the hon. Gentleman was there—that the Government are in implementation mode. However, the hon. Gentleman, who is a knowledgeable expert, must accept that it looks very much like the Government are making it up as they go along, with no long-term vision for the direction of IP or copyright.

The Government have been left floundering. The hon. Member for Hove alluded to the fact that they have had to be rescued by stakeholders and have reinforced the impression that IP policy is not considered a priority, despite the importance now and in future of the creative industries. That is why new clause 1 is as relevant now as when we discussed it in Committee. The Government’s handling of this important matter has been shambolic, and I should like to test the opinion of the House on it. It is important that we send out a clear message that copyright is important. It is an important driver of wealth creation in the 21st century, and what the Government have done is not good enough.

On amendments 2 and 3, clause 13 was debated at length in Committee and in the other place. I do not want to detain the House, but, as I have said several times during the passage of the Bill, it is the most contentious measure. It is a significant matter when Parliament decides to impose criminal sanctions. The provision that ensures that anybody convicted of deliberately infringing registered designs can go to prison for 10 years needs careful consideration.

Some stakeholders have stated that such a provision will have a chilling effect on innovation in this country and that, as a result, Britain will lose something of our comparative advantage and competitiveness in creativity and innovation. We should not easily give away that advantage in innovation and design. As a result of that persuasive argument from industry—from Dyson and others—the Government tabled amendments in Committee to tighten the wording of clause 13 to ensure that unintentional infringement is not captured by the new criminal sanctions.

Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con) rose—

Mr Wright: Given that the hon. Gentleman and I have discussed the involvement of Dyson, I am happy to give way to him.

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Mr Gray: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for mentioning that outstanding company in my constituency. Dyson now employs some 1,500 designers and does groundbreaking design work in Britain. I am also grateful to the hon. Gentleman and the Opposition for agreeing to table the amendment. The word “intentional” should be included in clause 13, but will he explain why amendment 2, which removes insignificant changes from the exemption, makes any sense at all?

Mr Wright: I will come to that later, if I may. In Committee, Government amendments reworded the clause to ensure that it referred only to designs

“with features that differ only in immaterial details from the design”.

Amendment 3 would remove that wording. Let me explain the purpose of that to the hon. Gentleman. We do not want to set the bar lower than the Government intend, but the current wording will provide more uncertainty and the prospect of further litigation. Is there not a risk that the clause will focus on counterfeits rather than on intentional infringement and copying? Given what the Minister said in Committee, I am pretty sure that that is not what he intends.

I mentioned in Committee the fascinating and informative case of Apple v. Samsung. In the context of that court case, is there not a need to consider the design corpus and the informed user? The test for infringement of community designs is whether the later design produces an overall different impression on the informed user. I believe that that is important and would like the Minister’s view. Why is he not using that wording from community designs legislation?

The Minister might recall that in Committee I quoted the judge in the Apple v. Samsung case, who said:

“When I first saw the Samsung products in this case I was struck by how similar they look to the Apple design when they are resting on a table. They look similar because they both have the same front screen. It stands out. However to the informed user (which at that stage I was not) these screens do not stand out to anything like the same extent. The front view of the Apple design takes its place amongst its kindred prior art.”

Does the Minister accept that his current wording, which emphasises “immaterial designs”, will more than likely be concerned with counterfeits? Why has he not included in the clause the common community wording for infringement of community designs, which asks whether the later design produces an overall different impression on the informed user? That is the purpose of amendments 2 and 3.

Like other proposals, amendment 5 has been debated several times during the Bill’s passage in the other place and the House. It is essentially about consistency and the scope of effectiveness. If the Government believe—it is a big “if”, and opinion is polarised—that intentional infringement of design rights should be subject to a prison sentence of up to 10 years, why should that criminal sanction apply solely to registered designs rather than also to unregistered designs?

As I mentioned in Committee, about 4,000 designs are registered in the UK each year, and about 18,000 to 25,000 unregistered designs are lodged with the Anti Copying in Design database. I also mentioned in Committee a glaring inconsistency in the Government’s position—that is at the heart of the amendment. On the one hand, in Committee in the other place in June, the Minister said:

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“SMEs…do not tend to register their designs”.

If so, what are the Government hoping to achieve with that provision? On the other hand, the same Minister said:

“The introduction of criminal sanctions for unregistered rights could lead to a negative effect on business and innovation.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 13 June 2013; Vol. 745, c. GC395-409.]

If that is the case for unregistered designs, why is it not the case for designs that the innovator has gone to the trouble of registering? I cannot believe that the Government’s position is consistent.

In Committee, the Minister gave a practical example to illustrate his opposition to the amendment by referring to the design of a sofa. Where I come from, we call a “sofa” a “settee”—that is the proper word for that piece of furniture. The Minister said that, if a case about an unregistered design of a settee—or a sofa—were to be brought before a criminal court, it would need to establish whether the right existed and which parts of the design were original. As we discussed in Committee, surely the concept of design corpus would apply not only in the civil court, but also for the higher standards demanded in the criminal court, where the Government are pushing, and to registered designs and unregistered designs.

In Committee, the Minister said:

“We should not forget the ultimate reason for the Bill and the clause. There are small and medium-sized enterprises up and down the country in the design business that are being ripped off. Their designs do not have the protections that they require.”––[Official Report, Intellectual Property Public Bill Committee, 30 January 2014; c. 67.]

However, the vast majority of designs are unregistered, and the Government’s proposals will do nothing to help them. Small firms without resources will still run the risk of being ripped off by larger and unscrupulous businesses. Clause 13 in its original form did not address that, and the Government changes to the clause through the Bill’s passage in this House do not do so either. The Minister must accept that inconsistency, and amendment 5 tries to deal with it.

1 pm

The Minister will recall that we debated amendment 6 in Committee as a means of clarifying the precise point at which exemption from freedom of information would apply to research. The purpose of this amendment, as it was in Committee, is to seek assurance that the pre-experimental stages of research would also be covered by the clause. In Committee, the Minister explained that the Government were responding to a request from the Justice Committee to give the same specific protection as exists in Scotland although, as I also mentioned in Committee, there is a difference in the wording of the legislation in that the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 has the additional word “substantially” included.

In responding to the Justice Committee’s recommendation, the Government said they recognise

“that the adoption of a qualified exemption for research would provide additional clarity and reassurance, both to Higher Education institutions and non-public sector research partners. We accept that despite the wide applicability of existing exemptions, the lack of a dedicated research exemption can at least give the impression that FOIA does not provide adequate protection. On balance, therefore, the Government is minded to amend FOIA to introduce a dedicated exemption, subject to both a prejudice and public interest test, as recommended by the Committee. The Government

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shares the Committee’s view that this would constitute a proportionate response to the concerns expressed.”

That is a fair summary.

The Minister also said in Committee that if the Government found any

“genuine problem in the real world and that academics’ lab notes are being obtained under FOI—despite the range of protections that exist in FOI legislation at the moment—that would be something that we would review and consider.”––[Official Report, Intellectual Property Public Bill Committee, 30 January 2014; c. 77.]

I understand that representatives of the academic research community met officials from the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on 4 March to discuss this matter. There remains some doubt whether the wording on the face of the Bill provides exemptions for information created during the planning phase of a research programme.

Given that context and the meeting on 4 March, will the Minister confirm that if information that is created in the planning phase of a research programme is intended for future publication—and, if it found its way into the hands of competitors, would prejudice the research programme or the research institution having an interest in the programme—such information is covered under FOI and clause 20 of the Bill? The purpose of this amendment is for the Minister to provide that clarity.

Would the Minister also respond again to the point that I made in Committee—why is the wording of the Scottish FOI legislation, especially the use of the word “substantially” not replicated in this clause? I look forward to the Minister’s response and I hope that he will look favourably on my arguments.

Mike Weatherley: May I start by paying tribute to all the members of the Bill Committee for an excellent couple of days of deliberations on the clauses? In particular, I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright) for drawing out points for debate without needlessly pushing for votes on each one, and of course to the Minister for reflecting on each point in a highly constructive manner—and not grumpily at all.

There are several areas of concern in the Bill. The first is in relation to education. As a general rule, rights holders have lost the debate with the public generally. Many see creative output as something they should be able to access for free—after all, they have been doing it for years; it is not a tangible product; they probably would not have bought it anyway, so they are only increasing the awareness of performers; and the chances of getting caught are low and there is no penalty. On a positive note, there have been moves by industry to step up the game in terms of education, and we have had some Government-funded schemes such as those produced recently by the Intellectual Property Office. But with the Department for Education ruling out any formal copyright education in schools, we need a co-ordinated approach, led by Government and helped along by industry. In my view, the IPO is best placed to lead the charge on education on IP matters and it was my intention to add a clause to the Bill to formally require the IPO to report annually on what initiatives it had undertaken in the past year. In the end, I have not pushed for that amendment after hearing assurances from the Minister that education on the importance of IP will be at the heart of the IPO’s activities.

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My second concern related to the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Hartlepool, especially in relation to the differences between offline and online crime penalties. Even with this Bill, there remains a worrying message that online crime is considered to be one fifth as serious as offline crime. It may be that the maximum penalty of 10 years for offline crime is too high and is unrealistic, and therefore online crime will never get the same penalty. I hear that argument. However, in Denmark they have recognised this and have a two-level crime, with 18 months maximum for less serious stealing and six years for serious commercial crime. Importantly though, in Denmark the penalty is the same for both online and offline crime. I was particularly pleased that in Committee the Minister accepted that this issue does need to be looked at, even if only to underpin the message that IP crime is equally serious, and has undertaken to review the anomaly and report back. That is a very positive step and I look forward to the results of the review. For that reason, I will not support the hon. Gentleman’s amendment.

My third concern has been less easily satisfied and relates to criminal penalties for copying designs. I welcome the introduction of a criminal penalty for registered designs. While it has always been possible to claim for damages in the civil court, this was expensive, took a great deal of time and, ultimately, did not provide a sufficient deterrent. The threat of criminal proceedings almost certainly will. I also welcome the addition of the word “intentionally”. This may give rise to difficulties in proving intent, but ultimately no one should want to see anyone subject to criminal penalties for not knowing. I appreciate that ignorance is no defence normally in law, but in design it probably should be. Providing someone has undertaken reasonable checks to be sure that someone else has not already produced the idea, criminal sanctions would be a step too far.

The Bill does not include a criminal offence in relation to unregistered designs. I fully understand that all designers should be encouraged to register their designs formally in most instances, and I fully understand that doing checks to ensure no infringement of an unregistered design is more difficult—and in many instances, impossible to check completely. However, given the insertion of the word “intentionally” into the Bill, one has to ask why the penalty cannot be a little harsher and more of a deterrent. As it stands, even if a designer can prove that a copy of an unregistered design was done intentionally, the only recourse the original designer will have in law is once again the civil courts, and that is often just not enough of a deterrent for someone who wishes to take others’ designs as their own. Nevertheless—

Mr Iain Wright: Oh!

Mike Weatherley: I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Gentleman. Nevertheless, I do not intend to support his amendment which would harmonise unregistered and registered designs, at this time. The Bill is a step in the right direction and I merely put down the marker that should evidence be provided that the law is failing in this regard, we should come back to this issue and consider it again. I am prepared to see where the legislation as it stands takes us, rather than supporting the amendment

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now. All I ask now is that the Minister acknowledges the potential and agrees to return to the point in a future Bill.

The hon. Gentleman should be aware that an IPO conference is coming up in June, which will address some of the IP issues that he was talking about. I will return to the issue on Third Reading, but it is important that the Prime Minister and No. 10 make a clear declaration about intellectual property being a property right. If that is done, it is not necessary to add new clause 1 to the Bill.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): I am glad to have caught your eye, Mr Speaker, in this not so crowded Chamber. I presume that everybody is paying great attention to the debate on their television screens. It goes to show the lack of interest in intellectual property issues, which disappoints me very much. As I have said before, we need a Minister who is answerable for intellectual property in this House, so that we can raise these very important questions, and so that an IP Minister can respond to these critical debates on this very important issue.

Amendment 1 stands in my name. We have discussed the issue before—on Second Reading and in Committee—and we have had assurances from the Minister, but now is the time for a cast-iron commitment. He knows the anxieties and concerns about this issue, not just from the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh, but from the whole legal community in Scotland, which remains very concerned that Scotland will lose the right to judge, assess and hear cases to do with patents.

The Minister may have his views about me as a Member of Parliament, but the Faculty of Advocates and the Court of Session in Edinburgh could hardly be described as hotbeds of nationalist militancy. If even the Faculty of Advocates could write to the Minister in such graphic terms about its concerns, surely those concerns should be taken into account and treated seriously. We have heard enough warm words from the Minister; we must now start to hear him express a commitment to Scotland.

It is possible that, after centuries, we will lose the right to consider patent issues in the Scottish courts. Clause 17 makes provision

“to confer…remove… or vary the jurisdiction of a court”

in relation to the new unified patent court, thus effectively allowing the United Kingdom to decide how to approach the whole issue of divisional courts. The UK can have up to three or four of them. Why can it not accept the Court of Session as one of those courts? My amendments would simply ensure that Scotland was once more a jurisdiction with the ability to rule on important patent cases.

We all support the arrival of the new unified patent court. Of course it makes sense for patent hearings to be unified across all the jurisdictions in the European Union, and many of us have argued long and hard to that effect. It will make life so much easier for our inventors, creators and artists. However, it cannot come at a price for Scotland’s legal establishment. For Scotland, with its history of invention and creation, to be denied the ability to consider the issue of patents is—patently—absurd. For decades, if not centuries, the Court of

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Session in Edinburgh has had the power to consider patent issues in Scotland. We have built up experience and skills that may be lost if we are denied access to a divisional court.

Scotland has a distinct legal establishment. For the last 300 years, as members of the United Kingdom, we have been able to keep our own Scots law when it comes to matters such as this, and people have acquired the necessary experience of that law—and, of course, we in Scotland have a history and culture of creativity that goes back for centuries. As you know, Mr Speaker, Scotland practically invented the modern world: everything from tarmacadam to television was invented by Scotsmen, and today we are still achieving things through our biotechnologies and biosciences. There has been Dolly the sheep, for instance, and—I recall that the Minister rebuked me when I mentioned this in Committee—our contribution to the Higgs boson. Scotland has a culture of being able to invent and create, and we must be allowed to consider issues relating to that culture in our own courts.

Yesterday, in advance of today’s debate, a programme on BBC Scotland showed some of our fantastic new creators and inventors, who are coming up with wonderful new products. They were discussing the importance of allowing these matters to be considered in Scotland. Our Scots law is a totem, an important centre. Some fantastic examples were shown during that BBC Scotland programme—and, I should add, there were some particularly good comments from me. The programme demonstrated the degree of interest in these issues that exists in Scotland, as indeed it should, because the creative industries are important to Scotland. Indeed, they are probably more important to Scotland than they are to the rest of the United Kingdom: we invest more in them, and they play a dynamic and important role in the overall Scottish economy.

Our history of invention and creation makes it plain that Scotland is more than adequately equipped to be a successful independent nation. We know that we could be one of the wealthiest nations in the world because of the resources and skill of our people. If we were independent, this would not be an issue, because, as a member state of the European Union, we would be allowed direct access to the unified patent court. There is an especially important reason why that should happen. It is important to the legal establishment, and it is important to all the individuals who are involved in business. Why should Scottish business men have to bear the extra costs of going to a different jurisdiction to have their day in court and secure justice in relation to important patent issues? We have some incredible new industries in Scotland, not least in the renewable sector and particularly in oil and gas. Our businesses, including small and medium-sized enterprises, need to be able to come to Edinburgh for this purpose. Not being able to do so is an inconvenience that small businesses in Scotland can ill afford.

This is in the Government’s gift. All the Minister need do is say “Yes, the court in Edinburgh will be one of the divisional courts.” London, of course, will have one of the central divisional courts, as will Paris and Munich. As I said in Committee, all that we need is New York: then we could have “Pop Muzik” by M. So London will be looked after, but what about the other capitals in the United Kingdom? We are always being

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told that Scotland has a part to play in the UK—indeed, that is what the debate that we shall continue to have over the next few months is all about—so why has it been overlooked?

1.15 pm

I shall tell the House why I think Scotland has been overlooked. My view—and perhaps the Minister will be able to confirm it—is that the Government simply did not think about it. As so often when it comes to issues to do with Scotland on their watch, they did not really consider it. Now they have been told about it, and they are saying “This must be addressed, because it is clearly a bit of an issue.” The Minister needs to say that this will be resolved, and to give a cast-iron commitment and guarantee that the Court of Session in Edinburgh will be one of the UK’s permitted divisional courts. If he were to do that, he would be a hero of the Scottish legal establishment. He would be carried through the streets of Edinburgh by the Faculty of Advocates. He would be celebrated. Moreover, he would be doing his bit for the Union. After all, the denial to Scotland of a divisional court could become an issue in the referendum. The Minister now has an opportunity to put that right, and I very much hope that he will be able to do so.

This issue could be resolved very easily. It is in the Government’s gift. The Minister knows our concerns: he has heard them again and again. This is one issue that has united Scotland’s entire legal establishment. I say to the Minister “Just resolve it, for goodness’ sake. It is in your gift, and you could do it very easily.”

I support new clause 1, and if the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright) seeks to divide the House, I shall continue to support it. I am afraid that I missed the debate on this important new clause in Committee, and I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for not being present then. Such are the limited resources among the personnel of the Scottish National party that, unfortunately, I had to exercise my responsibilities for home affairs in relation to the Immigration Bill, but I am grateful to him for returning the new clause to us.

The issue of copyright exceptions is proving to be the most controversial aspect of the Hargreaves process, and it has caused real angst and concern among members of our creative community. They are the people—the stakeholders, or rights-holders—who come to see the Minister regularly. They are the people who work day in, day out to ensure that the United Kingdom remains in the top five of every creative, artistic and inventive discipline in the world, whether that is music, films, television or design. We cannot mess about with that; we must ensure that we get it right.

The people who come and speak to the Minister about these issues know their business, because they are involved in it day in, day out, bringing billions of pounds’ worth of economic activity to the United Kingdom. The Government must start to listen to them. They have been accused of “lobbynomics”, but not by the Minister; indeed, I have never heard any member of the Government use the term. I believe that it was used by Ian Hargreaves while he was conducting his review. I know that the Minister, members of his Department and representatives of the Intellectual Property Office frequently meet the stakeholders, consult them, discuss the issues with them, and take on board what they say, but they do not actually listen to them. We may have

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consultation fatigue, but we certainly have no fatigue when it comes to trying to put the case to the Government and trying to ensure that they listen.

Why does the issue of copyright exceptions cause so much grief to those who work so hard to ensure that our creative industries continue to be world-class? The answer is quite simple. The more exceptions there are to our copyright legislation, the more difficult it is to protect our creators, artists and inventors. They are the primary drivers of all the cogs and wheels of our creative economy, and they must be central to any discussion of that economy. Copyright protection is one of the things they can rely on to make sure that they continue to innovate, take risks and produce wonderful works that we uniquely are able to produce right across these islands.

Those who argue for copyright exceptions continually suggest and assert that copyright is restrictive—that it somehow stifles creativity and is effectively a barrier to growth. That is what we continually hear from Ministers of whatever party, but nothing could be further from the truth. I just wish that some day we would have a Minister who will come to the Dispatch Box and tell us what a wonderful thing copyright is, and what a contribution it makes to the well-being of our artists, inventors and creators. I have never heard that in my 13 years in the House, and I am sure that most other Members have not heard it either.

Copyright is not a barrier to economic growth and development and support for our artists. It enables that. We are successful in this country and we have such success in our creative industries not despite copyright, but because of copyright. It would be really good to hear about the contribution and value that copyright brings to our creative industries and how it enables and supports our artists, creators and inventors.

I believe that this Government still see copyright as a barrier to growth. I believe that because of the way all this started. It started with the Googlesburg address from the Prime Minister, when he told us he could never foresee the arrival of a Google in the United Kingdom because our IP laws and copyright framework would restrict its emergence. The very process we are debating and concluding today, possibly along with the whole Hargreaves process, started with the assumption that somehow copyright is a barrier—that it is restrictive and gets in the way of economic development and growth. The whole of the Hargreaves process was predicated on that assumption, and as a result we are today looking at these particular exceptions and dealing with them in this way. The Government are again putting forward the idea that exceptions are required because they see copyright as a restrictive practice.

That is so unimaginative. It is the language of the last decade. That battle has been fought and won. It was the battle of the Digital Economy Act 2010. We have moved on since then. The world view of copyright and supporting our artists has changed dramatically, yet we are still fighting the battles of the past. We are talking about intellectual property here, so let us be intelligent and creative; let us start to look at things differently. Let us stop going through the tired old prospectuses. Let us start looking at copyright as an enabler—at how we best support our artists, creators and inventors. This is a new world. We have moved on since the Digital Economy Act. We are in the world of complete digitisation and of e-commerce—of ensuring we can monetise people’s

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works and efforts online. We have not done that with this measure. We have lost this opportunity because we have focused so much on copyright exceptions, inspired by the IPO, and taken forward by Ministers. It is such a dreary and unimaginative way to progress with such an important issue.

If this Government are re-elected next year, let us try to do this differently. Let us try to be creative about how we take this forward. I cannot see that happening, however, because I still very much believe that in the heads of this Government’s Members, just as in those of previous Government Members, there is a difficulty and an issue with copyright that must be rectified and challenged to ensure that it is not going to be restrictive.

We are going to have these particular statutory instruments, therefore, and the hon. Member for Hartlepool is absolutely right that we have no idea what is being taken forward. This is all still with parliamentary counsel and we do not know when we are going to see these SIs or how many there will be. Will there be one? Will there be several, and if so will they be put together? This debate goes all the way back to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill and we are still no clearer on how this is going to be taken forward. It would be totally unacceptable if these SIs were to be bundled together into one.

The creative industries have concerns about some of the economic impact assessments that have been done, and there are concerns about compliance with European law in respect of some of the technical details of these exceptions. The parody issue is particularly important. Some of the economic impact assessments done by the IPO were totally bizarre and hardly worth the paper they were written on. For instance, the exception for parody is said to be worth £600,000. That figure was arrived at by taking the total value of the global entertainment market, which the IPO reckoned was about $2 trillion, and then it estimated that with the parody exception the UK share of that market would be up to 0.05%, which translates to something like £650 million in growth. What a fantastic way to look at these things.

On private copying, the IPO said in its economic impact assessment that if a private copy exception were in place by 2020 it would bring £2 billion into the UK economy. That extraordinary figure was arrived at by assuming that all sorts of UK technology firms that otherwise would be restrained and held back would be bursting to come through with new ideas and new pieces of hardware. The contention is that the iPod could possibly have been invented in that period. That is how these economic impact assessments are worked out. That is why we must be able to consider all these SIs differently. We must be able to look at them so that we can challenge some of the figures and ask the Minister again and again about the detail and how we move forward.

I support the amendment which asks for this to be done in the context of the Government’s view about how to move forward in respect of intellectual property. I would like to hear about that. I would like us to move forward with renewed vigour and with imagination and creativity.

I also support the other amendments of the hon. Member for Hartlepool. I will start with the Scottish one. We have no issues at all in academia in Scotland.

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Things work perfectly well for us in terms of freedom of information. I hope that this will be pursued and I think it can be brought forward.

A case can be made for both registered designs and unregistered designs. That is where we find most of the business. We have seen the assets database and we know this can be done.

This has been an interesting debate. We now move forward to considering these SIs. I sincerely hope that they will not be bundled together and that we have the opportunity to consider them properly and vote on them separately.

Mr Willetts: I am grateful for the opportunity to respond on the amendments and new clauses proposed by the hon. Members for Hartlepool (Mr Wright) and for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), and to respond to the important contribution by my hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Mike Weatherley).

Amendment 6 relates to the Freedom of Information Act. The new exemption in clause 20 should give substantial reassurance to the academic community that important research and related information obtained or derived from ongoing research programmes will receive appropriate protection under the FOI Act. Indeed, in the spirit of respect for Scotland, which the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire called for, we are implementing the so-called Scottish exemption. The provision already applies in Scotland and we are applying it to the rest of the UK. That is what we were asked to do and we are doing it.

However, I understand that there are still some concerns about whether the Act provides effective protection in relation to premature release of information created during the planning stages of research programmes—for example, information contained in grant applications, plans and licences. The Government recognise the significant value that material may have to researchers and institutions. I want to place on the record why we believe the Act is capable of protecting such material.

Section 22 of the FOI Act allows any material to be withheld if it is held with a view to future publication and it is reasonable and in the public interest to withhold it. That means that research material intended for future publication can already be protected. Also, clause 20 builds on the protection offered by section 22 by providing specific protection for material that is part of a research programme whose results are intended for publication. But the protection it offers is not just for the results; it extends to any information that is obtained in the course of, or is derived from, a research programme.

1.30 pm

In addition to the provisions in clause 20 and section 22, the Freedom of Information Act already provides a range of other exemptions that may be used to protect research. For example, section 43 allows material to be withheld where it would prejudice the commercial interests of any person to release it, and where it would be in the public interest to do so. For example, that exemption allows valuable intellectual property to be protected, where appropriate. It might also extend to cases in which the premature release of research plans would inhibit a university from entering into partnerships with commercial partners for the purpose of pursuing research or creating future intellectual property.

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In addition, section 36 of the Act protects material whose release would, or would be likely to, prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs. That exemption does not refer to universities or research specifically, but universities and the research they undertake play a hugely important role in public life. Where the release of research material at an early stage would undermine a university’s ability to establish research programmes, and thus to do the job the public expect of it, that exemption might be highly relevant.

Clause 20 also provides parity with Scottish public authorities already protected by section 27(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. Such is our respect for Scottish wisdom and experience that we have spoken to the Information Commissioner in Scotland and the Scottish Government about these matters, and they consider that the Scottish legislation is effective in protecting pre-publication research information. I hope that that will assure Members on both sides of the House. We will keep this matter under review, and if there is evidence that further action is necessary, the Government will give it careful consideration.

I will now respond to the hon. Member for Hartlepool’s amendments to clause 13. They would have a rather peculiar double effect. He wants to extend the criminal sanction to unregistered design, but his amendments would also narrow the circumstances in which the sanction would apply. We debated the question of unregistered design at length in Committee. The Government do not believe that unregistered design rights should be subject to criminal sanctions, because the risks involved would be too great.

I can assure the House—and my hon. Friend the Member for Hove in particular—that if it were practical to introduce this measure, and if it would not have a stifling effect on innovation, the Government would see a case for extending criminal sanctions to the unregistered design right. However, our concern is that it would not be practical to do so, and that it would stifle innovation. That is because unregistered design rights are much harder to become aware of and to track than registered design rights. That does not mean that we do not understand the value to designers of unregistered designs, and there are other ways in which the Government can support UK designers with unregistered designs. We are working with relevant bodies, including A©ID—Anti Copying in Design—to establish the best way to do that.

Unlike the hon. Member for Hartlepool, we believe that there are clear reasons for having criminal sanctions for registered designs and not having them for unregistered designs. Registered designs are logged on an official, easily accessible Government register, which shows the protected design, the owner and other key information. Unregistered design right protection can apply to the whole design, or to separate elements of that design. Those could belong to different people and have different time scales left to run on their protection. That could create uncertainty over whether a design could be used as the basis for legitimate activity.

Mr Iain Wright: We discussed this matter in Committee. Does the Minister think that, as a result of the implementation of clause 13, the ratio of registered

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designs to unregistered designs would change? In a nutshell, does he think that more people would register their designs as a result of clause 13?

Mr Willetts: It is hard to give an estimate on that. I believe that the hon. Gentleman has underestimated the significance of registered designs. He suggested that their scope was quite narrow in comparison with unregistered designs. Let me give him the figures. There are already a large number of registered designs in existence. The UK’s and EU’s publicly accessible registers hold about 728,000 design registrations that are in force in the UK. That is a substantial number. I do not want to try to forecast whether it will become even greater, but we are extending criminal sanctions to cover those 728,000 design registrations. That is a significant step towards protecting our design community.

It would be difficult to extend those sanctions further to include unregistered designs, given the uncertainties involved, but let me assure my hon. Friend the Member for Hove that we will evaluate the effects of this legislation. Following its conclusion, a suitable framework will be developed to evaluate its measures, including the criminal sanctions for copying a registered design. The evaluation will include an assessment of the effectiveness of this measure, and we will keep an eye on whether further changes need to be made to its operation and scope, and whether there might ever be a case for including unregistered design rights.

Mr Wright: It will obviously take some time for the system to bed in. Can the Minister give us a time scale? When will the evaluation take place and how long will it last?

Mr Willetts: I do not want to give a time scale. The hon. Gentleman has already referred to one that I gave upstairs that has come back to haunt me, so I am wary of offering him any more time scales when faced with his blandishments. All I can say is that it will take time for the new system to take effect, and we will need to monitor it. We will undertake to do that.

I will now move on to the hon. Gentleman’s amendments 2 and 3. Having sought to broaden the criminal sanctions to cover unregistered designs, he is seeking in the same group of amendments to narrow the scope by effectively restricting the sanction to exact copying only. That would be the effect of amendments 2 and 3. That would go too far in narrowing the scope of the provision.

I remind the House that the clause was introduced to assist designers who told us of the problems they had in dealing with copyists who set out to copy their designs intentionally and blatantly. That is what we are tackling in this important legislation. They believed that such copyists were skilled at playing the legal system and counted on smaller businesses running out of time and money to pursue them. They told us—as I am sure they told my hon. Friend the Member for Hove and others—that the issue was not restricted to exact copying. Copyists are clever enough not to implicate themselves in that crude way; the issue often involves tweaking an existing design. The sanction protects against that by referring not only to exact copying but to the copying of

“designs which differ only in immaterial details”.