“we didn’t go into govt because it was the right thing to do, we went into govt because it was the right thing to do”.

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[Hon. Members: “Where are they?”] There is not a single Liberal Democrat Member here; they are all at a lesson on how to tweet properly. Only the Liberal Democrats could change their minds halfway through a tweet. After their disastrous election results, the Deputy Prime Minister has finally had some good news this week. They have finally topped a ballot—but it was only the ballot for private Members’ Bills. Meanwhile, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has declared that the Liberal Democrats could be the biggest party in 2025, and William Hill has pulled its sponsorship from the Liberal Democrats’ closest rivals, the Monster Raving Loony party. This clearly demonstrates that there is only one joke party left in British politics.

Mr Lansley: I am grateful to the shadow Leader of the House for her response to the business statement. I echo her congratulations to the hon. Member for North East Derbyshire (Natascha Engel), whose re-election is a testament to her chairmanship of the Backbench Business Committee and to the work of the Committee as a whole. It has brought forward some important debates and given Back Benchers a greatly enhanced voice. Surveys in recent years have shown that the public now believe that the House debates issues of relevance to them on a more regular and timely basis.

I also echo the shadow Leader of the House’s good wishes to the England team. It will be a late night on Saturday, but at least it will be followed by Sunday morning. I am looking forward to the England team scoring many goals and kissing the badge, as they say. I am told that the Leader of the Opposition is being invited to do that with the trade unions in Nottingham at the moment. It seems a strange idea, but it tells us something about where the trade unions think the interests of the Labour party lie, in contrast to the coalition, which knows that it serves in the national interest.

The hon. Lady asked about a statement on Monday. I have announced that the Foreign Secretary will be in the House on that day to make a statement, and we will of course take opportunities to update the House on the very concerning situation in Iraq. The threat presented by the so-called Islamic State for Iraq and the Levant is alarming for the whole international community. The Iraqi authorities in the federal Government and in the Kurdistan Regional Government need to co-ordinate and work together to put forward a political response and a security response to the situation. We are aware of large numbers of Iraqis being displaced from Mosul and the surrounding areas. The Department for International Development is monitoring that situation closely, and rapidly assessing the humanitarian need that will arise from it. I will ask my colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and in DFID to ensure that the House can be updated whenever possible.

The hon. Lady mentioned the recall Bill. We announced the Bill in the Queen’s Speech and will introduce it in due course. We are making good progress with it. We have already introduced five Bills in this Session—three in the other place and two here—and we will introduce further Bills in due course.

The hon. Lady also asked about defence spending. I have announced a debate on defence spending, which will take place next Thursday following the recommendations of the Backbench Business Committee. It will give my colleagues an opportunity to remind

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Members—including Opposition Members—that we inherited a defence budget with a £38 billion black hole. We have taken action to balance the books; Army 2020 is an integral part of that. An excellent job has been done—not least by the Defence Secretary and the Chief of the General Staff—to redesign the Army so that it can meet future demands while remaining affordable. We are committed to investing £1.8 billion in the reserves, and we are now seeing the benefit of that: the trained strength of the reserve forces is rising for the first time in 18 years.

The hon. Lady asked about the situation in the Passport Office. I made it clear in response to questions last week that my colleagues would update the House on that matter this week, and they have done so in response to questions and to an Adjournment debate secured by the hon. Member for Coventry North West (Mr Robinson). The Home Secretary has also given the House a full, authoritative response on the issue and outlined a number of measures that will make a substantial difference in the weeks ahead.

The hon. Lady asked about issues that she suggested were not being covered in the Government’s reply, and she included food prices. I heard one of my DEFRA colleagues reminding the House that food prices in the year to March rose by only 0.5%, and in the past two months food prices appear to have been falling, so it is important to bear in mind the fact that on some issues relating to the cost of living people are in a better place than they might otherwise have been. That is particularly the case when they are in work, and as we saw just yesterday more than 2 million new private sector jobs have been created since the general election. If there is a gap, it is between the Labour party and reality on what is happening in our economy. Our long-term economic plan is delivering on reducing the deficit and on growth, which is 3% up on a year ago. We have 2 million more private sector jobs and 400,000 more businesses. We are delivering our long-term economic plan in the national interest while the Leader of the Opposition is off to serve the union interest.

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): I echo the call for a debate on the situation in Iraq, although it is noticeable that Her Majesty’s official Opposition did not ask for such a debate, having not provided a debate on foreign affairs during consideration of the Queen’s Speech. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need a general debate on foreign affairs, to cover not only Iraq but the crisis in Syria and the situation in Ukraine?

Mr Lansley: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question and he is absolutely right: I was very surprised and disappointed that the Opposition did not choose to debate matters relating to foreign affairs and defence. Of course, the Backbench Business Committee will enable defence issues to be raised next week, but this was the second year in a row that the Opposition did not choose to debate foreign affairs. Given the circumstances in which they made that decision—the events in Ukraine and Syria, and now Iraq—it would have been helpful had they chosen to have such a debate. Anybody who examines the debate on the Queen’s Speech in the House of Lords will see that it had a full, substantial debate on foreign affairs. I believe that Members in the

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other place were astonished that there was no debate on foreign affairs in this House, but of course, these were matters for the Opposition.

Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): On average, 7,500 people are on the waiting list for transplants and each year 1,000 people die because an organ is not available. May we have a debate on why we cannot co-ordinate transplant week with the transplant games? That would allow us to raise the profile of the Donate Life campaign and then, we hope, three people a week would not die waiting for an organ to become available.

Mr Lansley: I very much share the hon. Lady’s sense of the priority and importance of this issue. I was the sponsor in this House of transplant week some years ago, because more transplants take place in my constituency than anywhere else in the United Kingdom; it contains Papworth hospital, a leading heart and lung transplant centre, and Addenbrooke’s hospital, which deals with livers, kidneys, and pancreatic and other organs. If I may, I will ask my hon. Friends at the Department of Health, who work with the charities concerned, about the timings of these important charitable events and what possibilities there might be, as we do want to make further progress. The number of people on the organ donation register has increased by 50%, which is having a big impact on the availability of organs, but we need to do more. I hope we will be able to co-ordinate things in the way she describes.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): May we have a debate on why Labour councils, particularly Telford & Wrekin council, are deliberately misinterpreting and miscommunicating the Government’s national planning guidelines? Do the Government still prefer development, be it residential or retail, to be on brownfield rather than greenfield sites?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend is absolutely right: this is very much about a presumption in favour of brownfield over greenfield development; that is what the Government are looking towards. The other important thing is that this Government expect planning to be locally led. I am sure my hon. Friend will bring to bear on his council, in the way he describes, local people’s views on what they want in their local plan. Under the Localism Act 2011, that should be pre-eminent in the local plan.

Mr John Denham (Southampton, Itchen) (Lab): On Monday, the Secretary of State for Education announced that, in future, schools will teach British values. Although he appears to have been panicked by the crisis in his Department into announcing something with which he used to disagree, it is a very good idea. The problem is that it is easier said than done and harder to do well than badly, and if it is done badly it would probably be better not to do it at all. Can we have a debate in this House, before the Department publishes its proposals, on how exactly British values can be taught successfully and effectively in our schools?

Mr Lansley: Indeed, I heard the Secretary of State say that. If I recall correctly—I will ensure that I am correct about this—I think he said that while he was looking for schools to promote British values, it was not

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some immediate response, but something he had been considering. I think it was the subject of a pre-existing consultation in any case. We will of course ensure that we keep the House informed about the progress of that consultation and our response to it.

Justin Tomlinson (North Swindon) (Con): Tackling domestic violence has rightly risen up the political agenda. Football United Against Domestic Violence is a new campaign by Women’s Aid working with national footballing bodies, sports, media, football clubs, the police, players and fans to send a clear message that domestic violence is always unacceptable. Following Tuesday’s successful parliamentary launch supported by the Premier League, BT Sport, the Football Association, Charlie Webster, Jahmene Douglas and a large number of cross-party MPs, does my right hon. Friend agree that we should hold a debate on this important subject?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend is quite right: domestic violence and abuse ruin lives. They are completely unacceptable, which is why tackling this crime has been one of the Government’s top priorities since coming to office, and that includes backing the important work of Women’s Aid. He knows that there is no compelling evidence that suggests a causal link between sporting events and domestic violence and abuse. However, an event of the importance of the World cup presents an opportunity for us to target different audiences with our message concerning domestic abuse; he is quite right about that. It will build on the work of Women’s Aid, and the Home Office has launched a campaign for that purpose. Whether we are talking about physical violence, threats or coercive behaviour, they all count as abuse and it is part of our work to stop it.

Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) (Lab): It is a statutory responsibility of electoral registration officers and local authorities to do door-to-door canvassing of non-responders to voter registration. In Hansard today, there is a list of 22 local authorities that break the law, some of which have broken the law for four years on the trot and no action has been taken. Will the Leader of the House have a debate in Parliament on this important issue that affects our democracy?

Mr Lansley: I cannot promise an immediate debate but I will talk to the Minister of State, Cabinet Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark), who is responsible for Cities and Constitution and has oversight of such issues. In the first instance though, I will ask the Electoral Commission to respond because it has a responsibility to ensure the integrity of elections, which includes the work of the electoral registration officers and whether or not they meet their responsibilities.

Mr Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton) (Con): This morning, the Court of Appeal overturned the Government’s application for a terrorism trial to be held in blanket secrecy. It still allows the state to hand-pick journalists to report on the case subject to undefined conditions. The House has had no explanation of why that is necessary, given existing powers such as public interest immunity powers, and the state is relying on vague common law powers which have not been set and defined by elected Members of this House. Given that principles of open justice and democracy are at stake, can we have a statement or a debate on the matter in the near future?

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Mr Lansley: It is probably best if I confine myself to what the Attorney-General said this morning, which is that the principle of open justice is key to the British legal system and that trials will always be held in public unless there are very strong reasons for doing otherwise. The measures applied for by the Crown Prosecution Service in this case were, it is believed, justified in order for the trial to proceed and for the defendants to hear the evidence against them, while protecting national security. The issues were considered today by the court; it is not for the Government to decide such things. As the Attorney-General rightly said this morning, we can look to the courts to ensure that the interests of justice will be maintained.

Ms Margaret Ritchie (South Down) (SDLP): May we have a debate on ovarian cancer and particularly the need for the BRCA test to be available? It is available in Scotland, but despite the guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence saying that women in the rest of the UK should qualify, it is not available to them. There is an urgent need for a debate to address that inequality for women.

Mr Lansley: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising that point. I cannot promise a debate, but it is an issue about which she and colleagues might wish to approach the Backbench Business Committee, as debates on important health issues have been among the more successful of those it has been able to promote. I will speak to colleagues about responding directly to the hon. Lady on the issues she raises about the guidance.

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): As I came 17th in the ballot for private Members’ Bills, if I introduced a Bill to confirm that prisoners should not be allowed to vote, would it have Government support?

Mr Lansley: I wish my hon. Friend good luck in the private Member’s Bill process, but I will adhere to the convention that the Government respond with their view on such Bills on Second Reading.

Julie Hilling (Bolton West) (Lab): Of the 16 families who have contacted me about passport delays, the most tragic case is that of Kiran and Bina Salvi, who went to India in March for the birth of their surrogate twins. They were told that it would take six weeks to obtain their passports, and they have now been told that it will be at least 16 weeks. They are at risk of losing their jobs, running out of money, stuck in a hot hotel room and terrified that their precious babies will get malaria. May we have a proper statement on this issue so that we can help Kiran and Bina bring their babies home?

Mr Lansley: The hon. Lady has given us some of the details, but if she wants to give me any additional details I will ask my hon. Friends at the Home Office to respond. She will have heard what the Home Secretary had to stay about the availability of emergency travel documents and access to urgent consideration for passport applications without charge. I hope that one of those options might be helpful in the case the hon. Lady mentions.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton) (Con): May we have an early debate on the role of community hospitals, particularly in rural areas? I understand that

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the new head of NHS England has said that they have a future role to play, so this is a good opportunity to debate the issue on the Floor of the House.

Mr Lansley: I recall that in the later stages of the previous Session, there was a debate on community hospitals and I am pleased to see that Simon Stevens, the new chief executive of NHS England, has taken the matter up. When we took office, it was very important to us to have a greater focus on delivering care close to people’s homes, to improve people’s ability to step out of the high-cost acute hospitals so that they could concentrate on their job, and to give a focus to local commissioners. Often, it is the new local clinical commissioning groups that best understand how community hospitals can serve the people they look after.

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab): May we have a debate on compensation for losses caused by the passport fiasco? In my office over the past few weeks, we have been trying to help people left in a desperate situation by the chaos, and it will not have escaped the country’s notice that the word “sorry” did not once pass the Home Secretary’s lips. She did not address the issue of compensation, either. Is it not only fair for people who apply for passports in good faith and in good time and who suffer losses—for example, by having to cancel their holidays—to be compensated? May we have a debate on that?

Mr Lansley: I think that the Home Secretary fully responded to the questions raised just before business questions. I am sure that in future we will be able to look after our constituents much better, in the way that she described, by being able to raise urgent cases. In my experience as a constituency Member of Parliament, when we have had to raise cases we have been able to get through on the MPs’ helpline and resolve them rapidly.

Paul Uppal (Wolverhampton South West) (Con): Many Members across the House will agree that Sepp Blatter’s recent comments were wholly unacceptable and a distraction from the real issues. If we are committed to tackling racism in football, we need to focus on the terraces, where there is a real issue, not on the back-rooms of Fleet street. Given this country’s proud history of tackling racism, may we have a debate on the state of football so that we in this House can send out the clearest message that racism and corruption in football are unacceptable and that by pushing the issue aside, FIFA risks tarnishing itself and ultimately the sport?

Mr Lansley: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because I completely agree with him: racism is unacceptable in all areas of society. I thought the remarks were probably inappropriate not least because in this country the Football Association has been proactive in tackling racism in football through a whole sport inclusion and anti-discrimination plan, “Football is for Everyone”, and the FA’s inclusion advisory body, chaired by Heather Rabbatts, is further promoting equality in the national game. It was therefore inappropriate to use that language in relation to questions properly being asked about the way in which FIFA was managing its processes. It was not appropriate. I am glad that my hon. Friend has had the chance to raise the matter.

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Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough) (Lab): Even though the north-east of England is the only region outside London that makes a positive contribution to our GDP, it has among the lowest median incomes and the highest jobseeker’s allowance rates in the country. May we please have a debate to consider the special measures that can be taken to address the gross inequity and inequality that afflicts the north-east of England and other regions?

Mr Lansley: I hope—I do not know—that the hon. Gentleman has had a chance to address those issues in the course of the debate on the Queen’s Speech. He will, of course, have an opportunity to do so today in the debate on the economy and living standards that the Opposition have initiated with their amendment. He is quite right: it is disappointing that the north-east is the only region of the United Kingdom where unemployment went up in the latest figures; everywhere else, it went down. One thing we need to keep looking at is how we can continue to rebalance the economy, as is successfully happening in many other places. We want to try to improve manufacturing. We have seen manufacturing growing in the latest data at 4.4% a year, which is faster than for a long time. As a manufacturing economy, the north-east should be participating more fully in that.

Mr Lee Scott (Ilford North) (Con): Following on from the global summit on sexual violence in war, may we have a debate, on the conflict in Sri Lanka, which is still going on, against the Tamil community, where women are being raped daily?

Mr Lansley: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. As I said, the Foreign Secretary will update the House on Monday, following what appears to have been an extremely successful global summit, not simply because we brought so many countries together for the purpose of ending sexual violence in conflict, but because of the vigour of the NGO community coming together in the same way. The message being sent out is that people need to understand the sheer scale and enormity of sexual violence in conflicts and that so very few people have been held responsible. That must not be true in future. It must be that the people responsible for such things will genuinely be held to account for the crimes they commit.

Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): In March, I asked the Leader of the House when the Government would deliver the will of the House and the country by banning wild animals in circuses. He teased me rather in his response by saying that he could not pre-empt the Queen’s Speech. We have now had the Queen’s Speech and the measure is not in it. When will the Government bring forward legislation?

Mr Lansley: As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is the Government’s intention to make progress on this, but unfortunately, as I said last week, it has not been possible to find time in the short Session ahead of us.

Mr Simon Burns (Chelmsford) (Con): Is the Leader of the House prepared to arrange for a statement next week on the procedures to replace the current Clerk of the House, when we could find out more on how much the use of head-hunters will cost, who will decide who

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the head-hunters are, who will monitor the progress of the head-hunters and who will take the final decision on the replacement Clerk?

Mr Lansley: My right hon. Friend will understand that the procedures for the appointment of the new Clerk are a matter for the House of Commons Commission. Although I am a member of the Commission, my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (John Thurso) answers on its behalf to the House. I know that my right hon. Friend will find an opportunity in due course to ask those questions. We will face a daunting task indeed in filling the silver-buckled shoes of the present Clerk, who is not here now. I hope to announce soon an opportunity for Members to pay tribute to the Clerk before the summer recess.

Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) (Lab): Long-term youth unemployment since May 2010 in my constituency is up by 18.5% and long-term female unemployment is up by 76%—from 125 to 220 women—and in the north-east average earnings are down by £49 a week. Could we have a debate about how the Government’s long-term economic plan is clearly failing my constituents?

Mr Lansley: As I told the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Andy McDonald), who asked about the north-east a moment ago, the latest data show a reduction in unemployment everywhere else in the UK. [Interruption.] I am saying that it is important that we understand why the north-east is not conforming to an extremely positive trend right across the rest of the country. The latest data show that unemployment as defined by the International Labour Organisation is down by 347,000 on the year; that the claimant count is down by more than 400,000; that the number of private sector jobs has gone up by nearly 800,000 in a year; and that, since the election, the number of unemployed young people is down by 91,000 and that of long-term unemployed by 108,000.

Neil Carmichael (Stroud) (Con): The Leader of the House has been to my constituency, so he knows how beautiful it is, but Labour-led Stroud district council, having failed to get a local plan, has left it vulnerable to unscrupulous developers. Does the Leader of the House agree that we need to emphasise the fact that local plans are required and that it is the responsibility of no one other than the councils to have one?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I have had the pleasure of visiting Stroud and it is a most beautiful place and a wonderful part of the country. It is very important that local people have an opportunity, through local plans, to ensure that development takes place in a way that is consistent with their views on the quality of life in their area. The local plan process is vital in that regard. Many authorities are getting on with it: I think that 76% of all councils have at least a published plan. Further amendments to the national planning policy guidance mean that publishing a local plan in itself enables one to have influence on the individual planning decisions being made, so it is important.

Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op): Like many Members, I am very concerned about the number of constituents having severe difficulties with

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Atos Healthcare. One particularly distressing case involved my constituent Mr Vickers from Hyde, who has multiple support needs and has not had his application for a personal independence payment processed, even though he applied in October 2013. May we therefore have a debate about the Government’s performance in delivering the assessments, so that we can try to minimise the delay and distress being caused?

Mr Lansley: It was necessary for us to move from the previous system of the disability living allowance to the personal independence payment, which is a much better system. In the past, people sometimes stayed on allowances for years without any assessment. It is important to have a proper assessment. As we make progress—we are doing so steadily—we need to make sure not only that we do it properly, but that we get to the point where decisions can be made quickly.

Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): Could the Leader of the House or the Backbench Business Committee give the House an opportunity to hold a general debate on the concept of recall, so that the House collectively can work out what we are seeking to achieve? Some are arguing that oversight of the behaviour of Members of Parliament should be performed entirely externally, but any external body would, by definition, have to be statutory, and any statutory body would be subject to judicial oversight, which would mean the intervention of the courts and the potential for judicial review and applications in due course to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. It could, therefore, take a considerably long time for an MP who was under a cloud to go through that judicial process before their constituents had any opportunity to recall him or her.

Mr Lansley: My right hon. Friend makes an important point. As I have said in that past, I do not think we can contemplate a body other than the House itself reaching right into this Chamber to determine the circumstances in which a Member could continue their membership of this House. I think it is the House itself that should have such regulatory responsibility, not least for reasons of privilege.

As far as a debate is concerned, the recall Bill will give exactly such an opportunity. It is also important that we hear from the Standards Committee, which is conducting a review of how to further strengthen this House’s standards process.

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): Echoing the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds), may I ask for a full debate on the chaos that is Atos assessing employment and support allowance? There is a backlog of 712,000 cases at the moment. We know that Atos is not fit for purpose and will be replaced, but can we ensure that we get things right next time and have a full debate to discuss that?

Mr Lansley: Of course, I have to remind the hon. Lady that the contract was awarded to Atos by Labour in the first place. As she says, we are exiting the contract early, and of course there will be a substantial financial settlement to the Department for Work and Pensions as a result. We will continue to monitor the performance

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of Atos until its exit early next year and we will find a new provider to deliver the best possible service for claimants.

Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire) (Con): Will the Leader of the House arrange for us to have a debate on the future of the beef industry in Britain, which is currently experiencing a catastrophic collapse in prices as a result of imports, in which we can focus particularly on the country of origin, whether it be Ireland or other European countries?

Mr Lansley: I am not sure whether my hon. Friend had an opportunity to catch your eye, Mr Speaker, during Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions. If he did not, I will of course ask my hon. Friends at DEFRA to respond directly to him about the issues that he raises.

Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): Back in the early spring, I wrote to the Home Secretary about the issue of putting the mother’s name on the marriage certificate and I had a negative reply. Since then, there has been a growing campaign, with many thousands of people signing a petition, yet there was nothing in the Queen’s Speech about this issue. Will the Leader of the House now ask his colleagues at the Home Office to look at it again and see whether a measure on it can be included in this Government’s legislative programme?

Mr Lansley: I am sure that the hon. Lady is aware that we have announced a full programme for this Session in the Queen’s Speech and that there will be very limited opportunities for additional legislation beyond that which has been announced. I believe that the petition she refers to has received a Government response, but whether it has or has not I will ask Ministers to look further at the points she raises and respond to her.

Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): May we have a debate on nuisance calls? The latest batch of unsolicited automated calls to my constituents are about some kind of boiler replacement scheme. The calls are to constituents who have already applied to the Telephone Preference Service. They are massively inconvenient, but they are also very distressing for elderly residents who live on their own.

Mr Lansley: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. He will recall that we published the nuisance calls action plan on 30 March. Since January 2012, the regulator has issued monetary penalties totalling just over £2.5 million to companies for breaching its rules, but in response to the action plan further work will be done with the Office of Communications to see whether the maximum penalty might be increased, in order to give a real sanction for those who are making nuisance calls, which is contrary to the code.

Mr Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): With the lowest level of house building since the 1920s, may we have a debate on housing supply? The Government are taking many measures to increase housing demand, and all that those measures have led to is price inflation. Is there not an opportunity in the next few weeks to

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discuss housing supply? The measures in the Queen’s Speech are totally inadequate. We need real action and we need it now.

Mr Lansley: On the contrary, the Government are taking action and indeed the Queen’s Speech included measures that—as the hon. Gentleman may have seen—will come forward in the Infrastructure Bill, which will further support house building in this country. However, 445,000 new houses have been built under this Government. We are recovering from the position we were left by the last Government, where house building fell off a cliff in the latter part of 2008. A good illustration of that recovery is that last year there were 216,000 new planning permissions.

Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): On Tuesday, the Department for Transport issued a consultation document about the TransPennine Express rail franchise, which contained a proposal to end through-services between Cleethorpes and Manchester. It also included repeated references to the importance of good rail services to economic growth. As the Government have identified northern Lincolnshire and the Humber area as a key economic growth area, will the Leader of the House find time to have a debate on this issue?

Mr Lansley: I cannot promise a debate immediately, but in order to be as helpful as I can to my hon. Friend, and recognising the importance of the points he raises, I will ask the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, our hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), to reply. There is considerable detail in what he might be able to say, and I want him to be able to provide that to my hon. Friend.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): When the Government get around to restoring the Passport Office from its present emaciated and failing state to the efficient service it had been for the previous century, may we have a debate on the need to ensure that those areas that suffered the savage cuts two years ago, such as Newport, have the first call on new jobs?

Mr Lansley: The hon. Gentleman had a chance to ask the Home Secretary a question about that earlier. I fear that his characterisation of the Passport Office is not helpful, not least for his constituents and others. As he will have heard from the Home Secretary, the Passport Office is continuing to provide substantially the service intended. Where problems have occurred, new staff are being deployed, both in call centres and in case handling, and the Home Secretary has just announced other measures that will enable constituents to get the service they are looking for.

Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con): La Casa Loco is a very successful Mexican restaurant in Rugby. Two years ago the owner engaged a firm of no win, no fee consultants to reduce the business rates bill, but it was unsuccessful. This year the Government announced the very welcome news that they are reducing the business rates bill by £1,000 for 300,000 shops, pubs and restaurants on our high streets, but in May the owner of the restaurant received a bill for £500—

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Mr Speaker: Order. We have very little time. What I need is short questions and short answers. We might then make some progress.

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend is right that the £1 billion package includes that discount, which many businesses will receive automatically. Any business that thinks it might be eligible for the discount but has not received it should contact the council, but there is absolutely no need to employ an agent in order to receive it.

Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Lab): The Leader of the House witnessed this morning not only the unedifying spectacle of a Home Secretary who refuses to apologise to those experiencing problems with the Passport Office, but the large number of Members who were unable to raise their constituents’ concerns because of time pressures. Will he ensure that the Home Secretary continues to account to Parliament on the passport fiasco and that she does so on the Floor of the House?

Mr Lansley: I heard a Home Secretary who is very well aware of the situation, as she has been for a long time, who is taking the necessary steps and who told the House today of further steps to provide reassurance and support to our constituents. You, Mr Speaker, understandably did not feel that it was possible to allow every question earlier. Therefore, as the Home Secretary said repeatedly, any Member who has particular difficulties, especially if they cannot get through on the MPs’ helpline, should raise them through my office or with the Minister for Security and Immigration and we will ensure that we respond to them as quickly as possible.

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): Has my right hon. Friend seen my early-day motion 72 on excessive hospital car parking charges?

[That this House is disappointed that three-quarters of NHS hospitals in England charge patients and visitors to park on-site; notes that there are discrepancies over what is charged across England, with one hospital in London charging up to £500 per week to park on-site; believes that high charges deter visitors from seeing their loved ones and can hit the most vulnerable at a difficult time; further notes that the cost of abolishing car parking charges in England is estimated to be £200 million which, according to research, could be achieved through prescribing more generic drugs; and therefore asks the Government to consider scrapping hospital car parking fees across England.]

Despite the Government saying that charges should be proportionate, some hospitals are charging up to £500 a week, and the charity Bliss says that parents with sick children are paying an extra £34 a week. May we have an urgent statement on that, and will he make representations to the Department of Health to see what can be done?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend is right that vulnerable people and their families who regularly have to attend hospital are hit hardest by parking charges. That is why it is most important that hospitals use their discretion and the kind of plan the NHS Confederation has for offering concessions to those who have to attend regularly for treatment or to visit patients. As far as raising

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resources for that is concerned, the money available for the health service is there for the treatment of patients. I have always made it clear that my personal view is that we should, wherever possible, deploy those resources for the direct benefit of patient care, rather than diverting it to subsidise parking.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): May we have a debate on how to win friends and influence people in Europe? The Leader of the House could lead it so that we could judge whether he would be any good as an EU commissioner. More importantly, he could explain to us why on earth Conservative MEPs have today joined forces with the AfD party in Germany, expressly against the wishes of their own party leader.

Mr Lansley: I think that the hon. Gentleman’s question is in one sense presumptuous. As far as winning friends and influencing people in Europe is concerned, that is exactly what the Prime Minister is doing, and with the support of the party leaders. The position he has taken, which is one of principle, is that under the treaties the European Council has the responsibility to put forward the President of the Commission. That should not be pre-empted by the European Parliament. He has set that out and the other party leaders absolutely support him. It is clear that Heads of Government across Europe support that principle.

Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con): I thank my right hon. Friend for announcing the Foreign Secretary’s statement on the summit on sexual violence in conflicts. May we please have a debate on the matter so that we can explore it more and discuss the scale of the problem and what the summit achieved?

Mr Lansley: I hope that the statement on Monday will be helpful to the House. It may well lead, quite properly, to calls for a further debate. We have to get our minds around the enormity of the problem. It is believed that an estimated 100,000 women were raped during the Guatemalan civil war. Between 20,000 and 50,000 were raped during the war in Bosnia. Over 200,000 were raped in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Those are frightful statistics. It is really important, as I have said previously, that those responsible are held to account, because very few of them have been. We must be much more confident that we can hold them to account in future.

Several hon. Members rose

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Mr Speaker: Order. Before I call the hon. Gentleman, may I just establish that he was here at the start of the statement, because I did not see him in his place?

Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab) indicated dissent.

Mr Speaker: In which case, I hope that he will understand that it would not be appropriate to call him.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): May we have a debate on who is to be the next President of the European Commission? Given that all the major parties are united in their opposition to the candidacy of Mr Juncker, this is an opportunity to send him a collective raspberry as well as to highlight the unity on the Conservative Benches against ever-closer union.

Mr Lansley: As my hon. Friend will understand, there will be regular opportunities to consider these matters, not least because the Prime Minister is assiduous in coming to the House and explaining them, as he did after the G7 summit and as he will have an opportunity to do after the further European Council at the end of the month. I hope that that will give us an opportunity to show that across the House there is a belief that the principle set out in the treaty should be adhered to: namely, that under the treaties it is the responsibility of the democratically elected Heads of State and Government in the European Council to put forward who should be the President of the Commission.

Julian Sturdy (York Outer) (Con): May we have a debate on the incursion of solar farms on to valuable green belt and high-grade agricultural land, as there appears to be a growing conflict over our renewable energy commitments and protecting high-grade, food-producing land, which is vital for our food security?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend will recall that the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, our right hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker), set out very clearly how that should be reconciled, not least by stating that the strategy is that solar PV should be appropriately sited, give proper weight to environmental considerations, provide opportunities for local communities to influence decisions affecting them, and provide some form of community benefit. I recall reading his letter. I hope that my hon. Friend agrees that it sets out some good guidance for local authorities on making decisions about these applications.

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Point of Order

12.18 pm

Hugh Bayley: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. During Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions today, the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Dan Rogerson)—I have spoken with his office about this—said, “We are investing more in flood defences than the last Government.” Four months ago, following a similar claim by the Secretary of State, the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority wrote to me to confirm that Government spending on flood protection has been cut by about £250 million during the time the coalition Government have been in power. He added that

“given the salience of these figures and the public interest in them, it is my view that it would better serve the public good if Defra were to consider publishing official statistics on expenditure… on… flooding… in future.”

Can you advise me on how this House could give the UK Statistics Authority, rather than Ministers, the power to determine which figures are so important that they should be published as official statistics that are independent, quality assured and accurate?

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and for notice of his intention to raise something of this kind. My best advice to him is that he should contact the Public Administration Committee, within whose auspices such matters would definitely fall. I appreciate that this has been a long-running matter so far as he is concerned, and if he wants to broker a step change or some sort of improvement in what he regards as an unsatisfactory state of affairs, going through that Select Committee might be a useful way to proceed. He can, of course, go to the Table Office and use the Order Paper in the usual way, and I dare say he will do so, but that is my most constructive advice to the hon. Gentleman and I hope it is helpful.

bill presented

Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing order No. 57)

Mr Secretary Grayling, supported by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Theresa May, Secretary David Jones, the Attorney-General, Oliver Letwin, Grant Shapps and Mr Nick Hurd presented a Bill to make provision as to matters to which a court must have regard in determining a claim in negligence or breach of statutory duty.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Monday 16 June, and to be printed (Bill 9) with explanatory notes (Bill 9-EN).

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Debate on the Address

[6th Day]

Debate resumed (Order, 11 June).

Question again proposed,

That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:

Most Gracious Sovereign,

We, Your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.

The Economy and Living Standards

Mr Speaker: I inform the House that I have selected amendment (c) in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. Debate should be relevant to the terms of the amendment.

12.21 pm

Ed Balls (Morley and Outwood) (Lab/Co-op): On this final day of debate on the Queen’s Speech, I beg to move an amendment, at the end of the Question to add:

‘but regret that the Gracious Speech fails to tackle the deepseated cost-of-living crisis with a plan to secure a strong and sustained recovery that delivers rising living standards for the many, not just a few at the top; and call on your Government to act to boost housing supply and ensure at least 200,000 new homes are built each year, introduce an independent infrastructure commission, reform the energy and banking markets to make them more competitive for consumers and businesses, make work pay by expanding free childcare for working parents, raise the value of the minimum wage over the next Parliament, introduce a lower ten pence starting rate of tax, set out reforms to ban recruitment agencies from hiring solely from overseas and put in place tougher enforcement of minimum wage laws to tackle the exploitation of migrant workers that undercuts local workers, introduce a compulsory jobs guarantee for young people and a new gold standard vocational qualification and give business a real say on apprenticeships in return for increasing their numbers to ensure that every young person gets the skills they need to succeed in the future.’.

Our economy is growing again and unemployment is falling [Hon. Members: “Hooray!”] yet we are today debating this Queen’s Speech just three weeks after local and European elections in which mainstream politics in our country was delivered a serious warning shot by the electorate—turnout was desperately low, the two main parties each failed to win even a third of the electorate, the Liberal Democrats were wiped out in most parts of the country, and the poll was topped by a party with no Members at all in this House and which campaigns to lead Britain out of the European Union. As the Leader of the Opposition said in his opening speech of this debate last week, these developments reflect

“a depth and scale of disenchantment that we ignore at our peril—disenchantment that goes beyond one party and one Government.”—[Official Report, 4 June 2014; Vol. 582, c. 15.]

All of us, in all parts of this House, know deep down that my right hon. Friend is right.

We all heard time and again on the doorstep the worries, fears, insecurity and pessimism of people up and down our country that the economic recovery is not working for them, their family and their community.

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After Labour’s victory in Hammersmith and Fulham, perhaps the Treasurer of Her Majesty’s Household, the right hon. Member for Chelsea and Fulham (Greg Hands) should listen more carefully to the electorate on these matters.

Several hon. Members rose

Ed Balls: I will open my remarks on the Queen’s Speech and take interventions in a moment.

In the startlingly honest and blunt words—the Chancellor should listen to these words—of the Minister without Portfolio and previous Conservative Chancellor, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke),

“the populations of most European countries including the United Kingdom have not yet felt any sense of recovery.”

He is right. There is a cost of living crisis and people are not feeling the benefit. The former Chancellor is right, too, to say that we in Britain are not alone. The European elections were no triumph for mainstream parties of left or right in most European countries, with far right or populist parties flourishing. The pattern that we have seen here in Britain—growth returning, but citizens expressing their insecurity and discontent at the ballot box—was repeated in countries such as Denmark and Austria, which also have growth and falling unemployment.

That is why I say to all parts of this House, including my own, that it is a challenge to all mainstream parties that working people do not believe that they will share in rising prosperity, be able to afford a home, secure a better job or save for a decent pension.

Several hon. Members rose

Ed Balls: I will give way in a moment, when I have established my argument. [Interruption.] Hon. Members should not be complacent; they should listen to this.

People have good reason to be sceptical. This stagnation in real wage growth is not just a problem of the past few years. It started in Britain over a decade ago as rapid technological change and global trade pressures put the squeeze on middle and low income households. The UK is not alone. That pattern is reflected across the developed world. Low wage and unskilled employment has grown, but research shows that traditionally middle-income, middle-class jobs in manufacturing and services have fallen as a share of total employment in all OECD countries. As the recent publicity around Google’s driverless car shows, labour-substituting technology is likely, if anything, to accelerate.

So the challenge for this Queen’s Speech and for this political generation is to show that, in the face of globalisation and technological change, we can secure rising prosperity that working people believe they can share in. Of course we have to respond to their concerns about immigration and reform in Europe, but the challenge is to get more better paid jobs for people who feel they have been left behind, and to bring in new investment, new industries and new jobs which could replace those in traditional areas where jobs have gone.

Those of us on the Opposition Benches will, with an open but critical mind, study the proposals in the Queen’s Speech on fracking, annuities, and pensions savings vehicles, but the real test against which this Queen’s Speech and the manifestos of all political parties will be

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judged over the next year is whether on jobs, skills, innovation and reform this generation can rise to the challenge and build an economy that works for all and not just a few.

Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): In his quest to re-engage the electorate who have become disenchanted, I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will believe that transparency and plain speaking are important. In that spirit, will he let us know clearly what Labour’s views are on increases in national insurance for employers?

Ed Balls: I am happy to do so. I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field), whom I respect a great deal, has a proposal, but that is not my proposal and it is not Labour’s proposal at all. We know that there are pressures in the national health service and that £3 billion has been wasted on an NHS reorganisation, but we also know that there is a cost of living crisis. People are paying hundreds of pounds more a year because of the Government’s VAT rise, and what we want to do is cut taxes for working people.

George Freeman (Mid Norfolk) (Con): The shadow Chancellor mentioned the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field), who was quoted as saying,

“I can’t tell you what a good meeting I had”

with the shadow Chancellor about the jobs tax. Will he take the opportunity now in the House to confirm that the Labour party does not have a plan to introduce a jobs tax?

Hon. Members: Rule it out.

Ed Balls: I have just given exactly that answer. That is my right hon. Friend’s plan, not mine. I remind the House that in April 2010 at the general election the then Leader of the Opposition, now the Prime Minister, said:

“We have absolutely no plans to raise VAT. Our first budget is all about recognising we need to get spending under control rather than putting up tax.”

If hon. Members want to discuss broken promises, they should have a word with the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Several hon. Members rose

Ed Balls: Let me make a little more progress, then I will give way.

Let me start by trying to find some common ground with the Chancellor on these big and difficult debates. I think we can agree that Britain has always succeeded, and can only succeed in the future, as an open, internationalist and outward-facing trading nation, with enterprise, risk and innovation valued and rewarded. We need to back entrepreneurs and wealth creation, generate the profits to finance investment and win the confidence of investors round the world. We can agree on that.

Turning our face as a nation against the rest of the world and the opportunities of global trade is the road to national impoverishment. But at a time when there are powerful forces in technology and trade, which mean that many people are seeing their living standards falling year on year, we cannot take for granted public support for that open global market vision. As the

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Member of Parliament whose constituency until recently had the largest BNP membership of any in the country, I know how some on the extremes of left and right see isolationism as the solution—turning inwards, setting their face against Europe and the world economy—which would be a disastrous road to take. It would be the wrong way to proceed.

Mr Brian H. Donohoe (Central Ayrshire) (Lab): On the question of jobs, we all applaud the number of jobs created in the country, but do we know how many have been created on zero-hours contracts?

Ed Balls: We know that the zero-hours contract is one of the symptoms of change in our labour market that is causing such insecurity. My hon. Friend raises that matter because the reality is that none of us on either side of the House can afford to bury our head in the sand and ignore the legitimate and mainstream concerns of people across our country about our economy not currently working for them and their families.

The challenge for this generation is how we respond. In my view, there are two quite wrongheaded ways to respond. The first is to assume that business as usual will just do the job—that the return of GDP growth will solve the problem. I must say to the Chancellor and to Government Members—particularly to the right hon. Member for Chelsea and Fulham, given the result in his constituency—that every time they boast that their economic plan is working, I am afraid most people in our country just think they are completely out of touch. It may be working for some—a privileged few—but people say time and again, “It’s not working for me. It’s not working for my family. It’s not working for our community.” That is what they have to solve.

Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con): We have asked time and again, but will the shadow Chancellor rule out an increase in national insurance or not? I would add that businesses in Bournemouth are worried about another tax—a property owner’s tax, which is another Labour invention—so will he rule that out as well?

Ed Balls: To return to a previous debate, the hon. Gentleman has had a 700% rise in long-term youth unemployment in his constituency since 2010. What he should do is to engage with what we actually need in order to have a successful long-term economic plan.

Mr Ellwood: I am very pleased to see the shadow Chancellor has a briefing note that even has my picture on it. What he is not informed about is that long-term youth unemployment includes students. I am pleased to say that the three universities in Bournemouth are increasing their numbers. The statistic has gone up because it includes students.

Ed Balls: I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman got that wrong last time, and he is wrong again. I am referring to jobseeker’s allowance—the claimant count—and students are excluded from the figures. I must say that it is excusable to make that mistake once, but having done it twice, his chances of getting on to the Front Bench are severely diminished.

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Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab): Before those interventions, the shadow Chancellor was making an extraordinarily important speech. Does he agree that the fundamental question we face is whether the link between economic growth and the living standards of people doing ordinary jobs in our country is broken or not? Will he return to such points, because those are the issues that my constituents fret about day in, day out?

Ed Balls: I will. This is the most vital and difficult issue. We have seen a rise in unskilled jobs in our country in recent years. That is a good thing, but it is not good enough. If that goes alongside falling living standards year on year for people not just on the lowest but on middle incomes, what will we end up with? We will end up with rising poverty among working people and record numbers of working people going to food banks, as well as rising alienation and a view that mainstream politics is not delivering. Unless Conservative Members wake up to that, they will see the consequences of it next year.

Mr Ellwood: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): I call Mr Ellwood on a point of order—in quick order as well.

Mr Ellwood: Absolutely, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am glad of that vote of approval. I am just asking for clarification and giving the shadow Chancellor an opportunity to correct himself. He, I think inadvertently, misled the House by suggesting that Bournemouth’s youth unemployment has increased; according to figures from the Library, it has reduced by 40% over the past year.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Mr Ellwood, that is not a point of order; that is continuing the debate. You have had three chances at it: three strikes and you’re out—no more.

Ed Balls: It is also completely pathetic. In the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, the number of young people aged between 18 and 24 claiming JSA who have been out of work for more than 12 months has gone up by 700%. As I said a moment ago, you either bury your head in the sand, or you face up to these big issues. We are facing up to them, but Government Members are incapable of doing so.

Ian Austin (Dudley North) (Lab): The shadow Chancellor is setting out a really important argument about the recent election results, the widespread disenchantment that clearly exists in Britain at the moment, and the effects of globalisation and technological change on the economy. Is it not absolutely extraordinary that while he is doing so, he is being subjected to these utterly juvenile interventions? Does he not find it extraordinary that all Government Members can do is to read out handouts from the Whips, and the idiot from Bournemouth cannot even get that right? [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order.

Mr Ellwood rose—

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Madam Deputy Speaker: Sit down, Mr Ellwood. [Laughter.] This is a serious debate. Mr Ellwood, I am sure that you have very broad shoulders, and you will give your all when you get your turn to speak, perhaps in interventions on the Chancellor.

Ed Balls: I am trying to respond to serious issues. The reality is that, yes, after three years of flatlining, our economy is finally growing again, but net lending to small business is still falling, youth unemployment is still at record highs, wages are not keeping pace with prices and people are worse off. What I want to say is that unless we face up to that reality, we will not make progress. [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Mr Ellwood, I can hear what you are saying. Actually, I agree that the way in which the hon. Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin) referred to you was uncalled for. You are an honourable Member of this House, and I am sure that Mr Austin wants to make it clear that that is his view.

Ian Austin: I did not mean—[Laughter.] Madam Deputy Speaker, the last thing I would want to do is upset you, but I have to say that the hon. Gentleman’s intervention—[Laughter.]

Hon. Members: Apologise!

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I expect Members to behave according to the rules of the Chamber, of which they are fully aware. Mr Austin, the word you are looking for is “sorry”. Stand up, please, and say sorry.

Ian Austin: Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to apologise to you. [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. For goodness’ sake, everybody calm down. That is good enough: “sorry” is on the record in relation to the hon. Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood). That is the end of it.

Mr Jamie Reed (Copeland) (Lab): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Madam Deputy Speaker: No. I am not going to take a point of order; I am going to listen to what Mr Balls has to say. This is getting ridiculous.

Ed Balls: As I said, the first wrongheaded thing to do is to bury one’s head in the sand and not to face up to the reality. We can debate the Chancellor’s record. In 2010, he said that he would balance the Budget in 2015, but the deficit will be £75 million. He said that he would make people better off, but the Institute for Fiscal Studies has confirmed that people will be worse off in 2015 than they were in 2010. He said that we would all be in this together, but he has imposed the bedroom tax on the most vulnerable, seen record numbers go to food banks and cut the top rate of income tax for those earning more than £150,000.

James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con) rose

Charlie Elphicke (Dover) (Con) rose

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Ed Balls: I will give way in one second.

My greatest concern on the agenda of how we can deliver more good jobs for the future is the Chancellor’s commitment to delivering a balanced economic recovery.

If we look at what is actually happening, it is true that the economy is growing, but within the G7, it is still only the UK and Italy that have not recovered to their pre-crisis peaks in output. With the rise in the population, it will take a full 10 years for income per head to recover to where it was in 2007. Worse than that is the level of business investment.

I am pleased that there are finally signs that business investment is starting to pick up, but as of now, we have the fourth lowest level of business investment in the European Union. Only Cyprus, Greece and Ireland are lower than the United Kingdom. Our export growth is sixth in the G7, 16th in the G20 and 22nd in the EU since 2010. Our research and development expenditure is the lowest in the G7. Lending to business is still falling. There has been a 12% fall in infrastructure output since 2010. Public investment is being cut next year. Those are not figures about which we can be complacent.

Mr Henry Bellingham (North West Norfolk) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman is talking about investment, but he is being quite selective. In respect of foreign direct investment, is he aware that the UK secured nearly 800 new projects last year—the highest ever—and that we have 20% of all FDI in the EU? Is that not a very good sign indeed?

Ed Balls: Of course that is good news. For decades, we have been an open, global trading nation that attracts investment from around the world, and I want to keep it that way. However, complacency is not the way to make that happen. We have to face up to the reality that living standards are falling because, as the International Monetary Fund said in its report last week, our recovery is characterised by woefully low productivity growth. That is why living standards and wages are still falling, even as growth returns. Unless we face up to that challenge, we will have substantial problems.

James Morris: Last year, the right hon. Gentleman said that the Chancellor should listen to the IMF. Surely, he should take his own advice. He was wrong on growth. The Government’s long-term economic plan is working. Higher taxes would lead to a more insecure Britain. In the spirit of the debate that he wants to have, surely he has to admit that he was wrong on growth.

Ed Balls: In 2010, the Chancellor said that, by now, the economy would have grown by 12%. It has actually grown by half that amount. That is why the deficit has not come down and why people are worse off. The Chancellor would have been well advised to take the sound advice in 2010 and not choke off the economic recovery. He should take the sound advice of the IMF now and look at ways to improve housing supply and to tackle the woeful productivity performance over which he is presiding.

Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab): The Chancellor acts as though he is the only person who has delivered growth, but we already had growth when he came to

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power. When there was light at the end of the tunnel, he spent two and a half years building more tunnel. Finally, now that we have growth—after everyone else—he says, “Haven’t I done well?”.

Ed Balls: My hon. Friend’s description of the historical record since 2010 is correct. However, the real issue is why we still have such low investment and why living standards are still falling. The jobs that we are creating are not delivering rising living standards for working people. We have only to look at the election results from a few weeks ago to see the potential challenge to Britain’s place in the world if we do not understand those forces.

Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Ed Balls: In a second.

As I said, the first mistake is to bury our heads in the sand. The second mistake is to attempt to appease those who say that the problem is rapid globalisation and technological change and that therefore the simplest thing to do is to put up trade barriers, stop all migration to Britain and leave the European Union. That is the wrong approach as well.

We all know the depth of concern about immigration in our country, but when the Prime Minister claimed, foolishly, that he would reduce net migration to the tens of thousands, “no ifs, no buts”, he did the cause of sensible and progressive immigration reform no good at all, because he has failed. Net migration has not come down to the tens of thousands; it has stuck stubbornly above 200,000 a year. Even the Chancellor has admitted that the Government will not meet their immigration target. Sending ad vans around the country urging immigrants to go home has only undermined their credibility. That is not the right approach on this issue.

We need clear reform on this matter. We need tough new laws to stop agencies and employers exploiting cheap migrant labour to undercut wages and jobs. We need to strengthen our border controls, not weaken them. We need to ensure that people who come to this country can learn English, and we must provide the support to make that happen. We need fairer rules to make sure that people who come here contribute, cannot claim benefits when they arrive and can more easily be deported if they commit a crime. We need to reform the free movement of labour in Europe through longer transitional controls, stronger employment protection and restrictions on benefits. Those are the things that we have to do. We need reform, not posturing and pandering.

Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): But the fact remains that too many traditional, working-class voters voted UKIP in the European elections. That is a serious problem for both political parties. Should we not now regret that there was such unrestricted immigration from eastern Europe? Can we not learn the lessons of that?

Ed Balls: I am very happy to say to the hon. Gentleman that not having transitional controls in 2004 was a mistake, and one that we all still deal with the consequences of. The question is whether we should have allies in

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Europe whom we can persuade to do things better for the future or walk away from our European partners and find that we are treated with disdain in the decision-making halls of Europe. That is the real question for statesmanship and politics in our country at the moment.

Our view on that question is clear. We say that there is no future for Britain in walking away from the European Union. It is the biggest single market for the companies, regions and countries of the United Kingdom. We have to reform Europe to make it work better for Britain, but we are much more likely to win the arguments if we are fully engaged, rather than having one foot out of the door.

The Prime Minister and the Chancellor used to agree with that argument. They came though the Lobby with us in 2011 to oppose an arbitrary timetable for an EU referendum. Then, they changed their minds. The Prime Minister flounced out of a summit and decided to appease Tory Back Benchers by performing a U-turn. In the memorable words of Lord Heseltine,

“To commit to a referendum about a negotiation that hasn’t begun, on a timescale you cannot predict, on an outcome that’s unknown, where Britain’s appeal as an inward investment market would be the centre of the debate, seems to me like an unnecessary gamble.”

Dr Thérèse Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Mr Speaker was very clear in his guidance earlier that we should speak to the amendment. I am struggling to find in the amendment any mention of a European referendum.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Fortunately, that is a matter for me, and not the hon. Lady. The clear argument that is being advanced is about the importance of that matter to the economy. As long as the right hon. Gentleman stays on that point, he is in order.

Ed Balls: The argument that I am making is that if we as a House—those of us on the left and on the right—are to face up to the challenge of delivering more and better jobs for working people and if we are to see off the pressures for isolation and withdrawal, we cannot take the wrong-headed approach either of denying that there is a problem or of appeasing those who would try to walk away. We need a Queen’s Speech that rises to that challenge. My point is that, in putting all its energy into Europe and the referendum, the Conservative party has the wrong strategy to deal with the challenge that we face.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr George Osborne): Just so that we can be absolutely clear, will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear from the Dispatch Box that Labour will not offer a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union now or in the manifesto at the general election and will therefore vote against any private Member’s Bill that proposes one?

Ed Balls: We have said very clearly that we do not believe in an ever-closer Union. If there is any proposal to transfer powers to Brussels from London, we will have a referendum in the next Parliament. Our position is clear. We are not turning our face against a referendum. What we are turning our face against is a referendum that would destabilise our country and cause it to lose investment and jobs.

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Hon. Members do not have to take my word for it: let me read the conclusion, a year on from the Prime Minister’s decision, of the Chancellor’s biographer in the Financial Times. He stated that Downing street’s three objectives for the referendum were

“to pacify Tory MPs, sap the momentum of the fringe UK Independence party and put the troublesome subject of Europe to sleep until the general election in 2015. On all scores, it failed.”

That must qualify as the understatement of the year. [Interruption.] I have given my view.

Mr Osborne: I ask the shadow Chancellor to answer the question that I put to him. Does he rule out offering, now or in the Labour manifesto at the general election, an in-out referendum on Europe, and will the Labour party therefore vote against any private Member’s Bill that is introduced?

Ed Balls: The answer is no, of course we will not rule that out, because we have a clear commitment that if there is any proposal to transfer powers, we will have an in-out referendum in the next Parliament. That is our position. I gave the Chancellor the answer once, he did not listen and I gave it to him again.

Is not the reality that the Prime Minister’s attempt to appease Tory Back Benchers has failed and that it has not worked very well with the Front Benchers either? Just a few months ago, just after the Budget, the last time we had such a debate, we had read stories in the newspapers about the Education Secretary trying to undermine the leadership ambitions of the Mayor of London—it was briefed, I believe, to The Mail on Sunday at a lunch. Last week, it was the Home Secretary who was targeted by the Education Secretary, this time to The Times over lunch. The first time, the Education Secretary explained that he was tipsy. He has obviously been on the sauce again. There is a pattern here: a rival to the Chancellor tops the “ConservativeHome” leadership poll and the Education Secretary is sent out to try to stop them at all costs. Now we know that when the Chancellor and the Education Secretary have a late-night chat about the Prevent strategy, they are talking about a rather different prevent strategy from the one that we are talking about. It is pretty clear who the Chancellor has tried to prevent through all his interventions.

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Ed Balls: I want to come to the Queen’s Speech, but I will give way.

Robert Halfon: I am grateful. If the right hon. Gentleman’s economic message is being listened to, why did the Labour vote in Harlow decline by 20% over the past two years, and why did Labour lose three council seats in safe Labour wards? Is it not because Labour betrayed the working classes and voted against our tax cuts for lower earners, our fuel duty freeze and our council tax freeze?

Ed Balls: I respect the hon. Gentleman and his views, but the main message of my speech so far has been a warning against complacency, and I suggest that he heeds that warning. [Interruption.] As should the right hon. Member for Chelsea and Fulham).

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As I said, the challenge that this Queen’s Speech should have risen to, but did not, is how we can ensure that we generate a secure recovery that delivers more good jobs for our country. The huge disappointment was that that was not the subject of this Queen’s Speech. We know that there is no quick fix and that we have to earn our way to rising prosperity. We cannot turn our face against change, Europe and the world, but nor can we succeed with a race to the bottom whereby British companies simply try to compete on cost and the Government see their role as simply removing regulation, undermining job security and hoping it will work. That will not generate the low and middle-income jobs that we need in the future. Our view is that we can succeed only through a race to the top, by backing innovation and investing in skills, making our economy more competitive and dynamic and earning our way to higher living standards for all.

Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab): In my constituency, long-term unemployment has increased by almost 600% in the past two years and 380 people are desperately in need of some sight of the so-called recovery. What was in the Queen’s Speech that will give them any hope?

Ed Balls: I am afraid that the Queen’s Speech missed out the key elements of a long-term economic plan that would deliver rising prosperity for all. That is the problem. We know that there is a problem with housing—demand has run ahead of supply—so where was the action in the Queen’s Speech to deliver new towns, Treasury guarantees, planning reform, affordable homes, reform of Help to Buy and a new help to build scheme, which would deliver what we need? We have lower levels of house building than at any time since the 1920s, and the Chancellor is tinkering. It is about time that he showed some leadership on housing; otherwise, the aspirational majority will not get on the housing ladder. The danger is that interest rates will rise much earlier in the recovery than they should, choking off the living standards of people across our country.

The same point applies more widely to the Queen’s Speech. On skills, where was the action to deliver a gold standard for vocational qualifications? Where was the tax on bank bonuses to ensure that every young person who is out of work for a year is guaranteed a job? Where was the action to ensure that we incentivise a non-statutory living wage, improve the minimum wage and tackle the abuse of zero-hours contracts?

Although we welcome the extra investment in child care, that will not happen until the next Parliament. It will fail to help too many families who are struggling with the costs of child care, which have gone up so much. Why will the Chancellor not increase free child care for the under-fives from 15 hours to 25 hours a week for working parents? It is a Labour policy, but it is a good policy and should be in any sensible long-term economic plan.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to seek to raise prosperity and ambition in this country. Is not the Government’s strategy utterly self-defeating? We now have record numbers of people in work but in poverty. Do we not need to ensure that those people have work that pays, and pays well?

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Ed Balls: I agree with my hon. Friend. I want to come to a conclusion, because many Members, particularly on the Opposition Benches, want to speak, but he is completely right. Where in the Queen’s Speech was the independent infrastructure commission to get the infrastructure we need? Where was the proper British investment bank to back small businesses? Where were those key elements of a plan that will deliver more and better jobs for working people?

There was one other reform that I was disappointed was not in the Queen’s Speech, and I urge the Chancellor to reconsider it in the next two or three weeks. We know that there are big challenges to restore public trust. Our commitment is clear: we will balance the books in the next Parliament and get the national debt falling, and we will do it in a fairer way. It is hugely disappointing that the Chancellor has not committed, as he could have done, to introduce legislation to allow the Office for Budget Responsibility to audit independently the costings of every spending and tax measure in each main party manifesto. The Chair of the Treasury Committee and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury support that; why will the Chancellor not put politics aside and do the right thing? It would be the first such independent audit ever. It is essential to restore public trust in politics and improve the nature of the political debate, and the Chancellor can still change his mind in the next few weeks and make it happen.

This is Labour’s agenda for economic change. As I have argued from the beginning of this speech, we will sustain support for an open and dynamic market economy only if we can show that it will work for all, not just some. We need radical reforms to deliver more good jobs and make work pay, in marked contrast to Tory Ministers and Back Benchers burying their heads in the sand, repeating a hollow mantra and hoping that more of the same will restore public trust. That is patently not working. We need 200,000 homes a year, a compulsory jobs guarantee, a gold-standard vocational qualification, 25 hours a week of free child care, energy market reform with a 20-month price freeze, the books to be balanced in a fair way, a proper British investment bank and an independent infrastructure commission. That is the long-term economic plan that Britain needs, and only Labour will deliver it.

12.59 pm

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr George Osborne): I rise to support the Queen’s Speech and its many measures that back business, savers and hard-working people. The shadow Chancellor has come with a new catchphrase. He talked about a “long-term economic plan”. I think it is good; it might catch on. It has a ring to it, but I am sure I have heard it before. That is the problem with his entire speech: he could not utter the inescapable truth that Britain has a long-term economic plan, and that that plan is working.

We are attracting more investment than Germany and creating jobs at a faster rate than the United States. We are expanding more than four times faster than the Government the right hon. Gentleman admired in France, and growing faster than any major economy in the world. Of course, there is much more to do to build our exports, back our businesses, encourage savings, build homes, secure investment, build our economic infrastructure and rebalance our economy, and the Bills in this Queen’s Speech take us forward in that direction.

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Toby Perkins: The Chancellor says that the economic plan is working, but who is it working for? It might be working for his friends who he used to go boozing with at the Bullingdon club, but working people in my constituency find that it is harder and harder every single month to make work pay. What will the Chancellor do to make work pay under his Government?

Mr Osborne: That is what is so revealing about the Labour party’s performance in the past half hour. The shadow Chancellor started by reading out the article in the New Statesman this morning and trying his piece on new politics, but within about 10 minutes it all descended into Bullingdon club jokes, and the hon. Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin) having to withdraw his comment. The shadow Chancellor then descended into the normal slapdash that we have got used to in the House. Incidentally, there is a striking echo of what went wrong with the Leader of the Opposition’s speech at the beginning of the Queen’s Speech debate. That is because he is unable to engage in the serious economic argument about what needs to happen in this country.

Robert Halfon: When a hard-working person in Harlow considers the economy, he will leave his house in the morning on the way to work probably knowing that his mortgage is low and fuel duty is frozen. When he gets to work he will see more people in work and more apprentices, and when he looks at his pay packet, he will see that his tax bill has been cut by hundreds of pounds.

Mr Osborne: My hon. Friend is right. By reducing income tax and increasing the personal allowance, by freezing fuel duty—something he campaigned on powerfully in this Parliament—and above all by having an economy that creates rather than destroys jobs, we are holding out the prospect of economic security and better prosperity for our country in the decade ahead. That is what we all want to secure.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Osborne: I will give way in a moment, but let me make some progress. I know that about 50 Members want to speak in this debate—[Hon. Members: “Not on your side.”] Well, we will hear. No doubt Labour Members can all get up on their feet and repeat what they said last year .

I have done something that I know we are not supposed to do in this place, because I actually bothered to read what the shadow Chancellor said in the House last year. Here we are in the privacy of the House of Commons where no one is listening, but what were his pearls of wisdom? In this exact debate last year he issued a stark warning that the British economy would “flatline” unless we abandoned our plan immediately. Since he made that prediction, we have stuck to our plan and our economy has grown by more than 3%.

Last year in this debate the shadow Chancellor said that business investment would “stall”, but it has since grown by almost 9%. He told us that unemployment would rise, but since he made that prediction more than 800,000 new jobs have been created. He warned ominously that youth unemployment would rise too, but it is down by 100,000 over the past 12 months. From re-reading the speeches of the shadow Chancellor, I have discovered that he performs a very useful function. He is an infallible

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guide to the future performance of the British economy: whatever he predicts, we can be sure that the exact opposite happens.

Mr Donohoe: Will the Chancellor answer a simple question about employment? How many people are on zero-hours contracts?

Mr Osborne: I do not have the number the hon. Gentleman asks for here, but there were zero-hours contracts under the previous Labour Government and there are Labour councils that use zero-hours contracts. As those on the Labour Front Bench have pointed out, not all zero-hours contracts are bad. One measure in the Queen’s Speech that was not mentioned by the shadow Chancellor—indeed, he did not actually address the speech in his remarks—will ban exclusivity with zero-hours contracts. Labour had 13 years; the shadow Chancellor was in charge of economic policy for 13 years and could have taken such a step, but he did not. I suggest that Labour Members hold their tongues and come with the Government through the Division Lobbies as we do something about an abuse that they did absolutely nothing to crack down on.

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con): On the topic of pearls of wisdom from the shadow Chancellor, does my right hon. Friend agree that his rather careful formulation that a jobs tax is not his argument was rather too clever by half? We did not hear from the shadow Chancellor a clear commitment that a jobs tax is not Labour’s policy now or at the general election.

Mr Osborne: My hon. Friend is right. We listened carefully, but like the Leader of the Opposition the shadow Chancellor did not rule out a jobs tax. Why? Because it is Labour’s tax of choice. That is what they did in government when they increased national insurance, and what they proposed at the general election. A couple of years ago the shadow Chancellor admitted that he would be minded to do that as a means of bringing order to the public finances—his weapon of choice is a jobs tax. That is Labour’s answer to jobs: tax them, destroy them, make people unemployed. That is why every Labour Government in history have left unemployment higher than when they entered office.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Osborne: Let me make a little progress and then I will take more interventions. In a debate after last year’s Queen’s Speech—[Interruption.] I am talking about this year because last year the shadow Chancellor urged me to do something this year. In the conclusion to his speech last year, he said that the Chancellor should listen to the International Monetary Fund. He also said that

“a sensible and economically literate chancellor would heed the IMF’s advice.”

I have reflected on that advice, and I think I will listen to the IMF. I have its most recent statement from last week and it states that growth in Britain is projected to be

“the fastest among the major advanced economies.”

It says that the economy has rebounded strongly, that inflation has fallen rapidly, that growth is becoming more balanced, that we are moving towards an investment-led economy, and that that good macro-economic performance is expected to persist. It stated that the

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news coming out of the UK recently has been “pretty much all good”, in contrast to the shadow Chancellor’s predictions, which were pretty much all bad. It concludes that our fiscal policy—the deficit reduction plan that the shadow Chancellor bets his entire economic credibility on opposing—is the “anchor” of Britain’s stability and economic success. My answer to the right hon. Gentleman is this: I am listening to the IMF, the CBI, the chambers of commerce, the Institute of Directors, the Federation of Small Businesses and the OECD. Who on earth is he listening to?

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): Will the Chancellor listen to the IMF on the housing market, of which he has made a total mess? House prices are rising by 20% in London, and there is negative equity in the north. Not one property was sold for £600,000 in my constituency. Will the Chancellor now abandon the stupid Help to Buy scheme, which goes up to £600,000 for new home owners?

Mr Osborne: I will come on to say something about the housing market, and I am the first to say that we must be vigilant about housing. But to get a lecture from the party that presided over the biggest housing boom and bust in British history—

Ed Balls: What?

Mr Osborne: The shadow Chancellor says “what?” He might forget what happened in 2007-08 when the banks almost went bust because they extended housing loans that people could not afford, house prices fell, housing starts went off a cliff, and the people of Britain paid the price of an economic policy predicated on the fact that there would be no more boom and bust. The people of Britain are living with the consequences of that policy. Will he just accept now that basing an economic policy on the prediction that there would be no more boom and bust was an error of judgment?

Ed Balls: Will the Chancellor like to tell the House how many people went into negative equity after 2007, and how that compares with the number of people—the tens of thousands—who were put into negative equity after the Conservative housing crash of 1989? If he is going to make these statements he ought to be able to make them stand up. While we are here, will he tell us—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): No, no, no. Mr Balls, sit down. Not “While we are here.” One point at a time.

Mr Osborne: The right hon. Gentleman’s argument seems to be, “My crash was better than your crash.” That is a brilliant argument. I will tell him the answer. He was going to remove a temporary scheme that protects people from mortgage costs when they become unemployed. I extended it year after year after year. I have extended it again in the Budget to make sure that people do not find themselves having their homes repossessed. Can I also tell him that the housing market fell by almost 20%? The price of houses fell and there were people at Northern Rock—[Interruption.] His argument is literally, “I’m sorry we messed it up, but

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you messed it up in the past as well.” That is an absolutely hopeless argument. I have learned the lesson from the terrible mistake—

Ed Balls: You were wrong.

Mr Osborne: I was wrong? This is the man who presided over the deepest recession in British modern history and the biggest banking crisis since the Victorian age. He has the nerve to get up and say to the team that is turning the country around that we got it wrong. The truth is that he is the person who got it wrong.

There was a very interesting observation this week by Charles Clarke, who was the Home Secretary when Labour were in office. This is what he said:

“we have rested a great deal on assuming that the Conservative strategy wouldn’t succeed, that ‘plan A’…would not work and that has proved to be an unwise judgment because in fact, the Conservatives have succeeded in getting the economy onto a more positive path which leaves us”—

the Labour party—

“very little place”.

Alison McGovern: I think the Chancellor gave himself away at the beginning of his speech when he described “long-term economic plan” as just a catchphrase. He said he would close the budget deficit and he has not. If his policies are such a success, why not?

Mr Osborne: It is not a catchphrase; it is a plan that has cut the claimant count in the hon. Lady’s constituency by 45%. That is a plan that is working. The budget deficit has been halved. If her argument is that we should be cutting faster or trying to get the deficit down faster, that is a novel argument because it is not one I remember being made at any one of the economic debates when she and the rest of the Labour party trooped through the Division Lobby against every single change we have made to try to bring the public finances under control.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Osborne: I will give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt) who made an absolutely brilliant opening to this Queen’s Speech debate.

Penny Mordaunt (Portsmouth North) (Con): I can understand why the shadow Chancellor does not want to congratulate those on the Government Front Bench. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the people in Portsmouth—those who have taken a risk and set up a business, and the 2,000 people who have got back into work—ought to be praised for their achievements rather than have them dismissed by the Labour party?

Mr Osborne: I completely agree with my hon. Friend. The progress being made in Portsmouth—the jobs created, the businesses set up and the support people get from their Member of Parliament—is an example of how the long-term economic plan is working for the people of Portsmouth, and how we need to go on working with that plan, rather than abandoning it.

The hon. Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern) asked me what we can do to get the budget deficit down. I suspect that even the shadow Chancellor does not

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know. He tabled a motion today, although he did not speak to it. The cost of implementing it would be £14 billion. There is not a single measure in it that would reduce public spending or pay for that £14 billion price tag. It is completely incredible.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Osborne: I will make a little progress and then give way.

That speaks to a broader point. The shadow Chancellor is not a naturally retiring type. He likes to get out there and meet people. He likes to go to supermarkets and shake people’s hands. The truth, however, is that he has gone quiet in recent months and we do not see him so much on the television or hear him on the radio. I think that is because he knows—or rather his party leadership knows—that they have lost the macro-economic argument. He is now losing the micro-economic argument within his own party. The Leader of the Opposition does not want to talk anymore about Labour’s spending and borrowing plans, because he knows they are very unpopular. Instead, there is a whole series of populist initiatives on price controls, incomes policies, bans on foreign investment, renationalisation, and wars on business and enterprise. The truth is that the shadow Chancellor actually spent a considerable period of time, in Opposition in the 1990s and then in office, trying to get his party to reject these kinds of things. He knows that they will lead to higher prices, lower incomes, less investment and fewer businesses.

In fact, the shadow Chancellor makes no secret, if we read between the lines of his speech today and his article in the New Statesman, of the fact that he is not in favour of trying to restrict the open economy, and that he values foreign investment coming into the country. The problem is that the message being given out by the leader of the Labour party is the complete opposite of that—it is in a completely different direction. He jumps on every single issue to make the argument, essentially, that we need a more closed economy and that there is a dangerous race to the bottom. The truth is that I think the shadow Chancellor and I agree that it would be a disaster for Britain to head down that route.

The shadow Chancellor has a macro-economic argument, which is that Britain should be borrowing and spending more, and, if necessary, increasing taxes to pay for it, but the Labour leader will not allow him to make that argument anymore, so he has gone completely silent. Normally, he is there right behind the leader of the Labour party, right behind his shoulder blades waiting to support him. Instead, he has learned a trick from his old friend the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown): when the Labour party is doing badly, losing by-elections and the like, stay quiet and disappear. That is what he has attempted to do in the past couple of months. The truth is that the threat that his economic approach represents—higher taxes, and borrowing that would destroy our public finances and push interest rates up—does not go away just because he goes away. That is the plan he would put into practice were he ever to walk through the doors of the Treasury again.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Before the Chancellor moves on, he was giving us a history lesson earlier but could we have some proper history?

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He was criticising the shadow Chancellor for the period when the Chancellor alleges things went wrong with the banks and lending. He himself, the present Chancellor, was urging less control and less regulation. Let us get that history right. Will the Chancellor address one issue: why is productivity failing to improve?

Mr Osborne: I agree with the hon. Gentleman that productivity is one of the challenges for the British economy. I have to say that if offered the choice in the early stages of a recovery between productivity improvements and increased job numbers, I would take increased job numbers because of the considerable human damage and the potential serious long-term economic damage that high unemployment can cause. I am enormously proud of the record of the British business community in creating those jobs, and of the people who have got those jobs and are holding them. I agree that we want to make our economy more productive. We do that by having an open economy where we welcome investment, support enterprise and support business. The Labour party’s policy proposals on prices, incomes, new restrictions on foreign investment, higher taxes on business and a higher corporation tax are all the wrong approach and would make our economy less productive.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Osborne: I will give way to my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk (Mr Bellingham) and then make some progress.

Mr Bellingham: Earlier my right hon. Friend mentioned Charles Clarke, who knows quite a lot about what is happening in Norfolk and will be aware that unemployment in my constituency has fallen by 660 over the last year. That is 660 families with jobs, a wage packet and hope for the future. Is my right hon. Friend aware that the vast majority of those jobs are either full time or in self-employment?

Mr Osborne: My hon. Friend is absolutely right: there has been a remarkable jobs story in Norfolk as well, supported by the economic investment we are putting into new roads in the county. I have spoken to the chamber of commerce there and seen its ideas for attracting more investment into King’s Lynn and other key centres, and I congratulate my hon. Friend on all he is doing to back business there.

Oliver Colvile (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend accept that his economic strategy has seen unemployment in my constituency fall by 25% over the last four years? The Government’s decision to grant a city deal to Plymouth will create 10,000 new jobs by releasing some of the land in the dockyard.

Mr Osborne: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The city deal, which he championed and urged on us, has a real prospect of bringing more investment and jobs to Plymouth. It is great news that work is being created in that great city and I congratulate him on all the local leadership he is showing there.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Osborne: I will take one more intervention from a Labour Member and then make some progress.

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Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): Before the Chancellor descends further into his self-congratulatory speech and quotes statistics about my constituency to me, will he confirm that the employment rate is still below pre-recession levels and that a third of the jobs in my constituency are below the living wage?

Mr Osborne: Well, yes, the employment rate is below what it was before the economy crashed and we had the deepest recession since the 1920s and ’30s, but the good news, as the hon. Lady will have noted, is that there has been a sharp rise in the employment rate in the last year—800,000 new jobs created. The employment rate now is very close to its pre-recession peak, so I would suggest that she should not make too many predictions on that front.

I am absolutely explicit that I want to get the employment rate up. I want to ensure that our schools are providing kids with the right skills, that we are creating more apprenticeships—one of the great success stories of this Government—and that we have more students coming out of our universities with the right graduate qualifications, so that we get our employment rate up even higher and achieve the goal of full employment in this country.

One of the risks that will face any economy—particularly one such as the United Kingdom’s, with a large number of financial services in it—is any risk from financial markets. As we begin to see the slow withdrawal of monetary stimulus here in the UK and in the United States, and with the eurozone heading in the other direction, we might expect to see an increase in market volatility. That is all the more reason why the financial markets in foreign currencies, commodities and fixed income should be fair and effective. Tonight at Mansion House and here in the House of Commons, I want to set out briefly the steps that the Governor of the Bank of England and I are taking.

We will bring forward enhanced criminal sanctions to punish and deter market abuse, but we will not opt into European rules, instead developing our own tough domestic powers. We will extend the senior managers regime proposed by the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards—so ably chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr Tyrie)—so that it covers the branches of foreign banks. We will also use the legislation we asked Parliament to pass in the wake of the LIBOR scandal to regulate further benchmarks in areas such as foreign exchange, fixed income and commodities. The new review that the Governor and I are establishing, chaired by the former deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Minouche Shafik—now the deputy governor of the Bank of England—and involving the Treasury and the Financial Conduct Authority, will provide further recommendations.

Let me be absolutely clear: the integrity of the City matters to the economy of Britain. Markets here set the interest rates for people’s mortgages, the exchange rates for our exports and holidays, and the commodity prices for the goods we buy. We are going to deal with abuses, tackle the unacceptable behaviour of the few and ensure that markets are fair for the many who depend on them. We are not going to wait for more financial scandals to hit; instead we are going to act now and get ahead. We will take these steps to build resilience in our financial markets and our economy.

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Mr Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): I greatly welcome those steps. Will my right hon. Friend reassure the House that enforcement will be based on simple principles of integrity and not create a climate of box-ticking of the kind that we saw with the now discredited Financial Services Authority, which was introduced by the last Government?

Mr Osborne: My hon. Friend is absolutely right that what we need in our regulation is the exercise of judgment, rather than just process. One of the biggest errors of judgment was the abolition of the Bank of England as an authority that would oversee systemic risks in our economy and monitor levels of debt, and the creation of the tripartite regime, which we have abolished.

One of the new features of the financial regulation landscape is the Financial Policy Committee, which is the group, independent of the Government, that looks at systemic financial risks, seeks to spot asset booms and has the tools to do something about them—something that, sadly, was completely lacking six or seven years ago. We have given the Financial Policy Committee far-reaching powers over capital ratios and mortgage standards, with powers to recommend limits on loans-to-income and even loans-to-value. That is the answer to the question about housing and the impact of housing debt on our financial system and families. I am clear that the Bank of England should not hesitate to use those powers, and any others we make available, should it see serious risks emerging in the housing market. That is a fundamental improvement in the resilience of the British economy.

I agree that we need more homes as well, and the changes to our planning system are now increasing housing supply. Planning permissions and starts are now at a six-year high. The fundamental answer to the challenge of the British housing market is to see more homes built. Frankly, I would ask the Labour party, which opposed the planning changes when they were introduced a couple of years ago, to reconsider its position and confirm that they will remain in place. And by the way, as the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman)—who I think sits on her party’s Front Bench—said that Labour should get rid of the Help to Buy scheme, let me tell her that it is helping families across the country, overwhelmingly outside the south-east of England, to buy homes that are well below the national average house price. I am proud that this Government are helping people with the aspiration of buying their own home and providing the support for families who can afford it to get on the housing ladder.

Ed Balls: May I ask for a clarification of what the Chancellor is announcing to the House today and at Mansion House later? He wrote to the Governor of the Bank of England setting the remit for the Financial Policy Committee as recently as March. The Governor of the Bank of England wrote back to the Chancellor with his comments on the remit on 31 March. Is the Chancellor now, a couple of months later, having to add to, revise or supplement that remit? Is that a reflection of the fact that there is widespread and growing concern, including in the Bank of England, that what is happening in the housing market is destabilising, and does he regret that he did not face up to these issues earlier?

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Mr Osborne: What the remit that I sent to the Financial Policy Committee said is that we need to be vigilant about risks emerging in the housing market. Last week the IMF said very clearly that there is not a credit-fuelled boom today, but we need to be vigilant, and I completely agree with that. More than that, I have created—Parliament legislated for—the system of that vigilance. The Financial Policy Committee did not exist before this Government came to office; there was no such thing as the remit that the shadow Chancellor has just referred to. We have given the Financial Policy Committee tools to look at mortgage standards, alter capital ratios and make recommendations on loan-to-income ratios and loan-to-value ratios, and I am clear that it should not hesitate to use them if it judges that to be necessary. That message goes out loud and clear from this Dispatch Box and it will go out loud and clear at Mansion House tonight.

Mike Thornton (Eastleigh) (LD): I wonder whether the Chancellor is aware that when I worked for Northern Rock, I used to visit Newcastle and we used to see members of the Financial Services Authority leaving the chief executive’s offices and thanking him for his advice on how to do their jobs.

Mr Osborne: My hon. Friend brings his experience to bear in the Chamber. Northern Rock was the epitome of what went wrong—the 125% mortgages. It is the important link between rising house prices and mortgages that families find unaffordable if prices fall or they lose work and the risks to the balance sheets of banks that came together in a toxic combination in 2007 and 2008. The Financial Policy Committee exists to make sure that we spot those risks in advance.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Osborne: Let me make a little progress, as I know many Members want to speak. I want to cover a couple of the key legislative measures in the Queen’s Speech.

I hope that the Bill to support small businesses and enterprise will receive support from across the House, as it will help those small businesses with their exports, reduce tribunal delays and open up even more Government procurement to them. We are, of course, going to help smaller businesses—and indeed all businesses—by taking under-21-year-olds out of the jobs tax altogether. That is in stark contrast to the jobs tax plan that the Labour party is developing.

Then there is the tax-free childcare Bill—a really important measure to help hard-working families. In this Parliament, we have already extended the free nursery care available to parents of three and four-year-olds to 15 hours. From this September, 260,000 two-year-olds from low-income families will be eligible for free hours as well. Now we are taking another big step forward in helping working parents. Once we pass this new Bill, all families with children under 12 will, in effect, be able to get tax relief for their child care costs—up to £2,000 of help every year for every child. That is a huge boost to working families in this country, and this tax-free child care is affordable only because of the difficult decisions we have taken to bring the public finances under control.

Mr Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): The Chancellor mentioned help to small businesses, but surely the help they really need is an increase in net lending to them from the banking sector, yet it is

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continuing to fall. How does the Chancellor explain that in the light of the funding for lending scheme, which simply does not appear to be working?

Mr Osborne: Funding for lending is now, of course, skewed away from mortgages—a decision taken by the Governor of the Bank of England and me before Christmas—precisely to start to apply some macro-prudential controls to the housing market. It is heavily skewed towards small business lending in order to address the issue of an impaired banking system, still deeply damaged by what went on six or seven years ago. The good news is that a huge amount of progress has been made since this debate last year and since last year’s Mansion House speech; we are undertaking a major restructuring of the Royal Bank of Scotland and, of course, starting to return Lloyds to the private sector. All of that will help make sure that our financial system is functioning properly and supporting businesses that want to grow and expand.

Ian Lucas: Will the Chancellor give way?

Mr Osborne: Let me make this final point before taking another intervention.

I want to conclude by mentioning a measure that the shadow Chancellor—or, indeed, the Leader of the Opposition, which is pretty revealing—did not mention at all. I refer to the pensions tax Bill, which will give people real choices about what they do with their defined contribution pension pots, and ensure that they get free and impartial guidance on those choices. We have spent the last three months in consultation, and I have met pension providers and many consumer groups. The consultation closed yesterday, and I will announce next month the details of how the freedoms and the guidance will work. We will set out the implications for defined benefit pensions, too.

We want an economy in which effort is rewarded and those who save are trusted with their pension savings in retirement. We will enshrine all this in law; it heralds a revolution in pensions based on this simple principle: “you earned it; you saved it; now you have control over your own money”. Because it is such a simple principle, because it involves trusting people and because that is popular with people, the Labour Opposition have not got a clue about how to respond to it. From the moment that the Leader of the Opposition rose to give his dismal, pre-scripted reply to the Budget, they have been completely pole-axed by it.

Ian Lucas rose

Mr Osborne: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell me whether he will support this Bill in the Division Lobbies.

Ian Lucas: Unlike the right hon. Gentleman, I ran my own business in the 1980s, and I remember the pension mis-selling and how many people lost their life savings as a result of reckless Conservative legislation and a lack of proper advice. This is a very serious matter, so rather than taking cheap political pot shots, will the right hon. Gentleman tell me what exactly will be the nature of the advice given to people about their life savings before he asks them to spend it?

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Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I think that the Chancellor has got the message.

Mr Osborne: Well, Mr Deputy Speaker, that was the definition of a cheap political pot shot, and it rather sums up the tone of Labour Members’ approach. They started with a whole spiel about new politics and having to engage with the disenchanted, but after only a few minutes, it has swiftly deteriorated.

Ed Balls rose

Mr Osborne: Let me directly answer the hon. Gentleman’s point and then I shall take a final intervention from the shadow Chancellor before winding up.

We are very clear that we want impartial and free guidance—face to face if people want it. We are talking to consumer groups such as Which?, Saga, and Citizens Advice about how to ensure that we deliver such free and impartial advice through the industry and consumer groups all working together.

Ed Balls: We have welcomed annuities reform and the introduction of collective pension vehicles. The test for us is whether the sums will add up, whether it will cost more, whether it will work in a fair and equitable way and whether the advice and guidance will be sufficient. I put it to the Chancellor that this may be something on which we could try to get a cross-party consensus in the long term rather than play politics.

Mr Osborne: I certainly hope, in the spirit of new politics, that there will be agreement across the House and that the Labour party will support our reforms. There was no agreement on this issue when we were in opposition. My hon. Friends who were Opposition MPs at the time—when, indeed, the right hon. Gentleman was a Treasury Minister—will remember that we tried time and again to get the Treasury to open up annuities and to remove the compulsory requirement to annuitise. We remember the private Member’s Bill proposed by David Curry—and my right hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South (Sir Richard Ottaway) was involved, too—attempting to achieve this objective, with the Conservative party turning up en masse to try to deliver it. We tried. If the shadow Chancellor is telling me that he has had a change of heart and supports this measure, I can say “all well and good”. Perhaps that will help to address the disillusionment of Labour supporters that he he mentioned earlier—[Interruption.] The shadow Chancellor ends like he started. He wanted to give us a big new thing about new politics, but he cannot resist trading the blows across the Chamber.

Ed Balls: The point I made to the Chancellor in my speech was that there is a disillusionment across politics, incorporating Labour and Conservative voters, and that we need to face up to it collectively rather than just play partisan politics. That was my point.

Mr Osborne: I would argue that the best way to address people’s disillusionment is to create an economy that works for people and grows jobs for people. I enjoyed the right hon. Gentleman’s tour d’horizon of the global economy, and I certainly agree that the Google self-drive car will be an important intervention—and he will probably be one of the first customers for it.

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We passed a milestone this week when we learned that 2 million new jobs had been created by our economic plan. We saw new surveys this week showing Britain attracting investment from around the world. The IMF said we would have the fastest- growing major advanced economy in the world and confirmed that deficit reduction strategy at the heart of our approach is the anchor of stability. We saw again today that the shadow Chancellor and the Labour party would be a disaster for the British economy, with more borrowing, more spending, more taxes and a war on business. In this Queen’s Speech, we reject these disastrous policies. Instead, we deliver on the long-term economic plan that is turning Britain around and offers a brighter future for all. I urge the House to support the Queen’s Speech.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. Many Members want to speak, so it would help to keep interventions brief. If Members continue to intervene, they will go to the bottom of the list. We are on a six-minute limit, but it will have to be reduced if we do not show consideration for others. Anything Members can do to shorten their speeches will be much appreciated.

1.39 pm

Margaret Beckett (Derby South) (Lab): The kindest thing that can be said about this Queen’s Speech is that it is simply inadequate to address the problems which, sadly, our country and its people still face, and about which it is evident that the Government parties are still in denial.

The Chancellor said in his speech that he had made the mistake of reading the record before coming to the House. I made the same mistake: I read the record of the Chancellor’s Budget speech on 22 June 2010. He said today that what we must now do is stick to our long-term economic plan, which is what Government Members continually say—they say it as if saying it were as good as having one—but today’s economy does not reflect the long-term economic plan that the Chancellor set out in 2010.

The Chancellor said today that the Government were “holding out the prospect”. Well, they held it out then. According to that plan, by this year debt was supposed to have fallen as a percentage of GDP, and the structural current deficit should have been eliminated. The public sector borrowing requirement should be down to £37 billion, falling to £20 billion next year. Growth this year was then projected to be 2.7%, but the plan was for growth of well over 2% in 2011, 2012 and 2013. As we all know, that simply did not happen. In other words, far from sticking to a long-term plan that is now delivering, which the Chancellor described as the “inescapable truth”, the inescapable truth is that Government Members have seen their plan and their forecasts fall to pieces around their ears.

Dr Thérèse Coffey: I do not recognise the picture that the right hon. Lady is painting, given the increased number of jobs and other improvements. Does she recall the statement by the Office for Budget Responsibility that the recession was even deeper than it had seemed to

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be when first analysed? That means that it has been even more difficult for us to fill the hole that was left by Labour and to achieve growth. That is finally under way, but the job is not yet done.

Margaret Beckett: I think the hon. Lady will find that the OBR’s argument does not account for the total discrepancy between what the Chancellor said would happen and what has actually happened. We have had the nonsense of Government Members claiming that we were wrong to say that their policies might curtail growth, when that is precisely what happened. As for the OBR, if the Chancellor is so proud of it—and I think that he has created a good institution—why does he not allow it to scrutinise our plans, rather than making up his own version?

The Queen’s Speech demonstrates the Government’s utter failure to address the difficulties that people face. The eventual return to growth has been as welcome as it was long overdue, but it is seriously alarming that Government Members do not seem to recognise the great difficulties that still confront so many. Only yesterday, we learned that Ofgem had written to the energy companies highlighting the fall in wholesale prices over the last 18 months or so, and asking them nicely if they ever intended to pass it on to their customers. Where is the legislative framework to underpin action to tackle the energy companies’ disregard for the interests of their customers?

Where are the proposals for reform of the banks, which demonstrate almost daily that for them too it is back to business as before, bonuses and all? Why is there nothing in the Queen’s Speech to address either the decline in housing starts or the increasing pressure and insecurity experienced by many tenants? And why, oh why, have no steps been taken to ease the increasingly intolerable pressures on the many people who have been forced by circumstance to rely on benefits to make ends meet? So many of those people are in work, albeit work that is low paid and insecure.

People with disabilities, in particular, are still being hit by the iniquitous bedroom tax. The Government must have been advised that people would not be able to move because there was not enough alternative accommodation. During the same week in which they introduced that tax, they cut taxes for those who were already the wealthiest.

The most noticeable aspects of the Queen’s Speech are the measures that are not in it and should be. Some of its proposals merit a cautious welcome, although as yet, in many instances, we have only the headlines. However, I want to single out the issue of pensions. I am pleased that the Chancellor mentioned it. I urge caution on all Members, but especially Opposition Members, because in this regard the Conservative party has form. Annuities have long caused concern, although an answer has not been easy to find, but the more that I listened to the Chancellor talking about giving people control of their own money and about the exciting new freedoms that were on offer—which, according to him, were heralding a revolution—the more uncomfortable I became, because, like the Conservative party, I have been here before.