some default text...

4.15 pm

Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab/Co-op): I rise to speak in support of my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls) and the Opposition amendment and on behalf of thousands of constituents in Liverpool who were looking to the Chancellor and the Prime Minister to offer them some relief from the cost of living crisis but received no such thing in the Gracious Speech.

Not a week goes by in which I do not meet constituents on the doorstep or in my surgery who are struggling to get by. More often than not, they are in work. They are juggling jobs, they are in precarious employment and they do not know whether they can put food on the table from week to week. I listened carefully to the Chancellor and his comments on zero-hour contracts and was disappointed that he did not know the figures, but I can tell him that a conservative estimate of the number of people on zero-hour contracts is 1.4 million. What is the Government’s plan to deal with this problem, which has exploded on his watch? He refuses to ensure that those working regular hours month after month will get a regular contract of employment. That is totally unacceptable.

There are so many things that the Government could have brought forward to help millions of people in our country. In particular—this issue was raised with the Prime Minister yesterday—the coalition agreement pledged to maintain Labour’s goal of ending child poverty by 2020. The Government said that they would develop better measures for child poverty in this Parliament, but there was nothing. Only this week, we learned that a shocking 3.5 million youngsters in our country are

12 Jun 2014 : Column 792

living in poverty and the figure is predicted to soar to 5 million by 2020. We have the highest ever recorded numbers of adults with children in poverty. I have met too many parents in my constituency who are devastated that they are struggling to provide for themselves and their children. This Government have no answer to a problem that I believe—I have written in my speech the same words as those used by my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Jim Sheridan)—is a stain on our national conscience. We are the seventh richest nation in the world, but we have more than 1,000 food banks and more than 900,000 people who have had to access emergency food aid on behalf of themselves or their families.

We could have had a make work pay Bill to reward hard work with a higher minimum wage. We could have had a consumers Bill to freeze energy bills. In my constituency, where we have the third highest level of fuel poverty, that would have helped hundreds of my constituents. We could have had a housing Bill with long-term reforms to increase the supply of homes by 2020, a communities Bill to give people a say over payday lenders and betting shops in their high streets, and an immigration Bill to stop workers being undercut, through enforcement of the national minimum wage and banning recruitment agencies that use only overseas labour.

I wanted to talk about long-term youth unemployment, which has gone up in my constituency by more than 50% since 2010, but there is not time so I shall conclude by saying that we need a race to the top, not to the bottom and an economy that works for us all, not just for the very few rich.

4.18 pm

Graeme Morrice (Livingston) (Lab): The past four years have been a very tough time for a great number of my constituents and many other people across the country. Since the financial crisis of 2008 and the bold and decisive action taken by the previous Government to prevent the collapse of the banking system, the value of our economy, and with it the living standards of the majority of our fellow citizens, has fallen dramatically. Though some might attempt to point score over the causes of our economic situation, it is fundamental that Members recognise right from the start the very human cost of its consequences.

Whereas Government Members might wish to gloat over indications of some partial recovery, they either completely ignore or are simply too out of touch to recognise that the real value of wages has plummeted for most people while their cost of living has gone through the roof. When Shelter estimates that 4 million families are only one month’s pay packet away from poverty and not being able to keep a roof over their heads, the cost of living crisis that has taken hold in Britain today should be of real concern to us all.

Over the course of this Parliament, the Bills contained in successive Queen’s Speeches have done little to address the plight of those who struggle the most. This, the final Queen’s Speech before the election, is yet another missed opportunity to assist those in greatest need in society. When we look at the problems that working people face daily and the Government’s inaction, we can only agree that we have a coalition Government in zombie mode,

12 Jun 2014 : Column 793

oblivious to reality. Government Members may boast about the number of new jobs being created in the private sector, but that hardly compensates for the many thousands of jobs lost in the public sector due to Government cuts. Private sector job creation is welcome, but many of those jobs are insecure, being low-paid, part-time, casual or on zero-hours contracts, where people continue to live day to day.

The official unemployment count might be reducing, but the cost to the public purse of in-work benefits is increasing—hardly the high-value wage economy that is needed to guarantee the country’s long-term sustainable recovery and hardly a successful economic plan. The Government have cast aside ordinary working people and are on the side of exploitative employers, who cheer from the sidelines as reports such as Beecroft’s try to strip back employment rights, the minimum wage and safety at work. The Government are trying to line the pockets of the richest, in the hope that some of the crumbs will fall from the table. I am aware that we are very short of time, so on that point I will sit down.

4.21 pm

Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): In his 2010 Budget, the Chancellor said that he would eliminate the budget deficit by the next general election in 2015. On his own terms, he has failed. In the 2010 Budget, the Chancellor said that net borrowing this year would be £37 billion. The latest forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility put the figure at close to £100 billion. That is not the Chancellor’s only failure. In 2010, the Chancellor said that he wanted to create

“a new, balanced economy where we save, invest and export”.—[Official Report, 22 June 2010; Vol. 512, c. 167.]

I have already said how catastrophic the Chancellor’s failure has been for the deficit. However, adjusted for dilapidation and depreciation, non-financial private sector investment has fallen from £43 billion in 2008 to £14 billion in 2013. Less investment means less competitiveness and poorer productivity.

To address the desperate politics of their situation, the Tories and the Liberals have sought to revive the economy through various short-term measures. The funding for lending scheme gave incentives to banks to lend to the mortgage market but did little to help small businesses. The Help to Buy scheme was introduced in the 2013 Budget and has helped to fuel the property market in the south-east in particular.

Short-termism is the byword for this exhausted Government. Far from having a long-term economic plan, they are staggering through to the next general election and thereafter the inevitable rate rise will happen. Their re-election would be catastrophic for home owners who are already suffering a cost of living crisis, even with record low interest rates, and for business, which will have to cope with increased costs.

This Government have not addressed the fundamental weaknesses of this country’s economy since the 1980s: over-reliance on the financial sector and over-concentration of wealth and investment in London and the south-east. When the UK economy was at its strongest, it relied on economic growth right across the UK. We had superb regional institutions, such as Halifax building society,

12 Jun 2014 : Column 794

Leeds Permanent and Northern Rock, which were destroyed because of Thatcherite dogma. That helped to create the global financial crisis that has beset this country and caused the problems that we have.

As people from right across the political spectrum, but not this Government, are seeing, we need to develop a system of regional finance to support local business and to invest in local economies. We cannot rely on the white-tied individuals in the City of London to support the industry and the businesses that we need. It is time for regional banks. The Government do not even recognise the problem, so they will never provide the solution. Thank goodness this is their last Queen’s Speech.

4.24 pm

Mr Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab): I had intended to focus on the structural weaknesses in the British economy of stagnating business investment and a widening productivity gap. However, yesterday I received a call from Maxine Bartholomew, an old friend, who told me that her mother, Rose Stubbs, had died on Tuesday at the age of 87. Rose would have had a lot to say about the Gracious Speech and she would have said it much better and faster than I could, but I will try to do her justice.

Rose and Maxine were present at the first Labour party meeting that I ever attended, in the Borough hall in Hartlepool, where somewhat nervously I said I would like to somehow become more involved in the local Labour party. Rose took me under her wing then and she has never let me go.

Rose lived all her life in the Headland part of Hartlepool, a unique and historic part of the world, where people have far too often had to endure hard times. In an area of big characters, Rose—at 4 feet 11 inches and 7 stone wringing wet—was the biggest. Her father was a fisherman and a veteran of the first world war, living on the croft and eking out a wage in the harshest environment—in terms of both the North sea and the economic situation—of the 1920s and ’30s. In the last years of her life, Rose was angry at the return in the 21st century to the insecure employment practices of the ’20s and ’30s that characterised her father’s generation, and an economic model for this country that focused on low skill, low pay and a lack of security at work. I know, too, that she would have been angry at the absence of any meaningful provision in the Queen’s Speech to address the situation.

Rose always told me that her father had said, “Get a good job in a factory and join a union to ensure that you receive better pay and conditions,” so she would have been angry at yesterday’s announcement that average weekly earnings in the north-east fell by 7.3% last year, leaving full-time workers in our region £36 a week worse off. The situation is even worse for women in the north-east, who have lost £49 a week from their pay packets over the past year. There is nothing in the Queen’s Speech to address that, so Rose would have supported today’s Opposition amendment, which calls for

“a plan to secure a strong and sustained recovery that delivers rising living standards for the many, not just a few at the top”.

Rose believed passionately in social mobility, in giving working people the power and the tools to better themselves and to ensure that a decent day’s work was well paid. That is why she would have been impressed with what our amendment says about a compulsory jobs guarantee,

12 Jun 2014 : Column 795

the importance of vocational qualifications and a new partnership with business that emphasises the importance of apprenticeships.

Despite the forces of globalisation and discontent with politics, we in this House still have the power to effect change for the better for people like Rose and those who come after her. We need to build an economy for working people like her. She would have approved of the Opposition amendment, which is why I will be voting for Rosie tonight and the many people like her in Hartlepool.

4.27 pm

Mr Russell Brown (Dumfries and Galloway) (Lab): To all those who have managed to find employment in the past 12 months, I say well done. To those on the Government Benches, however, I say that what we are seeing across this country is an unequal recovery. If the Treasury team look at the figures from the Office for National Statistics, they will see that the total number of hours worked each week across the UK has not increased anything like as much as it should have done, given that such a massive number of people are finding work. Those average weekly hours are being spread among more people, hence the unequal recovery across the country.

I am sick of saying that this time last year the average wage in my constituency was almost 24% beneath the national average, although thankfully the figure has fallen to just under 20%. The problems that we face were first discovered on the high streets of the United Kingdom, and if we look at those high streets today, we will see that in most communities there has been very little improvement.

The bedroom tax is costing this Government £4.8 billion more in housing benefit over the course of this Parliament, so something has gone sadly wrong. I want an explanation of what the bedroom tax was all about, because almost 400,000 more working people are now in receipt of housing benefit and trapped in a bedroom tax situation than in 2010. That is an increase of some 60% in England, 59% in Wales and 53% in Scotland. What was it all about? People have not changed houses, but they have had to pay more as they have not found suitable accommodation.

The Labour party in government will move on the living wage and we will ensure that—through public sector procurement—it will be introduced. We need to ensure that life is much better for the many families the length and breadth of this country who find it hard, and we need to ensure that we tackle the high levels of youth unemployment that depressingly still exist for some communities, in a way that will give young people in this country decent jobs, not jobs on zero-hours contracts or on two or three hours a week, which are not enough for them.

4.30 pm

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): It is a pleasure to contribute briefly on the last day of the debate on the Gracious Speech.

The striking thing for me is that the last Queen’s Speech of a Parliament is usually stuffed full of Bills—the last few things that a Government want to get done before a general election—and then there are a load of

12 Jun 2014 : Column 796

draft Bills, which are an indication of where that Government want to go if they are lucky enough to secure another term in office.

Robert Flello: I recollect that before the 2010 general election, the Conservatives criticised the then Prime Minister for what they called a lightweight Queen’s Speech; by comparison with this one, it looks so heavy as to be unliftable.

Andrew Gwynne: I completely agree with my hon. Friend, and the real issue is that this Queen’s Speech is lacking in both those areas—Bills and draft Bills. Perhaps it is unfair to Her Majesty the Queen to say this, but the only memorable part of her Gracious Speech was her announcing a tax on plastic carrier bags. That is rather telling, because despite all the big issues facing my constituents in Denton and Reddish, there is very little in the Queen’s Speech about tackling the cost of living crisis, nothing to ease the pressure on housing which my constituents face, nothing on the NHS—perhaps that is a blessing in disguise—and no vision for a better Britain.

The complacency from Government Members was striking, because this recovery is unequal. Areas such as Denton and Reddish are struggling. I am not a merchant of doom; there are some good indicators. Unemployment is relatively low, at 3.7%. That is welcome but it is still higher than the 2.8% rate when I entered Parliament in 2005. There is an underlying story of low wages and long hours for people in full-time jobs, and many jobs are part-time, on zero-hours contracts and insecure. Of course, that is utterly self-defeating for the taxpayer, because it results in the working poor, whereby we are paying extra in-work benefits to subsidise low wages.

Robert Flello: I am enjoying my hon. Friend’s speech immensely. He has hit on that insecurity issue yet again. Last weekend, Stoke-on-Trent saw its 10th foodbank opening up, which surely points to the insecurity that exists.

Andrew Gwynne: It absolutely does, and it is a stain on our country’s reputation that so many people in work, as well as those who are out of work, have to rely on charity handouts.

Of course, in my constituency, an in-work benefit that has soared in recent years is housing benefit. I now have 1,000 extra claimants in Stockport and 870 extra claimants in Tameside. Those increases are surely a sign of that insecurity and those low wages. In my constituency, wages are 20% lower than the median for the UK. That is why we need Labour’s deal on the national minimum wage and why we need to put in place living wage agreements.

Youth unemployment is still stubbornly high. I commend Tameside council and, yes, I also commend Stockport council for their efforts to increase the number of apprenticeships, but what we need is a compulsory jobs guarantee, because what really worked for many young people in my constituency was the future jobs fund. It was criminal that this Government axed that very important scheme. We need to upskill the next generation and maximise the benefits of the jobs that have been created in the Manchester city region; in the city centre, in MediaCityUK at Salford Quays and at the airport city. We need to attract new jobs to Tameside and Stockport.

12 Jun 2014 : Column 797

We need to invest in education. It was criminal that many of my schools missed out on Building Schools for the Future, even though my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls) signed off the BSF payments for St Thomas More college, Audenshaw school, All Saints school and Reddish Vale technology college. We need that investment, so that those schools have the same quality of educational facilities that we had in Denton community college.

Lastly, there is a chronic need to build more housing. It is good for jobs, but we need affordable housing both to buy and to rent. We need decent homes in the private rented sector, because far too many of them are squalid, frankly. We need more social housing. I commend New Charter Housing Trust Group for its new build—I was lucky enough to cut the first sod at its new site in Audenshaw—but it barely scratches the surface of what is needed.

This Queen’s Speech lacks ambition. I fear that we will have to wait 11 months for a Labour Government and a proper programme for action.

4.36 pm

Chris Leslie (Nottingham East) (Lab/Co-op): After six days of debate on the Queen’s Speech, what have we learned? I have learned that my hon. Friends on the Opposition Benches have been determined to make the points on behalf of their constituents, while Government Members consistently ran out of time.

My hon. Friends have been diligent in pointing out all the items that have been conspicuous by their absence from the Queen’s Speech. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh East (Sheila Gilmore), my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) and my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) made this point, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham), my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby South (Margaret Beckett), my hon. Friends the Members for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), for Glasgow North (Ann McKechin), for Preston (Mark Hendrick), for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi) and for Hartlepool (Mr Wright), my right hon. Friend the Member for Oldham West and Royton (Mr Meacher), my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish—I have listed him already; that is how good his speech was—my hon. Friends the Members for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger), for Livingston (Graeme Morrice), and for Wrexham (Ian Lucas) and many more. I apologise to the hon. Friends I have been unable to mention.

We did not get the measures we wanted in the Queen’s Speech. Many hon. Friends mentioned cigarette packaging and smoking in cars, which were not included. There was nothing on border controls and no mention of the national health service. My hon. Friends should not be surprised by the paucity of the Government’s legislative programme, because it is not by accident; it is by design. It is a deliberate strategy to avoid time-consuming legislation that would be difficult for this House to deal with. They want to scrape the barnacles off the bottom of the boat, as Lynton Crosby famously put it, because they do not want anything to get in the way of the image they want to craft ahead of the general election.

12 Jun 2014 : Column 798

This Queen’s Speech is not about rising to the challenges that the public want the Government to confront; it is all about giving the appearance of activity, but not real activity itself. It is about image, not substance. It is about the theatrics of government, not getting on with real reforms. It is also about repeating more and more promises, rather than fulfilling the ones they made in the first place. Look at what they promised on making work pay, again in the Queen’s Speech. Strangely, they made that promise in the 2010 Queen’s Speech. This time they made a promise about cutting red tape, which they also promised to do in 2010. They made a promise this time, as they did in 2010, about balancing the books and eradicating the deficit. We know that the Chancellor’s failure to generate growth for three years after the general election means that they have failed to meet that promise.

Of course, we must not forget one of the most foolhardy promises of all: to bring immigration down to the tens of thousands. In his solemn pledge on that, the Prime Minister said, “no ifs, no buts”. That was what they guaranteed. It is amazing that there was no mention of that pledge in the Queen’s Speech. But promises are difficult. These are tough times and, because of the Chancellor’s failure to get a grip and generate growth early enough, public finances are in a difficult state.

We are going to find times tough in the next Parliament and lower priorities will have to get less funding. What is the reaction of Government Members to these difficult circumstances? Do they knuckle down? Do they redouble their efforts, roll up their sleeves and try to do something about the challenges facing this country? Absolutely not. They switch on to autopilot mode and go into “coasting”, and we end with a legislative programme, such as the one we have, that does not confront the problems that the country faces.

Yes, we hear in the Queen’s Speech that the Government want to help small and medium-sized enterprises with late payments, but what about helping businesses with real lending support and the banks that should be helping those businesses get the equity in and get the growth that we need in our economy? We hear in the Queen’s Speech that the Government want to help with penalties where the minimum wage is not paid, but what about the real reform strengthening the minimum wage and ensuring that we link it to average earnings to make an appreciable difference? The Government want pensions flexibility. We welcome that, but what about the advice and guidance that those retirees will need in order to avoid problems further down the line? The Government even talk about child care tax relief eventually, but what about 25 hours of free child care for three and four-year-olds? That would be possible if the Government only pulled their finger out and collected the bank levy as they are supposed to do.

We do not see these measures because the Government do not understand the challenges that the public face. They do not offer a long-term economic plan. This is a Government obsessed with short-term political calculations—the phony concern of those who are focused more on the appearance of introducing reform than on the reality of undertaking reform.

Robert Flello: On pensions, the £5 billion or whatever figure will go into the Treasury from the Government’s proposals will be more than offset when, no doubt

12 Jun 2014 : Column 799

under a future Labour Government, the chickens come home to roost and mis-selling scandals hit. It will be a Labour Government who have to pick up the mess.

Chris Leslie: That is why we want to see the full detail of the advice and guidance that need to be put in place. The Government do not like hearing it, but these are the questions that have to be answered. Those answers were not in the Queen’s Speech.

It was not a long-term economic plan that we got in the Queen’s Speech, but a set of short-term obsessions focused on political calculations. The Queen took less than 10 minutes to read out the speech that she was given, yet for most of our constituents it offers zero progress on their concerns. The parties in government think that all is fine with the economy—everything is going perfectly well—but how detached from reality can they get?

The Financial Secretary will no doubt speak shortly and she can quote all the economic data she likes, but I have to tell her that for many people this is an economy that is about low pay, zero hours and, for those who are struggling, food banks. She can quote GDP statistics in recent months, but we are seeing an economy where the very wealthiest 1% in society are doing particularly well and seeing their share of the cake grow while the rest of the population are seeing their share shrink further and further. The Government may be satisfied with this state of affairs, but the Opposition are not.

In the remaining 11 months before the general election, we should have a substantial and meaningful legislative programme which tackles some of these problems, rather than the set of headlines and press releases that have been strung together for effect.

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Chris Leslie: No. I have only a few more minutes.

I wanted also to focus on the Infrastructure Bill that the Chancellor has brought forward—the so-called Infrastructure Bill. Third time lucky. The last two infrastructure Bills certainly did not do the trick, nor did the 11 infrastructure plans and strategies that the Government have published since the last general election, or the 79 press releases that we have had on infrastructure since then. We know that this Chancellor is obsessed with presentation, not with getting diggers in the ground.

Let us look at the problems that this country is facing. There are 5 million people on low pay in our country today, yet there is nothing in the Queen’s Speech to incentivise the living wage, which would make a real difference. Bank lending to small businesses that need real help is falling, but banking reform has been inadequate and is not the action that we need. There is a cost of living crisis, with prices yet again exceeding wages, according to the latest economic data. Yet no action has been taken on the big six energy companies, which continue to fail to pass on to their customers even reductions in wholesale energy prices.

The state of affairs in housing is one in which demand goes higher and higher, but house building is at its lowest since the 1920s. I must say to the Chancellor that if he thinks that a new town in Ebbsfleet adds up to a housing strategy, he is sorely mistaken. Yes, we have

12 Jun 2014 : Column 800

Help to Buy, but we need “Help to Build” alongside it if we are to tackle that particular problem. Tenants in insecure accommodation are being ripped off by letting agents.

On child poverty, it is predicted that 3.5 million children will be in poverty over the next few years, which is five times the Government’s original estimate, but that does not even get a reference in the Queen’s Speech. As my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams) pointed out, 20 million meals have been served in food banks in the past year, which is a badge of shame for the Government, but there is no reference to that in the Queen’s Speech. The national health service is, of course, under more strain than ever before, but there was not a single word about it in the Queen’s Speech.

With all those problems, what have the Government been doing for the past week? They have been feuding among themselves, with Cabinet Ministers briefing against one another and not just two parties in coalition but at least four factions vying for political control. Somebody somewhere has got to get a grip and to show some real leadership and good government, rather than allowing this appalling state of affairs and factionalisation to continue.

I must tell Government Members that, day by day, we are seeing a coalition that is less a coalition than a conspiracy for inaction. [Interruption.] I will give way to the Chancellor if he wants to talk about food banks, child poverty or housing strategy. They are not interested in those matters, however, because the Queen’s Speech is an artifice—it is all about presentation and the spin that they want to put on these issues.

Where is the Government’s ambition and sense of urgency about the problems in the country today? The legislative torpor in the Queen’s Speech is absolutely appalling. They have turned the House of Commons into the most expensive waiting room in history. In this Queen’s Speech, they are treading water for another year. We know that their legacy will be the slowest economic recovery for 100 years. This will not do, and our constituents will not stand for it. The fact that we have to wait a further year for the general election is a tragedy for the millions of people who need real help now. The Government are squandering the chance for change in this country and, with it, the potential that our country should have, which is why Opposition Members believe that Britain deserves much better than this.

4.47 pm

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Nicky Morgan): This Queen’s Speech builds on the Government’s long-term plan to create a stronger economy and a fairer society. We have had a debate, but the hon. Member for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie) did not appear to want to talk much about Labour’s amendment and he certainly did not want to talk about Labour’s plan, if it has one, for the economy.

Let me go back to the beginning of the debate and pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt) and for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke) for their eloquent, articulate and, it has to be said, hugely entertaining speeches last week. As they affirmed, it was the first time that female Members of Parliament had both proposed and seconded

12 Jun 2014 : Column 801

the Loyal Address, and it is an honour for me to close the proceedings on it tonight. That is especially true at a time when our country can boast more women in employment than ever and more women working full time than ever. Those statistics are of course part of a wider picture in which not only has overall employment reached its highest level ever, but unemployment has reached its lowest level in more than five years.

Let me turn to the speeches—I counted 37 of them—in today’s debate. We started with the contributions of three distinguished Members: the right hon. Member for Derby South (Margaret Beckett), my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth) and the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw).

My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) talked about Labour’s waste during office. He would know a lot about that as the former Chair of the Public Accounts Committee.

My hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) talked about the amnesia of Opposition Members—we can see it in some of their faces today—and the problems that they left behind for this Government to deal with. He spoke about investing in infrastructure. I am sure that he will welcome the Infrastructure Bill that was announced in the Gracious Speech last week.

Oliver Colvile: Does my right hon. Friend recognise that it is incredibly important that there is investment in the south-west, including in our railways and roads? That is how growth will be delivered in the south-west and in my Plymouth constituency.

Nicky Morgan: I thank my hon. Friend. The Labour party did nothing for the south-west. He has been a doughty champion of investment in the south-west since his election in 2010. The Treasury and other Departments continue to look at road and rail projects, which will make a huge difference. Of course, we saw the speedy rebuilding of the railway line following this year’s floods, which caused such disruption to the south-west. We did not hang around talking about it; we got on and delivered the investment that was needed.

Mr Straw: If the right hon. Lady is so critical of the Labour Government’s record, will she explain why the Chancellor, when he was shadow Chancellor, made the commitment in anarticle in The Times on 3 September 2007 that a Government under him would endorse Labour’s spending plans for the following three years?

Nicky Morgan: I thank the right hon. Gentleman very much indeed for his question. Although I was not in the House at the time, my party warned the Labour Government about excessive borrowing and spending. It is frankly rather pathetic of Labour Members to say, not just in this debate but in many debates, “You didn’t warn us. You didn’t tell us that we weren’t doing the right thing.” They were in government at the time and they were running the country.

The right hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Mr Meacher) showed in his opening paragraph—[Interruption.]

12 Jun 2014 : Column 802

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I want to hear the Financial Secretary, but I am struggling. I am sure that Members want to hear the answers.

Nicky Morgan: The right hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton showed in his opening paragraph that he understands the Government’s economic policy perfectly. It is a shame that he did not stop there, because he summed up so beautifully all the Government’s achievements over the past four years.

My hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Glyn Davies) talked about the dairy industry in his constituency, and I heard what he had to say.

The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mike Thornton) talked about the increase in the personal allowance. His kind offer to advise the Treasury on the reform of stamp duty has been noted and I am sure that we will take note of what he has to say in the run-up to the next fiscal event.

The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) offered to write the Labour party manifesto for the next election. I wonder whether those on the Labour Front Bench were listening.

My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) talked about recall, about which he is passionate. I suspect that there will be many debates on that issue in this House before the recall Bill is passed.

My hon. Friends the Members for Rugby (Mark Pawsey) and for Stroud (Neil Carmichael) talked about how the Government are delivering for manufacturing and rebalancing manufacturing. It is worth noting that manufacturing is expanding faster in the UK than in any other country in the G7.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), whom I cannot see in his place, spoke of an era of discontent and disconnection. I agree with him. There is an era of discontent and disconnection in the Labour party—discontent with the leadership and disconnection from what this country needs to rebuild the economy.

My hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Rowley Regis (James Morris) talked about the Labour party’s promise to end boom and bust. He was right to say that it delivered only one half of that promise.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St Edmunds (Mr Ruffley) talked about trusting people with their pension savings.

The hon. Member for Redcar (Ian Swales) talked about the successes and investment in his constituency, and mentioned the Tees valley city deal. I am sure that all Members wish him and everybody who will sign it next week the best of luck.

The hon. Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham) talked about the 10p tax rate. He laid claim to the fact that the last Government introduced it. The last Government also got rid of it, which caused great unfairness to those who were being taxed at that rate.

The hon. Member for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi) made a spending commitment of £1.9 billion, which only reminds us that the amendment would cost £14 billion.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) talked about zero-hours contracts. I think she said that 1.4 million people are on zero-hours contracts.

12 Jun 2014 : Column 803

In fact, the ONS estimates that there are 1.4 million zero-hours contracts and that 583,000 people are on them. She should be careful, because the ONS recently warned the shadow Business Secretary about his interpretation of those figures.

The hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright) gave an eloquent speech and demonstrated to all of us the dangers of someone turning up at a local party meeting and saying, “I want to get involved.” Many years later, they find themselves here on the green Benches—we have all been there.

Many hon. Members made points about the cost of living. Of course the Government want to see rising living standards for households up and down the country, and we have helped households by freezing fuel duty and council tax, taking money off energy bills, capping rail fares and introducing free school meals. However, the best way to improve living standards is to stick to our long-term economic plan to improve productivity, get as many people in work as possible and ensure that they take home as much of their pay as possible.

As the House will know, we have already made real progress on that front, but this Queen’s Speech introduces measures that will further increase employment. It offers tax-free child care, which will make a return to work more financially viable for thousands of mothers and fathers and, for the first time, help those who are self-employed or setting up businesses. It offers a small business Bill, which will make it easier to establish and grow small businesses, and an Infrastructure Bill that will help businesses both large and small by creating the transport and digital networks that they will need to thrive in the long term. All those steps will help our businesses get more people into work, which will support our households and grow our economy.

Chris Leslie: Will the Minister give way?

Nicky Morgan: I cannot take any more interventions. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman has had plenty of time to make his arguments, but let us see how we get on. First, I want to respond to the points that hon. Members made about housing.

Of course we recognise that in some parts of the country, people are worried about house price rises over the past year. However, I point out, first, that real house prices are still below their pre-crisis peak; secondly, that the Government are committed to a number of new building schemes to increase housing supply, including the new garden city at Ebbsfleet; and thirdly, that through the Help to Buy scheme we are helping thousands of people who earn enough for a mortgage but are struggling to raise a deposit. The official statistics released last week show that Help to Buy is opening up home ownership to thousands across the country, with more than 94% of all completions outside London and more than 85% by first-time buyers. To the Opposition Member who dismissed the “stupid” Help to Buy scheme, I say that that is an attack on aspiration and on everybody who wants to own their own home.

Fourthly, I point out that the Financial Policy Committee is in a position to step in if it thinks we are seeing a return to unsustainable lending levels. We are monitoring the situation and taking action, and we are ready to take further action if we believe it has become necessary.

12 Jun 2014 : Column 804

Chris Leslie rose

Nicky Morgan: I give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Chris Leslie: I thank the Minister; we do have a little bit of time left. Does the Minister believe that people in this country will be better off at the time of the general election in 2015 than they were at the time of the last general election? Does she agree with the IFS that they will not be?

Nicky Morgan: The whole country will be better off, because we are fixing the economy, getting more people into work and seeing wage levels going up and the inflation rate falling. If the hon. Gentleman was waiting to ask that question, he could have asked it during many other speeches this afternoon. He will have to do better than that next time.

It is worth noting that the hon. Gentleman gave a speech recently on efficiency savings, but no savings were identified. He listed a lot of ways to spend money, instead—£21,000 on keeping a police station open; the restoration of the spare room subsidy; the jobs guarantee for young people, which as we have heard today is a £1.4 billion commitment; a house building programme; and a British investment bank. The Government will not take lectures on how to run the economy.

This Queen’s Speech proves that this Government are just as radical in our fifth year as we were in our first. There were more Bills in this year’s Gracious Speech than there were in the last Government’s final Session, and they are serious Bills tackling serious issues—pensions, infrastructure, small business, child care payments, serious crime, modern slavery, the armed forces, social action and heroism, national insurance contributions and the recall of Members of Parliament.

This Queen’s Speech will be one further crucial step in the Government’s long-term economic plan. It will help those who want to work but are put off by child care costs, and those who are forced to work by the despicable practice of traffickers and slave masters. It will help small businesses access finance and savers access their pensions, and most importantly, it will keep employment rising and the deficit falling. That is why we reject the Opposition’s amendments and why I commend the Gracious Speech wholeheartedly to the House.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The House divided:

Ayes 232, Noes 269.

Division No. 2]

[

4.59 pm

AYES

Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Kevin

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Buck, Ms Karen

Burnham, rh Andy

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

David, Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Horwood, Martin

Hosie, Stewart

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jackson, Glenda

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCarthy, Kerry

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miliband, rh Edward

Miller, Andrew

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme

(Livingston)

Morris, Grahame M.

(Easington)

Mudie, Mr George

Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Pound, Stephen

Powell, Lucy

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Mr Steve

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Robertson, Angus

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Sarwar, Anas

Sawford, Andy

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Twigg, Stephen

Vaz, Valerie

Watson, Mr Tom

Watts, Mr Dave

Weir, Mr Mike

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Woodcock, John

Woodward, rh Mr Shaun

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Ayes:

Bridget Phillipson

and

Julie Hilling

NOES

Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Amess, Mr David

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Baker, Norman

Baldry, rh Sir Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burstow, rh Paul

Byles, Dan

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crouch, Tracey

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Dorries, Nadine

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Jonathan

Evans, Mr Nigel

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Farron, Tim

Featherstone, Lynne

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hague, rh Mr William

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Hunter, Mark

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

James, Margot

Javid, rh Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, Gareth

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Leigh, Sir Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Luff, Sir Peter

Lumley, Karen

Main, Mrs Anne

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McPartland, Stephen

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, rh Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Murray, Sheryll

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, rh Mr Stephen

Offord, Dr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Osborne, rh Mr George

Ottaway, rh Sir Richard

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, rh Mike

Percy, Andrew

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Sir John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, rh Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Sir Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Sharma, Alok

Shepherd, Sir Richard

Simmonds, Mark

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, rh Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stunell, rh Sir Andrew

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Teather, Sarah

Thornton, Mike

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walter, Mr Robert

Ward, Mr David

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Mark Lancaster

and

John Penrose

Question accordingly negatived.

12 Jun 2014 : Column 805

12 Jun 2014 : Column 806

12 Jun 2014 : Column 807

12 Jun 2014 : Column 808

Main Question put.

The House divided:

Ayes 270, Noes 231.

Division No. 3]

[

5.13 pm

AYES

Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Amess, Mr David

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Baker, Norman

Baldry, rh Sir Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burstow, rh Paul

Byles, Dan

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crouch, Tracey

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Dorries, Nadine

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Jonathan

Evans, Mr Nigel

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Farron, Tim

Featherstone, Lynne

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hague, rh Mr William

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Hunter, Mark

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

James, Margot

Javid, rh Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, Gareth

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Lamb, Norman

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Leigh, Sir Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Luff, Sir Peter

Lumley, Karen

Main, Mrs Anne

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McPartland, Stephen

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, rh Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Murray, Sheryll

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, rh Mr Stephen

Offord, Dr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Osborne, rh Mr George

Ottaway, rh Sir Richard

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, rh Mike

Percy, Andrew

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Sir John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, rh Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Sir Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Sharma, Alok

Shepherd, Sir Richard

Simmonds, Mark

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, rh Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stunell, rh Sir Andrew

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Teather, Sarah

Thornton, Mike

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walter, Mr Robert

Ward, Mr David

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mark Lancaster

and

John Penrose

NOES

Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Kevin

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Buck, Ms Karen

Burnham, rh Andy

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

David, Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hosie, Stewart

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jackson, Glenda

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCarthy, Kerry

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miliband, rh Edward

Miller, Andrew

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme

(Livingston)

Morris, Grahame M.

(Easington)

Mudie, Mr George

Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Pound, Stephen

Powell, Lucy

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Mr Steve

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Robertson, Angus

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Sarwar, Anas

Sawford, Andy

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Twigg, Stephen

Vaz, Valerie

Watson, Mr Tom

Watts, Mr Dave

Weir, Mr Mike

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Woodcock, John

Woodward, rh Mr Shaun

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Noes:

Bridget Phillipson

and

Julie Hilling

Question accordingly agreed to.

12 Jun 2014 : Column 809

12 Jun 2014 : Column 810

12 Jun 2014 : Column 811

12 Jun 2014 : Column 812

Resolved,

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.

Address to be presented to Her Majesty by Members of the House who are Privy Counsellors or Members of Her Majesty’s Household.

12 Jun 2014 : Column 813

Sutton Coldfield (Royal Status)

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

5.25 pm

Mr Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) (Con): I am grateful for having been granted this Adjournment debate—my first for at least 10 years—on the subject of the re-assertion of the royal status of the town of Sutton Coldfield. The debate is particularly timely because last Friday Mr Speaker visited my constituency and the royal town, when he addressed my constituents in our historic town hall.

Over the last year there has been a tremendous campaign throughout Sutton Coldfield to validate, prove and reassert our status as a royal town—not a royal borough, for that is a local government structure, but as the royal town of Sutton Coldfield. We were granted this status many centuries ago during the reign of King Henry VIII.

Since 1974 Sutton Coldfield has been part of Birmingham for local government purposes. This is greatly resented, particularly by my elder constituents who at the time marched and petitioned against the loss of our borough council. Indeed, the late Edward Heath, Prime Minister at the time, told me that his office received more letters on this matter, in opposition to the change, in the month before it took place than on all other national and international matters.

This change of status inevitably led to a perceived diminution in our individual identity in Sutton Coldfield, and the emergence of a “North Birmingham” entity with which Sutton has never concurred and has never accepted. Of course, in Sutton Coldfield we understand that local government arrangements are but a small part of what we are. We remain, in our view, an ancient royal town deeply proud of our heritage and history, and conscious of the fact that local government arrangements, while important, are a relatively modest part of the fabric, nature and activity of Sutton Coldfield. Within the town, there is a society, an organisation or a charity for almost every enthusiasm and activity one can imagine, and many of them continue proudly to sport the royal connection.

Over the last year or so, I have led the campaign to reassert our royal status and royal heritage. Of course, we are not seeking something new, nor are we seeking any legal change. We wish merely to reassert something that we claim never to have lost and which we have enjoyed down the centuries: that the royal town of Sutton Coldfield bears this title in perpetuity, as clearly documented throughout our history.

The campaign to reassert our royal status has been supported extensively throughout Sutton Coldfield and hundreds of people have come forward with evidence to support our claim. This campaign has been given terrific support by the award-winning and much admired local newspaper, the Sutton Coldfield Observer, under its experienced and respected editor, Gary Phelps, with the support of one of his journalists, Elise Chamberlain, a rising journalistic star who has spent many hours sorting through evidence and has braved many a dusty archive in diligently carrying out her investigation.

The Sutton Coldfield Observer energised the search for historical precedent, with local residents of Sutton

12 Jun 2014 : Column 814

Coldfield searching through heirlooms and attics and discovering a mounting cohort of evidence which earlier this year we were able to lay before the Cabinet Office Minister responsible for this matter, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark).

The senior councillors, including Councillor Anne Underwood and Councillor Margaret Waddington, alongside honorary alderman David Roy OBE, former lord mayor of the city of Birmingham, and members of the Sutton Coldfield Civic Society, led by Elizabeth Allison BEM, have spent much time and effort researching and investigating our case. My distinguished predecessor Lord Fowler of Sutton Coldfield has given his vigorous support, as has the Lord-Lieutenant of the West Midlands, Paul Sabapathy CBE, another distinguished local resident. Prior to the delegation from Sutton Coldfield that visited the Minister earlier this year, I held a series of meetings with the Garter King of Arms, the College of Arms, the Crown Office, the Cabinet Office and officials at Buckingham palace. I would like to record my thanks to them all for the sympathetic hearing, and the helpful advice and guidance they offered. These matters are both more complicated and more labyrinthine than they may appear, steeped in history and precedent as they are.

Throughout this joint investigation into the history of Sutton Coldfield’s royal town status we have found no evidence to prove that our royal title has been either lost or repealed. Instead we have uncovered a great deal of evidence that shows that Sutton Coldfield was granted royal status in 1528 in perpetuity. Although this fact has been taken for granted locally until comparatively recently, documents show that Sutton Coldfield was referred to as the royal town of Sutton Coldfield in an official capacity up until 1974. However, under the Local Government Act 1972, to which I referred earlier and which heaved Sutton Coldfield into Birmingham for local government purposes, that point was not addressed. We believe we have now found precedents, not least precedents governing Scottish royal towns, which put this right and which I hope my right hon. Friend will address in his response.

In 1528, Bishop Vesey obtained a charter from King Henry VIII which referred to Sutton Coldfield as

“the royal town and village of Sutton Coldfield”.

Born at Moor Hall farm, Vesey became a confidant of the King, a status he managed to maintain throughout his life, in sharp contrast to many of the King’s other confidants, who came to a grisly end, as devotees of “The Tudors”, the brilliant television series, will attest. As a young priest, Vesey was appointed chaplain to Henry VIII's mother, Elizabeth of York, and when the King acceded to the throne he became a close adviser to him and was rewarded for his loyalty with the bishopric of Exeter in 1519. He was one of the six bishops to accompany Henry VIII to the famous meeting with Francis I of France at the field of the cloth of gold in northern France, which at the time, of course, was part of England. For much of the rest of his life Bishop Vesey endowed and supported his home town of Sutton Coldfield by plundering his bishopric of Exeter to our very great advantage—an advantage that still benefits us today in Sutton Coldfield through the work of the Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust, which dispenses largesse to many worthy and brilliant organisations throughout the town.

12 Jun 2014 : Column 815

In the charter granted in 1528 the following statement is made:

“And that the same town and village shall for ever hereafter be accounted, named and called, The Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield, in our County of Warwick”.

Bishop Vesey, who still rests in Sutton Coldfield parish church, gave the town Sutton park, the biggest municipal park in Europe. He oversaw the regeneration of the town centre, much as we are seeking to do today on the back of Britain’s rescued and newly vibrant economy. He also built our town hall, in which Mr Speaker spoke last Friday, and founded one of our two grammar schools, which still proudly bears his name. He rebuilt the marketplace to encourage trade, with paved streets, new roads and bridges constructed to promote it.

Sutton Coldfield today abounds with signs of royal association. Our royal status is proclaimed in the arms of Sutton Coldfield. The gold greyhound and red dragon derive from the coat of arms of early Tudor kings and were incorporated as a direct result of King Henry VIII’s decision to grant Sutton Coldfield the charter of incorporation as a royal town.

From that point on, Sutton Coldfield had secured its place in our national history. Shakespeare sent one of his best-loved characters, Falstaff, to Sutton Coldfield on the way to the battle of Shrewsbury in Henry IV Part I. Falstaff says:

“Bardolph, get thee before to Coventry; fill me a bottle of sack: our soldiers shall march through: we’ll to Sutton-Co’fil’ to-night”.

I feel the warm approbation of the Secretary of State for Education upon me at this point. It is believed that this mention was a result of the Bard’s family connections with Sutton Coldfield, where it is claimed he had well-to-do relatives residing at Peddimore Hall, a later version of which still stands and was originally owned by the Arden family, relatives of Shakespeare’s mother. The farmhouse has “Deus noster refugium”—God is our refuge—inscribed above the doorway. Given the constant threat to our green belt in Peddimore, it is probably quite apt.

A second charter was granted to Sutton Coldfield by Charles II in 1662, which simply restored those powers bestowed by Henry VIII 134 years earlier, and confirmed all the privileges previously granted.

A third charter, granted by Queen Victoria on 31 December 1885, saw the ancient and royal town of Sutton Coldfield become a modern municipal borough. Importantly, there is no mention of the royal status being withdrawn.

The royal town status of Sutton Coldfield was recognised again in July 1928 when, on the 400th anniversary of the granting of the charter by Henry VIII, the town celebrated by holding a pageant. Thanks to diligent local research, we have located a printed programme of festivities, which includes a letter from Buckingham palace after His Majesty King George V had received a copy of a book of the pageant. The letter reads:

“In thanking you I am commanded to express His Majesty’s best wishes for the success of the Pageant which has been organised to commemorate the four hundredth year of the granting to the Town of a Royal Charter by King Henry VIII.”

Once again, in 1957, the royal town status was recognised when Her Majesty the Queen visited the town for the world scout jubilee jamboree. Similarly, we have located

12 Jun 2014 : Column 816

an official programme of the event, which refers to Sutton Coldfield as both the royal town of Sutton Coldfield and the borough of Sutton Coldfield, which we contend refers both to our status of royal in perpetuity and to our local government arrangements.

Although such programmes and details bear no legal status, they do, I think, indicate what was a clear popular understanding at the time and, significantly, one not contradicted or gainsaid by the authorities. Nor are we seeking any legal instrument affirming all that I have said.

Our conclusions at the end of this long campaign, based on extensive research and evidence and on a case supported overwhelmingly throughout Sutton Coldfield by many thousands of local residents, are that in spite of the vast changes our town has seen over more than four centuries, since Henry VIII granted the royal charter in perpetuity, there is no evidence to suggest that that royal town status has ever been revoked, and we therefore seek reassurance tonight that we can proudly rely on that and use it in a sober and appropriate way forthwith.

5.39 pm

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Greg Clark): I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), who has represented Sutton Coldfield so ably for more than 13 years now, on securing this important Adjournment debate and on the campaign that he has led which has been so trenchantly, supported throughout Sutton Coldfield by his constituents.

My right hon. Friend thought that the Secretary of State for Education might approve of his references to Shakespeare, but I think that our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport ought also to approve of the theatrical rendition he gave. As his constituency is not far from the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company, David Tennant, Sir Ian McKellen and various other luminaries should watch out now that we have seen the talents of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield.

I have followed this campaign with close interest. This interest is, of course, bolstered by the fact that I represent the town of Royal Tunbridge Wells where we too are proud of our royal connections. As my right hon. Friend mentioned, I had the great pleasure of receiving his delegation in Whitehall earlier this year. On that occasion he brought with him others involved in his campaign and it is clear that the partnership between my right hon. Friend and the editor and journalists on the Sutton Coldfield Observer has developed into a strong and sustained effort throughout Sutton Coldfield that has captured both the enthusiasm and support of local residents.

The evidence that the Sutton Coldfield Observer has collected—as well as how it was presented to me and my officials in a formidable dossier that has pride of place in my office—was of deep historical interest and would be to anyone who looked closely at these matters. It also showed the importance that citizens attach to their local heritage and the interest in and commitment to the history of their local surroundings that people feel.

My right hon. Friend set out the long relationship that Sutton Coldfield has had with the Crown. This began when the manor of Sutton passed into the hands of the King during the reign of William the Conqueror.

12 Jun 2014 : Column 817

The royal manor of Sutone gets a mention in the Domesday Book. For reasons that are not recorded, the Crown gave away its royal manor in Sutton Coldfield in 1135, but the fortunes of Sutton Coldfield were revived, as my right hon. Friend has said, by John Harman, better known as Bishop Vesey, after lying dormant for some years. Returning from his bishopric in Exeter to Sutton Coldfield in 1524 to attend his mother’s funeral, it is recorded that Bishop Vesey decided that something needed to be done to regenerate the town.

He obtained the charter of incorporation from the King in 1528 that bestowed on Sutton Coldfield the status of royal town. That charter reads, as my right hon. Friend said:

“the same town and village shall forever hereafter be accounted, named and called the Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield in our county of Warwick”.

As my right hon. Friend set out in his speech, Bishop Vesey, having secured this royal recognition, went on to regenerate the town and gave people access to Sutton park by making it a royal forest, allowing Suttonians to use its resources.

Indeed, Sutton Coldfield’s emblem of the Tudor rose also finds its roots in Bishop Vesey’s association with Henry VIII. According to folklore, King Henry VIII was hunting in Sutton Park as the guest of Bishop Vesey when he was charged by a wild boar. Before the boar could reach the King, it fell dead with an arrow through its heart. The King’s saviour emerged from the woods and turned out to be in the form of a beautiful young woman. When she told the King her family had been dispossessed of their property, he ordered that restitution should be made to them. To the young woman he personally presented the Tudor rose, which he decreed should henceforth be the emblem of Sutton Coldfield.

Having looked carefully at all these matters, I fully understand the pride people in Sutton Coldfield feel in their royal heritage and the history of their town. As my right hon. Friend said, the local government reorganisation of 1974 incorporated—I think he used the word “heaved”—Sutton Coldfield into the city of Birmingham for administrative purposes. I am a great admirer of that city, and as my right hon. Friend said, many Sutton Coldfield residents have served with distinction in the city of Birmingham. I am looking forward to attending a conference there next month on one of our great civic heroes, Joseph Chamberlain, organised by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart).

That was not the first local government change to affect Sutton Coldfield. The town became a municipal borough in 1885, and although it was not designated a royal borough, the title of royal town continued to be used, as my right hon. Friend has demonstrated. In that respect, there are some similarities with my own town of Royal Tunbridge Wells. Since 1974, there has not been any local government authority called Royal Tunbridge Wells, the newly formed borough having taken in several adjoining urban and rural district councils. Nevertheless, the use of the town’s royal title continues.

12 Jun 2014 : Column 818

Our two towns have other things in common, too. We have had more than our fair share of celebrated residents over the years. I note with interest that Sutton Coldfield has been home to much-loved national figures including Sir Roger Moore and—perhaps she is in that category—the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy). Tunbridge Wells boasts many pillars of the establishment, too, such as Sid Vicious and the right hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne East (Mr Brown).

The case that my right hon. Friend and his colleagues have made is clear and simple: while there is no corporation or similar legal entity that carries the royal title, there is no reason why the lack of a local council should prohibit the continued reference to Sutton Coldfield as a royal town. I am very sympathetic to his argument, but he will understand that I must be guided by established precedent in an area that is often complex. I am pleased to tell him that in my researches I have become aware of a clear and helpful precedent. A number of Scottish towns are in an analogous position to Sutton Coldfield, in that local government reorganisations did not carry forward their royal titles into the names of the new authorities. In 1977, the Government of the day clarified that, notwithstanding the absence of a local government body containing the royal title,

“There is no statutory ban to the continuance of historic titles for other purposes.”—[Official Report, 6 December 1977; Vol. 940, c. 694W.]

There being no statutory ban, I am not surprised that my right hon. Friend and his constituents should wish to use the title. In other words, I am pleased to be able to confirm today to him and his constituents that there is no statutory prohibition on the use of this historic title. I can therefore confirm also that there is nothing to prevent the people of Sutton Coldfield making use of their historic royal title.

Mr Deputy Speaker, you will know that Mr Speaker had the pleasure of visiting Sutton Coldfield just a few days ago, to speak to Suttonians from the university of the Third Age in the historic setting of Sutton Coldfield’s town hall. While neither he nor you will have known the contents of this Adjournment debate, it had already been granted.

The results of this long campaign in the town will appear in the Hansard record of our proceedings, which will no doubt be read with considerable interest across Sutton Coldfield. The debate also brings to a close uncertainty on the matter, which I know will be hugely welcomed by my right hon. Friend, Sutton Coldfield’s tenacious and invincible Member of Parliament, its much respected newspaper, the Sutton Coldfield Observer, and all in the town. I warmly commend him and all those involved in his campaign and I look forward to visiting Sutton Coldfield in due course, not least to deliver my own greetings from Tunbridge Wells to its residents.

Question put and agreed to.

5.47 pm

House adjourned.