Mrs May: I have indicated to the House that I would expect Government papers to be made available to the inquiry. I remind Members of the House that, where information is currently being used in a criminal investigation, we do not want the inquiry’s work in any way to jeopardise or prejudice criminal investigations

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that are taking place. I used a phrase in my statement about Government “making all papers available” to the inquiry. Obviously, it is for the chairman and the panel to determine how they wish to conduct the inquiry, but the Government will be open to the inquiry.

Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab): I welcome the Home Secretary’s statement today. Does she agree that although Mr Sedwill found no evidence that the 114 files that were not available had been removed or destroyed inappropriately, it does not in any way mean that it is not deeply concerning that those files have gone missing, nor does it in any way provide positive evidence that they were not inappropriately removed? It just means that no evidence was provided one way or the other.

Mrs May: The important point, as I understand it, is—I cannot find the exact phrase in my papers—whether those files were of significance. The reviewer looked at the issues in terms of the files being identified. Obviously, he was not able to look into the files themselves precisely because there does not appear to be a record of whether they had been destroyed, mislaid or simply not found. The purpose of having the review of the review is precisely so that it is possible to go back on those issues and to look at them again and see whether further information is available about those files—that is in the terms of reference of the review of the review—and whether the issue was dealt with properly by the investigator.

Mr Michael McCann (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (Lab): On 23 May 2012 at Prime Minister’s questions, I raised the issue of the abuse that took place at Medomsley detention centre. My constituent, John McCabe, was raped every day for nine months by guards and others inside and outside Medomsley. John has waived his anonymity and, because of his courage, 700 victims from the detention centre have come forward, and 70-plus detectives from County Durham police force are going through the evidence. What has always puzzled me is that much of the evidence that was available was already in the hands of the Home Office. Why did the Home Office not instigate the investigation? Does the Home Secretary not accept that the only way to get to the truth about the depths to which paedophile circles have infiltrated state systems is to cut to the chase and announce a public inquiry today?

Mrs May: We are absolutely clear that the way forward is to ensure that work can start soon and that we do not delay this work because of the impact it could have on the criminal investigations. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the fact that a significant number of police officers in the County Durham force were looking into the allegations of the abuse that took place at Medomsley detention centre, and I am sure that he would want to ensure that those criminal investigations could continue and that, where evidence that was suitable for charge and prosecution was found, those charges should be laid and those prosecutions should be taken forward. I want to ensure that the work that is now going to be done does not jeopardise the prosecution of perpetrators. That is why I have set this up today as an inquiry panel. As I made

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clear in my statement, if the chairman of the panel recommends that it would be preferable to move to a full statutory inquiry, that will be done.

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): I welcome the Home Secretary’s statement. When the Sedwill review specifically established that the Dickens letters had not been kept, did it also try to establish who had authorised their disposal, and if not, why not?

Mrs May: The review looked at the way in which the information that had come in from Geoffrey Dickens—and, indeed, any other information—had been handled, to ensure that it was being handled appropriately. The evidence that it found was that matters that should have been handed over to the police for investigation were indeed handed to the police for investigation. As I have said, four pieces of information have subsequently been passed to the police because it was felt that it was now appropriate to do so. The review will look at the whole question of what the investigator did and what evidence they found. It will ensure that that investigation was done properly and that the handling of those matters was entirely appropriate, in order to give greater confidence precisely because questions have been raised.

Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): In the early 1980s, I was working in child protection in south Wales, and rumours such as those that have been circulating this weekend were also circulating then. Many of the people who were working in child protection in the 1980s have now retired. Will there be a confidential access line to enable such people to come forward and reveal what they saw happening at the time? Such material might not be suitable for a police inquiry, but it might well help to build a picture of what was prevalent then and of what engagement took place between the police and other authorities and those who had concerns about children being picked up at the end of the lane in large cars but found that they could get nowhere with those concerns.

Mrs May: It is precisely in order to learn the lessons that we need to know what was going on, and the inquiry is obviously going to have to look quite widely in order to find that out. It will have to look at the documentary evidence from the reviews that have taken place. I do not want to dictate to the inquiry what it should do or how it should undertake its work, but I am sure that the chairman and the panel will be alive to the fact that, in order to get to the truth, they will need to hear from those who have felt unable to speak out in the past.

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): I also welcome the Home Secretary’s statement. May I press her on the point about the missing 114 files and ask how the investigator could have concluded, without having had sight of them, that they had not been “removed or destroyed inappropriately”? Did the Home Secretary ask that question herself?

Mrs May: I made it absolutely clear earlier that that review was initiated by the permanent secretary, and that it reported to the permanent secretary. The review itself has been passed to the police, together with any appropriate evidence that it was felt right to pass to the

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police. Obviously, the review looked at a large number of files and put together evidence as to how these matters were dealt with. The whole question of how it looked at the judgments that were made by the investigator when he undertook the review is one of the issues that will be looked at by the review of the review.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): I welcome the Home Secretary’s statement. One consequence of her establishing an inquiry such as the one that she has announced today might be that victims hitherto unknown to the authorities will come forward with new or additional evidence on existing cases. Will she ensure that, as part of the terms of reference for the inquiry, a sensitive and confidential procedure will be put in place to allow victims, including new victims, to come forward and present their evidence in a confidential and sensitive manner and, when necessary, for that information to be shared not just with the inquiry but with criminal investigators?

Mrs May: As I said in response to the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon), I would expect the inquiry to recognise the need to have appropriate measures in place to enable evidence to come forward from those who might otherwise find it difficult to give evidence or who have been put off from giving it in the past for fear of the consequences.

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Local Growth Deals

4.55 pm

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Greg Clark): With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about growth deals.

During the past four years, the Government’s long-term economic plan has turned the British economy around. The deficit has been cut by a third, employment is at a record high with 2 million more private sector jobs created, inflation is low and the UK is one of the fastest growing economies in the G7.

One of the striking features of the recovery is the resurgence of our regional economies. Since June 2010, almost three quarters of net new jobs created have been outside London. In the west midlands, where I was this morning, export growth is higher than anywhere else in the country. In Yorkshire, more than 16,000 more businesses have sprung up since 2010, but our plan is for the long term and we want to go much further.

National growth is the sum of local growth. For our nation to prosper, every town, every city, and every county needs to be able to fulfil its potential. It is hopeless to try to run proud, distinct and unique cities, towns and counties remotely from London. Instead, the people who live, work and do business in each area must be given the power to exercise local leadership and that is exactly what we have done through the city deals programme.

The 39 growth deals we have agreed today build on the success of city deals and go much further. Responding to Lord Heseltine’s report, “No Stone Unturned”, the Chancellor committed at least £2 billion a year, for at least six years, of resources previously controlled by Departments in Whitehall. Control of this money will now be devolved to business and civic leaders across England. In response to this opportunity, local enterprise partnerships have developed action plans detailing how they would use those resources to drive local growth.

The results have far exceeded expectations. The first year’s available funds were oversubscribed three and half times with proposals that were strong and credible. As a result, I am today announcing the transfer of £2 billion not just for the first year but for subsequent years too. The strength of the proposals means that I can today allocate a total of £6 billion. That includes major strategic investments that will continue over several years and commitments to projects that cannot start next year but for which planning and development can now get under way. That is still within the minimum of £12 billion that the Chancellor has made available, and I am now inviting all LEPs to begin immediately discussions on their next proposals, building on this substantial momentum.

It is important to underline that we are not spending any more taxpayers’ money: this is a transfer of resources from central Government—one of the most centralised Governments in the world—to local communities, where they can get better value for money and make a bigger impact. Across all 39 deals as agreed so far, more than 500 projects will be funded by the local growth fund in partnership with local councils and private investors. They include more than 180 roads schemes, such as the dualling of the A421 in Milton Keynes and the building of a tunnel providing access to Wichelstowe in Swindon,

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allowing the creation of thousands of jobs and thousands of homes. They include the building or refurbishment of 17 railway stations, including a major upgrade to Wolverhampton station, the extension of the Metropolitan line through to Watford junction, and making Curzon Street in Birmingham ready for HS2, and linking the HS2 station directly to Wolverhampton by tram.

The projects include the devolution of skills investment, such as an oil and gas academy in Redcar—hon. Members may have been wondering when Teesside would come up; the oil and gas academy will provide skills to people in the Tees valley—and an engineering training programme at the MIRA technology park. There will be investments in science and technology, including in the Cheshire science corridor at Alderley Park, a new metrology centre for the world motorsports cluster at Silverstone, where most of the world’s Formula 1 teams have gathered, and an expansion of the Bristol robotics hub.

There will be a dedicated local small business advice and support service run in partnership with the chambers of commerce and other small business organisations in almost every part of England, and there will be further investments in house building, flood defences, tourist attractions, broadband infrastructure and further small business advice.

The city of Glasgow is an indispensable member of the family of great British cities. Having seen the success of the city deals programme in England, I was greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm of Glasgow’s leaders to negotiate a city deal for their own city. Therefore, notwithstanding the fact that Scotland does not have local enterprise partnerships, I have concluded a heads of terms agreement with Glasgow that mirrors the English city deals and will result in £1.13 billion of investment in the Glasgow area, including a rail link to Glasgow airport, an innovative series of labour market schemes that will reduce unemployment, and an investment package in life sciences and small business support. Further details of the life science and business support package will be announced in the coming weeks.

The components of each growth deal will transform the prospects of local economies. However, the whole is even bigger than the sum of the parts. This is a permanent change in the way we run our country and our economy. No longer will Whitehall monopolise decision making and shut out the role of local economic leadership. In this, the week of the 100th anniversary of the death of Joseph Chamberlain, the great mayor of a great city, we are reviving the spirit of local leadership and entrepreneurship on which our nation’s prosperity depends. I commend this statement and these growth deals to the House.

5.2 pm

Andy Sawford (Corby) (Lab/Co-op): I thank the Minister for advance sight of the statement. As ever, the right hon. Gentleman is courteous and constructive. That is part of the reason why he is respected by MPs in all parts of the House and by local authority leaders around the country, including in my own area. The problem is that the Minister is something of a lone voice in the Government, trying to convince his colleagues to help all the regions of the UK to fulfil their promise.

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For today’s announcement to represent the kind of progress that we need, three tests must be met. First, does it represent a truly ambitious devolution of power and funding? Secondly, have local communities, their businesses and councils determined the priorities? Thirdly, are today’s announcements new—is this new or additional investment? Of course, we welcome any investment. The Minister knows that I have supported the local enterprise partnership bid in my area, and people across Northamptonshire will welcome the announcement about Silverstone. However, today’s announcement is too little, too late from a Government playing catch-up.

One of the first acts of this Government was the dogma-driven destruction of the regional development agencies, without providing a proper replacement. It was economic vandalism, pure and simple. What of the Government’s flagship regional growth fund, mired in chaos and delay, creating more losers than winners, leaving successful bidders waiting for two years to receive their money, and leaving hundreds of millions of pounds to gather dust? Sadly, after four years of this Government, it is little surprise that we have seen regional imbalances become starker and local areas held back.

Lord Heseltine’s seminal report, “No Stone Unturned”, promised much and raised the hopes of many, but today’s announcement shows that the Government are happy to leave plenty of stones unturned all over the country. Will the Minister say how much of the funding that Lord Heseltine’s report recommended should be devolved has been devolved to local areas, and by how much today’s announcement falls short? The Minister is making the most of today’s announcement—he is one of life’s optimists—but deep down, surely he knows that although it signals some progress, it falls well short of what is needed, not only in scale but in terms of how the Government have gone about this.

The second test is about who makes the decision. Today’s announcement is not real devolution; it is a list of centrally agreed projects. The criteria required shovel-ready schemes; local enterprise partnerships were given the nod on the understanding that schemes needed to be ready for next May, so that it looked like something was happening before the next election. Is it not time to move on from making these kinds of decisions in Whitehall, where local areas have to take part in a beauty parade so that Ministers can pick winners? Why not devolve the funds properly and let local areas decide the priorities? Why not let them make the decisions that are right for their economy, not just right for the Minister’s political timetable?

The third test is whether this is new money. The Minister claims to be announcing £2 billion today, but it turns out that £1.1 billion has already been committed to local transport projects. Some £267 million of this money still has not been allocated. Will the Minister confirm when it will be allocated? As for the £6 billion figure, most of that, as the Minister well knows, is money from local sources that we would try to bring forward anyway; certainly, Labour local authorities are in the lead in doing that. [Interruption.] Well, the Minister has agreed that combined authorities in Labour areas all around the country are trying to show real leadership. Will he confirm how many unsuccessful bids there have been, and tell the House what estimate he has made of the total cost, to both local authorities and businesses, of putting together those failed bids? Is he

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aware that small businesses in particular have been put off applying by the amount of bureaucracy, and by the requirement to pay the cost of due diligence up front? Many successful applicants have not proceeded for the same reasons. What steps is he taking to address that?

The Minister will be aware that the Leeds city region deal, which he personally signed, has been undermined by the Secretary of State’s announcement on referendums and precepts. Will the Minister reassure me that he will sort this mess out—a mess of the Government’s making—so that the Leeds transport fund can be properly established?

In contrast to today’s much-hyped but severely limited announcements from the Government, Labour has committed to devolving £30 billion of funding from Whitehall to city and council regions to spend on skills, housing, transport, and business support, and to giving combined authorities the power to receive 100% of additional business rates revenue generated by growth to support infrastructure and future economic development. Whereas this Government are failing to deliver for businesses and communities across the country, a Labour Government will step up and genuinely pass down power and resources to local areas.

Greg Clark: What a ray of sunshine the hon. Gentleman is! I am grateful for his warm words, but if he thinks that I am a lone voice, I do not know who he thinks the people behind me and opposite him are. It is some “lone voice” that delivers £6 billion of funding from central Government to our local economies. If that is a lone voice, it seems a pretty strong one.

Why is it that whenever Labour Front Benchers get the opportunity, they talk the regions down—I say this to the hon. Gentleman’s colleague on the Front Bench, the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), too—while their colleagues back in their constituencies are talking the regions up? Contrast the comments of the hon. Member for Corby (Andy Sawford) with those of Labour leaders right around the country. The Labour leader of Leeds city council said today that this was tremendous news. He said:

“We are glad that the government has now listened to our exceptionally strong case to put the financial power in our hands”,

and that the announcement

“could be truly transformational”.

Sir Albert Bore, the leader of Birmingham city council—I was with him in Birmingham this morning—said:

“This is great news for Birmingham.”

Joe Anderson, the mayor of Liverpool, said:

“This is great news for Liverpool.”

Sir Richard Leese, the long-standing leader of Manchester city council, has said that there has been more progress towards the devolution of powers to the core cities in the last three years of the coalition than during 13 years of Labour. The only “lone voice” is the increasingly lonely voice of Labour Front Benchers opposing the increasingly unanimous view that we should be devolving power around the country in the way that we are. I hope the hon. Gentleman will get with that, because we have confidence in our cities and it is no wonder that the cities are losing confidence in their representation from the Labour party.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the funding that we have provided. I made it clear in my statement that we have gone further than was originally proposed. We made

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it clear that only £1 billion of the £2 billion figure was competitively available, but we have gone further by allocating £6 billion because the scheme was oversubscribed by 3.5:1, which means that the quality of the proposals was so high that we thought it would be ridiculous to say, “Come back in a year’s time.” Why not give investors confidence to get on with projects now so that they can create jobs around the country?

It is worth saying that this is not just Government investment. For every £1 of Government investment there will be at least £2 of local investment as a result. The hon. Gentleman asked about Lord Heseltine’s view on the scheme. I was with Lord Heseltine this morning, and he has travelled with me around almost every one of the 39 local enterprise partnerships to negotiate the deals. He expresses himself to be “thrilled” with the ambition that we have set through the programme, which exceeds what he thought possible. He is delighted with the programme.

I have thought about the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion that we should go further. Of course we should go further, and the Chancellor has committed at least £2 billion a year, but at no point during the 13 years of the previous Government was any of this suggested. It is important that such things should be rigorously funded. I read the Adonis report, and the small print states that 100% of business rates should be devolved to the cities. Under my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, half of business rates are now given to local authorities, which again did not happen during 13 years under Labour. Of course, £11 billion goes to the Treasury, so how will that £11 billion be found? Is there a black hole? In fact, the small print of the Adonis report states:

“This should be revenue neutral to the Exchequer through offsetting reductions in government grants”

to councils. In other words, it is a swizz: £11 billion of grant cuts to councils to pay for the headline with which he came up.

The difference between the Government and the Opposition is that we act on our ambitions by taking money from central Government to invest in local government, rather than the other way around.

Sir Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) (Con): I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on this extraordinarily ambitious announcement, which will command support across the whole country. I understand that not every constituency in the land will benefit from that ambition, so may I bring the leader of Mid Sussex district council and his economic development team to tell the Minister about an absolute belter of an idea that we have for the next round?

Greg Clark: I am always delighted to meet my right hon. Friend and his council leaders, whom I have met previously. The great advantage of my announcement today that we are immediately reopening negotiations for the next set of projects to build on the momentum is that that meeting will be very timely indeed.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): May I press the Minister? As co-chair of the Yorkshire group of MPs, I recently saw Lord Heseltine, and he did not look that excited to me about the Government’s policy. Is it not the truth that we have had four pretty barren

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years? I do not deny that there is some good stuff in the programme, but the fact of the matter is that we still have central direction: some £80 billion will be spent on High Speed 2, with no give or take on the local referendums that some of us would like to see on that expenditure. Could there not be more money for university partnerships with local enterprise partnerships and local business?

Greg Clark: I am not surprised that my friend Lord Heseltine was a bit downcast if he was meeting Labour Members, but he has cheered up since he has been in our company. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) should be cheered up that the chair of his local enterprise partnership said today that this is “a game-changing moment” for Leeds. We have worked tirelessly with businesses to play a leading role in the UK economy. His hon. Friend the Member for Corby referred to the Leeds city deal, and when he reads the documents that I sent to every Member he will see that a £1 billion transport fund is now available for the Leeds city region to invest in its own priorities for transport projects across the region. I was talking to Keith Wakefield, the leader of Leeds city council, last Thursday, and the deal exceeded even his expectations for what could be achieved. He is happy, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will be happy, too.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Dawn Primarolo): Order. I wonder whether we could make slightly faster progress, because many Members wish to speak and this statement will run to about a quarter to 6 in order to make room for today’s business. Short questions and short answers would be very helpful.

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): What is in this announcement for Dorset, and will the Minister answer the question asked by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) about how much money we could get if we abandoned HS2? If we did so, we would have a lot more money for these schemes.

Greg Clark: I will not be tempted to go in that direction, because I think that HS2 is very important for further boosting our regional economy. Dorset does very well from the scheme. As my hon. Friend will know, the package of improvements for unlocking transport around Bournemouth airport is very important, and the port of Poole is receiving a lot of investment. There has been particular investment in skills in Dorset to ensure that its growing businesses can attract the people they need to meet the demands of their growing order books.

Mr Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne East) (Lab): The North East local enterprise partnership has said that it needs to create 60,000 new jobs by 2025 and that today’s announcement will create 4,000 by 2021. Where will the other 56,000 new jobs come from?

Greg Clark: The reason we are devolving powers in this way, and the reason the deal with the north-east has received such enthusiastic support, is that the best people to make these decisions, and the people who know about an area’s skills requirements and transport investment,

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are those who live and work there. I commend to the right hon. Gentleman, who I know takes an interest in these matters, the fact that one of our agreements is to improve the standard of secondary education across the north-east—to do what has been done in London by transforming the prospects of every young person. As someone who grew up in the north-east, I think that will be of immense value not just for young people, but for employers.

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): I welcome the fact that both coalition parties are determined to raise standards in the north-east, but will that not also require a change of attitude by some Labour council leaders, such as those in Northumberland who are withdrawing support for travel for those young people seeking to improve their skills, even though they have to travel a long way to get to a further education college?

Greg Clark: It is true that one of the hallmarks of a successful local economy is people putting aside their differences and working together. One feature of the growth deals that have been negotiated is the remarkable ability of people who previously did not get on to put their differences aside and work together locally. I hope that will be the case in the north-east.

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): Some exciting stuff is being bid for in Bristol, such as robotics and the use of composites in marine technology, as well as much-needed investment in public transport, but may I ask the Minister about flexibility? When money has previously been offered by local government, local people have been told that there is no scope for negotiation and that all the money will simply be taken away if they object to the proposed schemes.

Greg Clark: The hon. Lady is absolutely right; she gives an accurate description of what happened under the previous Labour Government. One of the differences we are making is giving the flexibility to allow good and capable local enterprise partnerships to set their own priorities, so if an important economic opportunity arises, they should be able to change things around. That will be available to Bristol, as it will to other places across the country.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton) (Con): I enthusiastically welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcement, particularly the support for the transformation of the Food and Environment Research Agency in Sand Hutton. For that transformation to succeed, smooth and safe access to the A64 will be imperative. What does he understand by the term “shovel-ready projects” that qualify before the highways authority will allocate any of that money to road improvements?

Greg Clark: The hon. Member for Corby asked me about that. It is prudent that money should be spent on projects that are available to have that investment; otherwise we are tying up money that could be used elsewhere. A project needs to be deliverable in 2015-16 if that is what the funding is for. The great advantage of announcing a pipeline of future schemes is that if they are not quite ready yet, they will be able to have the green light shone so that they can go forward in future.

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Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): There are some excellent projects in the Birmingham and Solihull area in today’s announcement, not least the long-awaited Longbridge connectivity package in my area. Will the Minister join me in saying thank you to Labour-run Birmingham city council and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP for working with the Longbridge connectivity group to make this happen, in contrast with the rather disengaged attitude of the former Conservative city council administration? Does that indicate to him that where local partnerships work, the Government should be more ambitious in devolving power? Is not that the real message of the Adonis report?

Greg Clark: The attitude behind the hon. Gentleman’s question is not the attitude that has caused the success of the Birmingham and Solihull deal. People have not been partisan or parochial; they have worked together and not sought to jockey for political advantage. That is the right approach to take.

Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): I very much welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcement, in which he confirms the Government’s commitment to the north of England. I particularly welcome the investment at the CATCH—Centre for the Assessment of Technical Competence—training facility at Stallingborough in my constituency. That is a partnership between the public and private sectors. Does he agree that those types of partnerships are the way forward if we are to develop the skills that northern Lincolnshire and the Humber area need in the modern economy?

Greg Clark: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He is a doughty campaigner for his constituency, and I have visited him and his colleagues on the Humber many times. He is one of the people who have been instrumental in forging a consensus between the north bank and the south bank of the Humber. Now that that consensus exists, the Humber is motoring; we can see the progress and momentum behind the economy there. He has played his part in that, and I congratulate him on it.

Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab): The Minister is a South Bank lad, so he should have some understanding of the challenges faced in the Tees valley. His statement tells of helping to create 1,000 jobs by 2021—in other words, 1,000 jobs in seven years. That is less than 20% of the total number of unemployed people in Stockton, one of five boroughs in the Tees valley. Why has he not come up with something more substantial from the Government in terms of investment for his former community?

Greg Clark: The jobs figures that the hon. Gentleman cites are for the first year’s investment only. We have taken a conservative view. The Government do not create jobs directly; it is up to businesses to create jobs. The business community in the Tees valley, very ably led by Sandy Anderson, have come forward with a set of proposals that they believe will propel the Tees valley forward, and we have been able to say yes to them.

Penny Mordaunt (Portsmouth North) (Con): Does the Minister agree that Government investment in infrastructure projects such as Tipner, and in marine

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manufacturing and status projects such as Sir Ben Ainslie’s America’s cup challenge, is transforming Portsmouth into the maritime heart of the UK, and that the next focus must be a new life and a new order book for Portsmouth’s shipyard?

Greg Clark: I commend my hon. Friend, who has been an absolutely indefatigable campaigner for Portsmouth. That resulted in the Portsmouth city deal, which, as she has rightly said, involved the release of Ministry of Defence land that was not being used to make it available for the marine engineering businesses whose future is very bright across the south coast, and particularly in Portsmouth.

Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): The devolution of finance must not only be seen to be accountable but actually be accountable. What discussions has the Minister’s Department had about the appointment of Paul Woolston, the chair of the North East LEP, who has now been appointed to Middleton Enterprises, a company run by Jeremy Middleton, a well-known Conservative who is also on the LEP investment board? We also learned last week that the chief executive is now working for a Middleton company. Have the Minister or his Department had any discussions about this?

Greg Clark: Of course, I meet the local enterprise partnerships—all of them—regularly to discuss the kinds of deals we are announcing. The hon. Gentleman will know that the local authority leaders work very closely together—in fact, his own local authority leader, Simon Henig, is the chair of the combined authority—and that they are democratically elected, and I know that they make sure that taxpayers’ money is wisely spent.

Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): May I congratulate my right hon. Friend, both politically and personally, on his commitment to delivering a further significant tranche of devolution? Does he agree that, in order to see this through, it is very important not only that local authorities abandon the tribalism in evidence on the Opposition Benches, but that they make maximum entrepreneurial use of the other important devolutionary power we gave them—the power of general competence in the Localism Act 2011, which will complement this tranche of measures?

Greg Clark: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He has personal responsibility for that power, since he, with me, piloted the Localism Bill through Committee. The power is available to local authorities and I hope they will take it up.

Lucy Powell (Manchester Central) (Lab/Co-op): May I first respond to the Minister’s more partisan points before I move on to the less partisan point? People in Manchester will judge his Government on all their policies, including local government cuts 10 times those of other, more prosperous areas and the welfare reform agenda that is hitting my constituents the hardest. On the less partisan point, which is what I had hoped the statement would be about, given the reports by Michael Heseltine and Lord Adonis and today’s statement by Sir Richard Leese, we now really have cross-party consensus

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for dramatic decentralisation, and I hope the Minister will ensure that it goes further and faster over the coming months.

Greg Clark: I had also hoped that this statement would be less partisan, but that was not entirely evident from the earlier exchanges. Greater Manchester has been doing very well in recent years. If we look at the cross-party leadership of Greater Manchester, including Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour leaders, we will see that they get on well together in the interests of Greater Manchester. The hon. Lady should take a leaf out of their book.

Annette Brooke (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (LD): I congratulate the Government, because this is a really important step towards devolution and local decision making. I particularly welcome the contribution to Dorset, which will enable it to build on its already great strengths with its mixed economy. Should any partnerships anywhere in the country run into obstacles in making proposed investments in a timely fashion, will the Department be able to support them? I want to see action, not just words.

Greg Clark: My hon. Friend is absolutely right and I am grateful for her kind words. That is one of the reasons we have established a pipeline so that, if there is a delay in any particular project, another will be ready to take its place and be implemented. Dorset has a huge contribution to make. I have mentioned some of the schemes. One of the very interesting and exciting ones for the visitor economy in Dorset will be a new visitor attraction called Jurassica, which will feature the great strengths of the Jurassic coast. It has been suggested that some exhibits might come from the Opposition Benches, but I am sure the fossils will be from Dorset.

Mr Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): Does the Minister agree that this modest but welcome proposal is certainly not a giant step towards rebalancing the British economy? Will he also confirm, as I think he was angling towards doing in an earlier response, that there is in fact no new money involved in today’s proposal? I think that the focus on affordable housing in London is correct, but could not the Government have done more about the borrowing powers of local authorities, to really get affordable housing going in London, where it is much needed?

Greg Clark: If the hon. Gentleman reads the small print, he will see that that is part of the announcement. I do not agree with his assessment. He should talk to the leader of Leeds council, who has said:

“This deal spells the beginning of a fundamental shift in the relationship between Whitehall and the regions. It marks the first steps of a new era which will allow the north”—

he is from Leeds—

“to truly control its own destiny.”

Such endorsements show that this is a pretty significant set of changes.

Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): I was delighted to welcome my hon. Friend the Exchequer Secretary to Gatwick this morning, where the Coast to Capital LEP

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bid of £202 million was announced. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that future growth deals will continue to benefit the county areas, as well as our great cities?

Greg Clark: They certainly will. It is very important that our cities should prosper and succeed, but we have huge strengths in our counties and districts, which is why I am particularly pleased that we could extend city deals to all parts of England through what we have agreed in the programme today.

Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab): In Chesterfield, we are grateful that the Minister has approved two of the proposals brought forward by our local enterprise partnership. Does he not recognise, however, that real devolution is not about the Minister sitting in Whitehall and saying which proposals he agrees with? It is about devolving the funds and letting the responsibility lie with local authorities, precisely as Lord Adonis has proposed. Will the Minister acknowledge at the Dispatch Box that what he is proposing is a third of the size of the devolution proposed by Lord Adonis and does not put responsibility and powers truly in the hands of local authorities? Why does the Minister not follow Lord Adonis’s recommendations?

Greg Clark: No, the hon. Gentleman is not right. He is right that Chesterfield will have substantial investment in skills, which will be very important for his constituents, but he is wrong to say that there will no flexibilities. It will be open to the local enterprise partnership to bring forward projects, as it has done—it made those proposals—and to vary them if it thinks that that is in the local interest.

Paul Uppal (Wolverhampton South West) (Con): May I tell my right hon. Friend that the people of Wolverhampton are very heartened by this news, particularly as people have tried to talk down the city in the past? In that vein, will he elaborate on the Wolverhampton interchange, which will help private enterprise and connectivity in the 21st century?

Greg Clark: My hon. Friend has been campaigning for improvements to the Wolverhampton interchange for all the time he has been in the House, and it is a great day for him to succeed in that campaigning. The interchange is supported by businesses locally, and it will mean big advantages not just for Wolverhampton but for the whole of the region because of the connections that will be made—for example, from Wolverhampton to the new HS2 station.

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): It is fantastic and so unusual to have an opportunity to heap praise on the Minister, but with the general election 303 days away, how much of the £350 million will Greater Birmingham see before the election, and when might we expect our first down payment on Selly Oak’s life sciences park?

Greg Clark: I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his kind words—it might strike a different tone if he took his place on the Front Bench. There will be a cheque for £63 million of the funding for Greater Birmingham and Solihull at the beginning of the next financial year, but all the rest will be committed. I am

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sure he would be delighted to come to the contract signing ceremony; it will be written down, just in case people do not trust us.

Mark Menzies (Fylde) (Con): This afternoon, I was with the Secretary of State for Transport in Fylde, where we announced the Lytham St Annes to M55 link road. Will the Minister assure the people of Fylde, who are very excited about this announcement, that this shovel-ready project will indeed get under way in 2015-16, as planned?

Greg Clark: It will, indeed.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): The process of devolution to Greater Manchester was of course started in 2008 under a Labour Government, but I certainly welcome today’s announcement, including the funds for Tameside college, which serves my constituency. If the Minister has any unallocated funds, may I beg him to look again at the small town centre initiative as part of the Greater Manchester package? That package includes a shovel-ready scheme for the Denton link road that would provide important access to the Oldham Batteries employment site, which has lain derelict for 10 years, but is an important piece of our regeneration jigsaw.

Greg Clark: I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman was the last Labour Member standing, while there are still plenty of Government Members standing. The great advantage of the arrangements is that he can take his case to Greater Manchester. It should no longer require a Minister to agree to a local project; as a result of this deal, the people who now have the budgets to implement such things are those in the Greater Manchester authority.

Nicola Blackwood (Oxford West and Abingdon) (Con): Like our city deal, Oxfordshire’s growth deal is great news for local people: it will deliver more jobs and more housing; it will close the skills gap by delivering vital skills opportunities; and it will take us a big step closer to delivering flood protection. I do not want to seem ungrateful, but will the Minister also consider vital A34 improvements at every future opportunity, because they are essential to our long-term local economic plan?

Greg Clark: My hon. Friend is nothing if not tenacious. She has had a city deal, she has had a growth deal and now she wants another one. I have said that we will reopen negotiations, and it sounds as though Oxfordshire will be first in the queue.

Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con): I congratulate my right hon. Friend because he has truly reached parts of England that the last Labour Government failed to reach. The commitment of hundreds of millions of pounds to Cornwall today is really welcome, but does he agree that the power shift from Whitehall to Cornwall is equally vital because it ensures that local decisions can be made for the benefit of our local economy?

Greg Clark: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. She is a great champion of Cornwall. It is crazy to try to run a place as distinctive as Cornwall from Whitehall and Westminster. Quite apart from the investment that is

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being made, we are giving a big vote of confidence to Cornwall and its ability to run its own affairs. I am delighted to be doing that.

Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): Roger Marsh, the chair of the local enterprise partnership that includes Kirklees, has said:

“This is a game-changing moment for the Leeds City Region.”

Does the Minister agree that, with the £1 billion of investment for the West Yorkshire Plus transport fund, the expansion of the skilled work force, business grants for growth and two days of the grandest of Grands Départs in Yorkshire, this really has been a momentous weekend for Yorkshire?

Greg Clark: It has been a fantastic weekend for Yorkshire. This is a Grand Départ of our own: we are setting off in a very different direction from that which we inherited. For 100 years, power has been sucked away from places such as Yorkshire; we are sending it back.

Ben Gummer (Ipswich) (Con): My right hon. Friend is a worthy heir of Joseph Chamberlain. In Norfolk and Suffolk, we are thrilled by the investment that is coming back to the region as a result of his announcement. Will he confirm that items of expenditure that are not on the current list but that are still on the wish lists of LEPs can be brought forward in a very short period?

Greg Clark: I certainly can confirm that. I look forward to meeting the New Anglia local enterprise partnership to take those matters forward.

Mr Robin Walker (Worcester) (Con): I thank the Minister for investing tens of millions of pounds in unlocking the economic potential of world-class Worcestershire, particularly through skills and transport improvements such as the Worcestershire Parkway station and the Southern link in Worcester. I give him particular thanks for the fact that the money is coming to Worcester rather than going to Wichita, as some Opposition Front Benchers have suggested.

Greg Clark: It is indeed. One of the great advantages of travelling around the country negotiating these deals is that one has the chance to meet people in the places they represent. There is no substitute for having a bit of local knowledge.

Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con): I welcome the tremendous £45 million funding announcement for the Congleton link road. Congleton is an aspirational town and Ministers listened to the business case that was put forward by business leaders, East Cheshire chamber of commerce, the local authority, the LEP and elected representatives. Does that not prove that when there is effective joint working, we can really make a difference to the prosperity of the people we represent?

Greg Clark: We certainly can. Cheshire is a vital part of the economy, particularly given its investment in science and the possibilities that that brings. It was good to be able to reinforce that through the deal that we negotiated.

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Sir Peter Luff (Mid Worcestershire) (Con): One of the biggest constraints on the economic growth of Worcestershire is the inadequacy of its rail links. I therefore thank the Minister warmly for his announcement of funding for the new Worcestershire Parkway station, which enables me to declare victory in the 25-year campaign to get that vital station built.

Greg Clark: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. I am just sorry that he will not be able to use it for his commute to this place. However, it will be a good monument to his campaigning over the years.

Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): The unforgettable amazing two days in which the Tour de France went through Yorkshire showed what can be delivered by Welcome to Yorkshire, the local councils, the local businesses and the local people if they are allowed to get on with it. This announcement is great news for the Leeds city region, but will the Minister confirm that it will allow us to make the decisions that he knows we need to make with regard to transport, including a link to Leeds Bradford international airport and getting something better than the trolleybus?

Greg Clark: My hon. Friend is right to say that with £1 billion of investment available, it is up to Leeds, through the combined authority and the local enterprise partnership, to make those choices in a way that it could not before.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): As the shadow Minister will know, in north Northamptonshire unemployment has come down by more than a third in the past 12 months, and £50 million private investment has just been made in Rushden Lakes. Today the Government have made announcements about Stanton Cross, the Tresham institute and the Isham bypass. Next time will the Minister ensure that his statement is known about more widely in advance so that more Labour MPs can turn up? I have counted four Labour Back Benchers, whereas the Government Benches are packed.

Greg Clark: It is very disappointing; I sometimes feel that Opposition Members do not want to hear good news, whether it is about the national economy or local economies. We have Deputy Prime Minister’s questions tomorrow so they have another chance to come, and I press them to do so.

John Glen (Salisbury) (Con): I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcement of the commitment to fund Porton science park. This welcome measure will breathe life into the life sciences sector in Wiltshire. Does he recognise that it will be extremely helpful in securing additional funding from the European structural investment fund so that Wiltshire can secure further development of this vital project?

Greg Clark: My hon. Friend is right. One of the other decisions we have taken is to align European funds with local enterprise partnerships, so that this kind of joint investment, which makes administrative and economic sense, can take place.

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Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): In what has become an intense competition to welcome the Minister’s announcement most warmly, may I make a bid on behalf of Gloucestershire—I think I am the only Member from the county here—to welcome the Gloucestershire growth deal, which includes a real opportunity to generate more Gloucesterpreneurs and some great participation in nuclear and green projects too? My right hon. Friend will know that I particularly welcome the commitment to finance the last remaining slug of the new bus station, which is the transport hub of the county, as it will make a huge difference. Does he agree that the autumn statement and the Budget provide opportunities for further bids for such projects as the Blackfriars regeneration?

Greg Clark: My hon. Friend is nothing if not tenacious. I enjoyed my visit to Gloucester with him a little while ago. There will be other opportunities, because negotiations will continue. I dare say that Gloucestershire will build on its success.

Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): I warmly welcome the Minister’s statement, in particular on transport improvements on the A47 in north-east Peterborough and on the food manufacturing centre of excellence at Peterborough regional college. The imperative for this Government investment should be its impact on the labour market, so will the Minister give an undertaking to encourage LEPs to work collaboratively—for example, with the Department for Work and Pensions to have an impact on unemployment among young people, particularly those not in education, employment or training?

Greg Clark: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I would like to extend more broadly the next phase of negotiations and discussions, so that where local authorities and businesses can make a real difference to some of our intractable social problems they will be given the chance to show that they can do that.

James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con): I welcome the black country local growth deal announced today, particularly the new advanced science and technology centre at Halesowen college, which will allow us to upskill local people in the black country to get the jobs that are available. Does the Minister agree that this type of initiative is crucial to areas such as the black country, where we need to increase skills and generate growth?

Greg Clark: I certainly do agree with my hon. Friend. “Made in the black country” is a brand that is proudly marketed around the world, and people have confidence in the quality that that implies, but it is important that the next generation of people in the area are trained in those skills so that that reputation for quality can continue. The investment will help with that.

Mr Rob Wilson (Reading East) (Con): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his tireless work to deliver this huge local and regional boost to economies. I commend the additional investment in Reading and urge him to pursue a third Thames bridge and semi-fast Crossrail, both strongly supported by business, for the next round.

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Greg Clark: My hon. Friend is no slouch when it comes to local campaigning. He has been a hugely successful advocate for Reading, and I dare say that that will continue in the future.

Stuart Andrew (Pudsey) (Con): Unemployment in my constituency has fallen consistently and now stands at 2%. That is good news and shows that businesses are investing, but we need good transport links to get people to work. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the announcement of the West Yorkshire Plus transport fund is a step change in the ability of local providers to get people moving around Yorkshire, particularly given the wonderful advert we had this weekend, which we have already heard about?

Greg Clark: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Everyone in Yorkshire agrees that the £1 billion fund will make a transformational difference to Yorkshire’s economic prospects.

Richard Harrington (Watford) (Con): I commend the Minister for his statement, particularly the news about the Croxley rail link, which will link Watford Junction station with the Metropolitan line. Will he write to the chief executive of Network Rail to ask him to prioritise the redevelopment of Watford Junction station, so that the whole of Watford has a 21st-century interchange?

Greg Clark: That is the great advantage of these investments: investment in transport can have other consequences for regeneration. It is one of the big reasons why taking things out of Whitehall silos and making decisions in the round is so much more effective. I will certainly talk to my hon. Friend about that outside the Chamber.

Eric Ollerenshaw (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Con): I thank the Minister for the care he has taken over the detail of the bids, and particularly for backing the winner in respect of Lancaster university’s innovations park and the £17 million of real money coming to

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Lancashire to support it. I remind him that there was also a proposal to move junction 33 of the M6, which was also part and parcel of this growth bid.

Greg Clark: The good news is that when the negotiations open, that proposal can be considered, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will want to persuade his area’s local enterprise partnership to put it forward.

Damian Hinds (East Hampshire) (Con): I particularly welcome the £4 million for a construction skills centre at Whitehill in Bordon—a great investment in the future of the people of this town. Will my right hon. Friend join me in encouraging more employers to look at the exciting opportunities in the area?

Greg Clark: I will. One of the striking features of this growth deal is how many local employers are committing their own time and enthusiasm to working to ensure that people have the skills that they will want to employ in the years to come. That is good for everyone locally.

Justin Tomlinson (North Swindon) (Con): Today’s announcement is a crucial boost to Swindon’s economic regeneration. Does the Minister agree that the process rewards forward-thinking areas that develop shovel-ready plans for growth?

Greg Clark: I do indeed. Swindon is the definition of forward thinking, and it is ably represented by both my hon. Friend and our hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland) with whom he works so closely.

Several hon. Members rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Dawn Primarolo): Order. I am sorry to disappoint the remaining Members who wanted to speak. I hope they will be more fortunate in catching the Speaker’s eye next time. I am sure that the Minister will be grateful to receive letters of congratulation. We really must move on to other business now.

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Point of Order

5.46 pm

Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) (Lab): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance. The Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis), visited the new Hitachi factory in my constituency this morning to make a Government announcement. He was joined by the hon. Member for Stockton South (James Wharton), but neither of them informed me of their intention to visit my constituency, although the hon. Member for Stockton South informed me of his visit after the event. What can you do or say to ensure that hon. Members, and especially Ministers, show the common courtesy of informing the sitting Member of their intent to visit his or her constituency before the visit happens?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Dawn Primarolo): I am grateful for that point of order and for prior notice of it. I would like to remind Members that Mr Speaker has made it clear on several occasions recently that if any hon. Member intends to make an official visit to another hon. Member’s constituency on political business, they are under a strong obligation to inform the constituency Member as far in advance as possible. Ministers in particular, with their private office to help them organise their business, have no excuse for failing to fulfil this obligation. I sincerely hope that this will not happen again. Mr Speaker has been quite clear about this.

James Wharton (Stockton South) (Con): Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I want to make it clear that I do not wish to cause discomfort to any hon. Member in this place. My role this morning was to drop off my hon. Friend the Minister, at which point I tweeted that I had dropped him off. Realising that I was in the constituency of a neighbouring Member, I asked my office to inform him by e-mail. Are hon. Members obliged to inform other hon. Members when they drive through or drop people off in their constituencies?

Madam Deputy Speaker: That is really not a point of order, Mr Wharton. I think we are all grown-up enough to know what the conventions imply about visiting another Member’s constituency. We do not need to go into this level of detail in the form of a point of order at this time. We shall move on.

Bills Presented

Office for Budget Responsibility (Political Party Policy Costings) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Alan Campbell, on behalf of Thomas Docherty, presented a Bill to amend the Budget Responsibility and National Audit Act 2011 to allow the Office for Budget Responsibility to scrutinise and certificate the policy costings of political parties represented in the House of Commons.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 27 February 2015, and to be printed (Bill 34).

7 July 2014 : Column 64

Armed Forces (Prevention of Discrimination) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Alan Campbell, on behalf of Thomas Docherty, presented a Bill to provide that certain offences committed towards members of the armed forces shall be treated as aggravated; to prohibit discrimination against individuals in terms of provision of goods and services on the grounds that they are members of the armed forces; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 27 February 2015, and to be printed (Bill 35).

Jobs Guarantee Scheme (Research) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Alan Campbell, on behalf of Thomas Docherty, presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to undertake a programme of research into a scheme designed to provide guaranteed employment for those aged 18 to 24 and those aged 25 and over who have been in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance for one year or for two years; to require the Secretary of State to report the results of the research to the House of Commons within six months of completion; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 27 February 2015, and to be printed (Bill 36).

Terms and Conditions (Migrant Workers) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Alan Campbell, on behalf of Thomas Docherty, presented a Bill to provide that employers may not offer to migrant workers terms and conditions less favourable than those offered to UK nationals for the same employment; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 27 February 2015, and to be printed (Bill 37).

Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (Betting Shops) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Alan Campbell, on behalf of Thomas Docherty, presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to create a new planning use class for betting shops with fixed odds betting terminals, which would require the granting of planning permission; to provide that local planning authorities assess demand for fixed odds betting terminal betting shops when considering applications for premises in that planning use class and place a cap on the number of such shops for which planning permission may be granted in any area; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 27 February 2015, and to be printed (Bill 38).

High Cost Credit Services (Retail Premises) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Alan Campbell, on behalf of Thomas Docherty, presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to create a new planning use class for retail premises used to provide high cost credit services, which would require the granting of planning permission; to provide that local planning authorities assess demand for retail premises used to provide high cost credit services when considering applications for premises in that planning use class and

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place a cap on the number of such shops for which planning permission may be granted in any area; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 27 February 2015, and to be printed (Bill 39).

Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 (Repeal) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Alan Campbell, on behalf of Thomas Docherty, presented a Bill to repeal the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 27 February 2015, and to be printed (Bill 40).

Letting Agents (Fees) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Alan Campbell, on behalf of Thomas Docherty, presented a Bill to prohibit the charging to tenants by letting agents of annual tenancy renewal fees; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 27 February 2015, and to be printed (Bill 41).

Firearm and Shotgun Licensing (Domestic Violence) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Alan Campbell, on behalf of Thomas Docherty, presented a Bill to prohibit the granting of licences for firearms and shotguns to persons who have been convicted of domestic violence crimes; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 27 February 2015, and to be printed (Bill 42).

Asylum (Time Limit) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Christopher Chope, supported by Mr Peter Bone, presented a Bill to require that asylum claims in the United Kingdom be lodged within 3 months of the claimant’s arrival in the United Kingdom; and that persons who have already entered the United Kingdom and wish to make an asylum claim must do so within 3 months of the passing of this Act.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 16 January 2015, and to be printed (Bill 43).

Illegal Immigrants (Criminal Sanctions) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Christopher Chope, supported by Mr Stewart Jackson and Mr Peter Bone, presented a Bill to make provision for criminal sanctions against those who have entered the UK illegally or who have remained in the UK without legal authority.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 October, and to be printed (Bill 44).

House of Lords (Maximum Membership) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Christopher Chope, supported by Mr Peter Bone, presented a Bill to provide for a maximum limit on the number of Peers entitled to vote in the House of Lords; and to provide for a moratorium on new appointments.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 October, and to be printed (Bill 45).

7 July 2014 : Column 66

EU Membership (Audit of Costs and Benefits) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Christopher Chope, supported by Mr Robert Syms, Mr Stewart Jackson, Mr Peter Bone and Mr Andrew Turner, presented a Bill to require an independent audit of the benefits and costs of UK membership of the European Union.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 17 October, and to be printed (Bill 46).

Benefit Entitlement (Restriction) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Christopher Chope, supported by Mr Stewart Jackson and Mr Peter Bone, presented a Bill to make provision to restrict the entitlement of non-UK citizens from the European Union and the European Economic Area to taxpayer-funded benefits.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 28 November, and to be printed (Bill 47).

HS2 Funding Referendum Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Christopher Chope, supported by Mrs Cheryl Gillan, Sir John Randall, Michael Fabricant, Mr James Gray, Mr Peter Bone and Mr Andrew Turner, presented a Bill to make provision for a national referendum on whether the proposed construction of the HS2 railway should be supported financially by the UK taxpayer.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 23 January 2015, and to be printed (Bill 48).

Overseas Voters Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Christopher Chope, supported by Sir Peter Luff, Mr Robert Syms, Mr Stewart Jackson and Mr Peter Bone, presented a Bill to make provision to facilitate an increase in the registration of voters resident overseas who are eligible to participate in United Kingdom Parliamentary elections; to extend the criteria for eligibility to register as an overseas voter and to enable those registered as overseas voters to cast their votes through use of the internet; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 23 January 2015, and to be printed (Bill 49).

Convicted Prisoners Voting Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Christopher Chope, supported by Mr Stewart Jackson and Mr Peter Bone, presented a Bill to make provision for rules relating to the exclusion of convicted prisoners from participation in Parliamentary and Local Elections.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 5 December, and to be printed (Bill 50).

European Parliament Elections Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Christopher Chope, supported by Mr Peter Bone and Mr Andrew Turner, presented a Bill to make provision for an open list system for elections to the European Parliament.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 9 January 2015, and to be printed (Bill 51).

7 July 2014 : Column 67

Defence Expenditure (NATO Target) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Christopher Chope, supported by Sir Gerald Howarth, Sir Edward Leigh, Mr Bernard Jenkin, Mr James Gray, Sir Peter Luff and Mr Peter Bone, presented a Bill to make provision about the meeting by the United Kingdom of the target for defence expenditure to constitute a minimum of 2% of Gross Domestic Product; to make provision that the definition of defence expenditure is subject to independent verification; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 5 September, and to be printed (Bill 52).

UK Borders Control Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Christopher Chope, supported by Mr Stewart Jackson, presented a Bill to make provision to ensure that the United Kingdom has absolute control over the right to prevent non-UK citizens from entering the United Kingdom; to determine the circumstances in which non-UK citizens may be required to leave the United Kingdom; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 9 January 2015, and to be printed (Bill 53).

School Admissions Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Christopher Chope, supported by Mr Stewart Jackson, presented a Bill to make provision to ensure that pupils with a parent with a terminal or seriously disabling illness receive priority in the admissions process to maintained schools in England.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 7 November, and to be printed (Bill 54).

Bat Habitats Regulation Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Christopher Chope presented a Bill to make provision to enhance the protection available for bat habitats in the nonbuilt environment and to limit the protection for bat habitats in the built environment where the presence of bats has a significant adverse impact upon the users of buildings.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 16 January 2015, and to be printed (Bill 55).

Working Time Directive (Limitation) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Christopher Chope, supported by Mr Stewart Jackson, presented a Bill to limit the application of the EU Working Time Directive; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 23 January 2015, and to be printed (Bill 56).

Employment Rights Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Christopher Chope presented a Bill to make provision for a statutory code of practice to clarify and simplify the law relating to protection against unfair dismissal of miscreant employees; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 16 January 2015, and to be printed (Bill 57).

7 July 2014 : Column 68

Free Movement of Persons into the United Kingdom (Derogation) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone, supported by Mr Christopher Chope, Mr Philip Hollobone, Bob Blackman, Mr Graham Brady, Mr Aidan Burley, Mr Stewart Jackson and Philip Davies, presented a Bill to repeal Articles 21 and 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, EC Directive 2004/38/EC and EC Regulation 492/2011.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 6 March 2015, and to be printed (Bill 58).

British Bill of Rights and Withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone, supported by Mr Christopher Chope, Mr Philip Hollobone, Bob Blackman, David T. C. Davies, Mr Graham Brady, Mr Aidan Burley, Mr Stewart Jackson and Philip Davies, presented a Bill to make provision for an application to the Council of Europe to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights and the introduction of a British Bill of Rights.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 6 March 2015, and to be printed (Bill 59).

Wind Farm Subsidies (Abolition) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone, supported by Mr Christopher Chope, Bob Blackman, Mr David Davis, Mr Aidan Burley, Mr Stewart Jackson and Phillip Davies, presented a Bill to make provision for the cessation of subsidies for the development of wind farms.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 6 March 2015, and to be printed (Bill 60).

Department of Energy and Climate Change (Abolition) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone, supported by Mr Christopher Chope, Mr Philip Hollobone, David T. C. Davies, Mr Graham Brady, Mr Aidan Burley, Mr Stewart Jackson and Philip Davies, presented a Bill to make provision for the abolition of the Department of Energy and Climate Change and for its functions to be absorbed into the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 6 March 2015, and to be printed (Bill 61).

Foreign National Offenders (Exclusion from the United Kingdom) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone, supported by Mr Christopher Chope, Mr Philip Hollobone, Bob Blackman, Mr David Davis, David T. C. Davies, Mr Aidan Burley, Mr Stewart Jackson and Philip Davies, presented a Bill to make provision to exclude from the United Kingdom foreign nationals found guilty of a criminal offence committed in the United Kingdom.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 6 March 2015, and to be printed (Bill 62).

7 July 2014 : Column 69

Hospital Car Parking Charges (Abolition) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone, supported by Mr Philip Hollobone, Bob Blackman, Mr David Davis, Fiona Bruce, Mr Graham Brady, Mr Aidan Burley and Mr Stewart Jackson, presented a Bill to prohibit charging for car parking at NHS Hospitals for patients and visitors.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 6 March 2015, and to be printed (Bill 63).

BBC Privatisation Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone, supported by Mr Christopher Chope, Mr Philip Hollobone, Mr Aidan Burley and Philip Davies, presented a Bill to make provision for the privatisation of the British Broadcasting Corporation by providing shares in the Corporation to all licence fee payers.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 6 March 2015, and to be printed (Bill 64).

Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Abolition) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Peter Bone, supported by Mr Christopher Chope, Mr Philip Hollobone, Mr Graham Brady, Mr Aidan Burley, Mr Stewart Jackson and Phillip Davies, presented a Bill to make provision for the abolition of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, and its responsibilities to be allocated to other Departments of State.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 6 March 2015, and to be printed (Bill 65).

Housing (Affordability, Supply and Tenant Protection) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Caroline Lucas, supported by Jeremy Corby, John Cryer, Mrs Mary Glindon, Jonathan Edwards, Mr Elfyn Llwyd and John McDonnell, presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to commission a programme of research into reducing rent levels in the private rented sector, improving terms and conditions for tenants, increasing housing supply, and providing a large-scale programme of sustainable council housing in England; to require the Secretary of State to report to Parliament within six months of completion of the research; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 October, and to be printed (Bill 66).

Railways Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Caroline Lucas, supported by Hywel Williams, Ian Lavery, Jeremy Corbyn, Jonathan Edwards, Katy Clark, John Cryer, John McDonnell, Mr Elfyn Llwyd, Kelvin Hopkins, Grahame M. Morris and Martin Caton, presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to assume control of passenger rail franchises when they come up for renewal; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 October, and to be printed (Bill 67).

7 July 2014 : Column 70

Public Services (Ownership and User Involvement) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Caroline Lucas, supported by Jeremy Corbyn, Katy Clark, Grahame M. Morris, Mr John Leech, John McDonnell, Mr Elfyn Llwyd and Ms Margaret Ritchie, presented a Bill to promote public ownership of public services; to introduce a presumption in favour of service provision by public sector and not-for-profit entities; and to put in place mechanisms to increase the accountability, transparency and public control of public services, including those operated by private companies.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on 24 October, and to be printed (Bill 68).

Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (Statutory Requirement) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Caroline Lucas, supported by Valerie Vaz, Yasmin Qureshi, Tim Farron, Glenda Jackson and Barbara Keeley, presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to provide that Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE) be a statutory requirement for all state funded schools; for PSHE to include Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) and education on ending violence against women and girls; to provide for initial and continuing teacher education and guidance on best practice for delivering and inspecting PSHE and SRE education; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 October, and to be printed (Bill 69).

Football Governance Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Damian Collins, supported by Mr Clive Betts, Tracey Crouch, Mr Jim Cunningham, Philip Davies, Paul Farrelly, Penny Mordaunt, Steve Rotheram, Mr Adrian Saunders, Mr Gerry Sutcliffe, Justin Tomlinson and Mr John Whittingdale, presented a Bill to require professional and semi-professional football clubs in England to disclose the identity of their owners; to give the Football Association powers to block the ownership of a club by anyone whom they consider is not a fit and proper person; to require all creditors of a football club to be compensated equally should the club go into administration; to facilitate the raising by supporters’ organisations of the finance required to acquire a controlling stake in a football club; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 7 November, and to be printed (Bill 70).

Road Traffic Regulation (Temporary Closure for Filming) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Iain Stewart, supported by Mrs Cheryl Gillan, Stuart Andrew, Eric Ollerenshaw, and Karen Lumley and Steve Baker, presented a Bill to make provision for the restriction or regulation of traffic on roads in connection with filming; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 7 November, and to be printed (Bill 71) with explanatory notes (Bill 71-EN).

7 July 2014 : Column 71


[1st Allotted Day]

estimates 2014-15


Universal Credit

[Relevant documents: Fifth Report from the Work and Pensions Committee, Session 2013-14, Universal Credit implementation: monitoring DWP’s performance in 2012-13, HC 1209 and the Government response, HC 426.]

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That, for the year ending with 31 March 2015, for expenditure by the Department for Work and Pensions:

(1) further resources, not exceeding £45,438,318,000 be authorised for use for current purposes as set out in HC 1233 of Session 2013-14,

(2) further resources, not exceeding £74,721,000 be authorised for use for capital purposes as so set out, and

(3) a further sum, not exceeding £44,850,071,000 be granted to Her Majesty to be issued by the Treasury out of the Consolidated Fund and applied for expenditure on the use of resources authorised by Parliament.—(John Penrose.)

5.56 pm

Dame Anne Begg (Aberdeen South) (Lab): Universal credit is a major welfare reform. It will eventually replace tax credits and most existing working-age benefits, including out-of-work benefits and housing benefit. It is estimated that, by the time it is fully implemented, universal credit—or UC, as it has now become known—will be paid to 7.7 million households, and we hope that that will be the case.

During last week’s debate on work and pensions, I said that the problem with welfare reform was that it was devilishly complex, took a long time to implement, and always had unintended consequences. I think that all three of those things apply to universal credit. We can agree that its design should bring some advantages. It should improve the position of claimants when they move into work or take on more work, because their benefit will be reduced gradually on the basis of how much they earn, rather than suddenly being cut off if their working hours exceed a certain limit. It should remove many of the “cliff edges” that exist in the current system. Because it is both an in-work and an out-of-work benefit, it will remove the constant applying and reapplying for different benefits as someone moves in and out of work.

However, it is wrong to talk about UC’s “simplifying the benefits system”, because that is not possible to any significant extent. The benefits system is complex because people’s lives are complex, and are constantly changing. UC will be a more streamlined system, but it will not be a simple one. That is clear from the problems that have been encountered in efforts to implement it. The national roll-out of new UC claims was due to take place between October 2013 and April this year. Existing claimants of “legacy benefits”, including jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance and housing benefit, would then be migrated to UC between April 2014 and the end of 2017. However, problems with IT systems meant that major changes to the implementation

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timetable were made in July 2013, and then again in December last year. That slowed down the process dramatically.

UC claims were introduced on a very small scale from April last year in a few jobcentres in Greater Manchester, which were initially called “pathfinders” but are now referred to by the Department for Work and Pensions as “live service sites”. In the event, national roll-out from last October amounted to the expansion of new UC claims to only a further six jobcentres around Britain, and it has recently been expanded again to a further nine sites in the north-west, bringing the total number of jobcentres where UC is available to 19, less than 3% of the jobcentre network—hardly a national roll-out.

New claims to UC are now not expected to be extended to the whole of Great Britain until 2016 and the bulk of existing claimants will not be moved on to UC until 2016-17. The process will not be completed until later than the original target date of 2017.

The Secretary of State brushes aside any criticism of the very small number of people who are on UC by arguing that the Government are

“taking a careful and controlled approach to achieve a safe and secure delivery.”—[Official Report, 30 June 2014; Vol. 583, c. 645.]

I think we would all agree that it is right to ensure that the system works properly before extending it, but, as the Work and Pensions Committee said, there is a difference between cautious progress and a snail’s pace.

The facts are clear. Since UC started in April last year fewer than 7,000 claims have been processed. By comparison, more than 1 million people claim just jobseeker’s allowance. In January this year alone, there were almost 250,000 new jobseeker’s allowance claims. That is how much churn there is in the system. Almost all the 7,000 UC claims are from people in the simplest circumstances: young, single, and usually recently unemployed. Last week, 15 months after UC began, claims from couples started to be accepted—but only in a handful of the live service sites. We have been told that claims from people with children will begin “later in the summer”. We all know what Parliament’s timetables are like and we wonder when “summer” actually is, so can the Minister give us an idea of what “summer” means in this context?

Achieving only that tiny number of claims to date illustrates the scale of the challenge still facing the Government in trying to replace existing working-age benefits and tax credits with UC by 2017, including migrating all the claimants of the relevant existing benefits over to it. Given the excruciatingly slow pace of roll-out to date, it is hard to see how the target date can be met.

To put this into context, the other new benefit which has had its implementation slowed down is the personal independence payment, although even PIP has more new claims in payment than UC. By March this year 83,900 PIP decisions had been made, which is far higher than for UC, and that involves a smaller cohort and has been done in a shorter time scale. In our report, we asked the DWP to set out its revised estimates of UC caseloads and costs for each year to 2017-18, to reassure Parliament and the public that there is a clear and detailed revised implementation plan. The Government’s response to our report did not include any of that information.

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The problems with implementing UC arise largely from failure to get the IT right. Problems with Government IT systems have happened so frequently that they have almost become a cliché, but the UC IT challenge seems especially difficult to tackle and to be throwing up particular challenges. Some £40 million in IT expenditure had to be written off in 2012-13, and a further £90 million is being “written down” in five years instead of 15 because the useful life of the software is much shorter than anticipated. That may seem like an accounting detail, but it shows that the use of public money has not been cost-effective to date, and a great deal more public money is at stake in the UC programme.

The Government’s current approach to the IT problems is to continue to spend millions of pounds—between £37 million and £58 million—on the old IT system during 2014 to extend its functionality so that it can cope with a wider range of claimants in the live service sites. At the same time, extensive sums are being spent on developing IT for the long term. That has had various names and various incarnations: first it was called “the digital solution”, then “the end-state solution”, and the latest terminology seems to be the “enhanced digital service”. Unfortunately we on the Select Committee still do not know what that means. The Secretary of State’s explanation last Monday did not help us clear that up.

The National Audit Office has summed up very well the lack of information available on how the IT for UC will be taken forward. It said last December that the uncertainties include the following: how it will work; when it will be ready; how much it will cost; and who will do the work to develop and build it. We still do not have answers to any of these questions. It would be helpful if the Minister provided some answers to those key points in her response to the debate, because the Work and Pensions Committee has still not had an explanation.

We have asked Ministers for more information about the IT during three evidence sessions over the space of nine months. We repeated this request in our report, including asking the DWP to set out the costs of the IT development work, because the published information on IT costs does not take us beyond November 2014, but we received no answers in the Government response to our report. All it said was that UC will be delivered via

“a multi-channel service that makes greater use of modern technology to ensure the system is as effective, simple and transparent as possible.”

I still do not know what that means, and I do not know if anybody does.

The one thing we do know is that the new “enhanced digital service” will not be ready to test before the end of this year, and even then it will only be tested on 100 claimants to start with. We still have no indication of when it will be possible to test it on a bigger and more representative group of claimants. The challenge of getting from an IT system that is capable of processing 100 claims by the end of 2014 to one that can deal with frequently changing claims from more than 7 million households by 2017 is clearly an extreme one.

Our report recommended that, given the small number of people currently claiming UC, the Government should consider whether it would be a better use of taxpayers’ money to abandon further development of the existing

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system and focus solely on the end-state solution. The Government said in answer to a recent parliamentary question—although this was not set out in their response to our report—that the enhanced digital service will be integrated with the existing UC service where

“it is both practical and operationally sensible”.—[Official Report, 30 June 2014; Vol. 583, c. 434W.]

Again, I am not sure what that means, so perhaps the Minister can translate those vague phrases into something more meaningful and detailed when she responds.

David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): The Chairman of the Select Committee talks about the enhanced digital solution, which I think has the characteristics of a front-end which is then fed by a number of the legacy systems, which is why applications development work must be done on both of them. In terms of the technical architecture, I do not think that is altogether surprising, different or new.

Dame Anne Begg: I have to say that that is a better explanation than anything I have heard from any of the Ministers—although I am not sure I even understand that explanation—but the question of what this digital solution actually entails is concerning: is it a complete rewriting of the IT or is it, as the hon. Gentleman says, about bringing the legacy systems in and developing them? That was not the original impression we were given, however. Is there to be an original design or the use of the original IT—although, as we know, there is a failure to develop that or to adapt it to cover the different circumstances that people have?

The Committee was also concerned—we expressed this quite forcefully in our report—about the DWP’s lack of co-operation with our formal role in scrutinising UC. I am sure the House would agree that, as our report says, effective Select Committee scrutiny depends on the provision of accurate, timely and detailed information by Government Departments. The DWP has not always provided that to the Committee in the case of UC.

As well as publishing a highly critical report on UC last September, the National Audit Office was then involved in a long-running dispute with the DWP about how much it should write off for the wasted IT. Because of the accounting concerns, the NAO refused to sign off the DWP accounts for 2012-13 for six months, which delayed their publication from June to December. The Secretary of State was, not unreasonably, unwilling to appear before the Committee to give oral evidence about UC until the accounts were published, so our own scrutiny process was delayed and hampered.

The DWP has also been very reluctant to provide us with information about UC and the serious problems it has encountered with it. When the NAO reported on those problems in September last year, it came as news to us, because the Government had not told us about their own concerns about UC and the actions they had taken to address them during 2012 and early 2013, even though our Select Committee had held several oral evidence sessions during that time and published a substantial report. On two occasions the Government published details about major changes to the timetable for UC implementation only when forced to do so by the prospect of the Secretary of State having to appear before us to give oral evidence. Information was released at the session itself on one occasion, and two working

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days before on another—even then, very little detail was available. That, of course, gave the Committee no time to assess the implications of these announcements properly before we put our questions. We believe that it is unacceptable for the Government to provide information about major policy changes to Committees only when forced to do so by the imminent prospect of being held to account in a public evidence session.

The Committee does not, as the Secretary of State has suggested, want to run his Department—far from it—but we do expect to have access to the information we need to scrutinise it effectively. However, the Secretary of State told us in February:

“I do not have to tell the Committee everything that is happening in the Department until we have reached a conclusion about what is actually happening”.

That view was reiterated in the formal Government response to our concerns, which said that the DWP

“does not regard it as necessary to provide a running commentary on the day to day management of the many large and complex programmes currently underway”.

I will let hon. Members come to their own conclusions about what that implies in terms of respect for accountability, transparency and the formal scrutiny role of departmental Select Committees.

Our report also highlighted the problems the UC delays are causing for other key organisations, particularly local authorities. Local authorities currently administer housing benefit on the Government’s behalf but were expecting the introduction of UC to mean that new claims for housing benefit would end by April this year. The UC implementation delays mean that local authorities will now be administering housing benefit until at least 2016. It is very difficult for them to know how best to run and staff their housing benefit departments until the Government clarify what funding they will make available for that. We asked the DWP to clarify the funding that will be available in 2014-15 and 2015-16 to cover the additional costs to local authorities, but no details were provided in the Government’s response; they simply said that they would ensure that they were in a position to inform local authorities of their individual budget allocations

“in sufficient time before the start of the 2015/16 financial year”.

Local authorities will also have an important role in helping more vulnerable claimants cope with the transition to UC. Our 2012 report on UC examined the implications for vulnerable people in detail. Since then, the fundamental problems with implementing UC have, understandably, dominated public debate and the Committee’s attention. Ensuring that vulnerable people are not excluded from, or disadvantaged by, UC should remain a priority for the Government, and how vulnerable people will be supported through the transition remains a key concern for the Committee. The Government have acknowledged that vulnerable people will need support to adjust to UC. Lord Freud, the Minister with responsibility for welfare reform, told us that how support would be provided for vulnerable people was almost as important as UC itself. But it is still far from clear how that will work in practice, and a great deal still needs to be clarified about how that support will be provided and funded.

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Working with the Local Government Association, the Government produced the first version of the local support services framework—LSSF—last year. That sets out how they expect support for vulnerable people to be provided, in partnership with local authorities, housing providers and the voluntary sector. However, there is little detail on how the LSSF will operate in practice and how it will be funded, even though an “update” was published at the end of last year. The Government said last December that the final version of the LSSF would be published in autumn 2014, but in their response to our report that date had changed to autumn 2015. We understand that the delays to UC implementation mean that the timetable for providing support to claimants will also need to change, but the organisations DWP expects to deliver this support—local authorities, housing providers and voluntary organisations —all need to know what they are expected to provide, so that they can plan and budget for these new responsibilities.

In all the debate about IT systems, costs and case loads, it concerns me that the central point of UC is being lost: it is meant to make the benefit system work better for millions of claimants, help them to move into jobs or work more hours, and make it less complicated for them to move on to and off benefit as their lives change. Until we have more clarity, transparency and detail from the Government about progress with the UC project, it is difficult for anyone, including my Committee, to make a proper assessment of whether UC will genuinely deliver the improvements for claimants that this costly and complex welfare reform was intended to deliver.

6.15 pm

Dame Angela Watkinson (Hornchurch and Upminster) (Con): The DWP is delivering the biggest welfare reforms for a generation, improving services for claimants and cutting costs concurrently. The objectives are: to control the costs of welfare; to get as many people as possible into or back to work; to strengthen incentives to work by making it pay; to support people who need welfare; and to be fair to the taxpayer. Benefits have been capped so that no household can receive more on out-of-work benefits than £26,000, which is what the average working family earns. That is still very generous, as many people in full-time employment do not earn as much as £26,000; we are talking about an equivalent of £500 a week for couples and those with children and £300 a week for single people. Housing benefit has also been capped so that benefit claimants face the same lifestyle decisions as other working people have to make—living where they can afford and limiting the size of their family to what they can afford.

The most radical reform is the introduction of universal credit, a new single benefit integrating income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance, housing benefit, child tax credit and working tax credit. At the heart of this hugely ambitious UC programme is the intention to make work always pay. The scale and complexity of administering UC cannot be overestimated, and its introduction will necessarily be incremental. Under UC, 1.1 million households will keep more of their earnings when starting work of 10 hours per week; and 3.1 million households will have a higher entitlement, with 75% of those being the poorest households. Replacing that complex range of

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benefits with one new single benefit offering incentives to work and protection for those who cannot work is a significant challenge, and a policy of incremental expansion is the right way in which to introduce it.

Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East) (Lab): Will the hon. Lady consider the fact that UC is not going to be a single benefit? Some recipients will be the equivalent of jobseeker’s allowance claimants now, and they will have one set of conditions and so on, and another set of claimants will be people who have been deemed to be unfit to work. Inherently, UC will not be a fully singular benefit.

Dame Angela Watkinson: As my hon. Friend—I will call her that as we are co-members of the Work and Pensions Committee—will know, there are component parts to UC and different claimants will be entitled to different components. As the Chair of the Committee has said, people’s lives are immensely complex and they change, which all adds to the complexity of running any benefits system. Let us consider housing benefit, for example. Family members move in and out of the home, which changes the entitlement, and people have fluctuating health conditions, which make their circumstances change. It will always be a complicated system, but the intention is to simplify it and to minimise the cost of administration.

The National Audit Office has said that the United Kingdom will benefit by £38 billion as a result of universal credit. This Government have grasped the nettle that the previous Government avoided. After 13 years of Labour, welfare spending increased by 60%, costing every household an extra £3,000. Housing benefit increased by 35%. Between 1997 and 2010, spending on tax credits increased by 340%. Long-term unemployment almost doubled between 2008 and 2010, from 396,000 to 783,000. The number of households where no member had ever worked doubled. The maximum housing benefit award reached an eye-watering £104,000 a year. Labour subsidised people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working people could not afford.

Sheila Gilmore: Will the hon. Lady tell us how many claimants received the sum of money that she just mentioned? How many claims were in that region?

Dame Angela Watkinson: I am not for one moment giving the impression that that was typical of the average claim; of course it was not. The fact that there was no cap meant that it was possible, in certain circumstances, to rise to those really out-of-control levels.

The reforms to the welfare system will ensure that as many people as possible who are fit for work are helped into work, and only those people who are either unable to work for a whole complex range of reasons or who are on very low incomes are eligible for benefits. The scale of that task is gargantuan, but we have made good progress and we continue to progress towards improving the lives of the long-term unemployed and bringing the welfare budget under control for the benefit of the working people who pay for it through their taxes.

6.22 pm

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Kilburn) (Lab): If ever a debate title were a misnomer, it is this one, because it should be “The failure to implement universal

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credit”. Failure is pretty much par for the course for the Department for Work and Pensions, certainly in the implementation of its policies, which aim to reduce costs to the benefit of claimants and taxpayers. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen South (Dame Anne Begg), the Chair of the Select Committee, has detailed the fantastic amounts of public money that have already been lost in a failed IT system. She has also touched on the unwillingness of Ministers in the DWP to answer questions from the Select Committee. I point out in passing that every Select Committee is appointed by this House of Commons, and its sole purpose is to scrutinise the Department which bears the same name.

We see constant failure in the implementation of the work capability assessment. On four occasions, Professor Harrington has attempted to ameliorate the agonies which individuals who are subjected to the work capability assessment are put through, yet we are still receiving letters from our constituents detailing the humiliating experiences. This is a really serious matter. An individual claimant can be sanctioned for failing to attend a work capability assessment. We have all had examples from constituents of the letter detailing the appointment arriving two or even three days after the specified date. We have also heard about those who have turned up for the assessment only to be told by the assessors, “Sorry, we can’t take any more people today.”

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): As usual, my hon. Friend is making a passionate speech. I have mentioned this story before, but let me repeat it. One of my constituents was sanctioned for having a heart attack during his work capability assessment. The nurse undertaking the assessment told him he was having a heart attack, but he was still sanctioned.

Glenda Jackson: It is not usual for me to be gobsmacked, but I certainly am by that story, even though I have heard from constituents who, while not necessarily experiencing heart attacks, have had absolutely disgraceful treatment. We are also seeing a rise in the number of appeals concerning employment and support allowance, and the appeals that have been lodged are taking longer and longer to come to a conclusion. I will not go into the whole debacle of the personal independence payment, but it is simply scandalous that some of the most vulnerable people in our society, whom the DWP is supposed to be assisting, are being left in many instances with no financial support whatever. To add insult to injury, this Government have also reduced the funding of local authorities. Many local authorities were absolutely central to ensuring that people with disabilities could live human, productive lives. That money has now been taken away.

I hope to bring home to the Chamber the absolute chaos out there at the moment, and to concentrate on the questioning that an individual claimant has to go through and the kind of questioning to which the Secretary of State responds. It is clear that he is burdened with delusions of adequacy, but some of his responses to my hon. Friend the Chair of the Select Committee at his most recent appearance in front of us were absolutely disgraceful.

Let me detail the experience of an individual claimant. A 71-year-old pensioner, dubbed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to be self-employed, applied for housing

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benefit. It has now taken 17 weeks and still there is no final cut-off point where she has been assured that she will receive housing benefit. The most recent inquiry that came to her was to detail the cost of a bill of £3.40; the second was to detail the cost of a bill of £7.47. Both of those claims took place in 2012. The mind boggles at that, when the Secretary of State, who has lost millions and millions of pounds on a failed IT system, has categorically refused to give the Select Committee any detail whatever about his newly trumpeted business plan. He has refused to discuss the costs of the plan or whether there will be any direct savings either to the taxpayer or to the overarching benefit system. It is an absolute disgrace that the Select Committee, which has been appointed to scrutinise the DWP, is being buffeted away. It seems that the Department is opting for some kind of bunker mentality, but it will not work.

Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab): My hon. Friend is making a powerful case. Was she as surprised as I was to learn in the evidence given by Sir Bob Kerslake to the Public Accounts Committee this afternoon that the business case that she has just mentioned, which, according to the report, is due to be finalised by the end of April, has still not been agreed by Her Majesty’s Treasury?

Glenda Jackson: I am sure that my right hon. Friend, and I would hope every Member of this House, would be shocked to realise that the DWP is still not giving the right answers—it is ludicrous to expect the right answer to come from the Department for Work and Pension, as simple humility is not part and parcel of its make-up. The Committees and Government Departments that scrutinise where public money goes are being pushed to one side. I have already referred to the bunker mentality of the DWP, and the example that my right hon. Friend gives me is just par for the course; it happens constantly. Arguments are not even being put up. We are all being told, “Oh no, it’s none of your business; it’s our business.”

My hon. Friend the Chair of the Select Committee has given details of the actual answers. There is a pattern, which I find very disturbing. I have already touched on the issue of disregarding any serious questioning on costs. Ever since this major benefit change came into being, the Department has employed what I would call a programme of black propaganda, and every single one of the red tops has taken it up with glee and run with it. That black propaganda told the people of this country—I am paraphrasing; the DWP would never be this cogent—that everyone who was claiming benefits was doing so because they were too lazy to work. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have already touched on the agonies that are being endured by people with serious mental and physical disabilities, and the pattern is ongoing.

A report from the Office for National Statistics last week scrutinised the level of complaints made against all the Government Departments about the misuse of statistics, and guess which one came top of the list! It was the Department for Work and Pensions. Throughout the time I have been a member of the Select Committee, we have raised again and again the issue of the misuse of stats and the misuse of the English language to proselytise this black propaganda and to confuse and distort what should be central to the Committee’s

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concerns—namely, the well-being of the people who require benefits, not because they are lazy or workshy, or even because there are no jobs, but because they should be supported by the people of this country, as they always have been.

After the last debate on this issue, I was touched to receive a response from the people of this country. If there is a silver lining to the black cloud that is the DWP, it is that the majority of people in this country still believe that the welfare state should do what it was meant to do, which is to support people who, through no fault of their own, cannot maintain themselves without the support of the rest of us. That support is alive and well out there in the country. The one place where it is certainly dead is within the Department for Work and Pensions.

6.31 pm

Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot) (Con): We are having an interesting debate. I should like to pay tribute to the Chair of the Select Committee, on which I serve—the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Dame Anne Begg) does a fantastic job, and she painted a good picture in her opening remarks, in which she set out all the facts. We must recognise, however, that this is a complex area. Governments and Oppositions of all political flavours have, over decades, contributed to the challenge. Many have been well-meaning and tried to resolve all the problems. Simplicity is a great objective, but it is probably one of the hardest things to deliver.

Listening to the debate so far, I have heard those who see the glass half full and those who see the glass half empty. A couple of the contributions from the Opposition have seen it has half empty, but let me remind the House of what we have in common. Both parties have said that universal credit is the right way to go.

We also need to be mindful of the fact that the purpose of a Select Committee is not, frustratingly, to look at what is right and what is working. We never look at that. Rightly, we look at the areas that are not working and need improvement. It is absolutely right, as the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Glenda Jackson) said, that we should ensure that those who are vulnerable get the help they need. Like her, I get constituents coming into my surgery who have not had fair treatment at the hands of the Department for Work and Pensions, but that problem has been growing for years and years. It is to the credit of this Government that they have tried, for the first time in 60 years, to consolidate the system and to simplify it and pull it together so that it works better in the future.

Glenda Jackson: The flaw in the hon. Lady’s argument is that the Select Committee has been consistent—there has been complete cross-party unity on this—in presenting to the Department for Work and Pensions the areas where we believe improvements could be made and, in many instances, putting forward ideas about what kind of help is needed. There has also been a consistent response from the Department—namely, total rejection.

Anne Marie Morris: The hon. Lady is right to say that the Select Committee has put forward a number of arguments, but that is what we are there to do. We are not there to tell the Department about the things it is doing well—more’s the pity, as that would give our

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work some balance—so she is right in that respect. I think that she is describing issues of obfuscation and not getting the facts, but my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) was instructive in that regard when, earlier in the debate, he said that communication was the key. The devil is in the detail, and it is very difficult—when talking about, say, technology —to communicate with people and tell them exactly what is being done. I would love to say that technology was simple, but it is not.

Let us remind ourselves of the objectives of the change, to which both sides of the House agreed. The objectives were simplification, reducing costs and smoothing the transition from benefit to work. The Chair of the Select Committee talked about dealing with the wretched precipices that make people’s lives so difficult. The Committee has worked to hold the Government to account, and we should be trying to get a better result rather than just point scoring for the sake of it. The Chairman has done a good job of trying to get that balance right.

Let us look at where we are going. When we get this sorted out, 3 million households will be better off by £177 a month. We will have a system that provides better child care support, with an extra £200 million for child care helping 100,000 extra families working fewer than 16 hours a week. We will also have an extra £400 million to increase child care support to 85% of all working families. Let us look to the longer-term future: in 10 years’ time, UK plc will benefit by £35 billion. That will be a worthwhile and significant achievement. The path must continue to be trodden and the Committee must continue to fight the fight to keep the Department for Work and Pensions honest in all that it says, and to strive to get the best possible results. This must be a partnership, however.

Progress to date has included the launching of pathfinders, and we also have additional schemes such as the long-term schemes in our jobcentres. After the initial launch in the north-west, we now have universal credit rolling out in 14 jobcentres. By the end of this year, it will be in place in 90 of them. That will mean that universal credit will have been rolled out to one in eight jobcentres. That is not an insignificant achievement in that period of time, given the complexity involved. We already have 6,500 people on universal credit. I appreciate the Chairman’s view that that is a small number, but it is a start and a move in the right direction.

A point that has not been raised is that this is not just about nuts and bolts, IT systems and budgets. It is about a fundamental culture change, and as we know, changing a culture is one of the most difficult things to do in any organisation, never mind in the country as a whole.

Mike Freer (Finchley and Golders Green) (Con): My hon. Friend may recall that during my short time on the Select Committee, we visited the pathfinder in Oldham and Bolton. I was struck by the enthusiasm of the user groups and the staff for the new culture of helping people into work, and by the fact that people in those user groups were able to work for longer hours without falling off the precipice. Given the good news on working and benefits, should the Government not continue to press forward with universal credit?