The hon. Member for Bosworth (David Tredinnick) mentioned his support for complementary medicine. My friend Evan Harris—I wish he was still here—who has strong views on the subject, could have had a lively debate with him. The hon. Gentleman described the progress of a policy from being opposed to being fully adopted—from “mad and dangerous” to “can’t find anyone against it”—but then he talked about wearing four hats; I was worried he was still at the mad stage, as opposed to everyone agreeing with him. He also referred to astrology—it is probably best not to say any more about that, although he does not need to be an astrologer

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to know he will probably get some e-mails expressing frank views on astrology and its merits or otherwise. I agreed with his final point, however, about the need to make everyone in this country happier. I think we are trying to do that. I hope I am making all Members who contributed happy by responding to at least some of their points.

The hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley), who unfortunately could not stay—she let me know beforehand—talked about the importance of integrating health and social care and rightly sang the praises of carers, as we all often do in this place. It gives me the opportunity to sing the praises of the Sutton carers centre in my borough, which does a good job of supporting carers. I hope that this Government, and previous Governments, have recognised the importance of carers and are putting measures in place to support them. The carer’s assessment is part of that, the existence of which she has successfully highlighted to try and ensure that more people access it. She asked why the NHS was not being made responsible for identifying carers. I think local authorities, too, have a clear public health role and responsibility to do the same.

The hon. Lady also talked about the spare room subsidy. It is clear what the Liberal Democrats said on that issue. We support the principle of what the Government have done, but the Department for Work and Pensions has produced a report highlighting certain problems with the present scheme, and of course we will work within the coalition to get our Conservative partners to accept that action needs to be taken as a result of that report. If that is not possible, we will return to the issue in our manifesto at the general election.

The hon. Lady also mentioned air pollution. The Government are committed to working towards full compliance with current EU air quality standards. In recent decades, there have been considerable improvements in air quality, but we are not complacent. As a London MP, I am aware that air quality is a serious issue that we need to address.

My hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Sir Bob Russell) referred to the 40th anniversary of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, whose importance I think we all recognise. Since its introduction, the number of employees killed at work has fallen by 85%. That is a substantial drop, although there is clearly more to be done. My hon. Friend pointed out that there had not been a single loss of life during the building of the Olympic stadium, which I think is a real tribute to the safety standards that were adopted. As he said, it is a great pity that other countries—including Qatar and, indeed, Brazil—have not managed to achieve the same result.

Like my hon. Friend, I should be worried if anything were happening that would reduce the health and safety of workers, but certainly nothing that the Government are doing would have that effect. He referred to appendix 4. I am afraid that I do not know the details of appendix 4, but I will ensure that he receives a reply, because I know that the issue is of interest not only to him, but to other Members of Parliament.

The hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant)—who is not in the Chamber—talked about sporting bodies and the importance of looking seriously at the health impact of playing football. A range of football-related issues arise in the House regularly. During business questions, we have frequently encouraged Members to

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apply to the Backbench Business Committee, because it is clear that there are enough sport-related concerns to justify a wider debate on the issue.

I certainly agree with one of the points raised by the hon. Gentleman. I was shocked to see the German and Argentine players stumbling around on the sidelines and then going back on to the pitch. I cannot understand why they were allowed to do that. My son plays football, and I know what happens at junior level. All the advice is that someone who is thought to have concussion should be taken off the pitch, and medical help should be sought. That person should not be sent back on to the pitch.

On Russia, which was raised by a number of Members, the hon. Gentleman underlined the importance of standing together and trying to persuade France and Germany to work on the issue. I hope that that will be possible, notwithstanding the business interests that those two countries have in relation to Russia.

The hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman), who is present, mentioned an e-petition, and drew attention to the success of e-petitions generally and what they could lead to in terms of parliamentary debates. I am very pleased about the debate that took place as a result of that e-petition. He then referred to the issue of caste, which is clearly controversial. Some believe that it is an issue even in the United Kingdom, in the context of people’s ability to obtain jobs in, for instance, the national health service. That has been raised with me in the past. I think we shall have to agree that there may be differing views on caste.

The hon. Gentleman spoke about Gaza, about a number of free schools in his constituency—it is clear that a great deal is happening to education there, and that he is very proud of it—and about the fact that managing the steps from the platform to street level at Stanmore station requires one to be an Olympic athlete. I shall ensure that the Mayor is aware of that, as it is a Transport for London issue. The hon. Gentleman mentioned Anmer Lodge and the Royal National Orthopaedic hospital, as he had done during our Easter Adjournment debates. He is clearly as determined to ensure that his local hospital is rebuilt as I am to ensure that St Helier hospital is rebuilt, and I have no doubt that both of us will continue to campaign on those issues.

The hon. Gentleman referred to Barnet football club, Tesco, the NatWest closure, and the “hated no right turn”, of which none of the rest of us were aware, apart from the hon. Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas)—who, I understand, is training for the London triathlon. My tip is that if he has not done his swimming training yet, he will have a real struggle. It is not really possible to engage in the other two events without the swimming; I know that. I wish the hon. Gentleman good luck.

The hon. Gentleman also raised an issue to do with football. That again suggests there is potential for the Backbench Business Committee to deliver a comprehensive debate on football matters, if Members approach it. He asked if I could secure for him a letter from the Department for Communities and Local Government on the Harrow council funding issue, and I will endeavour to do that and to flag that up to them. He also raised concerns about pensions and reforms to the pensions system. I hope he agrees that some of the changes the Government made are positive, but he highlighted some specific issues about pension funds and the need for greater

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accountability and accessibility, and I hope some of them will follow in the footsteps of the Legal & General, which he highlighted as having taken positive action in this respect and which has, perhaps, set an example for others.

We then had a contribution from the hon. Member for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore), who is in his place. I commend him on his campaigning on Cossham hospital, and, indeed, his mother on the work she used to do—or may still do—as a nurse. I also have some advice for him in relation to antenatal classes, particularly if he is attending the birth: the second one is easier, but he may find that he faints in the first one. I just give him that word of warning. He made a very strong case for the maintenance of services at his hospital and I hope his campaign is successful.

The hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) talked about the need for best practice guidance in relation to consultations, and she asked whether I will introduce that. I can confirm to her that it has already been introduced, so I have already delivered that, but it was in November last year. There are best practice guidelines for consultations, therefore, although I must confess I am not sure whether there is the level of detail that would confirm whether a non-response should or should not be counted, so she may want to look at that and see whether it is the case.

The hon. Lady also raised concerns about her GP surgery and the legislation we have just passed, and I think she suggested that the Government want to know absolutely everything about their citizens. That is certainly not what the data retention proposals are about. She highlighted that in her view the reshuffle the Government —or the Conservatives—have just undertaken is actually about creating more opportunities for Mr Speaker to impersonate leading Ministers. He has not heard that, but he may be practising once he has read Hansard later.

The hon. Member for Colne Valley (Jason McCartney) highlighted his volunteering work, as he has done in the past, and I commend him on that—he is not in the Chamber, but I commend him none the less. He also highlighted planning issues, which is one of those difficult areas for Members of Parliament where on the one hand we need to represent constituents who might have children still living at home who cannot afford to move out, while on the other hand we have constituents who do not want to see developments in their backyard. He highlighted the importance of developing brownfield sites, too, which the Government clearly support, and bringing flats above shops into use.

The hon. Member for Leeds East (Mr Mudie) rightly highlighted the importance of speaking out for adults with autism who are not in a position to do that themselves and concerns he had that they may drop below the radar—I think that was the phrase he used—and that, although the banding proposals may ensure there is no longer a postcode lottery in the provision of care, he believes it may in fact mean some people will drop out of receiving the support they need.

The hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers), who is in his place, referred to Mr Rockhill, who got a formal caution for displaying an A-board. Like him, I would have hoped the local authority could have demonstrated a degree of common sense in its approach.

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He also referred to a constituent who should not be spreading his net in the bay, and again I think a modicum of common sense might have resolved that, but he might also like to know of a case involving a county council that asked a local borough council to take down the knitted bicycle bunting erected for the Tour de France because of the damage it might have caused to the heritage lampposts. That is another example of people perhaps being a little over-zealous in their application of the rules and regulations.

The hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) referred to the need to build more housing. As I said, there is a cross-party consensus on that; there may not be a similar consensus on where the houses should be built, though the need for them is clearly demonstrated. I believe she said her local authority is building council homes, and I am pleased to say that my local Sutton council is doing the same thing and has set up its own company for that purpose. She highlighted the need to encourage responsible private landlords to offer longer tenancies. We have all had constituents in our surgeries who dealt with someone who may potentially be a good private landlord but who had provided them with only a year’s tenancy, and I think we would all want to see that addressed.

The hon. Lady referred to her concerns about the withdrawal of the minimum practice income guarantee and how it may lead to a transfer of funding from poor areas to richer areas. I do not know whether she is right about the impact in my constituency, but she asked whether I could secure a response from the Department of Health and I will do that for her. She also referred to broadband and I will pick that matter up shortly. She rightly reminded everyone that it is 100 days since the schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram and almost no action seems to have been taken—that is very depressing. Like others, I experience a degree of bafflement about the lack of any concrete action in that respect.

The hon. Member for Filton and Bradley Stoke (Jack Lopresti), who is in his place, talked about the need for a new junction on the M4. I know that has been considered, but I am afraid it is not in the current programme. He rightly highlighted the very good work done by the Great Western Air Ambulance and the support it provides to 2 million people, and his desire to see it funded from the LIBOR fund. He also talked about residents user groups, and his constituent Bob Woodward OBE and the work he has done in raising huge amounts of money for CLIC.

I will ensure that the hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) also receives the response that will go to the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch about the minimum practice income guarantee. He talked about the work he is doing with Muslim communities, and I agree that we need to ensure they do not feel under attack because of the conflagration of different things that they might feel is targeted at them. We should all be very careful about the language we use in that respect.

As other hon. Members have said, the hon. Member for Bracknell (Dr Lee) made a very thoughtful and hard-hitting statement. I guess the issue is: what can we do in concrete terms about Russia? Are some of the options that were put forward viable or would they inflame the situation further? That is the challenge to which the Government have to respond. Clearly, there is

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the possibility of a recall if that is necessary—if things develop—but we did have the Prime Minister’s statement on the issue.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), who is also in her place, had concerns about the NHS. I agree that the NHS faces challenges, but there are a range of measures, be it on hospital-acquired infections, mixed-sex wards, or the record lows for the 18, 26 and 52-week treatment targets, where things are more positive. I am of course very sorry to hear about the poor care her constituent received, although from what she was describing I think it was not a resources issue; it was more of a communication issue, potentially within the hospital and upon release of the patient.

The hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish), who was not able to stay, referred to the A303. All Members who have been on holiday in that area probably want to see action taken, and we await the autumn statement later this year, which we hope will be positive on that. He also raised the issue of broadband. We have invested heavily in broadband—£790 million—but I agree that, in certain parts of the country, it has not yet delivered the goods that people want to see.

The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) talked about the Orange Order, and its motto “Toleration for everyone”. Clearly, that is particularly essential in a Northern Ireland context, and is something that we all want to support. We support too the charity work that it is undertaking.

The hon. Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart)—

Bob Stewart: I am here!

Tom Brake: Indeed. The hon. Gentleman asked whether the Government—or the international community—are failing in relation to Russia. I hope that it is possible to bring together the different players to ensure that action is taken, but we will have to wait and see what happens.

The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) raised a number of issues. I will, if I may, highlight world hepatitis day to which he wanted to draw attention. He also talked about hepatitis C, and the need for greater diagnosis and publicity. He is also a doughty campaigner on behalf of the fire service, and he raised a number of issues in that regard, as he does on a regular basis in pre-recess Adjournment debates and at other opportunities. He referred again to Hillingdon council. He is clearly an assiduous campaigner and will not let the council off the hook if he thinks that it is up to no good.

The hon. Member for Pendle (Andrew Stephenson), who is in his place, talked about the important investment in schools and businesses in his constituency. Quite rightly, he highlighted the fact that, unfortunately, Rolls-Royce is having to retrench in his constituency, but I am sure that he will work with other community representatives to campaign on behalf of the aerospace industry to ensure that Pendle recovers from the loss. I commend him on the first and, I think, only use of the “long-term economic plan” phrase, which gives me an opportunity to say that the Government are building a stronger economy and a fairer society.

Finally, I echo the thanks of the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty) to long-serving members of staff—John Pullinger, Christine

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Gillie, James Robertson, Janet Rissen, Judith Welham, Amanda Waller, Chris Weeds and Clare Cowan—for all their efforts in the House in recent years.

Thomas Docherty: It was remiss of me not to mention this before. I mentioned Sir Barnett Cocks, who was the Clerk when Sir Robert first arrived. I am not sure whether the Minister is aware of this, but after Sir Barnett retired he published a book about Parliament. Does the Minister agree that it would be a good idea if the Clerk, in his newly acquired time, was able to bring out a publication on how Parliament works, and after that, perhaps one on cricket as well?

Tom Brake: I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. Sir Robert may have heard his entreaty to produce such things, but I will also use this as an opportunity to thank Sir Robert on behalf of all Members. Members should consider the range of things in which Sir Robert has been involved. Let me name just a few. He was involved in implementing the Modernisation Committee’s reform of the legislative process; writing the “Shifting the Balance” report of the Liaison Committee, which was a major step in Select Committee innovation before the Wright Committee; proposing the idea that the Prime Minister should appear before the Liaison Committee; and writing the so-called 75-point plan in the options for Commons reform, which are gradually being worked through. On the more administrative side, he began to grapple with some of the biggest challenges that we face, such as the need to invest substantially in ensuring that this building is fit for purpose for members of staff, Members and peers in decades to come. Sir Robert will be sorely missed by all Members of the House, and I have personally enjoyed his friendly, informative and experienced advice in the years that I have been here.

With that, I will finish by thanking all the staff—the police, the Clerks, the Chief Clerk, Sir Robert, staff in the Tea Room and everyone who supports us to enable us to do the job that we do. Without them it would not be possible, and we would not get the enjoyment out of it that we do.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered matters to be raised before the forthcoming adjournment.


Deaths and Injuries in Lahore

7 pm

Andrew Stephenson (Pendle) (Con): I would like to present a petition from a large number of my constituents about an incident that happened in Lahore. I have already raised the matter with the acting high commissioner for Pakistan.

The petition states:

The Petition of residents of the Pendle,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that the killing of eleven and injury of over eighty more civilians in Lahore at the Minhaj-ul-Quran Complex on 17th June 2014 was an act of terrorism carried out by the Government of Pakistan and federal Government

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of Punjab and further that a local Petition from residents of Nelson has received over 2000 signatures.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to encourage the Government of Pakistan and federal Government of Punjab to bring the perpetrators of the violence to account and refer the incident to the International Criminal Court.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


Dangerous Dogs

7.1 pm

Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con): I am here to present this petition on behalf of my constituent Mrs Paula Trail. In January, Mrs Trail was walking her King Charles spaniel Lacie, who was attacked and tragically killed by two other dogs. Since then, more than 400 people have signed a local petition and more than 1,750 an e-petition calling for penalties to be imposed if a dog is dangerously out of control and injures another dog.

The petition states:

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons introduces legislation so that penalties can also be imposed on owners if their dog injures another dog.

Following is the full text of the petition:

[The Petition of residents of the UK,

Declares that the Petitioners welcome the changes that the Government have made to its guidance on “controlling your dog in public” as it is now against the law to let a dog be dangerously out of control in private places such as your own home and a neighbour’s garden; further that the Petitioners believe that, although improved, the updated guidance does not go far enough as penalties are only imposed on owners if their dog injures a person or a guide dog; and further that a local petition on this matter has received over 400 signatures and an e-petition over 1,750.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons introduces legislation so that penalties can also be imposed on owners if their dog injures another dog.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.]


Home-to-school Transport to the Colne Community School (Essex)

7.2 pm

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): It is my duty and privilege to introduce a petition on behalf of those whose school transport is being adversely affected by changes in Essex county council policy. The petition contains no fewer than 527 signatures.

The petition states:

The Petition of residents of Harwich and North Essex,

Declares that Essex County Council’s new home-to-school transport policy has removed school transport funding for residents of Wivenhoe with children attending the Colne Community School in Brightlingsea; further that the Petitioners believe that the policy does not recognise the long-term close community link between Wivenhoe and the Colne Community School; further that the cost of running an underutilised service to the allocated catchment school would better be spent on transport to the Colne

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Community School; and further that the journey time to the Colne Community School is likely to be the same as, or shorter than, to the allocated catchment school.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to encourage the Essex County Council to continue to provide residents of Wivenhoe with equitably funded home-to-school transport to the Colne Community School in Brightlingsea.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


Direct Bus Service from Hounslow West to West Middlesex Hospital

7.4 pm

Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op): The petition concerns the provision of a direct bus route from Hounslow West to West Middlesex hospital. It has also been supported by residents in Cranford who are similarly affected. There is currently no direct bus services from these heavily populated wards to the main hospital serving Hounslow residents. Carers, the elderly, and disabled and unwell constituents in Feltham and Heston are forced to change bus services when making what can be a difficult journey to the hospital. The issue is particularly acute in poor weather and attempts to amend bus services to provide a direct service have so far been unsuccessful. There are seven signatures attached to this petition, representing seven of the 236 who have signed a similar petition directly to Transport for London.

The petition states:

“The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to liaise with the Mayor of London and Transport for London to ensure that a direct bus service from Hounslow West… to West Middlesex Hospital is provided.”

Following is the full text of the petition:

[The Petition of residents of Hounslow,

Declares that the Petitioners strongly believe that there needs to be a direct bus service from Hounslow West Tube Station, Bath Road, Hounslow TW4 to West Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth, Middlesex TW7; further that just over two years ago on 19 June 2012 the Petitioners wrote to the Operation Manager of Transport for London regarding the bus service and regret that the reply received from a Customer Service Adviser was not encouraging; further that the Petitioners provided four possible review options for one of the service routes which was turned down; further that in a reply on 11 July 2012 TfL noted that the entire bus network is reviewed on a regular basis to make sure that passengers are given the best possible service; further that the Petitioners replied to this letter of 11 July and are still awaiting a reply; and further that passengers travelling to West Middlesex Hospital have to change buses at Hounslow Bus Garage to visit admitted patients and attend appointments which the Petitioners believe can be particularly difficult for the elderly and disabled.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to liaise with the Mayor of London and Transport for London to ensure that a direct bus service from Hounslow West Tube Station, Bath Road, Hounslow TW4 to West Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth, Middlesex TW7 is provided.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.]


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Human Rights in Sri Lanka

7.6 pm

Mr Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) (Lab/Co-op): It is my duty and privilege to raise concerns put to me by Councillor Kareema Marikar and the trustees and elders of the Sri Lankan mosque in Harrow about human rights in Sri Lanka. The petition reads:

The Petition of residents of Harrow West,

Declares that it has been reported that violent attacks on Muslims in the southern Sri Lanka town of Aluthgama beginning on 15 June resulted in the death of four Muslims, and injured more than 80, with many homes and businesses destroyed; further that the Petitioners believe that it is of particular concern that eyewitnesses have reported that the police stood by and refused to intervene during the violence; and further that international human rights organisations have called on the Sri Lankan authorities to fully investigate the attacks and identify those who incited the violence.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons takes action to raise concerns regarding the violent attacks on Muslims with the Sri Lankan authorities.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


Development Proposals for 34 Hatton Avenue, Wellingborough

7.7 pm

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I present a petition, which has 800 names, on an important local issue. The three lead signatures are Ruth Claire Smith, Joanne Harrison and Ian Richards. The petition reads:

To the honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled

The Humble Petition of residents of Hatton Park, Northamptonshire and the surrounding areas,


That the Petitioners believe that the proposed change of use of 34 Hatton Avenue, Wellingborough into a behavioural management home (application number WP/14/00385/COU) is unacceptable as the location of the development is unsuitable both for the proposed residents of the home and for the local residents.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your honourable House urges the Department for Communities and Local Government, and the Borough Council of Wellingborough to work together to reject the current application and relocate it to a more suitable site.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.


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HMRC (Scotland)

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

7.8 pm

Gregg McClymont (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (Lab): It is a pleasure and a privilege to have the final Adjournment debate before the House departs for the summer recess. The future of HMRC jobs in Scotland is an issue close to my heart. It is hard to grow up and live in my constituency without developing personal connections with what is known locally simply as the tax office. A number of my friends and family have worked or work at HMRC Cumbernauld, and it is by some distance the largest employer in my constituency, currently employing about 1,400 staff working across the spectrum of tax, benefits, debt management and the like. It is the UK’s largest tax office. Hon. Members have doubtless at one time or another had communication with HMRC Cumbernauld—not, I hasten to add, because of anything untoward, but simply because that is where so many tax communications are sent from and to.

In 57 days, Scotland will make its decision on whether to remain in the United Kingdom with England, Wales and Northern Ireland or whether to leave, and Scots are weighing up a wide array of issues and interests as they come to a judgment on that decision. That is why every survey of Scottish public opinion illuminates the public’s desire for more information and facts on the issues in hand. Some things are, by definition, uncertain about what would happen if Scotland was to leave the United Kingdom—things that will depend on negotiations with the rest of the United Kingdom, which will depend on the future performance of the Scottish economy in particular. But Scotland’s role in HMRC is not one of those things about which there is uncertainty. The arithmetical facts are these.

Across the UK, HMRC employs 70,000 people. More than 9,000 of those posts are in Scotland. In percentage terms, 13% of UK HMRC staff are in Scotland, a significantly above-population-share of the total. More than 3,000 more posts are allocated in Scotland than a population share would provide. That is testimony to the excellent job that Scottish HMRC staff in Cumbernauld, in East Kilbride and elsewhere provide. It is hard to argue otherwise than that this indeed is a Scottish HMRC jobs dividend. Leaving the United Kingdom would bring to an end Scotland’s role in HMRC. That is surely uncontroversial—a fact, not an opinion.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing the debate, but is not his timing just a little bit unfortunate? The Westminster Government are actually closing HMRC offices as he is on his feet. I know he does not like Scottish independence and I know he does not like what the Scottish Government are doing, but can he grudgingly accept the fact that we are having no compulsory redundancies in Scotland, which would mean that HMRC staff would be much better treated in an independent Scotland than they would be by the Westminster Tories?

Gregg McClymont: I will come to a couple of the hon. Gentleman’s points, but on the issue of HMRC jobs, I am sure he will agree that it is an arithmetical

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fact that Scotland has a significant dividend from UK HMRC jobs. That is because of the professionalism of staff in Scotland, but it is something that must be put on the record.

Let us tease out a little further these arithmetical facts and then, I think, what we might judge an outcome to be for Scotland after leaving the UK and ending our membership of HMRC. We know as a fact that Scotland has significantly more tax-collecting jobs relative to the UK as a whole. Is there any reason to imagine that an independent Scottish state would need those surplus tax-collecting jobs relative to the size of the UK tax-collecting system? It seems to me that it is hard to imagine why that would be the case. The jobs dividend in Scotland regarding HMRC posts does not reflect different Scottish conditions regarding tax collection, but simply historical decisions and the excellent work undertaken by the Scottish tax office staff.

I have also heard it said by those who might accept in a conversation the arithmetical facts around the number of Scottish HMRC jobs—perhaps by the hon. Gentleman and certainly by others—that there will be no compulsory redundancies, and of course new civil service posts will be needed in a separate Scottish state, the implication being that surplus tax-collecting staff would be transferred to those posts. As the hon. Gentleman said, the SNP Government have given a promise that there will be no compulsory public sector redundancies, but is that promise from Alex Salmond worth the paper it is written on? It is easy to promise something, as things stand, when it looks, as things stand further, as though that promise will never be tested, but let us think a little more about the state, the structure of the Scottish economy and the civil service and public sector jobs therein.

Scotland does not have a small public sector. Our public sector is significant— bigger than that of the UK as a whole. I was glancing through the Scottish Government’s most recent statistics, and they clearly show that Scotland has more public sector jobs and significantly more tax-related public sector jobs than the UK as a whole. I welcome that—it is a credit to the staff and their professionalism—but it suggests that the slack to absorb surplus tax-collection posts in a separate Scottish state will be hard to identify. I say that based on the arithmetical facts, but also as a judgment about the relative size of Scotland’s public sector. Indeed, if we add to that the difficulties that Scotland would inevitably face as it transitioned into an entirely distinct and separate state, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies and other independent experts have observed, one has to question, with some substance and credibility, what that would mean for those tax-collecting jobs in Scotland, and particularly in the largest tax office in the UK in Cumbernauld.

It is my judgment, based on those arithmetical facts, that defending existing public sector provision, not increasing the size of the public sector, is likely to be the reality faced by my constituents working for HMRC in Cumbernauld. In the end, the argument about what happens when we have a substantial surplus of tax-collecting jobs is about whether those posts can be absorbed in the wider Scottish public sector. That is a fundamental question in the referendum debate. There are facts, as I have set them out. There are also judgments, and the

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hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) takes a different view, but it is surely incumbent on all of us to give the Scottish people all the facts as they bear on the debate and to let them draw their own conclusions.

The role that HMRC plays is important for my constituency and for Scotland. The next Labour Government are committed to tackling the tax gap. It looks as though in the last financial year the tax gap widened again, despite the Government’s efforts to close it. In my judgment, closing that tax gap will not be achieved without using the professionalism and experience of Scottish HMRC staff.

I am not suggesting that this is the only issue we face in the debate before 18 September—not at all—but for constituents of mine who either work in the tax office or who have friends and family who work there, the issues need to be put on the record and the facts displayed; then a judgment can be made by the people of Scotland.

Mr Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab): As my hon. Friend knows, I share a very small part of Cumbernauld with him, and I know he is speaking for the people of the constituency. Does he agree that the problems he has identified, which are very clear, bring into focus the fact that in East Kilbride we have the headquarters of the Department for International Development, and there is no way that that can be sustained by a population reduced to 8.4% of the previous total?

Gregg McClymont: I thank my right hon. Friend for that typically wise intervention. Those are significant issues, and I think that it is incumbent on us all to put the facts on the table as Scotland approaches the decision it must make on 18 September. The role Scotland plays in an integrated United Kingdom, through DFID, HMRC and other public institutions, must be weighed, balanced and measured in that debate. I thank him again for his sagacious intervention.

Finally, I want to ask the Minister a couple of questions. I was delighted by the recent news that up to 170 new permanent posts are to be filled at HMRC Cumbernauld. Can he update the House on where HMRC is in that process? At the same time, around 40 jobs are threatened in the regional post room in HMRC Cumbernauld, and a decision will not be made until the autumn. I hope that he will agree that for the staff working there, that uncertainty is unwelcome. I seek further clarity from him on those questions.

On that note, I thank the House for the opportunity to put on the record some of the arithmetic on the role of Scotland and my constituency in HMRC, and to make a plea for these issues to be discussed in a spirit of constructive debate and starting from the basis of facts.

7.21 pm

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): I congratulate the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Gregg McClymont) on securing the debate. He continues to make a firm, clear and eloquent case on what is, understandably, a hugely important issue for him and his constituents: the future of the HMRC office in Cumbernauld.

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Before dealing with some of the detailed points the hon. Gentleman raised, I would like to explain some of the context behind the changes occurring in HMRC staffing. As hon. Members will be aware, HMRC is currently reshaping itself in order to become a more modern, flexible and cost-effective organisation that can deliver better and more personalised services for customers, increased tax revenues through greater compliance activity and, crucially, better value for money for the public.

In order to provide the best possible value to the taxpayer, HMRC has had to downsize. In fact, it has been steadily reducing the number of employees since it was formed nine years ago. Over that time it has reduced its staff levels from around 97,000 full-time equivalents in 2005 to around 60,000 now. On top of that reduction, and as part of its increased work on digitisation, HMRC will soon be implementing a new system whereby it will scan incoming post. The rational behind that change is that it will remove the need for sorting and transportation. Instead, correspondence will be moved to where it can be dealt with instantly, ensuring that taxpayers’ queries are dealt with more quickly and effectively.

However, a consequence of that change will be that fewer staff will be needed to handle post, which will have an impact on HMRC’s five regional post rooms, as the hon. Gentleman mentioned. I should point out, however, that with regard to business presence and work force size, the recent changes have not had a disproportionate impact on Scotland. In April 2011, around 13% of HMRC’s work force were based in Scotland, and at the end of last month, following the significant reductions it has achieved across the UK, the proportion of its work force based in Scotland remains around 13%.

As it reduces in size, it makes sense that HMRC will need to bring its people together into larger sites where they can work more flexibly and more easily share the costs of office space and IT. In May 2012, HMRC made the concluding announcement about the estate changes it would be making during the spending review period. That saw, as the hon. Gentleman has said, a number of its offices across the country announced for closure, but at the same time it was also confirmed that there would be 16 strategic locations nationwide until at least 2020. Two of those are in Scotland—Edinburgh, encompassing Bathgate and Livingston, and Glasgow, encompassing Cumbernauld, East Kilbride and Paisley.

Pete Wishart: The HMRC office in Perth was, of course, closed in the past year under this Government’s stewardship. How many jobs has HMRC lost in Scotland under this Government, how many offices have closed and how many jobs does the Minister foresee going in the course of the next five years?

Mr Gauke: I reiterate that the changes in Scotland reflect those across the United Kingdom. The proportion of jobs is identical to what it was three years ago. It is the case that HMRC has reduced significantly in size since 2005, and it is anticipated that it will continue to do so across the United Kingdom. We have stated that we anticipate that staff numbers will fall to about 54,000 by the end of this financial year, although, to be fair, HMRC is expanding its staff in particular areas. There is no reason to believe that Scotland will be disproportionately affected by further reductions. That has not been the history of what has happened in the past.

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HMRC continues to review its business, work force and estates needs, and is currently in consultation on a proposal to close a further 12 smaller offices during 2015, two of which are in Scotland—namely Glenrothes and Irvine. Those are all smaller offices and HMRC, for the reasons I stated previously, believes that it makes more sense, and will deliver better value to the public, to bring those staff into larger workplaces. I should make it clear, though, that the consultation on those decisions will, of course, include the consideration of equality impacts and will involve HMRC’s employees, their trades unions, Members of this House and other local interests.

It is also worth bearing in mind that, while the number of general business roles has been reducing in size—as HMRC tries to increase compliance-related yield—the number of roles in that specific area is increasing. Hon. Members may be aware that in June, HMRC advertised up to 2,100 vacancies primarily in compliance roles—up to 680 of which will be based at offices in Scotland. Many of those will be at the newly opened compliance centre in Edinburgh, and HMRC’s debt management and banking business aims to create up to 170 jobs in Cumbernauld, as the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East has pointed out. Therefore, as HMRC’s work moves forward, new opportunities are opening up for its work force, including in the Cumbernauld constituency.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the September referendum and the future for HMRC staff should there be a vote for the Union to come to an end. Neither the Scottish Government nor the UK Government know for sure what will happen if the people of Scotland vote to leave the UK. In the event of a majority vote in favour of independence, both the UK and Scottish Governments agree that negotiations would be needed. Both Governments have agreed that negotiations to establish a new Scottish state cannot begin unless—and until—there is a yes vote in the referendum. That does not mean, however, that representatives of the UK would or could facilitate everything that the Scottish Government have said they hope to achieve through independence.

If the people of Scotland were to vote to leave the UK, the negotiations that would follow would be unprecedented, highly complex and incredibly detailed. There are too many unknown factors at this stage to say how negotiations would proceed and how long they would take. As the hon. Gentleman will know, the Scottish Government’s White Paper set out what they would like to happen if Scotland became an independent state; it is not a blueprint or a legally enforceable document, and it cannot predict the outcome of the negotiations between the UK and the new Scottish state. In fact, much of what is included in the White Paper depends on the agreement of the UK Government and numerous other public bodies and organisations. In this instance, I therefore cannot get into any detailed discussion of what might happen should such an event occur. However, the hon. Gentleman was quite right to raise, on his constituents’ behalf, concerns about uncertainty for HMRC employees in the event of Scotland leaving the United Kingdom. I am sure that I speak for the vast majority of Members of the House when I say that I hope that those negotiations never come to pass.

To return to specific HMRC matters, HMRC as an organisation has to work within its resources and to fit its future shape. Its plans to deliver an increasingly

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modern service for its customers, while increasing tax revenues, depend on making changes to its structure and the size of its work force. The changes to date are making an impact and helping it to provide a much better service for the rest of the United Kingdom. In fact, last year it secured nearly £24 billion in additional compliance revenues—a record—and it achieved its best ever customer service levels, and all that was done by about 2,000 fewer staff, who oversaw £235 million of efficiency savings. The staff are doing an excellent job. Although I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman about the job losses in his constituency, which he mentioned, and with the staff themselves, we need to make sure that our services continue to provide the best possible value to the public. We remain committed to a consultative approach to ensure that any changes are managed in the very best way possible.

May I just make one further and final point, Mr Speaker? As the last speaker before the summer recess, I am the

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last hon. Member to speak from the Dispatch Box or indeed anywhere in the House and to turn to the Table to see the reassuring presence of Sir Robert Rogers. I know that the House has already had an opportunity to pay tribute to him, but I will just put my thoughts on the record. He has brought to his position an enormous amount of authority and a great love for this House. In an environment that can sometimes be a little heated, he has been a consistent embodiment of a sense of fairness, decency and not a little kindliness. In his distinguished career, he must have listened to many thousands of speeches delivered by many hundreds of right hon. and hon. Members. As the deliverer of the last of those speeches—and, I hope, on behalf of the many hundreds who have spoken before me—may I thank him for his outstanding service and wish him a long and happy retirement?

Question put and agreed to.

7.32 pm

House adjourned.