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I welcome the drop in unemployment in my constituency. Before I became a Member of Parliament, I ran a centre for the unemployed. In the 1980s and 1990s, my constituency had the highest level of unemployment in Wales. It was twice the national average in Wales, and much higher than the average in the United Kingdom. I saw a great transformation between 1997 and 2007, but that was followed by the global financial crash, and the recovery has been shaky. Many of the jobs that have been created have been mini-jobs. Many countries, such as Germany, operate a policy of mini-job creation following recessions, but these jobs have involved relatively low pay, and a great many zero-hours contracts that pay below what we now class as the living wage. Many people are finding jobs, but they are under-employed. The economy needs a real stimulus.

The three words that the Prime Minister is frightened to utter in any economic debate are “value added tax”, because VAT is a regressive tax which he promised not to increase but increased at the first opportunity. It is having a huge impact on businesses in my constituency. It is having an impact on consumer spending, which is up by just 2% in my constituency, compared with an average of some 5% in Wales as a whole. Small businesses, whose representatives I meet regularly, have experienced a fall in turnover of some 6%, compared with an increase of 7% in the United Kingdom. Those issues are concerning businesses. According to anecdotal evidence, less secure part-time work and zero-hours contracts are replacing more secure full-time work.

Roger Williams: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Albert Owen: I will give way briefly, although the hon. Gentleman’s colleague the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr Williams) was not so gracious to me.

Roger Williams: The hon. Gentleman hosted a wonderful Anglesey day when he was able to demonstrate the virtues of his constituency and the pleasures that could be gained from visiting it. Does he agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion that a reduction in VAT on tourist attractions and accommodation would be a wonderful thing for rural Wales as a whole?

Albert Owen: I do. When the last Government cut VAT temporarily, that boosted the economy, and it could do so again in sectors such as construction and tourism.

I want to talk about a section of society that is very important to us all: younger people. Younger people in Wales and my constituency are finding things extremely difficult because of the zero-hours contracts and because many of them who are self-employed, including members of my family and their friends, are becoming so not out of choice but because their main full-time job has gone. They are taking this step into self-employment, and they are finding it very difficult to get mortgages and to get credit. They are finding it really tough out there.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has produced a report on the increase in the young poor in our country. That is a serious issue that we need to tackle. I welcome the growth fund for young people in Wales, getting people into employment, but I want them to go into

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employment that pays a reasonable living wage so they can spend and contribute to our society in the way we all want.

The hon. Member for Arfon (Hywel Williams) is not here, but he will know that a lot of my constituents work in Gwynedd, and Gwynedd has one of the highest rates of zero-hours contracts in Wales. The number is staggering: some 477 people are on zero-hours contracts. That is the figure for the neighbouring authority. I do not have the figures for my local authority, but some pay on Anglesey is below the living wage. Some adverts in Gwynedd are for pay of £5.87. There is a Plaid Cymru Member present. We hear that party attacking the Labour party and everybody else about the living wage and zero-hours contracts, yet although it only controls two councils in Wales, it has one of the worst records in that regard. These are my near neighbours—in fine fettle.

We want to stimulate the economy, and we can do it through a house building programme that boosts construction by giving companies relief on VAT, so they can build more houses and get more people into the workplace. That is one way forward.

We need greater investment in improved connectivity as well. We can do that by working together, as the Secretary of State said—but working together not just between Wales and the rest of the UK, but between Wales, the UK and Europe. The banging on about Europe that the Prime Minister talked about is having an effect. I know that the Secretary of State is going to my constituency, although I have not been told so officially by his office—the grapevine of Anglesey works much quicker. When he goes there, he will hear from business leaders that the threat of moving towards the exit is having an impact on future investment plans by large companies. I want to see an Anglesey—an Ynys Môn—that is at the heart of the British Isles, and that is a major player in Wales, in the UK and in Europe; the only way we will do that is by being far more positive, and helping our young people in a more positive way than now. I do not want to see the young poor carrying on as they are; I want to see young people with great opportunities for the future.

6.32 pm

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): I am delighted to follow that excellent contribution by my good friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen), which struck the right balance between the necessary optimism and the vision we have for a better future and the real challenges.

It has been a passionate debate and I have been as passionate as many with my interventions, but I want to say first that when I speak for my constituents, I speak for all of them. Many of them are in small businesses and micro-businesses—one man or one woman operations that they intend to build up slowly. They drive the economy locally. I also speak, however, for people who work within the set-up of Raspberry Pi down at the old Sony site at Pencoed in my constituency, and who have reinvented a way to take computers forward, so that everybody can pull them apart and put them back together, and use them in schools and for developing nations, and have different applications for them. They are helping our trade balance, and that is a fantastic story, as is the story of Ford Bridgend in the neighbouring

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constituency represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon). Ford consistently employs and invests in that plant, and takes on many apprentices.

Stephen Crabb: I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned the case study of Raspberry Pi. Does he agree that this is a great example of what we now call reshoring? It has brought back the manufacturing of this product from China to the UK, helping the trade balance. It is a great example of what we mean by rebalancing the economy.

Huw Irranca-Davies: I agree. It is an astonishing story, showing how sometimes the coincidence of business and political networks meeting happens, so that an offhand conversation can lead to a company thinking, “Well, why do we have to be out in the far corners of the world? Why don’t we come back here? We have a skilled work force.” Sony Bridgend, which has had difficult times over the past couple of decades, has re-engineered itself as a national award-winning centre of design in manufacturing and production, and that is what attracted the company back. It has been a huge, rip-roaring success, and there are another 20-odd companies on that site that we hope will build up as well.

That is all good, and I welcome every instance of the claimant count dropping, but we also have to look at the other side of the story. As parliamentarians, no matter what seat we represent, we have to look at the kind of jobs that those individuals are going into. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn said, we need to ask whether they can get credit or a mortgage. Can they think seriously about setting up a home for a family and a future? Can they rent somewhere?

I am sure that Members on the Government Benches know in their heart of hearts that behind the claimant count drop there are a lot of people who want to be paid a bit more, who want to work a few more hours and who want the certainty of a permanent contract with the protection that any decent employer would surely want to give to a decent worker. That does not involve loading burdens on an employer. Government Members often tell us that we know nothing about this, but I can tell them that I have managed businesses in the public and private sectors. I understand the challenges of balancing a business plan and bringing in the bottom line, but that has to involve treating the workers decently as well.

We cannot achieve this overnight. This is not just a case of extolling the virtues of business and job creation; let us also talk about the quality of those jobs. Let us take businesses, large and small, by the hand and ask what more we can do to lift people up by giving them skills, education and training, a decent wage and decent terms and conditions. That involves making an investment in the worker as well as in the plant. There are many good companies out there. I am trying to avoid using a soundbite, but this is a reflection of the reality in my constituency: it has an M4 catchment. We can travel down into what is still a very good manufacturing centre along the M4. Thanks to Labour’s investment over the years, people can also get on a train in Maesteg—now at a lower price than a couple of years ago, thank goodness—and travel to work in Cardiff or Newport.

Let us take as an example a youngster who has to get a minimum wage job. Getting to work could mean spending £5 a day on a ticket or driving in a clapped-out

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car that will cost them 50 or 60 quid a week. When they ask me whether it is worth going out to work, I will say, “Of course it’s worth it. It is always worth going out to work, because of all the good things that come from being a valued member of a work force.” I want those people to be valued. I want them to be paid decently. This debate has sometimes seemed polarised, but this is not a question of me, as the MP for Ogmore, standing here and saying that all businesses are horrible. They are not; they create the jobs. We can put some of the framework in place and make it easier for them to create the jobs, but it is the businesses themselves that create and drive those jobs, and the people in those jobs need to be treated decently.

It is not all doom and gloom in my constituency, but when I first became an MP, there was one food bank there. Now, there is not a single village without a food bank. Last week, I went to the setting up of a Christians Against Poverty debt advice centre. We already have a citizens advice bureau, as well as debt advice being given by Valleys to Coast. We have had a tenfold increase in the number of people in work who are taking out payday loans.

Yes, let us welcome job creation, but let us also be honest about what we want out of those jobs. I do not want anyone to be forced into taking two or even three low-paid jobs. They should be able to find an employer who will pay them decently to do a job with good terms and conditions and who will value their contribution. I do not want youngsters or people close to retirement to be told that their only option is a job in retail with no guaranteed hours. I do not want them to be told, “We may or may not call you but, my God, if we do, you’d better come in because if you don’t, there are half a dozen other people who will do the job instead.” I do not want that. It is not a good way to drive an economy.

Let us have some frankness in the debate. If we can say that we want job creation but we also want them to be good jobs, we will have done a good job for our constituents. That, by the way, means tackling one of the biggest scandals that I have come across recently. There has been a massive change since March or April this year, with HMRC’s new rules and its approach to umbrella companies in construction. Constituents are coming into my office, skilled, long experienced construction workers, who are £100 a week worse off. It is there in their pay slips and it is legal. It is due to subcontracting out beyond the original contractor to umbrella companies, which deduct payments from those workers. If one thing comes out of today’s debate, I hope it is that the Minister will condemn that practice and undertake to destroy it.

6.40 pm

Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): We have had a wide-ranging debate. I will try to focus my comments on the motion, which is about the UK Government policy and its effect on Wales, but of course I will refer to what many hon. Members have said today.

We are talking about the choice that this Government have made about their tax and welfare policies. That choice means that Ministers have deliberately chosen to place a disproportionate burden on those with the lowest incomes in Wales. As we predicted back in 2011, and as has been shown in a recent study from Sheffield Hallam university, in Wales the Tory-Lib Dem Government’s

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policies on tax credits and welfare have resulted in £1 billion each year being taken out of the Welsh economy, with the losses falling disproportionately on the poorer areas of our communities.

This Government’s changes to tax credits alone have taken £200 million a year out of the Welsh economy. These cuts have meant a loss of income to some 250,000 households across Wales. These are homes where people are in work, often in thankless tasks, often patching together several jobs to try to make ends meet, and working unsocial hours, yet it is Welsh families like these, the very people least able to afford a drop in income, who are losing income. The average loss of income as a result of the Government’s tax credit and welfare policies amounts to some £550 per working age adult in Wales per year, a greater loss than the average for Britain as a whole, which is £470 per annum.

However, in many of our poorest areas, as we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane), the average loss is over £1,000 per working age adult, amounting to some £2,000 for a two-adult family or some £40 a week, which is a huge loss when we consider that these people already have some of the lowest incomes in Wales. That takes into consideration only changes to tax credits and welfare; it does not take into account the effects of, for example, the VAT hike, which further curtails spending power.

Not only is it very unfair to take such a disproportionate amount of money from those with the lowest incomes while at the same time handing tax cuts to millionaires, but it is economic madness. It is not rocket science to perceive that those who earn least spend it most quickly in their local communities. They do this out of sheer necessity, spending the money on everyday essentials, so when they suffer cuts in their household incomes, there is an immediate knock-on effect in the local community. Those with the lowest incomes are the least likely to have the financial means to travel far to spend their money, so it is our very poorest communities that suffer the greatest loss. No prizes for guessing that that means the tops of the valleys, the areas furthest from the wealth-generating opportunities of our cities and our major transport infrastructure.

This loss to the Welsh economy has been quantified by the researchers from Sheffield Hallam university as equivalent to the loss of 7,000 full-time equivalent jobs across Wales, but with the highest concentration of such job losses in the areas of greatest deprivation. In reality, that loss of 7,000 full-time equivalent jobs manifests itself in people having their hours cut and not being able to get as many hours work as they would like, and fewer openings for our young people. There are now 71,000 part-time workers in Wales who would like full-time work, up from 54,000 in 2010, so this Government’s taxation and welfare reform is resulting in the poorer areas of Wales getting poorer. By sucking money out of these areas, the Government are making it ever more difficult for these areas to recover economically, and the gap between these areas and the wealthier parts of the UK is growing.

The hon. Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb) rightly pointed out that those with entrepreneurial spirit should be praised and he cited some successful businesses. The problem is that the impact of UK Government policies

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on the poorest areas makes it doubly hard for small businesses in those areas to succeed. My hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd explained clearly the impact in real terms of the reduction of the Welsh budget by £1.5 billion and the cuts to services. He also graphically pointed out that his area has one of the highest per working age adult losses—it is some £1,400.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies) gave a good example of the reshoring of jobs, which is much to be welcomed. However, he also pointed out the many problems of insecurity, low pay, unfavourable terms and conditions for workers, and the scandal of umbrella companies where workers are actually paying employer contributions as well as their own contributions, leaving some people as much as £100 a week worse off. He welcomed investment in his local area, but pointed out that it is no good if we are not also looking at what type of jobs are being created.

The hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr Williams) spoke clearly about off-grid issues, the cost of vehicle fuel and the need for a continued roll-out of broadband. He praised Cyfle, an organisation giving young people apprenticeship opportunities through placements in several different companies, because companies cannot always offer a full-time apprenticeship. That is particularly useful in a rural economy. He also mentioned a VAT reduction for tourism businesses, a campaign which he has pursued vigorously.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen) talked about the success of the economy from 1997 to 2007, mentioning that since the downturn things have become more difficult in terms of the types of jobs being created. He mentioned the many mini jobs, the fact that young people are facing a lot of problems when trying to find work, and self-employment not really being what people want—it is sometimes imposed on them because no other option is available. The hon. Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Jonathan Edwards) focused on the issue of funding for Wales and possible consequentials on funding for Wales from HS2. He also mentioned that the £1 billion being taken out of the Welsh economy is more than four times the benefit that Wales gets from EU funding.

The hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) gave us a history lesson and his own inimitable view of climate change and green taxes. He also spoke about the dangers of the UK Independence party and about health in Wales.

Albert Owen: The hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) would not take an intervention from me at the time, but I wish to correct him on something. He said that the Labour party introduced all these carbon taxes, but I wish to remind the House that this Chancellor introduced carbon floor pricing, the level of which the Government have now had to reduce, and which has had such an impact on manufacturing in Wales.

Nia Griffith: My hon. Friend rightly says that it was this Chancellor who set that carbon floor price, causing considerable difficulties for our industries. We are still having to go through hoops with those industries to get the relief they need.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Paul Murphy) stressed the importance to our manufacturers of remaining in the EU and the very real fear that the

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Conservatives’ shilly-shallying over Europe is driving companies to question whether to make new investment here. Let us make no mistake: if the Government are seen to be rushing for the exit from Europe, we will lose those companies, with the loss of thousands of jobs across Wales.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Dr Francis) talked about the second campus of the university of Swansea and the importance of partnership working between the university and the steel industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Chris Evans) praised small businesses in his area, said that we should not be obsessed with constitutional issues and talked about the importance of infrastructure linking Wales to the world.

The question is: what is the Minister going to do to tackle the cost of living crisis? Wages in Wales are simply not keeping up with inflation, with wages up by only 0.6% but prices up by more than 2% this year. People in both north and south Wales pay some of the highest prices for our energy and we have some of the hardest-to-heat homes. In addition, many people live off grid and so have more limited options for heating their homes. So what is he going to do to tackle high energy bills? The market is just not working for consumers in Wales.

Labour Members have made it clear that an incoming Labour Government would freeze energy prices for 17 months for both domestic consumers and businesses, during which time we would reform the energy market so that it works for consumers in Wales. We have also taken on board the policy of paying the winter fuel allowance earlier in the year to those who rely on buying in heating oil or liquefied petroleum gas, so that they can buy their supplies more cheaply. That is a simple move, but Ministers have not even agreed to do that. So when are we going to see some action from this Government to address the concerns of the people of Wales by tackling the high energy prices, job insecurity and the low-wage economy?

Will the Minister tell us now that he will match Labour’s energy price freeze? What will he do about low wages? Will he match our pledge to raise the minimum wage to 58% of median earnings? What will he do to tackle insecurity at work in Wales? Will he sign up to Labour’s pledge to tackle the abusive use of zero-hours contracts? I do not mean just banning exclusivity clauses that force workers to work exclusively for one major employer, important though that is. Will he go further than that, as we will? Will he show some humanity and abolish the bedroom tax in Wales? I guess not. He would rather see the people across Wales working longer for less, the poorest areas in Wales getting poorer, and the people struggling with fuel bills. He is happy to give out tax cuts to millionaires and see a recovery for the few, whereas Labour wants to see a recovery for the many.

6.50 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Alun Cairns): I thank all Members for their valuable contributions. It is fair to say that the tone of the debate changed somewhat from the negative one that prevailed at the outset to the more measured contributions by the hon. Members for Islwyn (Chris Evans), for Aberavon (Dr Francis) and for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies).

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This coalition Government inherited an economy that was on its knees. Throughout the past decade, we have had an unstable model for the economy. There was an over-reliance on the public sector, the financial services sector and economic growth from London and the south-east. In spite of the crocodile tears and the synthetic anger that we saw from the shadow Secretary of State, the situation was even more perilous in Wales. One of the saddest legacies that we inherited from the previous Administration was that Wales was the poorest part of the United Kingdom, and that was after 13 years of control from Labour Members. Ultimately, their economic model came crashing down.

We have a long-term economic plan that is working and delivering the recovery for Wales. It is based on investment in infrastructure—both digital and traditional —the development of skills, welfare reform, and making Wales and the rest of the UK a more competitive environment for business, which is something that some Labour Members have recognised today. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb) for being a strong and doughty champion for small businesses and the self-employed in his constituency.

Geraint Davies: Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that the British economy grew by 40% in the 10 years to 2008, before the banking crisis? Since then it has virtually flatlined, which is why his party has borrowed more in four years than the Labour party did in 13. It is a disaster.

Alun Cairns: I will happily repeat that, in 1997, Wales was not the poorest part of the United Kingdom. But between 1997 and 2010, Wales sadly and tragically became so. That was when the hon. Gentleman was a Member for Croydon Central, before he decided to come back home to Wales, so he will have played a part in the policies that led to such a devastating consequence for Wales and the Welsh people, and that is something for which he should apologise. Investing in infrastructure is key to our economic plan, and Wales has rightly received significant sums for some major projects.

I cannot mention railways without paying tribute to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales for his hard work and persistence in seeking a solution to secure the electrification of the line all the way to Swansea and of the valley lines as well. That is the largest investment in railways in Wales since Victorian times. Wales was sadly left in the slow lane when it came to railways. After 13 years of a Labour Administration, Wales, Moldova and Albania were the only three countries in Europe that did not have any electrified railways. Wales is now set to benefit from rail investment worth £2 billion. Our north Wales link to Liverpool is being renewed through the Halton Curve, which is welcomed by all businesses in north-east Wales and north-west England. Crewe is becoming a hub station for HS2, which offers new opportunities to the whole of north Wales, ensuring that we all benefit from this major UK strategic investment.

It was 12 months ago that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced a funding package to enable the upgrade of the M4 around Newport, which was something for which businesses had been calling across the whole of the south Wales corridor. That project was cancelled by the previous Administration in 1997 after my right hon. Friend, the current Leader of the House, committed

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to it when he was the Secretary of State for Wales. The project was cancelled by Labour but reinstated by the Conservatives.

I was sorry that the hon. Member for Wrexham (Ian Lucas) did not welcome the £212 million investment for a new prison in Wrexham. Even after it is up and running, its operational activity will involve £23 million being pumped into the economy each year.

Wales is playing its part in our energy infrastructure upgrade after years of neglect that led to the risk of the lights going out throughout the United Kingdom.

Albert Owen: The Minister is aware that Wales pays among the highest distribution costs in the whole of the United Kingdom, as is reflected in our bills, so would he support flattening those costs throughout the United Kingdom? Some areas might have to pay a little more, but north-west Wales actually produces energy and we pay too much for it through our bills.

Alun Cairns: Of course, that is a matter for Ofgem, as an independent organisation. I know that it has made changes and I look forward to its further deliberations. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman recognises the major investment of £20 billion for Wylfa nuclear power station on Anglesey, which will create 6,000 construction jobs alone.

Of course, such activity does not stop at hard infrastructure, and upgrading our digital networks is central to our plans. Wales is benefiting from £69 million of Government investment for superfast broadband to provide access to more than 275,000 homes and businesses, although I did not hear any welcome for that from Labour Members. By spring 2016, 96% of Wales will have access to superfast broadband connectivity. Further digital projects include Cardiff and Newport being part of the Government’s super-connected cities programme. A pilot programme in Monmouthshire to tackle hard-to-reach areas offers exciting prospects, while the mobile infrastructure project to which the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen) referred is a clear plan to start filling the not spots.

As well as dealing with infrastructure, there was a need to reform the benefits system. The historical problems of worklessness in some communities in Wales were another legacy of the previous Labour Administration, but the Work programme is offering new prospects. It has already supported back into work more than 15,000 of those who were furthest away from employment. Universal credit is simplifying the tax and benefit system and increasing the incentive to work. Some 200,000 households in Wales will have higher entitlements under universal credit—on average, £163 more a month—and the poorest claimants will benefit the most. Shotton in Flintshire is already live and the rest of Wales will be online by April 2016. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the benefits system for the better. The changes offer the opportunity of transforming the fortunes and prospects of families and communities. Alongside the benefits cap and other measures, they will make work pay for everyone.

Supporting business is a key part of the long-term economic plan. More than £100 million has been provided to businesses in Wales through the business bank. More than 600 start-up loans have been awarded to

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businesses in Wales to release the entrepreneurial spirit mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy. Some 35,000 businesses in Wales have benefited from the employment allowance to help them to grow and take on new workers. We have a disproportionate dependence on energy-intensive industries, and they will benefit from our energy package of £240 million, which I am sure that the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) will welcome in the light of his interest in the industry in his constituency. Our enterprise zones on Deeside, and at Ebbw Vale and Haven Waterway, will benefit from enhanced capital allowances until 2020, which will give investors incentives and security.

If I had time, I could highlight so many more policy areas where I can show that Wales is coming back. Outcomes are the most important measures. I have been talking about inputs until now. When we combine the impact of these changes as part of our long-term economic plan, there is little wonder that the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance has fallen for 20 consecutive months—

Ms Rosie Winterton (Doncaster Central) (Lab) claimed to move the closure (Standing Order No. 36).

Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.

Question agreed to.

Main Question accordingly put.

The House divided:

Ayes 199, Noes 299.

Division No. 97]


7 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blomfield, Paul

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, Mr Russell

Burden, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Darling, rh Mr Alistair

David, Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Doran, Mr Frank

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Lucas, Ian

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McGovern, Alison

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McInnes, Liz

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miliband, rh Edward

Miller, Andrew

Mitchell, Austin

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Phillipson, Bridget

Pound, Stephen

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Mr Steve

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Sawford, Andy

Seabeck, Alison

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watson, Mr Tom

Watts, Mr Dave

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Sammy

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Woodward, rh Mr Shaun

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Ayes:

Tom Blenkinsop


Phil Wilson


Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Steve

Baldry, rh Sir Tony

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, rh Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, rh Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, rh Paul

Burt, rh Alistair

Burt, Lorely

Cairns, Alun

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Cash, Sir William

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, rh Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davey, rh Mr Edward

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

de Bois, Nick

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duncan, rh Sir Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evans, Mr Nigel

Evennett, Mr David

Fallon, rh Michael

Featherstone, rh Lynne

Field, Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Hague, rh Mr William

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, rh Matthew

Hancock, Mr Mike

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Sir Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Heald, Sir Oliver

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Hunter, Mark

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lamb, rh Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Leigh, Sir Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Sir Peter

Macleod, Mary

Main, Mrs Anne

May, rh Mrs Theresa

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, rh Esther

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Maria

Milton, Anne

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, rh Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Neill, Robert

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, rh Mr Stephen

Offord, Dr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, rh Sir Richard

Paice, rh Sir James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Paterson, rh Mr Owen

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, rh Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Pritchard, Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Sir John

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, rh Sir Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Sir Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shepherd, Sir Richard

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, rh Sir Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, rh Sir Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, rh Sir Peter

Teather, Sarah

Thornton, Mike

Thurso, rh John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, rh Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walter, Mr Robert

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, rh Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, rh Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Harriett Baldwin


Dr Thérèse Coffey

Question accordingly negatived.

26 Nov 2014 : Column 1033

26 Nov 2014 : Column 1034

26 Nov 2014 : Column 1035

26 Nov 2014 : Column 1036

Deferred Divisions

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 41A(3)),

That, at this day’s sitting, Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply to the Motion in the name of Secretary Theresa May relating to the Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism—(Dr Thérèse Coffey.)

Question agreed to.

26 Nov 2014 : Column 1037

Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism

7.14 pm

The Minister for Security and Immigration (James Brokenshire): I beg to move,

That the draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) (No. 3) Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 24 November, be approved.

By way of context for tonight’s debate, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre has raised the threat level for international terrorism from substantial to severe, as it assesses a terrorist attack on the United Kingdom to be highly likely. The House will be aware that the Home Secretary stated earlier this week that we believe that more than 500 British nationals have travelled to Syria and Iraq, and that thousands from other European and western countries have joined them.

The threat from ISIL is clear—it is one of the most serious security challenges we face today—but it is not the only threat we face. The House will note that the groups listed in the order operate in Libya and Egypt, as well as in Syria. Currently, instability and violence in Libya has provided an environment for groups such as Ansar al-Sharia-Benghazi to operate. Syria and Iraq have become a crucible of terror and violence in which groups such as Jaysh al-Khalifatu Islamiya, al-Nusrah Front and ISIL operate. Egypt has seen a significant increase in criminal activity and terrorist attacks on police and security forces by groups such as Ajnad Misr and Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.

We can never entirely eliminate the threat from terrorism, but we are determined to do all we can to minimise the threat from terrorism to the UK and our interests abroad. Additionally, it is important that we demonstrate our support for other members of the international community in their efforts to tackle terrorism wherever it occurs. Proscription is an important part of the Government’s strategy to tackle terrorist activities.

The three groups that we propose to add to the list of terrorist organisations, by amending schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000, are Ansar al-Sharia-Benghazi, also known as the Partisans of Islamic Law; Ajnad Misr, also known as the Soldiers of Egypt; and Jaysh al-Khalifatu Islamiya, also known as the Army of the Islamic Caliphate.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): How many months or years have those particular organisations been on the radar of the Government or the security services? We do not want to know the details of any private operations, but whether the organisations are new or have been around for a while.

James Brokenshire: It might help the right hon. Gentleman to know that I will go on to provide a brief summation of the three groups, which I think will answer his question.

Before I do so, I should explain that the effect of proscription is that a listed organisation is outlawed and is unable to operate in the UK. It is a criminal offence for a person to belong to, support or arrange a meeting in support of a proscribed organisation, or to wear clothing or carry articles in public which arouse reasonable suspicion that an individual is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation.

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Given the wide-ranging impact of the power to proscribe, the Home Secretary exercises it only after thoroughly reviewing the available relevant information and evidence about an organisation. Having carefully considered all the evidence, she believes that the three groups listed in the order are all currently concerned in terrorism. Although I am unable to comment on specific intelligence, I can provide a brief summary of each group’s activities.

Ansar al-Sharia-Benghazi is a Sunni Islamist militia group that takes an anti-western stance and advocates the implementation of strict sharia law. It has been involved in terrorist attacks against civilian targets, frequent assassinations and attempted assassinations of security officials and political actors in eastern Libya. On 11 September 2012, its members took part in the attack against the US special mission and annexe in Benghazi, killing the US ambassador and three other Americans. AAS-B continues to pose a threat to Libya and western interests, and is alleged to have links to the proscribed organisations Ansar al-Sharia-Tunisia and al-Qaeda. The US designated AAS-B as a terrorist organisation in January 2014, and the UN listed it in November.

Ajnad Misr is a jihadi group based in Egypt. It is believed to be a splinter group of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which was proscribed by the House on 4 April. Ajnad Misr has stated that it seeks to protect Egyptian Muslims and avenge alleged abuse against them by Egyptian security services. It is believed to have been active since 20 November 2013, when it attacked an Egyptian checkpoint. The group announced its establishment on 23 January this year and has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks on Egyptian security forces since 2013, including the attack in April at Cairo university, which resulted in the death of a policeman and injured three others, and the bomb attack near the Foreign Ministry in Cairo in September, which killed three police officers in September.

Jaysh al-Khalifatu Islamiya is an Islamist jihadist group that is active in Syria. JKI consists predominantly of Chechen fighters and is an opposition group. It has assisted the al-Nusra front and ISIL in conducting attacks. In February 2014, Abdul Waheed Majeed, a British individual who was linked to the group, carried out a suicide attack on a prison in Aleppo, resulting in prisoner escapes.

In conclusion, we believe that it is right that we add AAS-B, Ajnad Misr and JKI to the list of proscribed organisations in schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000.

Keith Vaz: I thank the Minister for that very clear account of the three organisations. He has provided the House with a great deal of information. Will he tell the House how many associates of the three organisations are operating in the United Kingdom?

James Brokenshire: I am afraid that I cannot comment on matters that may relate to intelligence. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will understand that we always seek to present as much information as we can about groups that we are seeking to proscribe. The Home Secretary weighs various pieces of intelligence and open-source material in determining whether a group is engaged in terrorism. All I can say to him is that we have considered the tests clearly and believe that they are met in terms of whether the groups threaten our interests overseas or our national security.

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With that summation, I hope that the House will agree that the order should be approved. If it is, it will come into force on Friday 28 November.

7.21 pm

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): I thank the Minister for his statement. There is a long tradition of cross-party co-operation on issues of national security and the Opposition will, of course, support the Government motion this evening.

Under section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2000, a group can be proscribed if the Home Secretary is persuaded that it:

“(a) commits or participates in acts of terrorism,

(b) prepares for terrorism,

(c) promotes or encourages terrorism, or

(d) is otherwise concerned in terrorism.”

It is a largely judicial role in that the Home Secretary has to assess whether the evidence before her meets the test. The Opposition do not have access to that evidence, of course, but on the basis of the statement that has been made by the Minister and the Home Secretary’s letter to my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary, we will support the Government tonight.

I thank the Government for the letter to my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary. May I say how pleased we were to receive that letter before the newspapers were briefed? I am sure that the Minister will recall that the last time we discussed a proscription order, he had to apologise to the House for the contents of the order being given to The Sun newspaper before they were given to the House. Is he able to report back on the investigation that he said would happen to find out how that had occurred?

Moving back to the order before us, we accept that proscription is an important tool to use against terrorism. It enables us to tackle and disrupt terror groups in co-operating around the world. Of course, that makes proscription a serious matter. Proscription makes it illegal to belong to or support in any way a listed organisation. It is a draconian measure, so we should use it only when we know that it is appropriate. The evidence that we heard tonight suggests that the measure is appropriate because all three groups have been involved in terrorism of the highest seriousness, including some directed at our citizens and allies.

The groups that we are discussing are active from Chechnya to Libya and include groups that operate in Syria, Egypt and Libya. They demonstrate the enormous challenge that is posed by the fallout from the Arab spring across the middle east and north Africa. I will start with Syria, where we know a number of organisations that pose security concerns are operating. We support the proscription of JKI, which is an Islamist jihadist group that consists predominantly of Chechen fighters who appear to be part of a web of interrelated organisations. The most prominent of those is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, but there is also the al-Nusra front—both of those have been proscribed recently—and Jaysh al-Muhajireen wal Ansar.

To emphasise the challenge of separating out these groups, JKI was until recently known as the Majahideen of the Caucasus and the Levant or MCL. JKI has been

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linked to a number of attacks, including—as the Minister pointed out—a suicide attack in Aleppo by a British national, Abdul Waheed Majeed. In Egypt, we have the Soldiers of Egypt, another jihadi group and again a splinter group of a known terror group, in this case Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, one of the most high-profile terror groups in Egypt. Again, this is a group that was proscribed in the UK this year. This group is also linked to ISIL and shows dramatically the size of ISIL’s sphere of influence that we are trying to combat. Although Soldiers of Egypt is believed to be just a year old, it has already been linked with a series of attacks targeting Cairo airport, border operations, police stations and Cairo university.

Finally, in Libya another Sunni group, Ansar al-Sharia-Benghazi or AAS-B—also known as Partisans of Islamic Law—seeks to use violence to achieve the aim of strict implementation of sharia law in post-Gaddafi Libya. The group is led by Mohammed Ali al-Zahawi, and Ahmed Abu Khattalah is another senior leader. As the Minister explained, since the fall of Gaddafi the AAS-B has been linked with numerous terror attacks against civilian targets, and frequent assassinations and attempted assassinations of security officials and political actors in eastern Libya. Many of these have resulted in the loss of innocent lives, including the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi in September 2012, which led to the death of the US ambassador and three of his colleagues.

While we support the Government’s motion tonight, I want to raise two other issues with the Minister that arise out of yesterday’s Intelligence and Security Committee report on the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby. The first is about social media. This is an issue I have raised in debates on previous proscription orders. Yesterday, we learnt that messages had been shared on the internet by Michael Adebowale which, because of their content, were picked up and the accounts were closed by the internet companies. But no follow-up action was taken and no referrals made. That raises serious questions about social media companies and the Home Office’s counter terrorism internet referral unit, which clearly is not receiving all the referrals it should be. Will the Minister review the working of this unit in the light of yesterday’s report and see what more can be done? We know that all the groups we are discussing tonight have had a significant online presence, including on Facebook and Twitter. Those companies may operate across the world, but they generate significant revenue in the UK and we need to make it clear that we expect them to do more than they are doing at the moment.

Keith Vaz: My hon. Friend is a serial attender of these proscription order debates and she will know that we have raised on several occasions the position of Hizb ut-Tahrir. In 2009, the now Prime Minister said that he wanted that organisation banned. It has still not been banned. Does she share my concern that no progress has been made on that?

Diana Johnson: I am grateful to the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, and he is right that I am—like him—a serial attender of these debates. The issue of Hizb ut-Tahrir has been raised at every proscription order debate in which I have been involved and we have asked the Minister what progress has been made on the promise by the then Leader of the Opposition that he would ban it when he became Prime Minister. It is now

26 Nov 2014 : Column 1041

several years since the Prime Minister made that promise. It would be interesting to hear from the Minister if any progress has been made on that point.

May I take this opportunity to wish the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee a happy birthday? I understand that it is my right hon. Friend’s birthday today. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]

Finally, I would like to turn to the issue of prosecutions of members, supporters and facilitators of proscribed organisations. The Intelligence and Security Committee report published yesterday highlighted the low number of prosecutions and the difficulties the police face in obtaining prosecutions in this area. What do the Government intend to do to address this problem? In particular, does the Minister think that the way of defining terror for the purpose of proscription is sufficient to allow a terror group to be clearly identified? All three of the groups we have discussed today have had a series of associate groups; in most cases, groups that have been proscribed this year or in previous years. Those groups are often difficult to separate out. Will the Minister comment on the degree to which the way in which we define groups gives sufficient clarity to enable us to link an individual with a specific proscribed group? What more does he think we can do to ensure more prosecutions, where appropriate, in these types of cases where organisations have been proscribed?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): With the good wishes of the House for a very happy birthday, I call Mr Keith Vaz.

7.31 pm

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I can think of no better way to celebrate my birthday than to discuss the proscription of three organisations in Libya, Syria and Egypt. I am therefore delighted that the Minister has brought this order before the House this evening. I promise not to detain the House for too long.

We of course accept it, as we have always done, when Ministers come to Parliament and say from the Dispatch Box that they have important and sensitive information concerning groups that are operating in this country and abroad, and want to use powers to proscribe them. The Minister for Security and Immigration put his case very eloquently as he always does. He is the classic safe pair of hands: when he stands at the Dispatch Box and tells us that he has information he believes is sufficient to allow the Home Secretary to sign off an order proscribing an organisation, I, for one, fully support what he and the Government are doing—as do those on the Opposition Front Bench. I want to raise a number of points, which I hope he will have the opportunity to address.

The first point relates, of course, to Hizb ut-Tahrir, a group we have discussed every time a proscription order has been brought before the House. The Prime Minister made a very important statement on the group when he was Leader of the Opposition. I was in the House at the time and heard what he had to say. He was very firm that this was a terrorist organisation and that it ought to be banned. Five years later, Hizb ut-Tahrir still has not been banned. I think it has been involved in the same kinds of activities as a number of groups mentioned

26 Nov 2014 : Column 1042

by the Minister in the House today and on previous occasions. It would therefore be good when he replies to hear an update on progress on whether that organisation, which the Prime Minister has rightly turned his face against, is any closer to being proscribed.

In previous debates I have always asked whether the Governments of the countries concerned have been consulted about the three groups the Minister has mentioned today, or whether they have any particular information. I appreciate that it is difficult to do this in the case of Syria, Libya and Egypt at the present time. I am not sure what our relations with Egypt are at the moment, but certainly in respect of the other two countries it may be difficult to get a particular view. However, if the Minister has one, it would be helpful to the House to hear it. If he has consulted those Governments, it would be helpful to hear what they had to say. My concern is that the attack in Benghazi, which he mentioned a few moments ago, occurred in 2012. The American embassy was ransacked, burned to the ground and the ambassador was killed. Will he tell the House whether the organisation responsible has already been proscribed in the United States of America, and whether it has been proscribed in any other European country? Once we pass the order, it would be helpful to know whether, as a result of what we have done—

James Brokenshire: The right hon. Gentleman asked whether any other state had taken action against Ansar al-Sharia-Benghazi. It was designated as a terrorist organisation by the United States in January and by the UN this month.

Keith Vaz: That is extremely helpful. I am grateful for the Minister’s clarification. When he winds up, will he remind us of the process regarding other EU countries? Once we have taken a decision, does he tell EU colleagues of it, will it automatically be extended to other countries or does it have to go through other Parliaments? I assume that the United States and the UN have also proscribed the other two organisations, in Syria and Egypt, and that we will be urging our European colleagues to do the same.

The final point I want to make concerns de-proscription. I am not suggesting for one moment that, having agreed to proscribe these organisations, we would want to de-proscribe any of them, but I have raised several times, as has the Home Affairs Committee, our concern about the de-proscription process. I have mentioned before the concerns of my constituents regarding the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which no longer exists but is a proscribed organisation. Some of my Tamil constituents feel they are put at a disadvantage because the ban on the LTTE remains, even though it no longer exists. Has there been any progress on de-proscription, other than the only method we think exists to get an organisation de-proscribed, which is to take the Government to court? The People’s Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran did that a few years ago, and the last Labour Government were obliged to de-proscribe it.

Aside from asking for those clarifications, I fully support what the Minister has said. He is doing absolutely the right thing, and I am glad he has come here with so much information to share with the House.

26 Nov 2014 : Column 1043

7.37 pm

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): I will not detain the House for long.

I wish to add my support to the order and to the comments of my hon. Friends, but I have a few questions for the Minister. First, following on from the comments by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) about the identification and definition of organisations, the Minister will be aware of my concern—we have discussed this matter before—that such organisations frequently rebrand themselves with similar names. Will he assure us of the process for keeping that under continual review? Some of these organisations are clearly trying to subvert the process of their proscription.

My second, related point concerns the issue of identifying supporters, particularly the wearing of clothing, the distribution of materials, the use of flags and so on. Several organisations are attempting to subvert proscription through slight alterations in those materials. How robust are the measures to ensure that people are not attempting to evade the system of proscription?

Thirdly, I have a specific concern relating to the Libyan organisation. The Minister might not be aware, but constituents of mine had to flee Benghazi earlier this year to escape the activities of the organisation mentioned and allied organisations. It is my understanding that, sadly, several British citizens remain trapped in Benghazi, for a number of reasons, and I would like his assurance that he will do everything in his power, working with colleagues in the Foreign Office, to make a clear assessment of any British citizens remaining in Benghazi and to help those attempting to escape the heinous and barbarous actions of the group being proscribed and its allied organisations, which are causing so much fear and destruction in eastern Libya.

7.39 pm

James Brokenshire: I thank those who have contributed to this debate for supporting the Government’s proscription of the three organisations listed in the order. We take our responsibilities seriously when considering each group and coming to the House to seek an order in this way. I am grateful for the comments that have been made and add my best wishes to the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), whom I hope will celebrate his birthday after the debate has concluded. I am sure we all wish him well on this special occasion.

A number of questions were asked. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) asked whether we could review the definition of terrorism. As part of the review of counter-terrorism powers that we carried out at the start of this Government in 2010, we looked at that but concluded that it would be disproportionate to broaden the definition. Ultimately, pursuing a prosecution comes down to evidence and is not necessarily based on redefining terrorism. The issue has been examined. We are considering the issue of extremism more generally and what further action might be taken against organisations that might not cross the threshold for proscription. We will return with further proposals on extremism, and the Home Secretary has highlighted her intention to lead on such a strategy, drawing across government, that could include taking action against groups—and on extremism in our society more generally—that fall below the threshold of terrorism.

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The hon. Lady highlighted the work of the counter terrorism internet referral unit, which I believe has been extremely effective since commencing its work back in 2010. Since that time, some 65,000 pieces of unlawful terrorist-related content have been removed as a consequence of its actions. There is more to be done, however, and the role and responsibilities of social media companies are key here, as the Prime Minister said in his response to the Woolwich report yesterday. We absolutely encourage the public and civil society organisations to refer terrorist and extremist content at scale to social media companies and internet service providers—in some ways amplifying the work of the CTIRU. It has good relations with a number of these companies, some of which have been responsive in dealing with a number of its requests. It comes down to actions taken, knowledge possessed and responsibilities better to share information with the agencies charged with protecting our national security. We want appropriate action taken to interdict, to intercede and to ensure that terrorist attacks do not occur.

Keith Vaz: I note that the Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, who has responsibility for the creative industries, is in his place on the Front Bench. He is rightly held in high regard by those in the creative industries, including by some of the companies that have been mentioned. The issue is this: are we moving from a voluntary arrangement with internet companies and companies such as Facebook to a more compulsory approach? The voluntary arrangement has not worked, so does the Minister think we should be doing more by way of compulsion to make sure that such companies act in this way?

James Brokenshire: I do not necessarily want to expand this proscription debate into a broader debate about terrorism. However, there is legislation in place, and when we debate the security measures in the Bill published today, we will find that it deals with the resolution of internet protocol addresses issue, and with the question of the Regulatory and Investigatory Powers Act 2000. David Anderson, the independent reviewer of counter-terrorism legislation, is carrying out an ongoing examination, in the round, of a number of these matters.

There is more that the industry can do in the short term, such as looking at its terms and conditions of service and ensuring that they are properly upheld. Yes, there are legal issues that will continue to challenge, and more needs to be done in that sphere, as the Home Secretary said. Equally, there is work on which the industry itself can continue to focus.

Both the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Lady raised the issue of Hizb ut-Tahrir. It is not a proscribed organisation—as the House will know, proscription can be considered only when the Home Secretary believes an organisation to be concerned in terrorism, as defined by the Terrorism Act 2000—but it is one about which we have significant concerns, and we will continue to monitor its activities very closely.

That brings me back to the broader issue of extremism, and why it is right that we continue to challenge ourselves in respect of what more can be done about it more generally. We must continue to take on board the points that have been made about social media. The extremism taskforce, which involves Ministers throughout the

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Government, is working to ensure that we seek to confront extremism in all its forms.

As for enforceability, I have already referred to the need for evidence and investigation, as did the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty). Between 2001 and 2014, 33 people were charged with proscription-related offences. The Terrorism Act covers a broad range of offences, and different offences may well be adopted on the basis of the evidence that is presented. However, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the police and the Crown Prosecution Service continue to examine these issues carefully.

Both the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Leicester East raised the issue of name changes, which we keep under close review. When aliases are used for the same organisation, we can impose name change orders, and have done so on a number of occasions. The procedure involves a negative rather than affirmative resolution, which means that we can potentially act more quickly. If there is evidence that the name used by an organisation is a sham or a front, and the original organisation is extant and still operating, the police and the CPS will continue to be able to pursue the matter.

The change that we make tonight will have an impact on other EU member states and on international bodies. We do consult member states that have a direct interest in the relevant groups. We will inform them if parliamentary agreement is secured in this House and in the other place, and we will consider whether to pursue EU listings of the groups concerned. Obviously, those are separate processes. I take the point made by the right hon. Gentleman: we must consider the evidence properly, rather than automatically taking on board what other

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states may say. We will consult when that is appropriate, but I think it right for us to make our decisions in the House of Commons.

Our advice, and the clear advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, is that British nationals should leave Libya by whatever commercial means are available. Our ability to provide direct support is limited because of the closure of the British embassy in Tripoli, but I know that my colleagues in the Foreign Office are very conscious of the issues raised by the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth, and that they keep them under close review.

I hope that the House will be minded to support the order.

Question put and agreed to.

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),


That the draft Reports on Payments to Governments Regulations 2014, which were laid before this House on 23 October, be approved.—(Mel Stride.)

Question agreed to.



That, in respect of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, notices of Amendments, new Clauses and new Schedules to be moved in Committee may be accepted by the Clerks at the Table before the Bill has been read a second time.—(Mel Stride.)

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Telecoms Industry (Mis-selling)

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

7.49 pm

John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab): I am grateful for the opportunity to secure this debate, as this is a shameful story. Stephen Jones is a vulnerable man who was ripped off by a big telecoms company, Unicom, which refused to admit it had broken the rules or treated him badly. He has said to me, “They’re asking me to pay thousands of pounds for a service I didn’t receive. I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through this. It’s a disgrace.” He is right. I want justice for Stephen Jones, and together we want to help prevent other people from being treated the same by Unicom.

From the very earliest days of this dispute, Stephen Jones has been supported and represented by a remarkable friend, who for nearly two and a half years has battled on his behalf with Unicom and with the ombudsman. He does not want any public recognition for his role, so let us just call him Ray.

Stephen and Ray came to see me in July, and as so many constituents do they came to me, their MP, as a last resort. They had tried everyone else and they had been failed by everyone else. I may not succeed, but I will do everything I can to get these indefensible charges dropped and I will not—will not—give up this fight, and I hope that during this debate the Minister will understand why I am so angry.

Stephen Jones is 70. He is a vulnerable man who is highly susceptible to buying and hoarding things he does not need. He describes himself as trusting and gullible. I describe him as one of the kindest, nicest people I have met. For over 40 years he ran a small salon in Station street, Swinton called Stephen Hairdressing. Earlier this year, he broke his back and stopped working. He is not able to read or understand complex detail of the type found in consumer contracts, and, as his daughter says, “He gets bamboozled with information which is why he always likes to see things in black and white”, so he can then check them with his family or with Ray.

Stephen has not been a well man for many years and now his daughters are getting very worried about the effect this dispute with Unicom is having on his health. They say he is withdrawn, anxious and depressed, and it is even affecting his relationship with his grandkids, and no wonder because out of the blue, and five months after he had the contracts with Unicom cancelled, he was hit with a bill for £3,000, and now he is being threatened with debt collectors, courts and bankruptcy. The detail of his dealings with Unicom is far worse and the experience he has had with the ombudsman is little better.

I have serious criticism of Unicom’s conduct in four respects. The first is mis-selling. Mr Jones was sold two telephone and two broadband packages for his shop and his home, an extortionately expensive service that Mr Jones did not want, had not asked for and could not use. The culprit was Mark Jennings of Unicom. He cold-called on Mr Jones in his salon on 25 May 2012. Mr Jones was on his own, he was busy, he was under pressure and he asked Mark Jennings to put the detail down in writing, but Mark Jennings would not do this.

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Stephen Jones was told that Unicom services would be cheaper, yet Mr Jones already had free broadband with Orange and a reasonable telephone rate via XLN. In fact, Mr Jones found that Unicom’s charges for line rental, calls to mobiles and landlines and paper billing were all much higher than XLN’s, especially calls to local or national landlines, which worked out nearly three times more costly for Mr Jones than the call charges he was paying to XLN. Mr Jones was told that the broadband service for the shop would allow clients to book online, yet he had no computer, no website, no knowledge of the technology and no need for the service. His salon is an old-style salon in a traditional ex-mining village with largely elderly clients. The cost was £72 per month, or £2,500 for each of the broadband lines over the three-year contract period.

The second criticism relates to slamming, which Ofcom describes as

“the most extreme form of mis-selling, which occurs when a consumer’s service is switched to another provider without their consent”.

Mr Jones’s internet service was switched to Unicom by obtaining his individual migration authorisation code—known as a MAC code—without his authorisation. That broke Ofcom’s industry rules, which are set out in what it calls its “general conditions” to protect consumers in the communications sector. Crucially, it also sidestepped a further decision point for consumers, and therefore weakened the cooling-off period protection. This might prove to be part of a pattern in Unicom, because in one phone call that Ray made on Mr Jones’s behalf to talk about the way in which his MAC code had been obtained, the manager he was talking to turned to a colleague and said, “They’ve done it again.”

The third criticism relates to cancellation. Ray’s detailed notes confirm that he had a conversation with Unicom’s Sheffield office on 17 July 2012, 15 days after Stephen Jones had received the paperwork. In the call, the company accepted that a mistake had been made, knew that the MAC code had been transferred without reference to Mr Jones and described its contracts with him as “dead in the water”. Yet it was only after 14 chasing e-mails and 83 days that the contracts were indeed cancelled.

To be fair to Unicom, no termination fees were applied at that point, as a good-will gesture to Mr Jones, to allow him to return to XLN. Mr Jones paid the telephone element of his final bill in full, but felt aggrieved that that bill also included the sum of £184.80 for the entirely unused broadband service. Ray then took that matter up with the ombudsman on Stephen Jones’s behalf. Unicom offered to waive the £184.80 charge if the case was not pursued with the ombudsman. However, because Mr Jones felt that the charge was unfair, and because the case had already been lodged with the ombudsman, he did not withdraw his complaint.

I have to say that, from start to finish, it felt as though the ombudsman was almost acting as an agent of Unicom. Given that the ombudsman states that its job is

“to investigate complaints fairly by listening to both sides of the story and looking at the facts”,

Mr Jones certainly felt that it had failed him. It failed to appreciate that it was dealing with Ray rather than with Mr Jones himself, which is likely to have led it to believe that it was dealing with a smart, sophisticated customer rather than with a simple, kindly, elderly man. The ombudsman failed to grasp that Mr Jones was no longer

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a Unicom customer at the time of the investigation. It failed to show that it had examined fully certain areas that were central to the case: the dealings with Unicom’s Sheffield office; the illegal way in which Mr Jones’s MAC code had been obtained; and what the salesman, Mark Jennings, must have said to Mr Jones in the salon about the cost of the Unicom contracts. The ombudsman failed to uphold any aspect of Mr Jones’s complaint, ruling instead in Unicom’s favour and going further, saying that the company had done nothing wrong and need not make any concessions.

That brings me back to Unicom and the fourth area of serious criticism. Unicom took advantage of the ombudsman’s report to slap termination fees on all four contracts—almost £600 for each one. This was fully five months after the contracts had been cancelled. Interestingly, Amy Tytler, an investigation officer in Unicom’s compliance department, confirmed to me in a letter last month that the termination fees

“were contained within the invoice raised on the 11th February 2013, prior to the issue of the Ombudsman’s Report dated the 15th February 2013.”

So the company knew the content of the ombudsman’s report before it was published. This raises questions. The ombudsman is a body entirely funded by the industry through subscriptions and case fees. For the consumer, it comes across as too toothless to investigate impartially, and too close to the companies to deal properly with complaints against them.

For some reason, for more than a year all went quiet with Unicom, until Ray e-mailed the ombudsman service on 12 May 2014 and happened to mention that the company had not been in touch. The very next day Mr Jones received a call from Unicom. He was in hospital, having just broken his back in three places, and he took a call from the company demanding immediate payment of all four full-scale termination fees totalling more than £3,000. This was 522 days since Unicom had had any contact with Mr Jones.

In July this year Mr Jones and Ray came to see me and I have been on the case with Unicom, Ofcom, the Minister and the ombudsman since. The balance on the account is now over £3,500 and rising by £50 a month. In August Unicom offered to reduce this to £1,399.33. This is totally unacceptable. It is unacceptable after what Mr Jones has been through and after Unicom had said two years ago that it would waive all charges.

Ofcom has launched an official formal investigation into Unicom, which it tells me it expects to complete in February. The excellent BBC radio programme for consumers, “You and Yours”, has done four separate reports on Unicom in recent months. It tells me that Unicom stands out for the number and the type of complaints it gets. The problems come especially from small businesses such as cafés, garages, florists and hairdressers. The Minister told me last month that “the Department take inappropriate sales and marketing very seriously”.

The dreadful and still continuing experience of Stephen Jones at the hands of this predatory company raises serious questions. Is the present system of protection and investigation strong enough? Is the ombudsman too cosy with the companies that fund it? Is Ofcom tough enough to bring into line rogue companies that rip off and bully customers such as Mr Jones? This Unicom investigation will be an important test of Ofcom, and I trust that the Minister is following it closely.

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For now, for Mr Jones, I ask the Minister in his important position if he will personally do three things. First, will he ask the ombudsman whether it is satisfied with the way in which the service has handled Mr Jones’s complaint? Secondly, will the Minister ask Ofcom to confirm that Mr Jones’s case will be built into its current investigation of Unicom? Thirdly, and much the most important, will the Minister personally raise this debate with the chief executive officer of Unicom and ask him now to draw a line, drop the charges and apologise in full to Mr Jones?

8.4 pm

The Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy (Mr Edward Vaizey): I congratulate the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey) on securing this important debate on behalf of his constituent Stephen Jones. The right hon. Gentleman has put the case extremely forcefully and anyone listening to the events he recounted will be shocked at the way Unicom has behaved. I was astonished when I heard his version of events, which I have no reason to doubt, particularly as it was recounted in this Chamber and given his record as an upstanding constituency MP. It seems astonishing that a telecoms company would pursue a man in his 70s, who has broken his back, for this sum of money and not understand that any right-thinking person would want to make a good-will gesture. Having won its war with Mr Jones through the ombudsman, it should recognise that its corporate social responsibility should dictate that it should waive this bill.

The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that neither my Department, nor the regulator, Ofcom, has a remit to investigate and resolve complaints on behalf of an individual, although given the events as they have been recounted one is sorely tempted. It would not be right for me to overturn the ombudsman’s judgment, and I could not do so in any case, but I will comment on the three points the right hon. Gentleman made at the end of his speech. He rightly wanted not only justice for his constituent, but to raise matters of importance arising from how this case was handled and to question the robustness of consumer protection in the telecoms market. So it is important that I speak a little about the system in place.

There are rules to prevent consumers from being sold the wrong contract, or a contract where the terms are not clear or where complaints to a telecoms operator with whom one has a contract are not handled appropriately. Ofcom takes these complaints and breaches very seriously. As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, Ofcom has launched an investigation into Unicom’s sales and marketing practices. I can answer one of his questions immediately. He mentioned that Ofcom is hoping to report in February 2015 and that is indeed the case. I can confirm that it will take into account Mr Jones’s experiences, along with the other complaints it has received about Unicom’s sales and marketing practices. Let us be clear: it is not in Ofcom’s remit to take up an individual complaint, but it can take into account the volume of complaints and the nature of complaints. That process will obviously take into account the experience that Mr Jones has gone through.

On the ombudsman and how it works, all communication providers must be members of an alternative dispute resolution scheme approved by Ofcom and they must also make it clear that customers have recourse to such

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a scheme if they wish. Such a service—the ombudsman service, in this case—is meant to provide an independent, impartial and cost-effective way to resolve disputes outside the courts. The ombudsman is meant to be an expert in dispute resolution. I suspect this will not be taken up in this case, but I have to say that going to an ombudsman does not preclude a customer from going on to take legal action. The remit of the ombudsman is to investigate complaints fairly and decide what action, if any, should be taken when a consumer and a communications company cannot agree.

Providers must also make it straightforward for their customers to make an escalated complaint within that provider, before they go to an ombudsman. Ofcom also looks at that. It looks at compliance with complaints handling rules and it carries out enforcement where it thinks that a telecoms company has not properly set up its own internal complaints procedure.

In most cases, the ombudsman proves to be a powerful and effective piece of consumer protection. It does work, and figures show that it often works to the consumer’s benefit. It allows customers to take unresolved complaints to an independent body and to secure an impartial judgment. The provider has to accept the decision, but the customer does not have to. I understand that, in this case, the constituent did not accept the ombudsman’s final decision. I said that Mr Jones is free to take any other action he considers appropriate although, given the context outlined by the right hon. Gentleman, Mr Jones may not choose to take that route.

There is also a mechanism by which a customer who is dissatisfied with the way in which a case has been conducted by the ombudsman can have the process by which the ombudsman reached its findings independently examined. Under general condition 24, which is part of the general conditions for telecommunications companies, where a customer is transferring a fixed-line telecommunications service between communication providers, the gaining communications provider—in this case Unicom—must not engage in dishonest, misleading or deceptive conduct; engage in aggressive conduct; contact the customer in an inappropriate manner; or engage in slamming. Ofcom is investigating whether Unicom has breached those obligations in many cases.

I would be happy to go back to the ombudsman, but as the right hon. Gentleman is aware from the correspondence that we have had, the ombudsman maintains that, under data protection rules, it cannot share his constituent’s information with me. I suggest that his constituent gives either him or Ray the authorisation to share that information, and that they then come to a meeting with me, and hopefully the ombudsman, to see whether we can get some clarity as to how the ombudsman conducted this particular case.

The same general condition also sets rules for the information to be communicated at the point of sale. That includes information on the identity of the legal entity with which the customer is contracting; their contact details; details of the service provision; the key charges, including minimum contract charges and any early termination charges; payment terms; the existence of any termination right, and so on. As I have said, Ofcom runs a monitoring and enforcement programme to monitor industry compliance with those rules, and it will be looking to Unicom to provide that.

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Ofcom also looks at contracts under general condition 9, and compliance with that condition is another aspect of the investigation that Ofcom is undertaking. It is important for companies to have contracts, as they offer certainty, but customers must be completely clear from the start of the contract what they are signing up to.

The general condition also provides consumer protection to ensure that conditions or procedures for contract termination do not act as disincentives for consumers against changing their communications provider. Communications providers are also prohibited under general condition 9.4 from including terms in any contract preventing the consumer from terminating the contract before the end of the agreed contractual period without compensating the communications provider, unless the compensation relates to no more than the initial commitment period.

In the UK, we are lucky that competition delivers a wide choice of competitive tariffs in communications markets. Ofcom has worked to ensure that consumers are able to take advantage of competition and choice. That does include clear and accurate information, so that consumers can compare services appropriately. Ofcom continues to monitor the market, including compliance with regulatory obligations, price trends and complaints handling, and it remains focused on ensuring that consumers are able to exercise choice to access the best deals for them. Consequently, in March 2014, Ofcom opened a formal investigation into Unicom following complaints from consumers, as well as an assessment of evidence submitted by Unicom during Ofcom’s inquiry phase to decide whether to open the investigation. Ofcom is investigating whether Unicom has complied with its obligations under general condition 24, which relates to how telecoms companies should engage in sales and marketing involving landline services. As has been mentioned, Ofcom rules explicitly prohibit companies from engaging in the mis-selling and slamming of landline services.

As the right hon. Gentleman said, Ofcom is seeking to conclude its investigation in February 2015, and we must await the outcome. I would be happy to discuss the handling of the case with the ombudsman, but I need authorisation if I am to access Mr Jones’s data, so he must nominate someone to share that.

John Healey: I am grateful to the Minister for the way in which he has responded to the debate and for his offer, which I will discuss with Mr Jones and Ray, to meet them, me and the ombudsman. Will he take up my final request that he draws the attention of the Unicom chief executive to the debate and encourages him, as I do, to consider dropping the charges in their entirety?

Mr Vaizey: I was going to sum up by answering the right hon. Gentleman’s three questions—

John Healey: I beg your pardon.

Mr Vaizey: The right hon. Gentleman has no need to do so.

I clarified earlier that Ofcom will include Mr Jones’s case in its deliberations. However, let me ponder whether I take the step of phoning the chief executive. I am sure that he has been alerted to the debate, so he will have heard my remarks and observed how forcefully the

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right hon. Gentleman put his case on behalf of his constituent. Any right-thinking company, given the bad publicity that must have arisen from the case, would wish to do the right thing. While I will ponder the right hon. Gentleman’s request, I hope he will forgive me if I do not give a final answer now, as that point was raised only this evening, although I understand where it comes from.

I once again thank the right hon. Gentleman for securing the debate and congratulate him, even though he is my elder and better, on making such a forceful case. He has been a Member for 18 years, and the way in

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which he set out his argument, given the volume of cases with which he must have dealt over almost two decades, shows that this will be one of those that has made him the most angry. If that does not get across the message loudly and clearly that Mr Jones appears to have been incredibly unfairly treated, I do not know what will.

Question put and agreed to.

8.18 pm

House adjourned.