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House of Commons

Thursday 27 November 2014

The House met at half-past Nine o’clock


[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

culture, media and sport

The Secretary of State was asked—

Secondary Ticketing

1. Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab): What representations he has received from secondary ticketing platforms and those working on their behalf on amendments on secondary ticketing made to the Consumer Rights Bill in the House of Lords. [906268]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Sajid Javid): I have not had any specific discussions with secondary ticketing platforms on the amendments made to the Consumer Rights Bill in the other place.

Mrs Hodgson: May I offer my condolences on the very sad loss this morning of the cricketer Phil Hughes? The thoughts of the whole House will be with him and his family this morning.

The Secretary of State was very keen on our ideas to improve transparency in the secondary ticketing market when I and colleagues met him in July to discuss the report of the all-party group on ticket abuse. He must therefore be delighted, as I am, that their lordships have added a new clause to the Consumer Rights Bill to deliver exactly that, although, sadly, against the Government Whip. Will he lobby his counterpart at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to leave that new clause in the Bill, so that we can finally put fans first?

Sajid Javid: I was pleased to meet the hon. Lady to discuss the issue, but she knows, because we discussed it then, that the previous Labour Government, this Government and the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport have looked at the issue and all have concluded that new legislation is not necessary. Event organisers can seek their own solutions. However, I am of course looking carefully at the new clause that was accepted in the other place and will respond to it fully in due course.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): The new clause is similar to a new clause that was defeated in this House when the Bill was going through the Commons. Should not the elected Chamber get its way, rather than the

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unelected Chamber? Is not this all about allowing event organisers to void or cancel tickets and place people on blacklists, denying them any guaranteed refund, which has nothing to do with transparency or protecting the interests of consumers?

Sajid Javid: I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks. He and others will know that I have said that I believe that the calls for legislation have been misguided. Criminalising people and preventing them from selling tickets that they have purchased is a heavy-handed approach and is inconsistent with wider consumer rights to buy and sell items that they freely own.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): May I associate myself with the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) regarding Phil Hughes and also mention Sean Abbott, the bowler involved in that tragic accident, who must be feeling terrible?

The Secretary of State’s response is just not good enough. The Government have failed to act to protect rugby world cup fans and now the same is happening to cricket fans. Ashes tickets for the Lord’s test are on sale on the secondary ticketing market for £1,500, yet the ballot and the prices will not be available until next month. What is more worrying is that the Football Association, the England and Wales Cricket Board, the Rugby Football Union and the Lawn Tennis Association all wrote to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to warn him that unless the Government act they will be forced to put their prices up to secondary ticketing levels, so at least the money that is being made can be invested back into sport. That may be music to the Government’s free market ears but it is a disaster for sports fans on moderate and low incomes. When will the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport get a grip and act? He must do it quickly.

Sajid Javid: The hon. Gentleman knows all too well that when his party was in office it failed to act on the issue. He will also know that the previous Government looked at the issue in detail, as did the Select Committee at that time, and all concluded that it is for event organisers to take action. With newer technology, and technology improving all the time, there are probably more ways to do so.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that existing secondary market companies already provide safe and secure means for ticket holders to resell unwanted tickets and that they provide a level of consumer protection that will not be available if people are forced to go on to the black market on the streets?

Sajid Javid: I agree. People have rightly raised concerns about the sale of fraudulent or non-existent tickets and about people who provide misleading information. That is already a criminal act.

First World War Commemoration

2. Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con): What progress he has made on ensuring that the first world war is appropriately commemorated. [906269]

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The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Sajid Javid): The events my Department hosted on 4 August set a fitting tone and this month my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced a memorable and dignified programme of events to commemorate the Gallipoli campaign. We are also offering further programmes that allow local communities to mark the centenary in their own way.

Andrew Rosindell: In this year of the 100th anniversary of the first world war, it is of course right that the ambassador of Ireland was asked to lay a wreath for the first time ever at the cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday. As the Secretary of State is responsible for the arrangements for the national service in Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday, will he please explain why it is still not possible for representatives of Her Majesty’s territories and dependencies to lay their own wreaths in their own right, and will he undertake to put this right for next year?

Sajid Javid: I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend that it was absolutely right to invite the Government of Ireland to lay a wreath at the national remembrance day service. It was an opportunity to mark our nations’ shared sacrifice. My hon. Friend will also be aware that Her Majesty the Queen lays a wreath on behalf of our country and the Crown dependencies and the Foreign Secretary does so on behalf of British overseas territories. I have to tell my hon. Friend that at this point we have no plans to change these arrangements.

Sir Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): Christmas eve is the 200th anniversary of the ending of the North American war between the United States and the United Kingdom. Does the Secretary of State agree that that is also worthy of a fitting tribute, perhaps of celebration and not just commemoration?

Sajid Javid: My hon. Friend raises an important issue. It is not something I have looked at carefully, but now he has mentioned it, I will take a look.

Maria Miller (Basingstoke) (Con): Our perceptions of the first world war have been shaped by historians but also by the artists of the time. The team at 14-18 NOW, in particular Jenny Waldman and Vikki Heywood, have helped artists today shape our commemorations of this important event. Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London is part of the 14-18 NOW work and I am sure the Secretary of State will want to join me in putting on record the thanks of the entire House to the incredible team of volunteers who have made this happen.

Sajid Javid: I wholeheartedly join my right hon. Friend in commending them for the work they have done. The poppies at the Tower captured the imagination of the whole nation. I had the privilege of planting a poppy myself, and I was pleased that the Government could act with 14-18 NOW to make sure part of that poppy display will now tour the country over the next four years.

Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen) (Con): A lot of the questions today have been about national acts of remembrance, but I hope Members will take the opportunity to remember the 100th anniversary in their own constituencies. Will the Secretary of State join me

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in congratulating Brent Stevenson, a monumental mason from Darwen, who, free of charge, is providing a new world war one memorial in the centre of Darwen?

Sajid Javid: Yes, I will. I have heard of the work Brent Stevenson is doing and I wholeheartedly commend that. My Department and the Department for Communities and Local Government are helping to provide funding and other ways of support to local communities to commemorate the war in their own way.

Mr Speaker: Michael Connarty. Not here.


4. Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): What recent estimate he has made of the contribution of tourism to the economy. [906271]

10. Mark Menzies (Fylde) (Con): What recent estimate he has made of the contribution of tourism to the economy. [906278]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mrs Helen Grant): The tourism industry was worth an estimated £127 billion gross value added to the UK economy in 2013. Some £58 billion of this is direct contribution. Tourism supports 3.1 million jobs in the UK.

Andrew Bingham: Christmas lights are being turned on across the whole of my High Peak constituency at the moment, with the village of Castleton proving a particular draw to tourists from all around. Does my hon. Friend agree that tourism in this country is a year-round phenomenon, not just for the summer, and consequently provides a huge boost to my constituency and the whole country? Furthermore, will she join me in paying tribute to all the volunteers across High Peak and the country who spend this time of year putting up Christmas trees to create the festive atmosphere that so many people enjoy?

Mrs Grant: I agree with my hon. Friend: tourism is certainly a year-round industry across the UK. I am also absolutely delighted to pay tribute to all the volunteers and helpers across his beautiful constituency who work so hard to ensure everybody enjoys the festive season.

Mark Menzies: Hoteliers on the Fylde coast have told me they have had one of the best tourist seasons in well over a decade. What steps is the Minister taking to ensure the great British coastal resorts such as those in Fylde have a bumper 2015?

Mrs Grant: Coastal towns are an important part of our tourism economy, and I am pleased to say that the Government have recently announced £10 million of funding for tourism in the north of England. I hope that the resort of Fylde will get involved with the fund, which will bring even more tourists to our fantastic northern coastal towns.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): We do not have any coastline in Huddersfield, but we do have more—[Interruption.] Hang on, guys! We have more listed buildings than most towns, including York

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and Cambridge. There are 1,500 in the centre of Huddersfield and another 1,500 in greater Huddersfield. We know the value of tourism, and we know that it depends on the cultural life of our communities. However, that cultural life is being swept away by Government cuts, with a cruel Treasury cutting, cutting, cutting. Many of our great exhibitions and festivals are being cut to the bone. What is the Minister going to do about that?

Mrs Grant: Our tourism strategy has led to record visitor numbers and record spends and brought £127 billion to the UK economy, so I am not going to take any finger wagging from the hon. Gentleman.

Robert Jenrick (Newark) (Con): The great opportunity in the tourism market in the years ahead will be in attracting Chinese tourists. Britain has been improving in its ability to do that, and I know that the Minister and the Secretary of State have taken a personal interest in that area, particularly in relation to visas. We know that Chinese tourists are surprisingly adventurous and want to get out of London and into the regions, and we are seeing more of that in the midlands and Scotland. What more can the Government do to market the regions—particularly the east midlands—to get those wealthy Chinese tourists out of London and the south-east?

Mrs Grant: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. VisitEngland and VisitBritain promote the nations and the regions, and they do a very good job. VB does it through its GREAT and tactical campaigns, and VE does it through its very successful holidays at home campaigns. The local growth fund, the regional growth fund, the coastal community fund and the recently established £10 million fund for the north are all helpful in growing local tourism outside London.


5. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): What steps he is taking to provide broadband of up to 2 megabits in areas currently not served. [R] [906272]

The Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy (Mr Edward Vaizey): I am pleased to be able to tell my hon. Friend that Ofcom reports that 97% of premises in the UK already have access to broadband speeds of at least 2 megabits. The Government are committed to ensuring that the whole country will be able to receive 2 megabits as soon as possible.

Michael Fabricant: Well, I would not want to accuse my hon. Friend—and he is a friend—of being smug, but what about the other 3%? May I just say how utterly frustrating it is to hear about superfast broadband when parts of my constituency such as Tatenhill, and other parts of the United Kingdom, have no broadband at all?

Mr Vaizey: I am very far from being smug. Having read my hon. Friend’s interview in which he waxed lyrical about his “bromance” with the Chief Whip, imagine how I felt after our years of friendship. Nevertheless, I remain resolute in supporting him, and I am pleased to be able to tell him that Staffordshire as a whole has received £9 million to connect to superfast broadband

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and that his own constituency will see 8,000 homes committed under our programme. That is real “bromance”, Mr Speaker.

Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): Even in the tech hub at the heart of my constituency we have huge challenges with broadband, as the Minister knows. One of the main barriers to having high speeds everywhere is the fact that competitors are unable to put their equipment on buildings without the permission of the landowner. Is it not time for a change in the planning laws? What conversations is he having with his counterparts in the Department for Communities and Local Government to ensure that that is delivered?

Mr Vaizey: I am pleased to tell the hon. Lady that I have sat down with representatives of the City of London to talk about broadband in central London. I was also pleased to hear the City of London’s plans to roll out its own broadband network, because competition is very important. She raises an important point, and we will continue to keep that matter under review.

Caroline Nokes (Romsey and Southampton North) (Con): The Abbotsford estate on the edge of Romsey is a brand-new, 800-home development that still suffers from broadband speeds of less than 2 megabits. Does the Minister agree that it will be an enormously long wait until 2017 for those residents to get decent speeds?

Mr Vaizey: There are two answers to that question. The first is that we have sat down with developers and network providers to work on a code of conduct to ensure that new developments get broadband. Secondly, it is worth reminding hon. Members, including my hon. Friend, that this is a difficult engineering project. We cannot deliver broadband with the wave of a wand, but we are ahead of schedule in almost all areas.

9. [906277] Mr William Bain (Glasgow North East) (Lab): At a time when the Government are making more and more services digital by default, does the Minister believe it is acceptable for 1.2 million homes across the UK, including 113,000 in Scotland, still to have no access to broadband whatsoever? What are the Government doing putting back their timetable for superfast broadband? Should we not have universal coverage now?

Mr Vaizey: All homes do have access to broadband; 97% have access to broadband at speeds of 2 megabits; superfast broadband availability has doubled; the average speed of broadband has trebled; one in four people in this country have superfast broadband; and we have the lowest prices of the European Union big five and the United States.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton) (Con): I hate to break up the “bromance” but 28% of farms and rural businesses across Thirsk, Malton and Filey will not have any fast-speed broadband, not even 2 megabits, by 2016, yet the Government are making us all go digital by default. What measures will the Minister take to allow farms and rural businesses to access rural broadband before digital by default goes live?

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Mr Vaizey: As I said, we are well ahead of schedule with our roll-out of superfast broadband. On Yorkshire, North Yorkshire was one of the first out of the traps, and more than 60,000 homes have been connected through that programme. We also have a £10 million pilot scheme to connect the most remote parts of the country, and that is going very well.

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): Many people were pleased to see the Government’s announcement of 1,000 free wi-fi hot spots across the country, but the map on the Department’s website shows that Glasgow, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Bristol, with a combined population of 4 million, have no provision at all. What criteria did the Minister use when choosing locations? How could he possibly miss those great cities?

Mr Vaizey: Well, we worked with the cities, so they came up with up their own proposals. I believe that Newcastle has a cloud computing centre, using its super-connected cities programme, and Bristol, too, has a fast-speed internet hub. So it is up to the cities how they choose to use the money. The criteria have come from the cities and they are the ones that have chosen which public buildings they want to put wi-fi in.

Mobile Networks and Broadband (Northumberland)

6. Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con): What progress he has made on ensuring that mobile network operators and broadband providers provide adequate coverage in rural areas of Northumberland. [906273]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Sajid Javid): As we have heard, mobile communication is critical to the rural economy. We are therefore working with Ofcom to identify gaps in mobile coverage, and I have consulted on potential measures to tackle patchy coverage. In addition, the Government have allocated £9.5 million to increase superfast broadband coverage in Northumberland to almost 90% by 2016.

Guy Opperman: I accept that we are making progress in Northumberland, but my constituents in many parts, such as Kielder, Dalton, Stamfordham, Stocksfield and Byrness, suffer from very poor mobile and broadband reception, or zero coverage. May I ask the Minister to visit soon, to push BT and the other providers and, frankly, kick ‘em up the arse, and generally to push ahead so that we have a campaign whereby there are no no-go areas and no go-slow areas?

Mr Speaker: I think “posterior” would be a more parliamentary word.

Sajid Javid: I share my hon. Friend’s frustration, but perhaps not in the same way! My Bromsgrove constituency has areas with similar coverage problems, so I can absolutely see the importance of the issue he is raising and how big the problem is for towns such as Kielder. I look forward to visiting Northumberland soon and I will apply whatever pressure I can to BT and others to end this scourge of not spots and poor, slow broadband speeds.

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): Innovative small business in my constituency, such as Shepherds Walks in Rothbury, have doubled their business as a

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result of the availability of superfast broadband under this valuable scheme. The remaining areas have businesses that could do the same if they were given a chance, so can he report any progress on alternative technical solutions for the most difficult-to-reach areas?

Sajid Javid: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right about the impact that superfast broadband can have on businesses, helping them to grow. As he will know, there is a phase 3 to our broadband plan, which is the so-called “last 5%”, and we are working on that simultaneously—we are not waiting for phases 1 and 2. We are working on that right now, and we recently had a £10 million programme to test the feasibility of various projects. We are looking into the results and seeing what can be done.

Music Videos

7. Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): What plans he has to bring forward legislative proposals to bring ratings for music videos online into line with British Board of Film Classification standards. [906275]

The Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy (Mr Edward Vaizey): I welcome the commitment that music labels and digital service providers have made to pilot the British Board of Film Classification age ratings for online music videos where they are unsuitable for younger children. Since it was launched on 1 October, 49 music videos have been classified by the BBFC under the pilot, and the rating symbols should start appearing on YouTube and Vevo towards the end of the year.

Diana Johnson: Why does the voluntary pilot scheme apply only to UK musicians?

Mr Vaizey: We are able to work with UK record labels on this, but it is a voluntary scheme and we are engaging with music labels and video platforms. We can always look to extend it when appropriate.

Mobile Phone Coverage (Rural Areas)

8. John Glen (Salisbury) (Con): What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of mobile phone coverage in rural areas. [906276]

The Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy (Mr Edward Vaizey): Mobile coverage at 2G reaches 99% of premises, but my hon. Friend is well aware of the issues that we have with not spots and partial not spots, which is why we have in place the mobile infrastructure programme and why we are currently consulting on roaming.

John Glen: I thank the Minister for that answer. Although I welcome the recent consultation on partial not spots, many areas in rural Wiltshire, such as Bishopstone, remain without any coverage at all. Vodafone’s decision to introduce open sure signal technology in Broad Chalke, as it has recently done in Winterslow, will be revolutionary. What more can be done to incentivise companies such as Vodafone systematically to roll out those solutions before the outcome of the consultation?

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Mr Vaizey: When Vodafone announced that scheme, I ensured that all the villages in my constituency were aware of it and encouraged them to apply for it. Bishopstone will be covered under our mobile infrastructure programme. I certainly encourage mobile operators to roll out such solutions. I do not understand why they do not offer villages an off-the-shelf service, as many parish councils would look seriously at funding such a scheme.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): I commend my hon. Friend and the Secretary of State for their efforts to address this problem of partial not spots and not spots. But does my hon. Friend agree that the best solution would be to obtain an agreement with the industry on how to move forward and that it may also require the Government to make some changes to the electronic communications code and possibly the planning rules?

Mr Vaizey: When I said that we are consulting on national roaming, I should have made it clear that we are consulting on a range of options, and a voluntary agreement with the operator remains our preferred solution. Looking at the electronic communications code and the planning laws is also part of the options that we are considering.

Mr Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute) (LD): It is good that the Government are giving Arqiva £150 million to put up mobile phone masts in not spots, but they are moving extremely slowly, and they cannot tell anybody what their plans are for Argyll and Bute. Will the Minister urge them to get a move on and to be more transparent with their plans?

Mr Vaizey: We are trying to be as transparent as possible. If my hon. Friend wishes to give me his specific concerns, I will ensure that he gets a full response. This is a technically challenging programme, precisely because these masts are going up in areas that are difficult to reach and where there has previously been no coverage.


11. Mr Robin Walker (Worcester) (Con): What recent funding his Department has provided for the fabric of cathedrals in England. [906279]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Sajid Javid): In this year’s Budget, the Chancellor announced a £20 million fund to allow cathedrals to undertake urgent repair work. As my hon. Friend knows, that included £330,000 for the beautiful Worcester cathedral. In addition, cathedrals have access to the listed places of worship grant scheme, which has a budget of up to £42 million per annum.

Mr Walker: I am grateful for that answer. May I add my condolences on the tragic death of Phil Hughes, who is fondly remembered in Worcestershire, where he used to play?

I was pleased recently to welcome the Secretary of State to Worcester cathedral for a magnificent performance of Shakespeare. Will he join me in celebrating the fact that, in the year that Bishop John of Worcester has taken the lead for the Church of England on cathedrals

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and church buildings, the east window at Worcester cathedral will be being restored with that grant of £330,000?

Sajid Javid: May I first say to my hon. Friend that I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the cathedral with him and seeing “Julius Caesar”. It is an excellent demonstration of how our cathedrals can be open to so many activities in our local communities. In fact, I have seen similar events recently at Rochester and Portsmouth cathedrals. With regard to Bishop John, I was actually just discussing that very matter with His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday, and I join my hon. Friend in warmly congratulating the bishop on his position.

Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): I warmly thank the Secretary of State for the £20 million grant for cathedrals, which has enabled some 41 cathedrals to carry out various works and repairs from fixing leaking roofs, repairing stained-glass windows and spires and carrying out many other important works to enable them to commemorate the centenary celebrations. Does my right hon. Friend agree that cathedrals are powerful symbols of our shared history and are also the envy of the world? They bring in many tourists, so this investment by the state in our cathedrals is great value for taxpayers.

Sajid Javid: Yes, I agree fully with my right hon. Friend. He will know that of the £20 million we allocated in that grant, £13 million has been used so there is still about £7 million left to go. I urge other cathedrals to take advantage of that and to work to help their local communities.

International Sporting Events

12. Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): What assistance his Department has provided to sports bodies to encourage world-class sporting events to be held in the UK. [906280]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mrs Helen Grant): Through UK Sport, we have invested £27 million to bring more than 70 major sporting events to the UK. The Government also made available an extra £10 million to support last year’s excellent Tour de France Grand Départ.

Damian Collins: Does the Minister agree that the recent chaos at FIFA demonstrates that it is not fit to govern world football? Will she confirm that the Government would not support a future bid from England to host the World cup while the current leadership team at FIFA remains in place?

Mrs Grant: In his letter to Sepp Blatter, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that FIFA could restore credibility by publishing Michael Garcia’s report and that failure to do so would

“further damage…its own credibility”


“the reputation of football”.

Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con): The Minister will be aware that in Harrogate and Knaresborough we staged part of the hugely successful

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Grand Départ of the Tour de France this year. It had a huge impact on our tourism economy and will have a broader impact on the economy over the years ahead. Will the Minister assure the House that she will do everything she can to make it as easy as possible for major sporting events to be held here? By easy, I mean by providing support through measures such as ticketing assistance and an efficient visa system.

Mrs Grant: I will do absolutely everything I possibly can to ensure that we continue to have major sporting events in this country. Such events are great for the economy, great for tourism and inspire people to get involved in sport.

Ofcom: Appeals Process

13. John Robertson (Glasgow North West) (Lab): When he plans to announce his decision on whether to change Ofcom’s appeals process. [906281]

The Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy (Mr Edward Vaizey): No decision has been made on the appeals process. However, we will make an announcement through the normal channels once we have reached a decision.

John Robertson: I thank the Minister for that extensive answer. May I urge him to consider Ofcom and the deal for mobile companies? For example, only 9% of people will switch companies. We have had the same kind of problems in the energy market and people are now working hand over fist trying to help people switch mobile phone providers. It takes seconds for a company to let somebody switch their phone, so it is time that those companies were brought to book and we need to give teeth to the regulator.

Mr Vaizey: I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. I tried to keep my answer as short as his rather radical haircut, which looks very impressive this morning. We are sympathetic to the concerns that the current framework for appeals against Ofcom’s decisions are costly and lengthy, but we need to strike the right balance between providing a proper right of challenge and allowing the regulator to make timely and effective decisions.

Rugby World Cup Tickets

14. Julie Elliott (Sunderland Central) (Lab): What recent discussions he has had with the organisers of the 2015 rugby world cup on ticket touting. [906282]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mrs Helen Grant): I meet often with the organisers of the rugby world cup and we continue to discuss ways to ensure that all fans can purchase tickets in a safe and secure way.

Julie Elliott: As a rugby fan, it appals me to see tickets for the rugby world cup being listed online for thousands of pounds. Will the Government now accept that they were wrong not to protect genuine fans from touts and support the amendment that their lordships have recently passed?

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Mrs Grant: As has already been clearly stated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the Government believe that organisers, promoters and ticket agents should do everything they can to find solutions to deal with the secondary market. Successive Governments and Select Committees have ruled, found and concluded that regulation should be a very last resort.

Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con): Does the Minister agree that the 2015 world cup will be a fantastic celebration of the game of rugby? There will be plenty of tickets available at large stadia venues around the country, including Brighton, Milton Keynes, Newcastle and Leicester. That means that anyone wishing to watch a game during the rugby world cup will be able to do so.

Mrs Grant: I thank my hon. Friend for his wonderfully positive remarks. We are of course aware of concerns, but we remain confident that this will be a great event and that tickets will get into the hands of genuine supporters and fans.

Children's Access to Creative Arts

15. Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of children’s access to the creative arts; and if he will make a statement. [906283]

The Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy (Mr Edward Vaizey): Between 2012 and 2015, we are going to invest £15 million in cultural education and we are investing hundreds of millions of pounds in music education.

Fiona Mactaggart: Yet his own Department’s survey shows that a third of secondary boys and a fifth of secondary girls do not access arts activities outside schools. In a recent speech the Secretary of State for Education said that arts were not the basis for a successful career, yet the creative industries provide 6% of our national wealth. What is the Minister doing to increase children’s access to arts beyond school?

Mr Vaizey: The Secretary of State for Education was not saying that. She was simply making the point that a lot of people said that doing a maths or science degree narrowed children’s career opportunities. She was correcting that impression; it was not an either/or. Both channels are good ways to get wonderful career opportunities after leaving school.

We are working with Into Film, providing film education for hundreds of thousands of children. We are working with English Heritage on the new heritage schools initiative, which has massively increased engagement with heritage already. We are funding the Sorrell Saturday clubs, and we are working with the Arts Council on arts awards and the pioneering Artsbox.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): The situation that the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) describes is not the situation in Kettering, where there are loads of dance, ballet, theatre and other groups, with many dedicated and committed volunteers. Would my hon. Friend the Minister like to take this opportunity to

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praise all those volunteers and all the mums and dads who put the extra effort in outside school to ensure that their children engage in worthwhile activities?

Mr Vaizey: I certainly would. It is important to recognise the massive contribution that volunteers make. I take this opportunity, as I always do, to praise the hon. Gentleman himself. He is a towering and powerful local representative for his wonderful constituency.

Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab): My hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) is right. The Education Secretary said that choosing arts subjects held back pupils for the rest of their lives. Our arts and creative sector is a key part of what makes this country great, and an economic powerhouse for us, which we saw at this week’s launch of the Creative Industries Federation. Ensuring that pupils get a good creative education is important for the development of each and every one of them, but also necessary to build the audience and the work force for those industries in the future.

Should the Culture Secretary not be making sure that this Education Secretary, unlike the previous one, supports creativity in schools rather than devaluing it, which is exactly what she is doing?

Mr Vaizey: The previous Education Secretary was the one who ring-fenced music education and funded cultural education programmes. This Education Secretary has increased the budget for music education by £18 million. By praising the opportunities that are provided by science and maths education, one does not denigrate cultural education. This Education Secretary takes cultural education extremely seriously, and the Department for Education is a joy to work with in supporting our programmes.

Mr Speaker: We move on to Topical Questions. Colleagues, led by the Secretary of State, might wish shortly to join me in congratulating Switzerland on winning the Davis cup last weekend for the first time—a great team effort, notable among other things for the inimitable brilliance of Mr Roger Federer.

Topical Questions

T1. [906299] Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen) (Con): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Sajid Javid): May I begin by saying how saddened I was to learn this morning that the young Australian cricketer Phil Hughes has died. I am sure that I speak on behalf of the whole House in saying that our thoughts are with his team mates, his friends and his family.

I take this opportunity to congratulate Lewis Hamilton on his second Formula 1 world title, to applaud the record crowd that supported England’s women at Wembley this Sunday and to wish a happy 20th birthday to the national lottery.

Jake Berry: Today is Lancashire day, when we celebrate all that is great about the red rose county. Will my right hon. Friend join me in celebrating Lancashire, and encourage people to come and visit our tourist attractions

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such as East Lancashire railway, Healey Dell and Turton Tower, as well as the other tourism jewels in the red rose county?

Sajid Javid: I will wholeheartedly join my hon. Friend, not least because I was born in Lancashire and it is my home county, so I know more than most, perhaps, about everything that Lancashire has to offer by way of attractions, sites and heritage. Lancashire day is a fantastic day to showcase that.

T2. [906300] Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): The Secretary of State knows a lot about social investment tax relief. I worked happily with him on many aspects of crowdfunding, and he knows that crowdfunding provides an amazing opportunity for people to get together to start cultural and artistic events and raise the money for that. Will he have a quiet word with his old boss, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, about increasing the cap on social investment tax relief before the autumn statement?

Sajid Javid: The hon. Gentleman will have to wait to see what is in the autumn statement, but he raises an important point. I remember the discussions we had about crowdfunding, and he is right about the importance that it has for businesses and for cultural activities. I have discussed that on many occasions with colleagues.

T4. [906303] Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con): My right hon. Friend will be aware that the town of Rugby is the birthplace of the great game in which England’s men were world cup winners in 2003 and they were awarded the freedom of the borough of Rugby. Will he join me in congratulating England’s women rugby players on winning their world cup earlier this year and on their award of the freedom of the borough of Rugby, which will be made at a ceremony in Rugby next month?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mrs Helen Grant): It is fantastic that the women’s team is visiting Rugby on 10 December. I am very pleased that they are being rightly recognised in the same way as the men were when they won the world cup in 2003. The support that our women’s team has been receiving is brilliant.

T3. [906301] Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab): I thank the Sports Minister for her diligent work in securing the funding for our GB basketball teams from Sport England, which means that our women’s team can go off to take part in the EuroBasket tournament next year. Does the hon. Lady agree that supporting elite team sports should be the role of UK Sport? Does she therefore share my hope that the consultation currently under way on the future of UK Sport will result on it focusing on delivering social value and support for team sports, as well as medals?

Mrs Grant: Sport England and UK Sport together do a very good job in supporting not only elite sport, but grass-roots sport.

T5. [906305] Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con): As a cricketer, I echo the sympathies for the wonderful Phil Hughes, whose loss is tragic.

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I welcome the announcement that Ponteland middle school will have a new artificial grass football pitch funded by the Premier League, the Football Association and Sport England. May I urge the DCMS to carry out an audit of all my constituency so that other pitches may be installed very soon?

Mrs Grant: I am delighted that Ponteland community middle school has been successful in its application. Artificial pitches are amazing and increase participation, community involvement and talent development, which is how we will grow the game. I am happy to look, with my hon. Friend, at what scope there might be for further projects.

T6. [906306] Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op): Given reports that alcohol advertising in Formula 1 might go the same way as tobacco advertising, and given that this is an area where there has been some concern in the past, can the Minister give an assurance that any discussions that are entered into with Formula 1 teams will be open and accountable, and will seek to preserve our great British motorsport industry as well?

Mrs Grant: The great British motorsport industry is an incredible industry and we must look after it. I am happy to have a chat with the hon. Gentleman about the issues that he raises.

Mr John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): Does the Secretary of State agree with the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen) who said last week that £2.80 or so a week for the BBC

“is tremendous value, but only if you watch it.”

Given that over 96% of people access the BBC every week, does that not show what good value the licence fee is?

Sajid Javid: Like my hon. Friend, I am very proud of the BBC. It is well respected not just at home, but abroad, and rightly so. However, we have to recognise that there have been serious changes in technology over the past decade, and when the charter review takes place, all issues should be looked at, including those raised by colleagues.

T7. [906307] Mr Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow) (Lab): On the 20th anniversary of the national lottery, it is a fact that twice as many households in the north-east play the lottery, compared with London, but the region receives only half the grants that London gets. Does the Minister think that is fair?

Mrs Grant: I do not think that is correct. It seems that over the past 10 years 80% of lottery grants were for outside London.

Oliver Colvile (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Con): May I add my condolences to those already expressed on the death of Phil Hughes? I declare an interest, as my brother is Sky television’s cricket correspondent.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for meeting me and a delegation from Plymouth earlier this month to talk about Mayflower 2020, the anniversary

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of the founding of the American colonies. Does he agree that Mayflower 2020 could contribute similar levels of growth in Devon and Cornwall to those we have seen from the “Gathering” in Northern Ireland and Ireland?

Sajid Javid: I was pleased to meet my hon. Friend and representatives from his constituency to discuss that important point in history, which I think it is right to mark. Another good reason to look at it is that it could do a lot for the local economy.

Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab): Five years ago the previous Labour Government made a commitment on universal broadband access for everyone. The Minister might talk superfast, but the fact is that up and down the country people and businesses are waiting to get decent broadband so that they can carry on their business and that essential part of their lives that is now lived online. What is he going to do about it?

The Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy (Mr Edward Vaizey): Five years ago the previous Labour Government made an unfunded commitment to deliver 2 megabits broadband. There was no way in which they would be able to see that through. We have doubled the availability of superfast broadband and provided 2 megabits to 97% of the country. One in four now have superfast broadband. We have the best broadband in the EU big five, and the cheapest.

Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD): What discussions has the hon. Lady had with her colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government to ensure that in growing towns such as Chippenham development brings more sports pitches and pavilions, not fewer?

Mrs Grant: Our £1 billion youth and community strategy helps to ensure that lots more people engage in and enjoy sport. Sport England has also recently invested £70 million in improving facilities.

Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) (Lab): The Newcastle United supporters trust fully supports Labour’s football governance strategy, which will mean that for the first time supporters will be guaranteed a place on the board. Will the Minister join me in congratulating the trust on developing a credit union in the best interests of the supporters and people in the north-east?

Mrs Grant: I am very happy to congratulate the hon. Gentleman. I know that supporters always have the best interests of their club at heart, and I think that it is very important that their voice is always heard.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): It is clear from the number of complaints I have received that the Telephone Preference Service is simply not working. I urge the Secretary of State to take whatever action is needed to stop nuisance telephone calls.

Mr Vaizey: Ofcom ran an inquiry into the Telephone Preference Service, which showed that being a member does significantly reduce the number of nuisance calls received. As my hon. Friend must be aware, we have consulted extensively and changed the law in order to reduce the impact of nuisance calls.

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Mr Speaker: Last but not least, Mr Andrew Jones.

Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con): We have heard about the success of our tourism section, but the business tourism sector is sometimes overlooked. The conference market is very international and huge in scale. It plays a significant role in my constituency, with the Harrogate International Centre driving much of our local economy. I ask the Minister to focus on that, alongside all her other work to promote our tourism sector.

Mrs Grant: I am happy to focus on that and to do everything I possibly can to support our wonderful tourism sector.

Women and Equalities

The Minister for Women and Equalities was asked—

Under-occupancy Penalty (Disabled People)

1. Mr John Spellar (Warley) (Lab): What assessment she has made of the effects of the under-occupancy penalty on disabled people. [906310]

The Minister for Disabled People (Mr Mark Harper): The removal of the spare room subsidy is just making sure that the same rules apply in the social housing sector as apply in the private sector, as implemented by the previous Labour Government. To deal with difficult cases, the Government have made available a significant amount of discretionary housing payment to give local authorities the flexibility they need to deal with cases where disabled people need more support.

Mr Spellar: According to the Government’s own evaluation, 68% of those hit by the bedroom tax are themselves disabled or have someone in their household with a disability. Is the Minister not ashamed of that figure? When will the Government scrap that cruel and unfair tax?

Mr Harper: I note that the right hon. Gentleman did not deal with the point that I made. We are treating people in the social housing sector in exactly the same way as the previous Government treated them—[Interruption.] I hear someone heckling on the Labour Benches. Disabled people do not get a spare room subsidy in the private sector. Those rules were implemented by the previous Labour Government. This is a matter of fairness. The £345 million we have made available to local authorities over the past two years for discretionary housing payment gives them the flexibility they need to deal with individual circumstances.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Will the Minister name and shame the five worst local authorities that have the largest number of disabled people who are affected by the spare room subsidy removal but are not using the discretionary funds that the Government have given them?

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Mr Harper: I am afraid that I cannot satisfy my hon. Friend on that this morning, but it is a very good idea. I will write to him with the information and put a copy in the Library of the House.

Mr John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): I was going to ask exactly the same question as the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone). Will the Minister name and shame all local authorities that are failing to provide discretionary housing benefit for people who are being penalised as a result of their disability?

Mr Harper: We do have records of the amount of money that the Government make available to local authorities. In the interests of transparency, I will put in the Library details of the money made available by the Government and the extent to which local authorities take up that generous allocation of funding.

Mr Speaker: No colleague need be shy; repetition is not an unknown phenomenon in the House of Commons.

Equal Pay

2. Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab): What steps she is taking to ensure equal pay for men and women. [906311]

8. Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab): What steps she is taking to ensure equal pay for men and women. [906317]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities (Jo Swinson): It is good to see that over the past year the gender pay gap has fallen significantly to 19.1%—its lowest ever level. However, we are determined to build on this, and our aim must be to eliminate the gender pay gap. We are promoting pay transparency through the Think, Act, Report initiative; transforming the workplace to ensure flexible working and shared parental leave; and, through the Your Life campaign, encouraging girls and young women to consider a wide range of careers, including well-paid careers in technology and engineering.

Chi Onwurah: On Monday, the headline in Newcastle’s The Journal was “Women pay high price for the long slump”, highlighting the fact that in the north-east the gender pay gap is rising; in Newcastle, it stands at 16%. Why is the Minister’s Government making women pay for the financial crisis caused by the banks, and what is she going to do about it?

Jo Swinson: The hon. Lady is rather interesting in her portrayal of the circumstances that led up to the financial crisis, particularly regarding the part that her party’s Government might have had to play in that situation. I have pointed out that this Government are absolutely determined to eliminate the pay gap and to make sure that it continues to fall as it has over the past year. We also have more women in work than ever before. We have created 2 million extra jobs over the course of this Government’s time in office, and unemployment has been falling across the country, including in the north-east of England.

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Alex Cunningham: The Minister talks of grand initiatives, but the hourly rate of pay for women working part time is a third less than that for their full-time counterparts. Given that 42% of all working women now work part time, does the Minister think that it is time for big companies to publish the average hourly pay for men and women in their work force to expose this continued pay gap?

Jo Swinson: The hon. Gentleman raises several issues. It is true that, for men and women, part-time work is often paid at a lower rate. Of course, as he points out, many women are working part time. This is an important issue where we need generally to value much more the contribution made by people working part time. Organisations such as Timewise are doing some wonderful work that tries to remove the stigma around working part time by highlighting people at very senior levels who are doing so. He is right that transparency is a really important tool in making sure that this can be tackled. That is why we have the Think, Act, Report initiative to encourage companies to think about and act on the issue, but also, crucially, to report on it.

Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen) (Con): My hon. Friend talks about encouraging more women into engineering. In Rossendale and Darwen, we have a high-tech engineering work force. What steps are the Government taking to encourage women to take up these fantastic jobs in engineering, which tend to be some of the highest paid in my constituency?

Jo Swinson: The hon. Gentleman is right to highlight this as a hugely important issue. Only 7% of engineers are women, and these jobs, as he rightly says, are often very well paid. As the Perkins review set out very clearly, we urgently need more engineers in terms of our overall economy and skills, and we therefore need more women to fill that gap. We have announced a £30 million fund to increase the supply of engineers and encourage more women into the area, £10 million of which is specifically earmarked for our Developing Women Engineers programme. We are working with the Royal Academy of Engineering and with organisations such as the Institute of Physics, because making sure that girls take the subjects that open up an engineering career to them is also really important in making sure that this happens.

Gloria De Piero (Ashfield) (Lab): We all praise companies such as Friends Life, Genesis Housing and PricewaterhouseCoopers which annually publish their gender pay gap because they want to reduce it, but there are too few examples of that. Can we therefore achieve cross-party consensus and will all the parties back Labour’s proposal—we will bring it to the House next month—to require all big companies to publish annually their pay gap?

Jo Swinson: The hon. Lady is quite right to say that there is cross-party agreement that this issue needs to be tackled. The 2010 equality strategy set out very clearly that we would pursue the voluntary approach and then assess how it was working and come to a conclusion about what needed to happen next. The hon. Lady will be aware that my party published proposals—I am delighted that her party has subsequently agreed with

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them—to implement section 78 of the Equality Act 2010. I am sure that the issue will be very much discussed in the approaching election and that all parties will want to set out very clearly how they propose to tackle the pay gap.

Charter for Women

3. Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): What discussions she has had with charities and pressure groups on a charter for women or a women’s bill of rights. [906312]

The Minister for Women and Equalities (Nicky Morgan): I regularly engage with women’s organisations at one-to-one meetings, round tables and consultation events, and through social media. The Government are currently carrying out an online survey on women’s views of progress on improving women’s lives and on where there is most need for work still to be done. As part of that engagement, I regularly discuss the UN convention on women, which is sometimes known as the international Bill of Rights for women.

Mr Sheerman: The Minister knows that it has been a long, hard struggle to get equal rights for women and we are not there yet. There are significant elements in our communities who do not believe in equal rights for women. I want the Minister to introduce a charter that gives every female child in this country information on what their rights to equality are. I want that to be clear to every little child, wherever in this country they are brought up, whatever their family background and whichever school they attend. Does the Minister agree with that?

Nicky Morgan: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that, although we have made great strides towards equality, there is still much more to do. He will know that, as Secretary of State for Education, I have recently spoken of the broad and balanced curriculum, British values—which include, obviously, mutual respect and tolerance—and education on girls’ rights. I have not heard anybody apart from the hon. Gentleman call for a Bill of Rights. To be honest, I prefer to look at what works on the ground and make sure that there are lessons and strong female role models in all communities and all schools right across the country. Of course, however, the idea is interesting.

Mary Macleod (Brentford and Isleworth) (Con): Women’s rights are incredibly important and we need to ensure that women are at the heart of decision making. My right hon. Friend is the Minister for Women and Equalities, but, unusually, no specific Committee of the House is tasked with holding the Government to account on the work of the Government Equalities Office. Will my right hon. Friend meet me to discuss the issue further, as I believe the right thing to do would be to set up a women and equalities Select Committee at the start of the next Session of Parliament?

Nicky Morgan: I thank my hon. Friend very much indeed for that question. The Leader of the House is in his place and I am sure he will have heard her request.

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I am, of course, very happy to have a meeting. This is a matter for the House, but I look forward to discussing it with my hon. Friend.

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): If there was such a charter or Bill, would not there be an obligation on television companies, including the BBC, to explain why it is that, while men in their late 70s can carry out their job as lead presenters—and do it very well, no doubt—once women reach their 40s there is almost a ban? Why this discrimination?

Nicky Morgan: Perhaps for the first time, I think I agree with the hon. Gentleman. He might be interested to look at the evidence taken by the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications as part of its inquiry into women in broadcasting and the media, to which I recently gave evidence. I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that having positive role models—women of all ages and all backgrounds—represented in the media and national newspapers is incredibly important.

Caroline Nokes (Romsey and Southampton North) (Con): In England, 18-year-old women are a third more likely to apply for a university place than their male counterparts. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that shows how far we have come in terms of girls’ educational attainment, but that there is still further to go?

Nicky Morgan: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As we know, women now make up the majority of the numbers in many different subjects right across our universities. In fact, in the university I represent in my constituency of Loughborough, I understand that more women than men are taking engineering degrees. However, we all clearly have a long way to go.

Child Care

4. Mr Virendra Sharma (Ealing, Southall) (Lab): What steps the Government have taken to support parents with child care responsibilities. [906313]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities (Jo Swinson): We have increased free early education hours for three and four-year-olds, and in September we extended it to 260,000 two-year-olds. From next autumn, almost 2 million people could benefit from the new tax-free child care scheme, worth up to £2,000 a child. From April, couples will be able to choose how they manage their child care responsibilities, as we have introduced shared parental leave.

Mr Sharma: When Labour left office, 99% of schools provided access to breakfast and after-school clubs, but since the Government removed the ring fence more than a third of local authorities report that the provision has been scaled back in their area. Does the Minister now agree that that was a mistake, and will she back our plan to legislate to give parents a guarantee?

Jo Swinson: The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the issue. After-school and breakfast clubs can be hugely important in enabling parents to manage their responsibilities. It is also important that schools have the ability to make choices about the services they offer. We have introduced legislation to make it easier and

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reduce the bureaucracy for schools deciding that that is indeed what they want to do. That should help to ensure there is greater provision of these important services.

Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con): I have been to Diandjims nursery at Prudhoe in Northumberland and seen the transformational effect of the free child care provision of 15 hours per week for two-year-olds. The lives of parents are transformed, because they can go back to work or get back into employment following the birth of their child.

Jo Swinson: My hon. Friend raises an important example of the policy in action and working to deliver for hard-working families in his constituency. There are many such examples up and down the country. The policy is incredibly important for making sure that people do not have to choose not to work for economic reasons, which is why we are committed to taking it further.

Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab): Ministers trumpet tax-free child care, but the fact is that it will not have helped even one family that is struggling with child care costs during this entire Parliament. In fact, those who are struggling the most have had their support via child care tax credits cut, so why do Ministers not implement the policy sooner? While they are at it, why do they not adopt Labour’s commitment to providing 25 hours a week of free nursery education for all working families?

Jo Swinson: The hon. Lady will be aware that support through working tax credit for child care will rise to 85% under universal credit. She is right that we are introducing tax-free child care, which is coming in next autumn. The legislation to make that happen is going through the House, and I am delighted that it is happening. I have outlined the additional early education hours that the Government have delivered, including, crucially, making it available for two-year-olds for the first time. We know that it has significant benefits, and it has helped many working parents.

Retailers’ Purchasing Policies

5. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): When she last met the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to discuss the effects of the purchasing policies of UK retailers on the rights of women and girls. [906314]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities (Jo Swinson): I regularly meet the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to discuss a range of issues, including supply chain transparency and human rights. I assure my hon. Friend that, following significant work by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff Central (Jenny Willott), the British Retail Consortium is working with his Department to produce guidelines on this area for their members.

Michael Fabricant: I am grateful to the Minister for her answer. The recent episode of the Mauritian T-shirt illustrates so clearly how very important this issue has become. What steps is she taking to ensure that other

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companies follow the example of some well-known partnerships that show how well they can source their supplies?

Jo Swinson: My hon. Friend raises an important issue. Transparency is key so that investors and indeed customers are able to look at such matters and hold companies to account. We have introduced a requirement for a strategic report, which means that human rights need to be reported on, and further non-financial reporting will be helpful. Of course, the measures in the Modern Slavery Bill will make the UK a world leader in this area.

Mr Speaker: Very briefly—Fiona Mactaggart.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): I am very grateful for the measures in the Modern Slavery Bill. Will the Minister meet companies to make sure that they understand their responsibilities, because the Bill could end this exploitation of workers in UK supply chains?

Jo Swinson: First, I pay tribute to the hon. Lady, who has done so much work on this particular issue. I am glad that she welcomes the measures brought forward in the Modern Slavery Bill. We are engaging with business on these issues. Indeed, next week I am going to a United Nations event, where there will be many very senior representatives from different businesses who are looking at these exact issues. As I have said, we are also working specifically with retailers on the British Retail Consortium guidance.

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Domestic Violence Support Services

6. Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab/Co-op): What assessment she has made of the effects of Government policies on domestic violence support services. [906315]

The Minister for Women and Equalities (Nicky Morgan): The Government have ring-fenced funding of nearly £40 million until 2015 for specialist domestic and sexual violence services. The Home Office is working closely with the women’s sector on a programme of engagement with local commissioners. Earlier this week, the Government announced an additional £10 million of funding for refuges for victims of domestic abuse.

Luciana Berger: Despite what the Minister has said, women’s refuge charities report that services are still closing right across the country, with some areas having no refuge provision left at all. We need a comprehensive audit of domestic violence service provision to be carried out urgently. Why have the Government failed to do that and when will they do it?

Nicky Morgan: The Government have been putting the funding in. I have mentioned the £10 million that was announced this week. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has written to all local authorities this week to say that, even though the funding environment is extremely difficult, they must continue to prioritise the provision of refuges for victims of domestic abuse and domestic violence. Rather than talking about audits in Whitehall, we want to get on with giving money to the services on the ground to fund the valuable work that they are doing.

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East Coast Main Line

10.35 am

Michael Dugher (Barnsley East) (Lab) (Urgent Question):To ask the Secretary of State for Transport to make a statement on the Government’s decision to award the franchise for the east coast main line.

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Patrick McLoughlin): This morning, I announced the intention to award the InterCity east coast franchise to Stagecoach-Virgin, exactly on the schedule that we promised two years ago. That is great for passengers. It will bring more trains, faster trains, newer trains, better services and better value for money. It is good for towns and cities up and down the east coast. It is good for our economy and for jobs. It is proof that the right route forward for our railways is the private sector and the public sector working together. This deal will make the route of the Flying Scotsman a world-beater once again.

We have heard different advice from the Opposition—led, of course, by the unions. They told us to leave the route in the hands of the emergency public sector operator. They do not understand how that would deny the east coast line new ideas and investment. They do not understand that the operator was set up as a short-term measure by the last Labour Secretary of State for Transport. That is why the noble Lord Adonis said at the time:

“I do not believe that it would be in the public interest for us to have a nationalised train operating company indefinitely”.—[Official Report, House of Lords, 1 July 2009; Vol. 712, c. 232.]

Indeed, the then Minister of State at the Department for Transport, the right hon. Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan), said that

“one reason we are able to invest record sums in our railway service is the revenues that the franchises bring in and the premiums that they pay”.—[Official Report, 1 July 2009; Vol. 495, c. 430.]

They were right then and they are wrong today.

It is this Government who are powering ahead with better plans for our railways. The new franchise will be good for people who use the line. The deal will strengthen the vital links from London to Scotland, all the way along the route as far as Aberdeen and Inverness. Passengers will benefit from regular, faster, more frequent services to places such as Falkirk, Stirling and Edinburgh. Journeys between London and Edinburgh will regularly be down to just 4 hours by May 2020. Leeds will see regular journey times go down to just 2 hours.

Places such as Leeds, Bradford, Shipley and Harrogate will see more direct services each day. Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Huddersfield and Dewsbury will get new east coast services. There will be the first direct service from Huddersfield to London since the 1960s. Lincoln, which gets just one train a day to London under the current operator, will get one every two hours with the new one. We have protected the service levels to every current main line station as well. By May 2020, all those destinations will be served by the new intercity express trains, which will be built in the heart of the north-east at the new plant in Newton Aycliffe.

I ask the hon. Member for Barnsley East (Michael Dugher): why does he want to deny the north all those benefits? The new operator will provide 50% more capacity across the east coast network, a 40% increase

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in peak seats to and from King’s Cross, and a refurbishment of the existing fleet. It will cut some of the most expensive fares by 10% from May next year.

The franchise is not just good for the passengers; it is good for the staff. There will be investment in skills, with a graduate programme and new apprenticeships. There will be a national academy for rail professional education based in London, York and Derby. The franchise is good for taxpayers, too. It will run for eight years, with the option to extend it for a further year. In that time, it will return £3.3 billion in premium payments to the taxpayer. These figures are robust and have been subject to rigorous scrutiny, including by independent auditors. The deal will bring more services, more passengers and a growing return.

The Government’s franchising programme is creating the railways that this country needs. Passengers in Essex, London and the south-east already benefit from the improved services that a partnership between the public and private sectors can provide for our railways. This award is further proof that private competition is good for passengers, staff, communities and taxpayers. The quality of the new operator’s plans will benefit the whole country.

Michael Dugher: If this is such a good deal, why did the Secretary of State not offer to come to the House and make a statement, to share all the good news with us? Are the Government desperate to avoid scrutiny of their shambolic approach to franchising, which has cost the taxpayer millions of pounds?

First we had the west coast fiasco, which wasted £50 million, and then Ministers presided over the loss of hundreds of millions more, with delays to investments and franchise extensions. Now, on the east coast main line, we see Conservative dogma on privatisation put before the interests of the travelling public.

It is absurd in the extreme that our own public operator should be the only rail company in the world that has been barred from challenging to run its own services. It is not too late to halt the process, but given that the Secretary of State is adamant that it will go ahead, that we are only months away from an election and that there is no political consensus for this major decision, will he give a formal written ministerial direction to his permanent secretary to outline that he is still insisting on proceeding with this flawed process?

The Government say that £3.3 billion will be paid to the Exchequer over eight years, but the operator says it will be £2.3 billion. Why the discrepancy? Is the Secretary of State’s announcement already unravelling? Given that Virgin charges some of the highest peak fares in the country on the west coast, will passengers on the east coast main line face more fare rises to pay for this decision? Is it time that the Government legislated to allow a British not-for-profit public sector operator to take on and challenge train operators on a level playing field?

It is clear that the whole franchise process should never have happened. It was rushed through on a rigged political timetable, and by the time this service is privatised it will have paid more than £1 billion to the Exchequer. The entire process is a disgrace. The taxpayer and the travelling public have been sold down the river.

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Mr Speaker: Order. I point out that this urgent question got off to an over-long start because in seeking to be informative, the Secretary of State went way beyond the allotted time for a ministerial response. I want to accommodate colleagues but we have a short period, so pithiness is of the essence.

Mr McLoughlin: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I welcome the hon. Member for Barnsley East to his position. He is no stranger to the Department for Transport because he was special adviser to Stephen Byers when he was Transport Secretary—a time of glorious indecision for our railways. This is the third shadow Secretary of State I have witnessed during my short time at the Department. No doubt if I wait a bit longer, another one will be along shortly.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned dogma, but I think the dogma comes from the party that did not implement any of these measures when it was in a position to do so. When Labour had 13 years to set up a public sector operator, it rejected that. Directly operated railways were always there as a matter of last resort. On the subject of dogma, the hon. Gentleman is speaking for ASLEF and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, repeating what they are saying almost word for word. They have given more than £350,000 and £220,000 respectively to the Labour party, so I will not accept comments about dogma from Labour Members.

I am also interested in what the right hon. Member for Edinburgh South West (Mr Darling) said on franchising:

“One of the purposes of franchising is to ensure that we get better value in respect of the subsidy paid in the particular case, but we also want better services.”—[Official Report, 1 February 2005; Vol. 430, c. 703-4.]

That is exactly what I have announced this morning for the east coast main line: better services to towns and cities that have not been served since the 1960s. The party that represents dogma sits on the Opposition Benches; the party challenging Britain’s railways and companies to come forward with new and better services, serving more communities than ever, sits on the Government Benches. We have seen the railways grow, from providing services for 760 million passengers to providing them for 1.6 billion passengers last year. This is a time of great renaissance for the railways—something that I celebrate, but the Opposition complain about.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Speaker: Order. Extreme brevity is now required. Let us be led by Mr Philip Davies.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Thank you, Mr Speaker. As the Secretary of State knows, I have long lobbied for additional railway services on the east coast line to Shipley and Bradford, so I very much welcome his statement today. Will he confirm exactly how many additional services there will be to Shipley and Bradford, when they will come on track and what can be done to try to speed up the process?

Mr McLoughlin: I am very happy to write to my hon. Friend with the exact details of how many extra services there will be. There will be a great increase, with six services overall to Shipley—in 2018-19, I think—as a result of the new intercity express programme trains that will serve the line. I am happy to provide my hon. Friend with more information in due course.

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Julie Elliott (Sunderland Central) (Lab): Why do the Government think it is better for our country to pass the profitable east coast main line into private hands, with money going to shareholders rather than the people of this country, and throw out TUPE regulations, which will jeopardise the terms and conditions of the work force on the east coast main line?

Mr McLoughlin: I am not quite sure why the new old Labour party, led by the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), is so concerned about profits. Profits are not a bad thing. They go towards paying pensions and towards rewarding people who invest in companies. A number of people the hon. Lady represents rely on pensions that are generated by profits. That, I would have thought, is a good thing. It is not just about profits. The overall return to the rail franchises is 3%. Investment by the rail companies has resulted in tremendously better services for passengers up and down the country.

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): Does the Secretary of State recognise that what matters to my constituents is not who owns the operator but whether the trains are on time, clean, reasonably priced, retain good staff and stop at places such as Berwick and Alnmouth?

Mr McLoughlin: Indeed. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the new trains, which will be built in the north-east shortly, will be of tremendous benefit on this particular line and will provide the investment the line has wanted for many a year.

Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab): I hope the Secretary of State will forgive me if I do not share his enthusiasm for today’s announcement. Some of us have been here before, with private sector companies promising the earth to win contracts and then not delivering in practice. Why did the Government not listen to local people and keep the excellent East Coast in place as a public sector comparator? What will he do to ensure the promises that have been made will be delivered?

Mr McLoughlin: The people who are serving on East Coast trains now will be the people serving on the new InterCity franchise that I have announced today. I will quote another Labour Member of Parliament; that seems to be a bit of a habit this morning. The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman) said:

“will he be fair to the marvellous train crews of Virgin Trains, who give extraordinarily good service, and tell them that their future is assured? Will he simply award the franchise to Virgin, which has carried it out brilliantly?”—[Official Report, 15 October 2012; Vol. 551, c. 53.]

In fairness, he was referring to the west coast main line, but if I go back to that statement I could quote those people time and again.

Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): For years in north Lincolnshire, we have been arguing to get back our through-train from London to Grimsby via Market Rasen. At the moment, the train stops at Lincoln. What hope is there of getting back our train?

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Mr McLoughlin: If my hon. Friend presses me further, I will certainly come back to him in more detail. It is tremendous news that we have increased the number of trains to Lincoln to six a day, but I know that colleagues want services to go elsewhere, which is why the study being done with northern authorities on the northern powerhouse strategy is looking at how to improve connectivity for our market towns and cities in the north.

Mr Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): Does the Secretary of State agree that both times the private sector has run the east coast line it has been a failure, whereas the public sector, which has been running it for some considerable time, has handed over more than £1 billion to the Treasury? Why change a winning formula? Why does he not agree with the 70% of the population—I am one of them—who believe that rail should be brought back into public ownership?

Mr McLoughlin: I wish I could say I am surprised by the hon. Gentleman’s announcement that he is one of those who would like to see the railways re-nationalised. When we had a nationalised railway system, it was dying on its legs. It was providing only 760 million journeys a year, whereas today’s railway provides 1.6 billion and employs more people—more people working on our railways, more people using our railways. I thought he would welcome the fact that instead of a dying, declining industry, today it is a vibrant industry employing more people and improving opportunities for everyone, whatever their background. I celebrate that; he is disappointed by it.

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): There is no doubt that the east coast rail service has been good over the past five years, but it has lacked new investment, so I welcome today’s announcement. Will the Secretary of State confirm that the thing we hope for and desire—direct rail services to Grimsby, in my case via Scunthorpe—remains a possibility and that he will work with us to see how viable it is?

Mr McLoughlin: I shall certainly work with my hon. Friend to see whether we can accommodate what he wants. As I have often pointed out, 25 years ago I was a junior Minister in the Department for Transport, and in those days it was thought that the railways were yesterday’s business. Today, wherever I go, I am lobbied by MPs for more direct services from their constituencies. I celebrate that we are today announcing 75 new destinations for this service.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Does the Secretary of State not realise that most people in Yorkshire think that privatisation has been a disaster for train services across our region? It has been rotten, and it will still be rotten under this new arrangement. We do not believe in pie in the sky. I am not the most radical Member on the Labour Benches, but I have been persuaded that we need to take the rail system back into public ownership. That is what we deserve.

Mr McLoughlin: I think the person who has just spoken is the hon. Member for Huddersfield, yet we heard not a single welcome for the new train service to Huddersfield. He would rather talk about dogma than

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celebrate the first direct link to his area since 1960. That sums up the Labour party 100%: it is the Labour party of Kinnock, rather than Blair or Brown.

James Wharton (Stockton South) (Con): More trains; more investment; more money back for taxpayers; a link for Thornaby, in my constituency; a link for Middlesbrough; trains built down the road in Aycliffe—does my right hon. Friend agree that this is good news not just for passengers and taxpayers, but for the economy of Teesside?

Mr McLoughlin: Indeed it is. The decision by Hitachi to base its plant in the north-east, bringing more than 700 new jobs to the area, has been universally welcomed.

Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab): Why is the only public operator effectively barred from competing and operating the line, despite having reinvested £800 million into services rather than into the pockets of shareholders?

Mr McLoughlin: For the sake of brevity, I will refer the hon. Gentleman to my earlier answers.

Julian Smith (Skipton and Ripon) (Con): I welcome the statement. It is great news that Yorkshire will get so many services from this deal. Could the Secretary of State say a little more about services to Harrogate and Thirsk, which serve my constituency, and more about Skipton? I know that my right hon. Friend was thrown off the station at Settle, but I hope he will fight for a Skipton daily service.

Mr McLoughlin: What I am announcing today is extra services right across the line. I hope that the services to my hon. Friend’s constituency will see the benefits of that, as well as of the new intercity express trains, which will be coming on course in just a few years’ time.

Mr Speaker: I cannot imagine the Secretary of State being “thrown”. It would be a deeply onerous task, accomplished not without emotion.

Cathy Jamieson (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (Lab/Co-op): The Secretary of State has made much of the potential benefits for employees, but is it not the case that he has ensured that TUPE will not apply, thus jeopardising the terms and conditions of the work force?

Mr McLoughlin: I think the hon. Lady is on to a technical point, but it will be a transfer over. It is a transfer over of the staff, who will be there on the same terms and conditions as they are at the moment—apart from those employed by Agility Trains.

Sir Menzies Campbell (North East Fife) (LD): When will the better services to which my right hon. Friend refers include the electrification of the east coast main line between Edinburgh and Aberdeen? I ask that not least because it serves four stations in my constituency.

Mr McLoughlin: That may be a matter for the Scottish Parliament. If my right hon. and learned Friend does not mind, I would prefer to write to him about that.

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Mr Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow) (Lab): As a regular user of this service, I agree with the Secretary of State that East Coast making a profit is not a bad thing. The difference is that we want that £1 billion profit going back to the people of this country—not lining the pockets of his Tory friends.

Mr McLoughlin: The fact is, as I said, that directly operated railways have basically paid £1 billion to the Exchequer over the past five years. The new intercity express will pay £3.3 billion over eight years.

Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con): I welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcement, particularly in respect of the six additional trains per day running between London and Harrogate. I think this is a transformation of our services in Harrogate and Knaresborough. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that this deal represents a huge boost—not just to our part of the economy, but to that of the whole of the north of England?

Mr McLoughlin: I do indeed. My hon. Friend can look forward to those extra services for his constituency, along with the others to which I have referred. We are talking, basically, about an increase of some 33% of services across the board, with 75 new destinations being served as a result of this morning’s announcement.

Graeme Morrice (Livingston) (Lab): Unlike the currently successful and profitable publicly owned service on the east coast main line, the previous two private operators failed—a point raised by my hon. Friends. What guarantee can the Secretary of State give that this latest franchise will not be third time unlucky?

Mr McLoughlin: Let me simply point out that a number of things have changed. The hon. Gentleman refers to franchises that were left by the last Government. Issues have been changed by this Government, and all the other franchises on the railways are currently running to the budgets that we have required of them. Some of them are subsidy receiving, but most are premium payments.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton) (Con): Thirsk and Malton will welcome a public-private partnership delivered by tried and tested operators. Will the Secretary of State confirm that there will be increased services from York that will take a shorter time, and will he let us know the balance between first class premium fares and standard class fares?

Mr McLoughlin: I might have to write to my hon. Friend on the details of the balance between premium and standard fares, but we have seen a tremendous improvement with the technology surrounding advanced booking, giving people some very good deals when they book their tickets in advance.

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): Whoever runs the franchise, trains will be made at Newton Aycliffe. Will the Secretary of State please explain why he was quite content for a French nationalised industry to bid, but not for a British one to do the same?

Mr McLoughlin: I have no objection to foreign companies wanting to invest in this country. I would have thought that the hon. Lady welcomed the fact that Hitachi is

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building new plants in Newton Aycliffe. She is not decrying Hitachi because it is a foreign company, is she? I have no objection to foreign countries wanting to invest in the United Kingdom. I welcome it.

Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): We shall have 3,000 extra seats during the morning peak time, 65 new state-of-the-art trains, a 10% reduction in long-distance Anytime fares and the first direct service from Huddersfield to London since 1960. Will my right hon. Friend continue to put passengers at the forefront of these new services?

Mr McLoughlin: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he has said, but I should point out to him that this is not just about passengers. It is also about staff—the staff who deliver a fantastic service on the east coast main line, and who will now be given better training. I think that the national academy—which, as I said earlier, will be based in London, York and Derby—is very good news for the people who work on our railways, as well as the passengers who travel on them.

Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab): Virgin fares on the west coast main line are excruciating. Will the Secretary of State tell us what he can do to protect passengers on the east coast line?

Mr McLoughlin: As I have said, some of the top fares will be reduced by 10% in May. Moreover, if passengers buy tickets in advance, they can obtain some very good deals.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Will the Secretary of State confirm that he has announced extra investment in our railways, extra services, extra trains, extra seats, and British-built trains for British passengers? Does he share my dismay at the economic illiteracy of Opposition Members, given that this is a good deal for passengers, a good deal for everyone who wants our economy to improve and a good deal for taxpayers, who will receive £3.5 billion back from these companies?

Mr McLoughlin: I do not think that I need to answer my hon. Friend’s questions, apart from the one about whether I was surprised by the attitude of the Opposition. The answer to that question is no.

Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab): The Secretary of State’s idea of a public-private partnership seems to be “Private failure and public bail-out; private profit and public subsidy.” When I catch the train to Newcastle in two hours’ time I will ask the staff what they think, but in the meantime, can the Secretary of State confirm that there will be no reduction in direct services from Newcastle to London, no increase in prices—and no action from the Government when they fail to deliver on their long list of promises?

Mr McLoughlin: What I have announced amounts to extra points. But I see that we have now been joined by the right hon. Member for Edinburgh South West (Mr Darling). I can do no better than quote what he said when he was Transport Secretary:

“franchising is to ensure that we get better value in respect of the subsidy paid in the particular case”. —[Official Report, 1 February 2005; Vol. 430, c. 703-4.]

We also get better services. There will be increased services and faster services from Newcastle, and I think that the people of Newcastle will get a better deal.

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Smith Commission

11.2 am

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr Alistair Carmichael): With permission, Mr Speaker, I shall make a statement to the House about the further devolution process in Scotland and the publication of the heads of agreement resulting from Lord Smith’s five-party talks. As the Prime Minister has already said this morning, we back the agreement and its recommendations, and will produce draft legislation in January.

The referendum on independence that was held on 18 September 2014 saw Scotland vote decisively to remain within our UK family of nations of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, backed by the strength, security and stability of the United Kingdom. The turnout across Scotland was nearly 85%, and more than 2 million people made a positive choice for Scotland to remain part of the UK.

During the referendum campaign, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition made a joint commitment to deliver more powers to the Scottish Parliament. The Smith commission, chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin, was up and running on 19 September, and Lord Smith convened cross-party talks to reach agreement on the proposals for further devolution to Scotland. The process has been thorough and extensive. The party representatives were drawn from the five main political parties in Scotland; this was the first time ever that all five had participated in a devolution process.

I would echo the comments of Lord Smith in the foreword to his report:

“This agreement is, in itself, an unprecedented achievement. It demanded compromise from all of the parties. In some cases that meant moving to devolve greater powers than they had previously committed to, while for other parties it meant accepting the outcome would fall short of their ultimate ambitions. It shows that, however difficult, our political leaders can come together, work together, and reach agreement with one another.”

In preparing the report, Lord Smith heard from a wide range of Scottish civic institutions and members of the public. Over 400 submissions were received from organisations and groups, and over 18,000 submissions, including e-mails, letters and signatures to petitions, from people across Scotland.

The Smith commission has today produced comprehensive heads of agreement ahead of the St Andrew’s day deadline contained in the timetable. This is a significant achievement and historic moment for Scotland. I thank Lord Smith and the party representatives for their work. They have worked hard against a challenging timetable, covering an enormous area of ground. This work will deliver a substantial package of new powers to the Scottish Parliament.

The heads of agreement provide for a durable but responsive constitutional settlement for Scotland within the United Kingdom. They give greater financial responsibility to the Scottish Parliament, with an updated fiscal framework for Scotland, consistent with the UK fiscal framework. For the first time, over 50% of the money spent by the Scottish Government will be raised by the Scottish Government. That is an important step which builds on the measures brought forward by this Government in the Scotland Act 2012, and further increases the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament to the Scottish people.

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The recommendations provide for key welfare measures to be designed by and delivered in Scotland. That will give the Scottish Parliament the tools—and the responsibility—to tackle a range of issues with specific consideration of local circumstances, including those related to social care, long-term unemployment and housing, while continuing to benefit from the strength and stability of the UK-wide system.

The recommendations build on the already significant powers of the Scottish Parliament in social justice and a range of other policy areas. Together, those recommendations give greater responsibility for more decisions affecting Scotland to be made in the Scottish Parliament and paid for by revenue raised by the Scottish Parliament. However, further devolution is just one part of this story. People in Scotland were unequivocally clear on 18 September that Scotland should retain the security of being part of our United Kingdom. The Smith commission’s remit was clear—to set out proposals for further devolution within the United Kingdom—and that remit was signed up to by all parties participating in the process, including the Scottish Government. The conclusions reached by the parties ensure a set of proposals that do not cause detriment to the UK as a whole or any of its constituent parts. The Government are committed to ensuring that Scotland and the whole of the United Kingdom continue to prosper from our single domestic market, our social union and the strength that comes from the pooling and sharing of risks.

People in Scotland voted on 18 September for the jobs and opportunities that are created by being part of a larger United Kingdom with one currency, no borders and more money to spend on public services. People in Scotland want to keep the advantages of the UK pound, UK pensions, UK armed forces and a strong UK voice in the world. The package that has been announced today allows that to happen.

As the Prime Minister has already made clear, the Government back the heads of agreement and their recommendations and we shall get on with producing draft legislation. The draft clauses will be produced by Burns night, 25 January, meeting the next phase in our commitment to the people in Scotland. That work begins today. A team has been brought together with leading officials in the Scotland Office, HM Treasury, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Cabinet Office. That team will work closely with all lead policy Departments within the UK Government. The team will remain in place to deliver a Bill in the UK Parliament following the next general election.

To support the preparation of the draft legislation, I have invited key Scottish stakeholders representing a wide range of sectors to form a stakeholder group. I shall provide further details of the membership and terms of reference of the group in due course, but it is my intention that it will support the Government’s work translating the heads of agreement into the draft legislation that we shall publish by 25 January. As Lord Smith said in his foreword:

“Through this process I have worked closely with people who can argue passionately with one another while sharing an equal concern and love for their country. I would like to thank them all for their input, challenge and support. I hope that, in the end, they can work together, maintain their energy and use it to create a Scotland which is even stronger and even better.”

Having a more powerful Scottish Parliament inside a strong United Kingdom is the best outcome for the

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people of Scotland and the people of the United Kingdom. This is what we voted for on 18 September. Today’s report is an affirmation of the vow that was made in September. It is a historic moment for Scotland.

The cause of home rule has been at the heart of Scottish politics since the days of Gladstone. This agreement provides a modern blueprint: Scottish home rule within our strong United Kingdom—home rule for Scotland that can open the door to constitutional reform for the rest of the United Kingdom. We can achieve home rule all round.

11.11 am

Margaret Curran (Glasgow East) (Lab): I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement, and join him in thanking Lord Smith of Kelvin for his work and his report, and indeed all the commissioners. I want to pay particular tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), whose proposals during the referendum set us on the way to delivering this momentous agreement to deliver a powerhouse Parliament.

As the Secretary of State has said, this is a historic day for Scotland. Ten weeks ago the people of Scotland—in overwhelming numbers—confirmed Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom. It was a decision made on the highest turnout ever seen in these isles, and it was a vote for change: change in the way Scotland is governed, change that will see more decisions taken closer to people, but safer, faster, better change as part of the United Kingdom. This is a promise kept and an agreement delivered.

The Labour party was very clear that we would honour the promises made during the referendum, and we have delivered. As the Secretary of State has said, this has been achieved in a co-operative and constructive process, working in the spirit of consensus that people across Scotland expect. That is why we wholly endorse the recommendations of the Smith commission and we give our guarantee to the people of Scotland that if—or, rather, when—we are in government after May, we will legislate for these powers in our first Queen’s Speech.

This agreement will see more powers over tax, welfare and jobs transferred to the Scottish Parliament. We have secured guarantees over the voting rights of Scottish MPs on the Budget and on the continuation of the Barnett formula. We believe this provides the best deal for the people of Scotland. In fact, today’s deal is more radical and goes further than many had anticipated. We on this side of the House believe that the principle we have worked for today—pushing power closer to people—is one that should be followed across Britain. That is why we will continue to call for a constitutional convention to be established to consider how this can be achieved, working with all the nations and regions of the United Kingdom.

Now that agreement has been reached, will the Secretary of State tell the House how the recommendations of the Smith commission will be implemented and what the timetable will be, and will he specifically and in detail outline how hon. Members will be involved in this next stage of the process, as the draft clauses are produced?

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Given the success of cross-party working that is inherent in the work of the Smith commission, will the Secretary of State outline how the parties will be involved in this stage, and how the Opposition will be consulted on the details he announced in his statement?

As Lord Smith pointed out in his statement this morning, these additional powers will also mean that the Scottish Parliament’s own processes will need to be strengthened to enable it to hold the Government to account. Will the Secretary of State tell the House what consultation there will now be with the Scottish Parliament to ensure that it is well prepared for this transfer of powers?

Lord Smith also recommended closer working between the Scottish Parliament and Government and the UK Parliament and Government. How does the Secretary of State intend to take forward that recommendation and ensure that Members of this House become involved?

For the past two years, our country has been divided along yes and no lines. Today marks an important moment. There are no longer yeses and noes, just Scots with new powers, and we look forward to working across Scotland to deliver them. Labour will deliver those new powers in our first Queen’s Speech in May. More power is now in Scotland’s hands, and it is for all of us to work together to create that better Scotland.

Mr Carmichael: I acknowledge that this process has not been easy for any of the parties; it has involved compromise on all sides. I pay tribute to the hon. Lady and her colleagues in the Scottish Labour party for the compromises and progress that they have made. They have acted in accordance with the spirit that was expected by the people of Scotland following the referendum vote.

The hon. Lady mentioned the proposals for the rest of the United Kingdom. As I have said at the Dispatch Box on a number of occasions in recent weeks, that debate is now happening and I welcome it. I share her enthusiasm for a constitutional convention. She will be aware that the Government have set up a Cabinet Committee to look into the wider issues of devolution in other parts of the United Kingdom, and I deeply regret that her party has chosen not to take part in that. I hope that, even at this late stage, Labour Members will change their minds. She and her right hon. and hon. Friends can anticipate receiving an invitation soon to contribute to the Command Paper that the Government will be bringing forward, so if they have proposals, we will be interested to hear them.

The hon. Lady asked about the implementation of the heads of agreement. As I explained in my statement, a stakeholder group will be set up, and I anticipate there being opportunities for all parties—and, indeed, for groups beyond the political parties—to have a role in that. I will update the House on that as soon as possible.

One of the most important and prescient observations that Lord Smith made in his personal recommendations was that there should be closer working not only between the two Governments—which has long been accepted to be the case—but between the two Parliaments. Indeed, it was suggested that you, Mr Speaker, might soon consider meeting the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament to build that co-operation between the two Parliaments and the two Governments. Those

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recommendations have a great deal to recommend them. The hon. Lady asked how the recommendations in the report would be implemented, and I can tell her that they will be implemented without hesitation, reservation or equivocation.

Mr Speaker: I meet the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament regularly—a fact of which I suspect colleagues might be aware—and I am very happy to meet her as necessary.

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): May I say to the Secretary of State that this is no way to introduce massive constitutional change to our country, given the major implications for the rest of the United Kingdom, which has not been consulted at all, not least on the question of how English votes are to be applied to English laws? Does he believe that these proposals will contain or further inflame separatist sentiment in Scotland?

Mr Carmichael: In Scotland, on 18 September, we decided that we wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom. That was clear and unequivocal, and it is that position that we are now entrenching. To answer the hon. Gentleman’s last question, I believe that these proposals will strengthen the position of Scotland and the United Kingdom for the future. I am sensitive to his concerns about the need for constitutional change in other parts of the United Kingdom and I understand that there is an imbalance within our current constitutional framework. Let me tell him that that was the case before we set up the Scottish Parliament in the first place—it was one of the reasons we set up a Scottish Parliament. The process has been an evolutionary one across the UK and that evolutionary process must now continue. I hope that he and his colleagues, in England in particular, will now take to that debate with enthusiasm and build a consensus that can bring forward the change that is necessary.

Mr Alistair Darling (Edinburgh South West) (Lab): I, too, welcome the proposals being made by the Smith commission today, transferring, as they do, not just more powers but significant new responsibilities that will be taken on by the Scottish Parliament. As we implement those and discuss, as we must, further devolution to other parts of the United Kingdom, will the Secretary of State ensure that we do nothing that undermines the integrity and the strength of the United Kingdom? In particular, will he ensure that we do not undermine the fiscal union, which is one of the central pillars of that United Kingdom? The majority of people in Scotland voted clearly to stay within the United Kingdom, and I believe the majority of people in the entire United Kingdom want to see it continue. We must be very careful to manage this carefully—other big countries have done it and we can do it, too.

Mr Carmichael: I do not disagree in any way, shape or form with what the right hon. Gentleman says. Indeed, the sentiment he refers to was reflected in the remit we gave Lord Smith and then in the principles that underpinned his work—the principles agreed by all five parties to the discussion. I believe that what they have brought forward today is entirely consistent with those principles.

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Sir George Young (North West Hampshire) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is important for the integrity and credibility of the political process in this country that commitments given by political leaders during the referendum campaign are honoured? Does he further agree that the proposals he has just announced further accentuate the imbalance in the British constitution between England and the rest of the United Kingdom? Does he therefore agree that it would be wrong, as some have proposed, to kick the McKay proposals into the long grass? They now need to be addressed with some urgency.

Mr Carmichael: I could not agree more with the right hon. Gentleman on the importance of honouring the vow that was made, and that is what we are about today. As I have acknowledged, there is currently an imbalance within the UK constitutional framework. As a federalist, I have long believed that that needs addressing. I do not think anything should be kicked into the long grass. He has been involved in the management of this House in various capacities for many years now, so he will be as aware as I am that once these things are changed it is difficult to change them back if we get them wrong. There is a need for constitutional reform and it goes far beyond the Standing Orders of this House.

Stewart Hosie (Dundee East) (SNP): I thank the Scottish Secretary for his statement, and Lord Smith and the commissioners for their work. The substantive parts of this are the devolution of less than 30% of Scotland’s tax base and of less than 20% of welfare, and the assignation of a share of VAT. Although that is interesting as far as it goes, I note the absence of other substantive job-creating powers. The Scottish National party will not stand in the way of these powers; it is important to put that on the record, and I do welcome the report as modest progress. However, will the Scottish Secretary confirm that however they are dressed up, these proposals do not reflect the powerhouse Parliament that many in Scotland believed they had been promised before the referendum?

Mr Carmichael: First, let me try to adopt a more appropriate tone than the hon. Gentleman has perhaps just done and congratulate him on his recent election to the position of deputy leader of his party. It is unfortunate that he did not use the word “welcome”; there are significant job-creating powers in this package and the Scottish Parliament already holds significant job-creating powers. If Nicola Sturgeon is sincere when she says that she wants to govern for the whole of Scotland, she should get on and use the powers that she has, welcome the ones that she is getting and use them for the benefit of the people of Scotland.

The hon. Gentleman predictably and depressingly seeks to suggest that this is not a fulfilment of the vow. Well, the vow is on the front page of the Daily Record. For the benefit of the House, I have brought that paper with me today. The front page says, “The vow delivers.”Let me draw the House’s attention to the article itself. On page 3, it says that

“it’s is now clear that they”—

David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband—

“have stood behind this agreement to deliver change. Lurid claims to the contrary by some pro-Yes commentators”—

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it must have known what the hon. Gentleman was going to say—

“have been shown to be false.”

That is the assessment of one of Scotland’s leading papers. It is more to be relied on than the views of the hon. Gentleman.

Sir Menzies Campbell (North East Fife) (LD): My right hon. Friend can now be assured of some favourable remarks in relation to what he has just said about the Daily Record. He will not be surprised that I, rather less grudgingly, welcome both the process behind the proposals and the proposals themselves. Does he understand that I welcome the accusation that these proposals are federal in nature, because it is in federalism that we will find the best constitutional solution to meet the aspirations of all four of our nations and, at the same time, secure the advantages of a secure United Kingdom? Is not the truth now that we should all be federalists?

Mr Carmichael: Speaking for myself, I always have been a federalist. Indeed, I understand that I can now count on the support of the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) in that aspiration. May I also recognise the pivotal role that my right hon. and learned Friend took in the formulation of my own party’s proposals? His commission was the first intervention in this debate, and it very much established the tone and set the bar at a level that others felt it necessary to clear. Ultimately, a federal structure is what this country needs. It works perfectly well—in fact it works much better—in countries around the world. Clearly, it will take time. What we are about here today is delivering in the here and now on the pledge that we made in the referendum.

Mr Ian Davidson (Glasgow South West) (Lab/Co-op): I seek clarification from the Secretary of State as to whether the support of the Smith commission was unanimous. If that is the case, great credit is due to the Greens and to the SNP in particular for being willing to sit down and collaborate with the Liberals, the Conservatives and Labour to find something around which we can all agree. I hope the right hon. Gentleman agrees that if we have had unanimity in producing the report of Smith, we now must have unanimity in implementing it.

Mr Carmichael: That unanimity is important. I understand that that was the basis on which the agreement was made. Unfortunately, given the tone of some of what we have heard today, John Swinney, who by all accounts performed a significant role in the commission, has not been able to bring everyone in his party with him. That is to be regretted.

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Does the Secretary of State agree that once Scotland is determining her own income tax rates and bands in the Scottish Parliament, it would be quite wrong for Scottish Members of this Parliament to be trying to fix those bands and rates for the English?

Mr Carmichael: I commend to my right hon. Friend the terms of the Smith report, which make it clear that income tax means a tax shared between the two Parliaments.

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Mr Graham Allen (Nottingham North) (Lab): I welcome the report. This is a great day for democracy and what is good enough for Scotland is now good enough for England. The Secretary of State will have seen in The Times today a letter from local government leaders from the greatest to the smallest asking for devolution in England. Rather than having to drag it out of Whitehall over 20 years, as Scotland did, through lobbying and referenda-ising, we should get to this quickly. If we do not, through our sloth the Secretary of State might create in England the same nationalism as was evident in Scotland, which I think he would regret. Will he not keep putting this off and talking about constitutional conventions that might never report? We know what we need to do: put it in the manifestos, unite the House and give England local devolution, as Scotland is now getting.

Mr Carmichael: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman, as I suspect that that is the first time that Hansard will have been required to record the word referenda-ising. It is novel and creative. I am not entirely sure whether the growth of nationalism in the different parts of England will be a consequence, but having sat through a six-hour debate just a few weeks ago in this House on the subject of devolution across the whole United Kingdom, I would say the one thing that was clear at the end of the debate was that there is not yet consensus—[Interruption.] It might well need leadership, but leadership alone will not be enough to build consensus. The hon. Gentleman would do well to listen to the words of his own Front Benchers on the question of a constitutional convention. That is not a delaying tactic, as he seems to think. In my view, it is the only feasible way of building consensus to get the change that is wanted.

Mr Andrew Tyrie (Chichester) (Con): The report is a welcome first step towards stabilising the Union, redressing a Scottish grievance, and the Treasury Committee will consider it as part of its inquiry into fiscal devolution. Does the Secretary of State agree that another crucial step must be to redress an English grievance: that Scottish MPs vote on English laws? That must end, notwithstanding the curious wording of paragraph 75 of the agreement. Does he further agree that the English must have a veto on all laws that largely or exclusively affect them, and that the case for that is all the stronger with full devolution of income tax? Nothing less will do.

Mr Carmichael: It is because we understand the need for change—as I have said already, I and the whole Government are sensitive to that wish for change—that we have set up the process that is being led by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, which is aimed at building consensus to bring about that change.