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Sir Oliver Heald: That is exactly the point that I was coming on to make. It would be a mistake to assume that because NICE found that one third of the people it looked at had no symptoms, those people could heave a sigh of relief and forget about asthma for ever. People—as I did—can have periods when they are symptom-free, but they still need regular reviews to ensure that it does not come back or suddenly get worse.

The Royal College of Physicians identified major avoidable factors in two thirds of cases where people died, which were about the constant monitoring and attention to detail that my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage mentioned. It did not cite all the evidence, but it seems that there are two unstable types of asthma that are often resistant to treatment and that can be a contributory factor. We need more research, awareness and knowledge that it is a variable condition, and that people should therefore not make assumptions or be complacent.

3.4 pm

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries. I congratulate the hon. Member for Stevenage (Stephen McPartland) on securing the debate. I commend the work that he and the all-party group on respiratory health do to raise awareness of these important issues in Parliament.

It cannot be denied that care for respiratory health conditions demands far more attention than it currently receives. Asthma, after all, is one of the most widespread and pernicious conditions around, and takes up a huge amount of resources in our health service. I share the hon. Gentleman’s concerns. We need to ensure the proper use of inhalers. My eldest son is asthmatic. He certainly has regular asthma reviews, and my wife and I, like the hon. Gentleman, try to ensure that such reviews are never missed, because they are so important.

The amount of research time that asthma gets is not proportionate to the scale of the problem, and routine asthma care simply is not up to scratch. The hon. Gentleman made that point well; the fact that he has been receiving pretty much the same treatment for the past 15 years speaks volumes. Respiratory disease is the third biggest killer in the UK, but the risk of conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma is perennially underestimated. The rate of deaths from respiratory disease in the UK is around three times that in Estonia and Finland.

Like the hon. and learned Member for North East Hertfordshire (Sir Oliver Heald), I get wheezy at sport. That has nothing to do with being asthmatic; it is more to do with my fitness levels. However, he made an important point that awareness of asthma, in the medical community in particular, is crucial. In 2010, I was very ill. My GP diagnosed asthma and prescribed me inhalers, which made me much worse because I was not asthmatic; I had pneumonia. That highlights the real need for the GP community to understand the specific needs of patients and whether asthma is prevalent, because some medication, as I found out to my detriment, can make people much sicker.

We have not touched on smoking to any degree, but we need to reduce its impact on respiratory health. That is a key factor. Patients need to be supported by clearer

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links being made between smoking and the start of respiratory disease, and there needs to be easier access to effective smoking cessation services and implementation of appropriate tobacco control measures.

There is, of course, a general awareness of the dangers of smoking. Needless to say, many have accepted the associated risks, but many have not. Two thirds of adult smokers took up smoking as children, so alongside measures to help people to quit smoking, we need to support those who have quit so that they do not relapse. We need to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke, and we should focus on protecting children and helping them not to take up smoking in the first place.

Around 10 million adults in Britain—about 20% of the population—smoke. Every year, smoking causes around 100,000 deaths. It is a major driver of health inequalities. Smoking rates are markedly higher among low income groups. I was pleased to see that the APPG report recommended the urgent implementation of standardised packaging for cigarettes, which Labour wholeheartedly agrees with. An independent report by King’s college London found that it was

“highly likely that standardised packaging would serve to reduce the rate of children taking up smoking”.

I commend the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Battersea (Jane Ellison), on her commitment to introducing plain packaging; I hope that the Minister present today will join her in the Lobby and encourage his colleagues in the Cabinet and on the Back Benches to support the measure. Christopher Hope of The Daily Telegraph only last week suggested that as many as 100 Conservative MPs planned to vote against the measure. Will the Minister support the measure and, if so, will he encourage his colleagues to do the same?

There are other measures that the Government could implement to reduce rates of smoking. Tackling the problem of toxic second-hand smoke, for instance, is crucial. It can pose terrible challenges to children’s health because of their smaller lungs and faster breathing, and the risks are increased in the confines of a car, for example. It is staggering that every year, second-hand smoke results in about 300,000 GP visits and nearly 10,000 hospital admissions among children.

That is why I was proud of the sterling efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) in getting a ban on smoking in cars through Parliament. More than 430,000 children every week are exposed to second-hand smoke in the family car, so when the House of Commons voted overwhelmingly for a ban, it was a great moment. However, the onus is now on the Government to act according to the wishes of the House, and to make the measure law at the earliest opportunity. I call on the Minister to commit to taking that step.

I was pleased by the proposals in the all-party group’s report for more joined-up asthma care. As part of Labour’s 10-year plan for the national health service, we have proposed a joined-up approach to long-term care, with patients being given more say in their care plans and more control over their data, so that that they can make more informed choices. That would be particularly pertinent to conditions such as chronic obstructive

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pulmonary disease, where a bad flare-up can prove life-threatening. Patients with such conditions should have more say in their care pathways. COPD exacerbations are the second most common cause of emergency hospital admissions, so it is clear how important it is to ensure that people can prevent complications where possible.

Clearly, there is some way to go on cutting rates of smoking and giving people support to stop smoking. However, it is also our responsibility to give people the option to influence their own health care. Hospitals provide advanced care, which often cannot be provided anywhere else, but swift developments have meant that lots of care that could previously be provided only in hospital can now be provided in the community. That is a huge leap forward. On the whole, the most deprived are admitted to hospital more often, not because of a higher propensity to fall ill, but because of the inadequacy of community services.

For example, with forms of COPD, most medical professionals firmly believe that good self-care can provide an incalculable benefit to patients. Those who know exactly how to administer their own long-term care tend to live longer and experience less pain, anxiety and depression. They also enjoy a better quality of life because they are more active and independent.

Sir Oliver Heald: That bears on a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Stephen McPartland). Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, in many ways, carers have an important role as well? When someone encourages a person to take their medicine on time, or to go to their annual review, that is important. Carers are often unsung.

Andrew Gwynne: I absolutely agree. Carers have an important role in how we integrate health and social care, and we should never underestimate the role they play in providing care for close relatives and friends. The hon. and learned Gentleman is right.

It is only with integrated care that complications can be spotted earlier and hospital admissions potentially avoided. Regular reviews with a patient’s health care team, including information-sharing with other parts of the NHS, can make all the difference. However, there is also a lot to be said for the provision of far more advice and help to those caring for people with COPD.

Labour has said that it will guarantee a single point of contact for people with complex physical and mental health conditions—somebody with the authority to get things done. We will also establish the right to a personalised care plan, developed with the individual and their family, tailored to personal circumstances and not restricted by service boundaries. Patients with conditions such as COPD will also have the right to access peer support and advice from others learning to manage the same condition, which could prove helpful.

I commend the hon. Member for Stevenage on his hard work in advancing the cause of those with respiratory health conditions. Irrespective of the general election outcome, which is largely out of the control of all of us, this issue must be an absolute priority for whomever forms the Government in the next Parliament, and I give the hon. Gentleman a commitment from the Labour party that, if we find ourselves on the Government Benches, it will be.

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3.14 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (George Freeman): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries.

Let me start by thanking and congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Stephen McPartland) for securing the debate and highlighting this incredibly important issue. His leadership of the all-party group is to be commended, as is the report it produced under his chairmanship last year. I also acknowledge his successful advocacy of his town of Stevenage as a life science cluster and hub—I can testify to that as the Minister responsible for life sciences.

The all-party group report identified a number of key areas for action, which colleagues have eloquently highlighted this afternoon. They include implementing the outcomes strategy for COPD and asthma; investing in medical research; improving awareness and diagnosis; better case finding; and ensuring that the NHS work force, from top to bottom, have the right skills to treat people with respiratory disease. If time allows, I will attempt to give detailed answers to my hon. Friend’s specific questions. If I am defeated by the clock, perhaps I could write to him. I very much look forward to meeting him in due course to pursue these issues.

Before I turn to those questions, perhaps I could say a few words about the scale of the challenge we face and what the Government are doing to confront it. The seriousness of the challenge posed by respiratory illnesses must not be underestimated, and it will not be shocking news if I say that it is accepted that they have been treated as something of a poor relation in many ways. They affect one in five people in the UK, they are responsible for about 1 million hospital admissions a year and they are the third biggest cause of death in the UK.

As the report from the all-party group’s inquiry into respiratory deaths said, UK death rates from respiratory disease compare poorly with those in other developed countries. In 2010, the UK had a higher rate of respiratory deaths than any other country in the OECD. The Government acknowledge that that situation is simply not acceptable, and we are working hard to improve it. Let me say something about how we are doing that.

The NHS outcomes framework for 2015-16 sets out the Department’s priority areas for the NHS and includes reducing deaths from respiratory disease as a key indicator. It also highlights the need to reduce unplanned hospital admissions due to asthma. In addition, the Government’s mandate to NHS England sets out the requirement for it to improve outcomes in a range of areas. That includes preventing premature deaths from the biggest killers, including respiratory disease, and supporting people with long-term physical and mental health conditions.

We published our “Living Well for Longer” document in April last year. It sets out the health and care system’s ambition to reduce avoidable deaths from the five major causes of death, which include respiratory disease. We set the ambitious target of making England among the best in Europe, to which end there is a lot to be done.

The Department has supported a number of initiatives to help to improve outcomes for people with respiratory disease. In July 2011, we published an outcomes strategy for people with COPD and asthma in England, setting out six high-level objectives to improve outcomes in

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those areas through high-quality prevention, detection, treatment and care services. The Department also supported the publication of a good practice guide on services for adults with asthma in 2012.

In addition, NICE, for which I have ministerial responsibility, has published quality standards for COPD and asthma, setting out the markers of high-quality, cost-effective care. Their implementation will raise the standard of care that people with such conditions receive.

In the Department of Health, I have responsibility for research. I am proud to say that the National Institute for Health Research has increased funding on these issues by 50% in the last five years, from £16 million in 2009-10 to £24 million in 2013-14. I accept that there is more to be done, but that is a significant start. The NIHR is investing nearly £22 million over five years in three respiratory biomedical research units. The NIHR clinical research network is setting up, and recruiting patients to, nearly 200 trials and studies in respiratory disease. That is some indication of the work that the NIHR and the Government are doing to prioritise this issue.

The Department has collaborated with the national review of asthma deaths, which examined the circumstances surrounding deaths from asthma from 1 February 2012 to 30 January 2013 and reported on its findings in May last year. The lessons learned about the factors that contribute to asthma deaths will inform the NHS about what constitutes good care and encourage the development of appropriate services for people with asthma. NHS England is supporting clinical commissioning groups to improve out-of-hospital treatment for those with asthma by giving doctors more control over the commissioning of asthma services and improving information links between GPs and hospitals.

I am delighted that last week NICE published draft guidelines on the diagnosis and monitoring of asthma. They are out for consultation, and no doubt the all-party group will have comments to make. Roughly 1.2 million adults in the UK may be wrongly receiving treatment for asthma. The guidelines set out the most effective way to diagnose asthma, and how health care professionals can help adults, children and young people control their symptoms better. The draft guidelines stress that to achieve an accurate diagnosis, clinical tests should be used as well as checking for signs and symptoms.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage described how for too long innovation has been lacking in the diagnosis and treatment of the diseases in question. I am delighted about innovations that are coming. The guidelines recommend that health care professionals should ask employed people how their symptoms are affected by work, to check whether they may have occupational asthma. Other guidance is currently in the pipeline, including clinical guidelines on the management of asthma, consultation on which will start in April, and guidance on the diagnosis and management of bronchiolitis in children, which is due to be published in May.

Importantly, NHS Improving Quality, in collaboration with PRIMIS, has developed the GRASP suite of primary care audit tools to help GPs improve the detection and management of COPD, in addition to two other long-term conditions, atrial fibrillation and heart failure. All the GRASP audits, including GRASP-COPD, are funded by NHS IQ, and they run on all clinical systems and are

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free to use for GP practices in England. Like the other toolkits in the GRASP suite, GRASP-COPD contains a case finder, which helps GPs to identify the number of patients who are at risk of COPD or who have items on their electronic record that suggest possible COPD. It also contains a management tool that compares current management of diagnosed COPD patients with NICE guidelines.

The shadow Minister mentioned smoking, which is an important issue. It is welcome news that the number of smokers is down to its lowest ever level, which means fewer deaths and fewer people living with the disabling consequences of smoking, such as COPD. However, about 8 million people in England still smoke, and it is right that we maintain a commitment to effective tobacco control. Ministers are clear about wanting both to reduce the number of young people who take up smoking and to help those who smoke to quit. That requires action on a range of fronts, nationally and locally, as with so much in the public health arena.

There is no simple, single solution. However, we are taking action. We introduced a package of measures in the Children and Families Act 2014 aimed at protecting young people from tobacco and nicotine addiction and the serious health harms of smoking tobacco. We have also laid regulations to end smoking in private vehicles carrying children, a measure that I am particularly proud of. Subject to parliamentary approval, those regulations will come into force in October. We are changing the law to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to under-18s and have consulted on draft regulations. We will implement the prohibition of proxy purchasing of tobacco by adults on behalf of under-18s, and we will bring forward legislation for the standardised packaging of tobacco products before the end of this Parliament. For the avoidance of doubt, I support that measure, and I shall urge colleagues who care about health to do the same. In 2014-15 Public Health England ran two major campaigns: Stoptober 2014, a nationwide 28-day quit event in October, and the current health harms campaign to prompt attempts at quitting. Public Health England is also running its breathlessness campaign, to raise awareness of the importance of breathlessness and respiratory disease more generally.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage raised several questions, which I want to address. I particularly want to pay tribute to Neil from Norwich, whose story he shared with us, including the extent of his suffering with COPD and asthma. My hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall (Sheryll Murray) mentioned the importance of wider allergy risk, and I am delighted to say that I recently visited a centre of excellence at Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge, which is pioneering a new method for detecting and treating allergies. It is an area of immunotherapy in which this country leads. My

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hon. and learned Friend the Member for North East Hertfordshire (Sir Oliver Heald) and the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mark Hunter) made important observations about that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage asked about the importance of a national clinical audit. I could not agree more about the importance of properly measuring and tracking performance. He knows that I am passionate about doing that across the system. NHS England is considering it in this area, among several potential new areas. I will highlight its importance in Parliament, along with the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Jane Ellison), who is responsible for public health, and I urge the all-party group to do the same, through our offices and independently.

I have provided some answers to the questions that my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage asked about research funding. We have increased the funding by 50% in this Parliament. However, I urge him to raise the matter directly with the National Institute for Health Research, and to continue campaigning in Parliament.

We support the work of the European Asthma Research and Innovation Partnership, and although it is clearly a matter for the competence of the EU, I assure my hon. Friend that the Public Health Minister and I, and the Department, will do anything we can to support the application. As for the creation of a world-class asthma review, NHS England is currently working to ensure that everyone with a long-term condition has a personalised care plan and that treatment for asthma and COPD improves. The Public Health Minister and I will make clear the levels of parliamentary support for that, following this debate.

Finally, my hon. Friend asked whether we could include lung function in the NHS health check for those over 40. Requests for such additional content will be considered by the NHS health check’s expert scientific and clinical advisory panel. I will happily make representations after the debate. I am sure hon. Members know that the Public Health Minister tenaciously advocates pursuing public health measures such as those on respiratory disease, including in the Tea Room, and she will take the matter seriously.

I will conclude, Ms Dorries, within the time that you mentioned, by paying tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage. On this issue, as well as on other life sciences issues, he has brought together the views of Members of different parties. Ministers will take the points that have been made, and we will do all that we can in the short time available in this Parliament to ensure that they are properly addressed by the relevant agencies.

3.26 pm

Sitting suspended.

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Housing Targets (Pudsey)

4 pm

Stuart Andrew (Pudsey) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries. I am grateful to have secured this debate, which is very important for my constituents. All hon. Members think their constituency is unique and special, as I certainly do. The Pudsey constituency is made up of many individual towns and villages that have a history dating back centuries. All have their own unique identity and are blessed with being close to one of the busiest and most successful cities in the north—Leeds—and being a stone’s throw from the beautiful Yorkshire dales countryside. What makes living in Pudsey, Horsforth and Aireborough enjoyable is the countryside that acts as the natural green lungs between the communities, helping to preserve their real sense of identity.

Every part of the constituency, however, has seen significant change over the past 15 years. Where once stood mills and factories, we now have thousands of new houses. As a consequence, the issue of planning has always been high in the minds of local people. All those extra houses have brought real problems: roads such as the A65 and the ring road have become notoriously congested; schools have such high demand that it is difficult for some parents to get their children into their local school; and doctors’ surgeries have got busier and busier.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): My hon. Friend has been a persistent campaigner on this subject for his constituents, for which I commend him. With regard to the A65 and the schools in his constituency, does he agree that the proposed developments in Menston right on the edge of his constituency, which will be a disaster for that village, will also have a massive negative effect on the A65 that his constituents use and on local schools? Children living in those developments would go to Guiseley school.

Stuart Andrew: My hon. Friend is right. I am trying to get across that these issues affect not only my constituency; planning applications in his constituency will also have a severe impact.

Just as we thought that things could not get any worse, we are now facing a new onslaught. Like many councils across the country, Leeds city council is currently developing its local plan. The core strategy sets out the council’s housing target. To my amazement and that of my constituents, the council has set the target at a staggering 70,000 houses during the next 16 years. In doing so, the Labour-run council has all but adopted the housing figures from the now-defunct regional spatial strategy, which is an unacceptable prospect for me and my constituents. As a base for that target, the council has used Office for National Statistics population growth projections from 2008. Those data are clearly out of date and inaccurate. More recent data, such as the census, show that growth has been some 43% less than predicted, which presents the first anomaly in the target.

Additionally, the council has based housing numbers on a large explosion of jobs in Leeds, which is good news. However, the council predicts that all the people who fill those jobs will need housing in Leeds, which,

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in an age of commuting, is clearly nonsense. Currently, only 66% of people who work in Leeds actually live there. Why else would Leeds railway station be one of the nation’s busiest? And why else would trains arriving at stations just within the city’s border, such as Guiseley, Horsforth and New Pudsey, be so crammed if so many people working in Leeds were not from neighbouring areas?

I attended the core strategy examination with Conservative councillors and community groups to argue that the target was too high and was based on outdated and flawed data. Sadly, our case fell on deaf ears and the target was approved. Since then, I have been warning that such a high target will pose a real threat to our green belt, which we will see, now that the council is seeking to identify the sites it needs for housing, but even I could not have foreseen how bad the threat would be.

On 4 January, the council announced a range of sites across the city that it is to consider for development, and there are sites in every part of my constituency. Shockingly, the majority of sites are in the green belt: fields on Ings lane that separate Guiseley and Menston; fields along Coach road that buffer the border with Bradford; and land in Rawdon along the Southlands estate that abuts important woodland. There are also the fields along the A65 from Rawdon crematorium down to the notorious roundabout at Horsforth, and land off Owlcotes road, Gain lane, and Rodley lane.

I recognise the need for house building, and across the city of Leeds there are masses of brownfield sites that need regenerating, particularly in the centre. An ambitious plan was proposed by Leeds sustainable development group for the south side of the city to transform old, derelict sites into good housing, schools and a park—in effect, creating a garden city. That is exactly the sort of development we should surely be encouraging, particularly given the excellent transport links, but again that proposal seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that in Leeds, against the backdrop of facts and figures, the Labour-run council has shown scant regard in destroying our constituencies? My constituency of 41,000 houses is now expected to take 12,500 extra houses, and he rightly points out that there are huge swathes of brownfield land that should be used ahead of the green fields and green belt. Is he struck that this is just political menacing at the expense of people’s lives?

Stuart Andrew: I certainly agree. When it was set up, the whole point of the green belt was not just to preserve our natural environment; it was also to encourage regeneration. I am worried that sites in the city centre are being neglected. Worse, at the examination hearing we challenged the developers to be more ambitious and to adopt such an approach with city centre plans, but their response was simply, “It is not viable.” Is that an acceptable excuse? Are we instead to destroy our green belt and to let such brownfield sites fester, just because the developers say so?

The usual accusation of nimbyism will be bandied about, but that is most unfair. As I said at the start, we have seen every bit of every brownfield site in my constituency used: the High Royds hospital site; the

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Silver Cross site; the Springhead mills site; the gasworks in Yeadon; the Brook Crompton site; the electricity site; the Cornmill estate in Horsforth; the Broom Mills site in Farsley; the Newlands estate at Farsley Celtic; and the Waterloo road and Cemetery road developments in Pudsey. Those are just a few of the developments, and more are being built or planned. Some 550 houses have been proposed for the Riverside and Clariant sites in Horsforth. Our community has had to cope with the effects of the building of thousands of homes, so this is not nimbyism; it is about wanting sustainable development. Because of the use of all those brownfield sites, in many areas all we have left is the green belt, and building on that is simply not on.

Of course house builders want these sites—they are easier to build on and they are often in areas where the house builders will make the most profit—but the green belt in this area is special. We are not talking about scrappy bits of land; the green belt forms part of what is special and unique in our area—the rural fringe of a city that sits on the borderlands between the south Pennines and the dales, as we saw so effectively during the Tour de France. Green belt sites are important green lungs between our communities that help to keep the identity of those communities. They are used by walkers, horse riders, mountain bikers and farmers, and of course they are important for wildlife and heritage: bats, barn owls, deer, woodpeckers and historical medieval crofts and tofts

I have real fears, and members of the community are rightly angry. They have accepted brownfield development, and they now fear losing the green belt. In Aireborough alone there will be a further 1,600 houses, 79% of which will be on the green belt. A common complaint that I hear from residents is that they feel that planning is something that happens to them, but they have decided to take advantage of the new opportunities that have arisen. Organisations such as Aireborough neighbourhood forum, Rawdon parish council and Horsforth town council are working incredibly hard to develop considered plans that make the most of what we have, encouraging enterprise and building on the history of entrepreneurship that is the legacy of our area’s past. However, Leeds city council is throwing that away as it steams ahead with its ridiculous housing target, which is among the highest in the country and poses a threat to the unique nature of our area.

A complaint from many local bodies is that they are not being listened to. They feel that whatever they say is ignored, which causes more frustration, as the targets are also dictating the development of proposed conservation areas. In Nether Yeadon, the area proposed has been reduced from what independent specialists such as English Heritage suggested, because the site allocation is dictating the designated area. Surely it should be the other way around.

I pay tribute to all the residents who have engaged in the process: John Davies and Jackie Schmelt in Rawdon; Nigel Gill and the residents in Yeadon; Jennifer Kirkby, who has been working with the Aireborough neighbourhood forum; Clive Woods and David Ingham of the Civic Society; the Horsforth campaigners; the Farsley residents action group, which is fighting to protect Kirklees Knoll; Briony Spandler and Martin Fincham, who are working hard in Rawdon.

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I have some questions for my hon. Friend the Minister. I have heard time and again that building on green- belt land should be allowed only in exceptional circumstances. My constituents want to know what constitutes exceptional circumstances. Is meeting a housing target an exceptional circumstance? If not, where is that clearly stated, so that we can present our arguments? How can neighbourhood plans be developed when the council plan is at odds with local views? How does that fit in with localism? How can he reassure my constituents, who have put in hours of work, that they are not wasting their time?

The green belt methodology has five criteria: checking unrestricted sprawl, preventing the merging of towns, safeguarding the countryside and preventing encroachment, preserving character and assisting in regeneration by recycling derelict land.

Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): The picture that my hon. Friend paints of his area is repeated across west Yorkshire. As he knows, we too have a Labour-run council in Kirklees that is going against local wishes and not listening to local people. Localism is not working in our areas.

I agree with my hon. Friend on the brownfield-first policy. I know how much time he spends knocking on doors in his constituency and meeting local people. I find that there are many empty properties that could be redeveloped and brought back into use as family homes in the middle of communities. We need to work on that side of things and use existing properties for local people.

Stuart Andrew: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The last time I looked at the figures on the number of empty homes in Leeds city alone, it added up to around 14,000. If we add the 20,000 or so planning permissions that have been granted, that is more than 30,000 opportunities to create properties for people, so let us get that system right before we start demolishing our green belt.

I have outlined the five criteria in the green belt methodology, but in the Leeds city council site allocation, item 5—the crucial bit about assisting in regeneration by recycling land—seems to have been removed. The reason cited is that it is in the core strategy. Is that right and proper? It seems very convenient.

We have also heard lots from the Government about the need for infrastructure. Improvements are being made to notorious roundabouts in the constituency, and new railway stations are being built, but those are solutions to problems we are facing now as a result of building over the past 15 years. Any further development will make those problems return. What does the Minister consider to be adequate infrastructure, and should that not be in place before we start building new houses?

Philip Davies: I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend’s flow, but does he agree that we are in a ludicrous situation? His local authority and mine are next door to each other, wanting to build more and more houses in our constituency. At the same time, the west Yorkshire combined authority is putting all the infrastructure spending into the Labour heartlands, starving our areas of the infrastructure that they need to support the housing that it wants to impose on us.

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Stuart Andrew: I could not agree more. Anybody who travels along roads in my constituency or my hon. Friend’s will know how horribly congested they are. The A65 is probably one of the most notorious in the country. That is a result of all the housing built before. If the plan goes ahead and all that green belt is lost, the situation will get much worse.

Should not the guidance on how to determine housing need in an area be more detailed in order to stop rogue targets? Should it not be clear so that we do not have different sorts of target all over the country? They should be based not on aspirational demand but on realistic need.

I could talk for a lot longer; I emphasise that I have merely scratched the surface. I have not touched on the fact that we face a double whammy from the Bradford city council targets that will be announced. However, I want to relay to Members the anger and frustration over the fear that such areas are in danger of losing their identity. We need sustainable and realistic housing targets and regeneration decided by planning, not developers. If we had those things, we would be able to preserve the green and beautiful countryside of which Leeds used to be so proud in calling itself the green city. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to help me and my constituents to stop the destruction and prevent, as Briony Spandler put it so well, our green belt from being turned into grey belt.

4.16 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Brandon Lewis): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew) on securing this debate and outlining some key issues for his constituency. I know that he has fought hard on them; he has lobbied me heavily and invited me to his constituency. I was pleased to meet some of the residents whom he mentioned.

I appreciate my hon. Friend’s concerns about the high housing requirement in the Leeds core strategy. I know that the issue is of considerable importance to him and the local communities that he represents, and it is a subject that we have met to discuss. I am acutely conscious of the impact that planning decisions have on local communities and our wider overall environment, as well as on the investment and growth that our economy needs. That is especially true of housing. It is important not only that we deliver the houses that this country so desperately needs but that they are designed to a high quality and, as hon. Friends have outlined, put in the right places.

As my hon. Friend will appreciate, given Ministers’ quasi-judicial role in the planning system, I cannot comment on specific proposals or plans. None the less, he has raised some important issues relating to the Government’s approach and reforms, and to what is going on locally in Leeds. An up-to-date local plan, prepared through extensive public consultation, sets the framework in which decisions are taken, whether locally by the planning authority or at appeal.

I am aware of my hon. Friend’s concerns about the level of development planned for in Leeds city council’s local plan. Plan making is always challenging, as it involves difficult decisions about how an area is likely

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to, should and can develop in the future. Local authorities rightly have the power to make such decisions. My hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Jason McCartney) said—if I remember his words correctly—that his local Labour council is just not listening. Fortunately for our democratic system, residents can do something about that when the time comes. Local plans do far more than set housing numbers; they establish areas that it is necessary to protect and set out how development will be supported by appropriate infrastructure.

Alec Shelbrooke: One problem faced by my constituency is that the Labour-run council has decided to play games. Rather than putting the 5,000 houses required in just one area, where they can be built with proper infrastructure, it is giving us death by a thousand cuts by building only 200 or 300 houses in each village. Each village will eventually join up, but absolutely no infrastructure will have been added. I urge the Minister to look closely at that. If councils are allowed to get away with that, our communities and infrastructure will be absolutely destroyed.

Brandon Lewis: I hear what my hon. Friend is saying, and that is one of the reasons why I am keen to move forward and get areas to do more work and develop more neighbourhood plans. Those plans have been admirably championed by my hon. Friends, because they enable local communities to make decisions about infrastructure. Infrastructure is potentially an environmental constraint, and local authorities should look at it to ensure that their housing delivery is appropriate when considering the local plan and planning applications. I will return to that point in a moment.

The national planning policy framework is clear that the purpose of planning is to deliver sustainable development, not development at any cost or anywhere. The framework was introduced after the abolition of the unpopular, top-down regional strategies. It sets out a clear approach to enable local planning authorities to determine the overall housing requirement for their area. Although I appreciate that the housing need in Leeds is still high, Leeds city council’s plans aim to deliver 3,660 homes by 2017, in comparison to the regional strategy’s target of 4,300.

I fully appreciate the concerns of my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey about the housing data on which the Leeds core strategy is based. As he rightly said, the first step is for local planning authorities to prepare a strategic housing market assessment to assess their full housing needs, and to work with neighbouring authorities where housing market areas cross administrative boundaries. That assessment should be based on facts and unbiased evidence, and it should be unfettered by policy. It should also identify the scale and mix of housing and the range of tenures that the local population is likely to need over the plan period.

I fully acknowledge the concern that Leeds city council based its assessment on the 2008 household projection figures, rather than the lower 2012 projections, which were based on the 2011 census findings. Furthermore, on examination, the inspector recognised that concern and others expressed about the council’s approach, so they inserted a requirement for the local authority to monitor evidence regarding housing need. They agreed to a lower housing requirement for the first years of the

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plan—the number will be stepped up in later years—to enable people to keep an eye on the plan. My Department will publish updated household projection figures shortly, which may influence future housing need.

Stuart Andrew: That is true, but the figure is going up to 4,500 new houses a year in years 3, 4 and 5. There is real concern that at that point, developers may have put in planning applications that will release those sites, and it will be too late. Does the Minister agree that we need an early review of the housing targets in Leeds?

Brandon Lewis: It is difficult for me to comment on a particular local plan. More generally, if there is clear evidence that things are changing in an area, it would be appropriate and sensible for the local authority to conduct an early review. That is as far as I can go.

As my hon. Friend said, identifying housing need is only the first step of the process. Once the need has been assessed, the local planning authority must prepare a strategic housing land availability assessment to establish realistic assumptions about the availability, suitability and likely economic viability of the land to meet the identified housing need over the plan period. It is expected to take into account the policies of the framework, including the environmental constraints.

National policy is clear that planning must take into account the different roles and characters of areas, and recognise the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside. Policy also states that to promote sustainable development in rural areas, houses should be located where they will enhance or maintain the vitality of rural communities. As my hon. Friend and others have said, and as I know from my visit to his constituency, much of the countryside is rightly loved and cherished by local communities.

The green belt is a legitimate constraint on development. It is listed as an environmental constraint within the national planning policy framework. That answers my hon. Friend’s question about whether a housing target is a special circumstance for developing on the green belt. The Government attach the highest importance to protecting our green belt. The new guidance that we published in October re-emphasises that importance. We are clear that green belt boundaries should be established in local plans and should be altered only in exceptional circumstances, using the local plan process of proper consultation and independent examination. If Leeds city council undertakes a green belt review, it will need to present robust evidence to the planning inspector and not come unstuck at examination for not doing the proper background work, as did Ashfield district council and Solihull metropolitan borough council.

Our protection of the green belt also extends to planning decisions. Most types of new buildings are inappropriate for green belt land and are, by definition, harmful to it. Such developments should not be approved

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except in special circumstances. Each planning case has unique facts and a unique context, and it must be determined on its own merits, so we cannot create a list of special circumstances. However, our planning guidance makes it clear that unmet housing need, including need for Traveller sites, is unlikely to outweigh harm to the green belt.

I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friends that timely and robust infrastructure provision is vital to delivering sustainable development. Local authorities must focus on that issue. Furthermore, the cumulative impact of development and the need for infrastructure to support development are material considerations in deciding whether individual applications for development are appropriate.

Alec Shelbrooke: My hon. Friend the Minister has expressed the problems that my constituency faces in a nutshell. Effectively, by looking at green fields rather than the green belt, Leeds city council is going to double the size of every village in my constituency and join them up. We need a special circumstance to allow us to redistribute the green belt around those villages to maintain their unique identity. That is where Leeds city council is failing.

Brandon Lewis: My hon. Friend puts it succinctly, and I am sure that his residents will be hanging on those words. Leeds city council has a duty to do what is right for its area, and it should be listening to its residents to ensure that it protects the special environment where they live and which they enjoy.

When I am out visiting communities and speaking to constituents, I hear widespread support for the need to provide more housing. That sentiment has been expressed in this debate. However, that support is often swiftly followed by concerns about where the houses will be built, and understandably so. We love our countryside. The Government have therefore handed local councils the responsibility for planning to meet the local needs, but meeting our housing goals cannot justify approving the wrong development in the wrong location.

My hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey and my other hon. Friends have expressed their frustration about the fact that Leeds city council is reviewing green belt boundaries to meet local housing needs. I am sure that my hon. Friend and his constituents will continue to make strong representations to the council and will express their views about where new housing should be, as the site allocations document is prepared. I know that my hon. Friends will do that loudly, clearly and correctly.

The Government expect councils to utilise brownfield sites, and we aim for 90% of those sites to be developed by 2020. We are putting in hundreds of millions of pounds to fund their development. We are making it clear to councils that we expect them to develop brownfield sites first and protect our country’s green belt.

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Time Stamps (Foreign Exchange)

4.27 pm

Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby) (Lab): I am most grateful for the extra three minutes, Ms Dorries.

I am grateful for the opportunity to raise the important issue of the time-stamping of all customer transactions in the foreign exchange markets. Time-stamping would prevent points from being skimmed off for the profit of the bank or the dealers, which is robbing customers of millions of pounds every year. In other words, it is facilitating theft. We must time-stamp foreign exchange transactions so that the rate at which the contract was made can be authenticated.

I first came across this issue a quarter of a century ago—it seems a long time ago—when a young trader came to me and said that dealers at the bank he worked for were skimming off points on trades on his account for their own profit. That, he thought, was a disastrous, dangerous practice, and amounted to theft from his clients’ accounts. He raised the issue as a whistleblower, and was fired in consequence. He first took the issue to the Securities and Futures Authority—a precursor to the FCA in the alphabet soup of authorities that regulate the financial industry in this country. In a letter to him on 4 September 1991, it said:

“Our own enquiries have confirmed the correctness of the view expressed by Mr Souliotis”—

that is the dealer—

“that although the opportunities for such malpractice appear to be many, the way in which the market operates and the audit trails…make the detection of such abuses altogether more difficult. Our enquiries continue however…To this end, we remain in discussion with the Bank of England.”

The buck passed to the Bank of England, and there it stopped and has remained stopped for 25 years. All attempts to end point skimming by imposing date stamps have been stopped by the Bank of England. Why? What it is doing I do not know, but it has effectively been facilitating theft and creating an atmosphere in which theft is easy and possible, and appears to be sanctioned.

I took the dealer, Mr Souliotis, to see Eddie George, who was then the deputy governor of the Bank of England. Mr George said several things. First, he said that the Bank had conducted a full inquiry. Secondly, he said that point skimming was not happening and the Bank could not find evidence of it. Thirdly, he said that banks as a whole would be too anxious to preserve their reputations to allow such a practice to go on—they are their own best guardians, in other words. Eddie George was wrong on all three counts.

When I took up the issue again under the previous Government, I looked into the inquiry done by Eddie George. The then Governor, Mervyn King, wrote to me on 26 August 2012 to say that the Bank’s investigation into the allegations had not taken place. He said that all the Bank did was ask the American Express bank—for it was they—to investigate itself, which it had. Not surprisingly, the American Express bank came up smelling of roses. Its reply to its self-investigation was, “No such thing has happened. What a terrible thought!” Mervyn King told me that the Bank had not conducted any interviews with any traders from the American Express bank.

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After my meeting with Eddie George, I raised the issue in an Adjournment debate in the House. The then Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Anthony Nelson, while denying the accusations, told me after the debate that the Treasury knew the practice went on, but could not produce any evidence on the scale of it or who was doing it. I want to help them produce that evidence of point skimming off clients’ accounts by making date stamps a requirement.

That was where the matter rested, 25 years ago; the bank denied the thefts, the Treasury could not find evidence and the practice was apparently condoned. It has certainly continued since that time; it has come to the surface in the United States. The practices in America are much the same as ours. The two markets are similar and the traders are behaving in the same kind of fashion. The same practices go on in both foreign exchange markets.

The first piece of evidence from the United States is that in 2002, the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted an undercover operation—a sting, in other words—called “Wooden Nickel”. The US attorney for Manhattan, James Comey, who is now the head of the FBI, uncovered in that investigation rigged currency trades in some of the best of the Wall street banks—the biggest banks. The operation led to 47 indictments, most of which led to convictions. Mr Comey said that

“a troubling thing was that similar rigged trading had been defrauding banks for as long as 20 years.”

I could have told him that.

The second piece of evidence from the States came in 2011, when the state employees’ pension fund in Virginia began a billion-dollar lawsuit against the Bank of New York Mellon, alleging overcharging on foreign exchange transactions for the pension funds. That overcharging included a charge of $135,000 on a $12.5 million trade. The proper rate would have been $6,250. They were given a fake rate and there was no possibility of chasing that up, because there were no time stamps on the transaction. The lawsuit went on.

With that evidence, I thought it necessary to raise the matter again in this country. I went back to what is now the FCA and spoke to Clive Adamson, the director of supervision. As a man from a banking background, he should well know what was going on; he was accustomed to doing banks’ public relations. The FCA told me:

“We are not aware of any evidence to suggest that mispricing of non-negotiated FX transactions is taking place in the UK.”

That was after the American evidence and despite the fact that foreign exchange trading works exactly the same way in the UK and the US. It is a huge market in the United States, with $5 trillion of exchange transactions daily, but the FCA denied the possibility that the same practices could occur here. On 18 March 2014, I took the issue again to the FCA, and Adamson’s view that it was not going on here was unchanged.

On 18 June 2014, with my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds East (Mr Mudie), I met Paul Fisher, the Bank of England’s executive director of markets and co-chair of the sub-group of the G20’s Financial Stability Board, which is looking at structural reform of the foreign exchange markets. We were told that time stamps are not a priority for the Bank of England or market participants. Presumably, the market participants that were consulted and said that time stamps are not a

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priority were the banks that have been so busy rigging foreign exchange rates that they have been fined more than £2 billion for rigging processes. The banks are obviously trustworthy witnesses on this account when they say, “No, this is not going on. Time-stamping is not necessary.” Those who were not consulted were the pensioners whose funds have been ripped off by this practice of skimming off points on trades that cannot be audited, because no one knows what time they took place. The Bank of England did not speak to pensioners or anyone else who had been ripped off. It seems to have no concern to protect pensioners either. The statement that this practice was not happening in the UK and was not a priority for the Bank of England is total rubbish and untrue.

Time stamps on trades allow auditors to compare the prevailing prices to the price in the trade when it was made. Time stamps allow the customer to know that he is getting the proper rate, because he can check the prevailing rate at the time. A time stamp allows someone to know whether a fair price has been applied to a specific trade and whether it has been done properly for the customer. It is an important and easy reform. It is easy to introduce; there is no difficulty about it. When banks trade foreign currencies among themselves—they are called interbank transactions—they use time stamps. They do not trust themselves, so they use time stamps, but they do not use time stamps when they are trading for customers, so they can rip the customers off. That is what this debate is about.

When shares are bought and sold, the transaction is time-stamped. In the United States, as a result of an amendment to the Government Securities Act in 1993, a time stamp must be used when Government securities are bought and sold. I do not know what the case is with gilts here, but trades in gilts should certainly be time-stamped. When someone buys a Starbucks coffee, it is time-stamped, yet they cannot time-stamp foreign exchange transactions for the benefit and protection of the customer.

Why is the financial industry exempt from time stamps on its foreign currency transactions for clients and why is the Bank of England supporting it? The practice is bad and disastrous. Why are customers left exposed to what amounts to the virtually invisible mispricing of trades that allows points to be skimmed off and makes thefts so easy? Why, when it is so easy to impose time stamps and therefore to know what is happening? It mystifies me. I cannot see the motive behind it and I cannot see the reason for resisting time-stamping for the two decades for which people have been making the argument for it.

Interestingly, Liam Vaughan, a Bloomberg journalist, has shown how things operate without time stamps. He was told by two former employees of Goldman Sachs who were on its foreign exchange alpha team in New York that when a salesman receives an order from a customer, often by e-mail, he executes it and waits to see whether the market changes. If the market goes up, he charges at the higher rate and keeps the difference between the price that was actually paid and the rate charged to the customer; in other words, he skims off. The former employees said that that can make as much as 30 pips on a €10 million trade into dollars—that is,

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0.3% of $13.6 million goes to the traders in points skimmed off, unless there are time stamps to show at what time the trade was done.

One can imagine the consequences of very few points—just a few pips—being skimmed off on lots of trade in a market worth $5 trillion a day in the United States. It is no wonder that the dealers do not want to time-stamp the transactions, but it is annoying that the Bank of England—the guardian of probity and regulator of markets—is stalling on the issue and talking of “ongoing reviews” that have been ongoing for 20 years and achieved nothing. Why is the Bank of England doing nothing? It is negligent and shameful that it should behave in this fashion.

I am not interested in prosecuting the lovely banks; I love the banks. I am not proposing that they should be prosecuted for past crimes, because official inaction has given them the green light to commit this kind of theft. However, I want time stamps so that we will have an audit trail and point skimming will be so risky that they will stop doing it. We are now considering, nationally and internationally, reforms of the foreign exchange markets, and the G20 Financial Stability Board is considering the issue. It is essential that, as part of that consideration, we put time stamps at the head of the agenda and stir the Bank of England out of its lethargy. I hope that the Minister will not ask us to wait and see, because my plea is that we should get on with it immediately.

On 8 September 1991, Clifford Smout, who was head of banking supervision policy for the Bank of England, wrote of foreign exchange skimming:

“The existence of such abuses is difficult to prove in a fast moving area such as the foreign exchange market”.

But I am providing a way in which they can prevent it and get convictions; why are they taking so long to do it? My plea is for us to get on with it: let us have time-stamping on all foreign exchange transactions for clients of the banks.

4.45 pm

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Andrea Leadsom): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries. I congratulate the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Austin Mitchell) on securing this debate on the incredibly important subject of foreign exchange manipulation. He will have been as disgusted as I was to learn about the benchmark rigging that has gone on in financial markets and the various tales of banking misconduct that have shocked and disgusted everyone. I assure him that I do not think that the Treasury or the Bank of England are naive in their determination to weed out bad practice.

By way of background, the foreign exchange market underpins the global financial system. It enables international trade in goods and services, cross-border investment and monetary policy, so it is critical to ensure that it is well functioning and fair for the benefit of countries, businesses and consumers. As the hon. Gentleman pointed out, the UK is the largest single market for foreign exchange trading. In 2013, more than 40% of global foreign exchange trading took place in the UK, supporting an enormous number of jobs and enormous investment in this country.

The foreign exchange market is one of the most deep and liquid markets. It has contributed to efficient wholesale markets in which the turnover can be as high as $2 trillion

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a day in the UK alone. However, it is vital that all end users can benefit from the market, so we welcome the growth of specialist foreign exchange providers that compete with existing banks for the foreign exchange business of smaller businesses and retail consumers.

On tackling market misconduct, we expect firms operating in foreign exchange markets to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. Where they do not do so, we will take action to prevent and punish bad behaviour, as shown by the recent enforcement actions taken by the Financial Conduct Authority against five banks. The attempts by some banks to manipulate certain foreign exchange benchmarks were totally unacceptable and disgraceful. The Government and the regulators have taken tough action to punish such behaviour and prevent such scandals from happening in the future. The hon. Gentleman will know that the Serious Fraud Office has opened criminal investigations into certain types of market misconduct, and those investigations are ongoing.

First, the Government established the FCA with a specific remit of focusing on the conduct of our financial sector. Secondly, we have laid before Parliament a statutory instrument to extend regulation to the key foreign exchange benchmark: the WM/Reuters London 4 pm closing spot rate. The manipulation of that and six further financial benchmarks will be a criminal offence from 1 April 2015. Thirdly, we have established the fair and effective markets review to conduct a comprehensive and forward-looking assessment of how wholesale financial markets operate, to help to restore trust in those markets in the wake of a number of recent high-profile abuses, and to influence the international debate on trading practices. The review will examine in particular how the wholesale fixed-income, currency and commodity financial markets operate. It will provide recommendations on how the fairness and effectiveness of such markets can be improved.

The Government recognise that market structure and transparency play an important role in making markets more effective. Although the foreign exchange market is predominately an over-the-counter market in which transactions occur bilaterally between market participants, over the past 10 years it has been at the forefront of the electronic trading revolution. The electronic trading side now accounts for more than 60% of foreign exchange trading in spot markets, which has brought significant improvements in efficiency and transparency to market participants.

The use of electronic trading is most prevalent in the wholesale market, however, so it is right for us to consider whether the process of technological development has gone far enough to improve the fairness and effectiveness of markets, or whether we need to take further steps. The principle that how a transaction will be priced should be understood by market participants at the time when they enter into the transaction should always apply.

To deal specifically with time-stamping, the hon. Gentleman argued that if firms were required to provide time stamps for foreign exchange transactions that do not occur at the time of any agreement to enter into such a transaction, it could bring additional transparency to the market. He is of course right that time-stamping would prove the point at which the trade was done. High-quality record keeping is integral to how all financial

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services firms, including foreign exchange dealers, should organise themselves and operate, so I agree that it is important for firms to keep appropriate records of transactions with clients.

Time-stamping, however, presents some practical challenges. First, the key one is that market participants can use the time stamp only if they have access to a data feed of foreign exchange market prices, but such reference data are not publicly available other than at significant cost. Furthermore, as transactions are undertaken bilaterally, there is no central market for all foreign exchange transactions, so any consolidated tape of transactions would capture only a part of the market. The price of such transactions would also not necessarily be directly comparable. In foreign exchange, the price of each transaction may take into account a range of factors specific to that transaction, such as assessments of creditworthiness.

Secondly, when the foreign exchange dealer acted as agent, market participants would need to understand how the transaction had been priced to understand whether they were charged accurately. The interbank rate cannot be expected to be available to all market participants, for example.

Thirdly, when the foreign exchange dealer acts as principal, it could be argued that what is more important than a time stamp is access to a range of competitive quotes, which indicates that the issue of time-stamping transactions needs to be considered in the wider context of market structure and competition.

Clearly, the main purpose of a time stamp would be to create an audit trail for a market participant to detect mispricing of foreign exchange transactions. We should be clear, however, that if clients were misled about the pricing of foreign exchange transactions, such an act would be fraudulent.

I will talk a bit more about the fair and effective markets review, which I hope will give the hon. Gentleman some comfort.

Austin Mitchell: I am grateful to the Minister for her reply, but the difficulties that she has posed are not insuperable—they can be overcome. A time stamp is easier with electronic trading than with other forms of trading, but it should be used in all kinds of trades, because if there is a time stamp the client has the ability to look at the price range that day. The client might not know the total trading, but he can look at the price range and see what time the transaction was made, so he will know whether he was getting a fair deal and a proper price. That is the important thing—to put the knowledge in the hands of the consumer. The difficulties can easily be got around with a will to do so. The question is, why has the Bank of England been allowed to drag its feet on the issue for so long? Why not put that in straight away?

Andrea Leadsom: All I can do is repeat what I said, which is that the interbank price is one price, but that will not be the price for a retail investor, such as someone going on holiday or a small business. If we time-stamp a transaction, we will have to have the specific price of that transaction at a given time, and that information is simply not available. For the time stamp to be useful, we would have to know what the market was at that precise time. As the hon. Gentleman pointed out himself, a few

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basis points make a world of difference to the profits for the trader, so if one were minded to rig the price for a consumer or a business, even a sizeable one, and to commit fraud, even a time stamp need not prevent the fraudulent activity, simply because it would be difficult to pin down what the actual price should have been.

The Government established the fair and effective markets review so that careful analysis of the fixed-income, currency and commodity markets could be undertaken. Part of the review will be to consider whether there should be further regulatory tools available in foreign exchange markets, including whether there is a need for further criminal sanctions. The review will also consider the market structure and whether it can be improved through regulatory intervention or market-led action. Obviously the Government cannot prejudge the outcome of the review, but those conducting it will be well aware of the issues raised by the hon. Gentleman and will be

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taking his views into account. The Government will consider the recommendations of the review once it reports in June and will provide a response.

In conclusion, the time-stamping of transactions needs to be considered in the context of improving the overall fairness and effectiveness of the foreign exchange market. Foreign exchange markets are by their nature the most global of all the financial markets, so a consistent international approach to their regulation is essential. Where action is warranted, the UK should definitely lead the way in calling for and delivering it. I hope that I have reassured the hon. Gentleman of our commitment to ensure a fair and effective foreign exchange market—one that protects the customer while keeping the UK’s leading position internationally.

Question put and agreed to.

4.56 pm

Sitting adjourned.