4 pm

I am pleased to say, however, that altogether we can welcome the changes. I thank the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign coalition and the organisations involved

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in it: the Campaign for Real Ale, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Forum of Private Business, Licensees Supporting Licensees, the Fair Pint Campaign, Licensees Unite, The Guild of Master Victuallers, Justice for Licensees, the Pubs Advisory Service, the GMB and of course my own Save the Pub group established in 2009. I think many right hon. and hon. Members would agree that this has been one of the most successful campaigning all-party groups of this Parliament. I warmly praise the incredible work of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee over the past eight years, chaired first by the hon. Member for Mid Worcestershire (Sir Peter Luff) and then, just as ably, by the hon. Member for West Bromwich West (Mr Bailey), and all the members and staff of the Committee in that time.

I thank the Minister in the other place who I know is taking a big interest in these proceedings. In her first speech in Committee, she said that I had failed to be prepared to be engaged. She then realised that the problem was that I had not been asked to be engaged properly. It was when I was asked that we were able to come to this agreement. I would be grateful if Ministers could pass on my thanks and praise to the officials and the special advisers who worked extremely hard to push this through.

I have been working on this issue for more than seven years, as have many campaigners from the organisations I have mentioned. I want to dedicate this incredible legislative change to Trevor and Wendy Pragnell. Trevor died in his Enterprise Inns pub a week after having to close it. I sat with Wendy, his widow, and heard the reality of what this business model had done to them and their lives. Many other people have suffered at its hands, too. We should never forget that this is not just about pubs; this is about fairness and justice.

This has been an amazing journey. This has been a David versus Goliath victory. This has been a victory for campaigning. This has been a victory for people power. This has been an emphatic and enthusiastic victory for this Parliament.

Neil Carmichael (Stroud) (Con): I shall not linger long on this matter, although it has been very complicated and at times the debate has been robust. This is a victory for Parliament. The Bill has been properly contested and thoroughly debated, and the outcome is impressive. I want to signal my support for the amendments today and for the overall direction of the debate.

During the passage of the Bill there were times when we disagreed, but those disagreements were based on a deep belief that we had to get it right. Overall, that is what has happened. I take on board the points relating to the code and to delegated legislation. It is absolutely right that more thinking will need to be done. Fundamentally, however, the direction of travel is now correct. Some of my concerns have been responded to properly by the House of Lords, which is absolutely fabulous. I think that anyone watching this debate will have been impressed by the way in which the two Houses have worked together to deal with this complicated Bill. They have produced an outcome that is good for the pub industry, good for the brewing industry and good for our communities and our pubs.

Ultimately, we want successful pubs and successful breweries. I want pubs in my constituency to continue to thrive and for brewers to feel confident about

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opportunities in the marketplace in the years ahead. Small brewers need to be supported and promoted. The changes made to the Bill in the past few months will do exactly that. I therefore have great pleasure in signalling my support for the Bill today.

Jo Swinson: With the leave of the House, I wish to respond briefly to the debate and thank hon. Members for their contributions. The hon. Member for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins) was kind. As others have said, this is an example of where the Government have listened, Parliament has spoken and we have worked genuinely with stakeholders and people from all parties to come to the right outcome.

Some outstanding concerns have been raised. The hon. Gentleman asked whether the investment waiver would end up being too broad for too little investment, and obviously it is important that we consult to get those details right. He also sought clarity as to whether the principles laid out would be upheld. The Minister for Business and Enterprise made the Conservative position clear in an intervention, and I am happy to confirm that the Liberal Democrats stand behind these principles. I hope that the consensus across the three main parties on those principles will give the industry and tenants some welcome confidence, certainty and reassurance.

My hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Andrew Griffiths) was concerned about potential unintended consequences, and my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland) about some of the issues still to be discussed when we come to the secondary legislation. It is right that these matters be discussed properly during the secondary legislation phase and that we get them right. The long string of amendments to which my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds North West referred is testimony to the challenge of the detail we had to go into to get the issues right, and in that connection I would like to put on record my thanks to the officials who have worked tirelessly on this—not one of the more straightforward policy areas in the Department—over the last few months. I owe them a great deal of thanks for the wonderful job they have done.

There are issues still to be wrangled over come the secondary legislation stage, but I do not know whether I will be the Minister or if somebody else will have the great joy of steering that through the House. These are debates for another day. Today we should just be pleased with the proposed primary legislation before us.

Lords amendment 34 agreed to.

Lords amendments 35 to 62, 86, 132 and136 to 141 agreed to.

Clause 3

Companies: duty to publish report on payment practices

Matthew Hancock: I beg to move, That this House agrees with Lords amendment 1.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendments 2 to 33, 63 to 85, 87 to 131, 133 to 135 and 142 to 193.

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Matthew Hancock: With only a few days remaining in this Parliament, the Government continue to work tirelessly to make the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a business. We are proud of our record over this Parliament, including the 760,000 extra businesses, the 2.2 million extra jobs that business has created and the rising pay that has benefited millions. This has been possible only because of our unstinting and unambiguous support for businesses. Last week’s Budget built on this record with a fundamental review of business rates, and last week we set out our intentions for using the new prompt payment transparency powers. The Bill takes this commitment to support small business further. It is the first ever small business Bill and I hope will shortly become the first ever small business Act.

In the other place, the Bill was, as we would expect, subjected to careful and robust scrutiny, and I am grateful to Baroness Neville-Rolfe for ably steering it through the other place, where it was enhanced and improved. As part of that, several amendments were made, both substantive and technical. The Government supported all the successful amendments, and I hope that the House will agree them today. I shall go through each in turn, beginning with late payment. The Bill takes unprecedented steps to tackle late payment, so understandably the matter was debated in detail in this House and the other place. Late payment is a major issue for businesses large and small, and we are taking steps in the Bill and elsewhere to bring an end to the UK’s late payment culture once and for all.

Transparency has a pivotal role to play. Clause 3 introduces a tough new prompt payment reporting requirement for the UK’s largest companies. In the other place, this clause was further strengthened by amendments 1 to 3, which insert a reference to performance on the face of the Bill and make express reference to late payment interest as an example of the type of information that will be included in the report. Beyond the Bill, we have strengthened the prompt payment code with our announcement last month that 30-day payment terms will be the norm of acceptable behaviour, with 60 days as the maximum in all but exceptional circumstances.  The public sector will play its part, as 30-day terms are now legally required right down the public sector supply chain.

The transparency measures in the Bill will shine a light on poor payment practices and make a company’s payment terms a reputational boardroom issue. We will drive a culture change to redress the current economic imbalance of power between large companies and their suppliers. The amendments under consideration today will help to ensure suppliers are fairly compensated. We are determined to make 30-day terms the norm and 60 days the maximum acceptable payment terms. With this Bill, we will make unacceptable late payment a thing of the past.

John Howell (Henley) (Con): I very much welcome what the Minister said and I welcome the clause. When I was running a small business of my own, late payments bedevilled the business, and it was always the larger companies that were responsible for it. I am very glad that this amendment is being made.

Matthew Hancock: I am grateful for that intervention. I, too, have personal experience of poor payment performance having a massive impact on the businesses

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I worked in. Frankly, the late payment culture is a problem with our contract law. Good contract law means good payment against a contract. I think these transparency measures will have a significant impact, changing prompt payment from being an issue for finance directors to being an issue for the board. Through these transparency measures, we will not allow it to be deemed reasonable to pay late. I think that 60 days as a maximum and 30 days as a norm is a perfectly reasonable place to settle.

Toby Perkins: I fear that the Minister is rather over-selling the measures he proposes, welcome though they are. When he says that 30 days will be the norm and 60 days the exception and nothing beyond it, will he make clear what happens when businesses do not pay within that time frame? What sanctions will they face under this new regime?

Matthew Hancock: There are already sanctions under EU law relating to interest payments, but the transparency measures will crucially mean that we can have league tables of payment performance. The transparency in this area, alongside the public sector payment practices, will change the culture. We considered and debated in detail going further in changing contract law, but a contract is signed up to by both sides, and no practical amendment was put down to make it more binding than the existing law, which already says that 60 days should be the maximum unless both sides agree to it. Any contract, of course, has to be agreed to by both sides. It is a matter of finding a way to make this practical in law.

Part 2 deals with regulatory reform, and the Bill brings forward significant measures to reduce the burden of regulation. The small business appeals champion will ensure that small businesses’ concerns about regulators are heard. There was extensive debate in the other place on whether the Equality and Human Rights Commission should be excluded from these measures.

We have always maintained that the EHRC should not be subject to the duty to appoint a champion and had originally considered that an exemption in secondary legislation would be sufficient. Concerns were expressed, however, that this might put at risk the EHRC’s “A” status as a national human rights institution. In the light of those concerns, we agreed to eliminate this potential risk by excluding the EHRC from scope of the duty on the face of the Bill.

On the business impact target, the other place questioned the definition of voluntary and community bodies in clause 27. The Government listened to this concern and amendment 28 simplifies the definition by removing the minimum membership threshold for certain smaller unincorporated associations. It also ensures that such bodies are not excluded from the proposed definitions of small and micro businesses later in the Bill by virtue of the size of their membership. Those are relatively technical changes. The principle of a business impact target to ensure that in future Governments are transparent—as this Government have been—about the impact of their overall regulatory approach on the burdens of business was well supported, and is made clear in the Bill.

4.15 pm

Part 7 deals with the transparency of companies. The provisions concerning the register of people with significant

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control also received close scrutiny. In the other place, ways of improving the details were suggested on all sides, and the Government listened and responded with a number of amendments.  The Prime Minister made clear in October 2013 that the PSC register should be publicly accessible, and, in that spirit, Lords amendment 146 removes unnecessary restriction from those who seek access to a company’s register. It was also proposed that the public register should state clearly where information has been protected from public disclosure, and Lords amendments 143 and 150 address that proposal.

Lords amendments 156 and 157 are designed to protect investors in certain non-UK arrangements by treating them in the same way as English limited partnerships. In the other place, we committed ourselves to using the power in the Bill to increase the frequency with which PSC information is provided for the central register in 2017, about 12 months after the system goes live next year. That responds to calls for information in the central register to be more up to date, while giving companies a year in which to adjust to the new requirements.  It will tie in with the transposition deadline for the EU’s fourth money laundering directive, which will shortly require all EU member states to hold “current” company beneficial ownership information in central registers.  I am grateful to Members in all parts of the House for their engagement in improving those provisions.

Part 10 contains important measures to improve insolvency and reform pre-pack administrations so that they cannot be abused. In Committee, concern was expressed about creditors’ ability to call face-to-face meetings in insolvency proceedings, particularly when numerous small creditors were involved. Lords amendments 71 to 84 enable a face-to-face meeting to be requested by 10% of the total number of creditors or contributories, with an absolute threshold of 10, as well as 10% by the value of their claims.

Part 11 deals with employment. Lords amendment 87 responds to the findings of the Francis report on NHS whistleblowing. The report unveiled a culture of silence in parts of the NHS, which in some cases went right to the top. We are determined to change that. The Bill already introduces a power to impose a requirement on prescribed persons to report annually on whistleblowing concerns that they receive, but we want to go further to protect whistleblowers. The amendment will enable the Secretary of State to prohibit NHS employers from discriminating against a job applicant on the grounds that the applicant appears to have blown the whistle previously. We want a culture of openness in the NHS. We want problems that are uncovered to be dealt with, and we want our brilliant NHS staff to be supported so that they can fulfil their vocation of care.

It was suggested in the other place that cost orders should be included in the calculation of the penalty for late payment of employment tribunal awards, and that suggestion is reflected in Lords amendments 88 to 105.  Lords amendments 106 to 122 ensure that the Scottish Government will have control over exit payments made by bodies within Scottish legislative and executive competence.

In the other place, the Government introduced a small but important new measure on concessionary coal. We are helping UK Coal to operate in a challenging environment. Without Lords amendment 123, we would not have the statutory power to ensure that workers at

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UK Coal Kellingley and Thoresby could continue to receive concessionary coal allowances, which would be wrong. The amendment gives us the power to meet this entitlement for those miners. It is right and shows our commitment to the staff at those collieries, and I hope it gets the support of the House. 

Alongside the robust examination of the Bill in the other place, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee also scrutinised the Bill. The Government have made a number of amendments in response to these recommendations, as well as a number of technical and consequential amendments on the topics of credit data, cheque clearing, finance platforms, home business, child care, the PSC—people with significant control—register and insolvency proceedings. These are set out in the explanatory notes on amendments.

In all, these amendments strengthen the Bill, the Bill will strengthen business, and strong business will strengthen Britain. The amendments before us have the full support of Government and I hope will have the support of the House. 

Toby Perkins: The Minister questioned whether the amendments will have the support of the Opposition. They will do, of course; we proposed a good deal of them, so it would be rather foolish for us not to be supporting them at this stage. He is right to say the Bill arrives back in this House in stronger order than it left it. It looks far more like the kind of small business Bill I was talking about back in July 2014 when I said the Government ought to be taking far greater steps, and I agree with the Minister that the Bill is improved.

We said steps needed to be taken to strengthen enforcement of the compensatory award in employment tribunal cases. We are pleased that the Government have today announced a naming and shaming programme that will ensure exposure of businesses that do not pay compensatory awards identified by a tribunal. We said that insolvency creditors meetings were an important part of our world-class regime and we are glad the Government accepted our amendment on that. We are glad, too, that the Government decided to exempt the Equality and Human Rights Commission from the work of the small business appeals champion—although not from the growth duty section of the Deregulation Bill, as we called for at the time. On late payment as well, we have been saying for a long time that stronger action was needed. I am therefore bound to say that the fact that these are issues Her Majesty’s Opposition have been raising, from abuse of zero-hours contracts to late payments to small firms, and from non-payment of the national minimum wage to supplier pay and stay deals—an area of pub company legislation we have already discussed—shows that it is the Opposition who have been leading the way, and the Government have been following us reluctantly.

It rather undermines the charge that Labour is anti-business when the Government keep taking action in so many of the ways we have called for. I know the Government have form in this regard; they used to suggest UKIP was mad before they adopted its No. 1 policy. However, we support the principle that the Government should be willing to listen and take action where they have got things wrong, and we think the Bill before us today is a good deal stronger as a result of that.

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I want to take up the Minister’s challenge on late payments. As I said in my intervention, he is overplaying his hand when he suggests that the measures brought forward, welcome though they are, signal the end of egregious late payment practices. The steps the Minister has taken on the public sector are welcome. Particularly at the time of the bank-induced global economic crisis, the previous Labour Government took significant steps to ensure that the public sector paid on time and this is putting that on to a more permanent footing, which is a positive step. However, the Minister suggested that the transparency he is introducing will create a reputational risk that means businesses and boardrooms around the country will think carefully before paying late. While the way this is going to be marketed will be different, many of the transparency measures proposed here are currently available if people choose to look. There has been no reputational risk for many of the companies that have operated in that way.

In response to what the Minister said a few minutes ago, the truth is that no new sanctions have been proposed. He said that businesses could avail themselves of the sanctions in the EU late payment directive, but they have been able to do that for several years. If a major business chooses to say, “We’ll supply you, but our terms are 90 days”, a small business will have the choice of whether to deal with it on those terms or not at all. That means that nothing has changed, and we are still in exactly the same position.

The steps that the Government are proposing on late payment are fine, as far as they go, but this is a missed opportunity. I am willing to predict that, in the next Parliament, we will not consider this issue to have been dealt with and that, at some point in the next four or five years, we will all be back here discussing late payment again and saying that something must be done, that we must change the culture, that we need to get across to businesses that late payments are unacceptable, and that we need greater transparency so that small businesses know what they are letting themselves in for. My right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) stated powerfully at the Federation of Small Businesses conference last week that late payments are one of the great scandals in our economy. Small businesses are disadvantaged by the practice, and more should have been done.

Clause 3 initially created a duty for companies to publish only their payment policies. We have consistently argued that publishing policies is not enough and that small businesses also need concrete information on the performance in practice, and not just what is written in a policy book. We tabled amendments in Committee in the Commons and on Report in the Lords that would have created a compulsory reporting regime to ensure that large companies’ reporting records would be open to quarterly scrutiny with automatic interest paid for late payment. The Government voted down our proposals on both occasions. The Minister said a few minutes ago that no practicable proposals had been tabled in this regard, but that is not true. We tabled specific proposals that would have put the late payment directive on a statutory footing. He might have decided that he did not want to support our proposals, but it is not true to say that they did not exist.

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However, we are pleased that the Government have made some concessions and accepted our fundamental argument that information on performance, as well as policies, must be published. This will allow large companies to be judged by their deeds, not just by their words. However, we believe that there should be a financial backstop, such as an automatic interest payment or a fines regime, as outlined in our proposals. So it remains to be seen how effective the Bill will be. It is stronger as a result of the interventions by the Labour Opposition but more could have been done and, regrettably, we will have to return to this issue in the next Parliament.

The Bill establishes small business appeals champions, whose role will be to watch non-economic Government regulators and encourage them to improve the impact on business of their policies, their processes and their approach on appeals and complaints. In broad terms we welcome this idea, but many bodies have questioned how the champions will work in practice and what relationship they will have with the general growth duty in the Deregulation Bill. We welcome the fact that the Government have taken up our argument that the guidance to the small business appeals champions in relation to the exercise of their functions should be laid before Parliament for full scrutiny and debate.

On Lords amendment 25, we are pleased that the Government have acceded to our demand that the Equality and Human Rights Commission be excluded from any of the regulatory provisions in the Bill. This will relate specifically to the work of the small business appeals champions.

On the subject of creditor meetings, I should like to draw to the attention of the House the donation made to my office of employment support from R3, the insolvency regulator. The intention of the original Bill was to end once and for all the practice of insolvency practitioners holding physical creditor meetings in all types of insolvency procedures. We felt that that was a mistake and that it could disengage creditors and weaken the strength of the world-leading insolvency regime that we have here in the UK. We very much welcome the fact that the Government have listened to some of the specific proposals we made on ensuring that the threshold for a creditors meeting should be changed to

“(a) 10% in value of the creditors;

(b) 10% in number of the creditors;

(c) 10 creditors.”

We think that is a much stronger amendment, providing the support that that industry needs to ensure that it continues to provide a service that gets record amounts of money back to creditors and is also successful in saving jobs and businesses.

4.30 pm

Let me deal with Lords amendments 88, 89, 92, 93, 100 and 101. We raised several concerns about the Government’s proposals for employment tribunals in this Bill. For example, we were concerned that fines could be levied to businesses that have not paid the compensatory award; the business could pay the fine but would not necessarily have paid that award. We are pleased that the Government have conceded and made things a bit better, but, again, they have not gone as far as we would like in covering that issue. An amendment has been accepted that includes any amount the tribunal

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has ordered the employer to pay the worker in respect of legal costs within the definition of the financial award owed to the claimant for the purposes of the financial penalty for non-payment. That will ensure that an employer must comply with both the employment tribunal award for compensation and any order in respect of costs to avoid a penalty.

So we feel strongly that the Bill arrives back here and will pass into law a good deal stronger than it arrived. We feel strongly that the steps we have proposed and which have been accepted by the Government show that in many cases Government interventions can very positively support the successful running of our business and of our economy. They can ensure that workers are supported in the workplace, and they can help us to build an economy in which the prosperity of the nation is shared among the many, not the few. In so doing, they can also ensure that the rules of the game are sufficiently fair so that small businesses and big businesses are both able to compete, coexist and thrive. On that basis, this House can be very pleased with the work it has done in amending the Bill.

Lords amendment 1 agreed to.

Lords amendments 2 to 33, 63 to 85, 87 to 131, 133 to 135, and 142 to 193 agreed to, with Commons financial privilege waived in respect of Lords amendments 85, 123 and 133.

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Section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993

4.33 pm

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): I beg to move,

That this House approves, for the purposes of section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993, the Government’s assessment as set out in Budget 2015 and Autumn Statement 2014, combined with the Office for Budget Responsibility’s Economic and Fiscal Outlook (2015) and Fiscal Sustainability Report (2014), which forms the basis of the United Kingdom’s Convergence Programme.

As in previous years, the Government inform the Commission of the UK’s economic and budgetary position in line with our commitments under the EU’s stability and growth pact. The Government plan to submit their convergence programme, with the approval of both Houses. The convergence programme explains the Government’s medium-term fiscal policies, as set out in the 2014 autumn statement and Budget 2015, and also includes the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts. As such, it is based entirely on previously published documents that have been presented to Parliament.

With the Budget on 18 March this year, and the debate much earlier than normal because of the electoral timetable, I appreciate that the time to prepare for this debate has been particularly tight. Against that backdrop the Treasury has made every effort to provide early copies of the convergence programme document in advance of the debate today. The document makes it clear that since 2010 the Government’s long-term economic plan has delivered the stability and security needed to build a resilient economy: the UK had the fastest growth among G7 economies in 2014; employment has reached its highest ever level; and inflation—the consumer prices index—is at a record low. Debt as a share of GDP is now forecast to start falling in 2015-16, meeting the debt target set out in 2010.

There are differing views on the value of submitting that information to the Commission. To be clear, as a result of the UK’s opt out from the single currency, no sanctions can be imposed on the UK as part of this process. The UK’s record is a good one, and there is some value in sharing the UK experience across Europe and demonstrating that there is no conflict between central fiscal consolidation on the one hand and robust economic growth on the other.

Last week’s Budget set out the Government’s assessment of the UK’s medium-term economic and budgetary position. GDP grew 2.6% in 2014, which is the strongest annual growth since 2007 and the fastest in the G7. Debt is forecast to fall as a share of GDP in 2015-16, meeting the debt target set out by the Government in 2010. Borrowing is forecast to be lower in every year to 2018-19 than at autumn statement 2014, and the public finances are forecast to achieve a larger surplus in 2018-19. Falling debt and improving borrowing mean that consolidation can end a year earlier than planned, and that spending will grow in line with GDP in 2019-20. Budget 2015 builds on existing reforms to create a dynamic, regionally balanced and stronger economy. Latest data show that employment is at its highest ever level, with 1.9 million more people in work since the current Government came to power. Business investment

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has increased by 25.6% since the first quarter of 2010, and the UK will have the joint lowest rate of corporation tax in the G20 from April 2015.

Budget 2015 sets out a significant package of measures for a truly national recovery by investing in infrastructure, housing, and science and innovation across the whole of the UK, and building a northern powerhouse. Fuel duty will be frozen for another year. The Government will substantially reduce oil and gas taxes to improve competitiveness in the North sea. Further support for energy-intensive industries will begin in 2015-16. A comprehensive review of business rates has been launched, and there will be a radical simplification of the tax system by abolishing the annual tax return.

Restoring growth and competitiveness across the EU is critical. The euro area outlook is for slow, but positive growth, supported by lower oil prices and European Central Bank sovereign quantitative easing. The European Commission’s own forecasts from February this year predict growth in 2015 of just 1.7% in the EU as a whole, and 1.3% in the euro area. Some 45% of our exports are destined for the EU and seven of the UK’s top 10 trading partners are EU member states.

The UK recovery has been based on a number of policy responses: supportive monetary policy, clear and credible fiscal consolidation, and structural reform, all of which must mutually reinforce each other. Although the challenges across member states differ, countries across the EU need to consider a similar response, and these processes of European co-ordination, including the sharing of information through the shared reporting of fiscal and reform progress, can play a part in making that happen.

Much of the answer lies in national level reforms such as creating flexible labour markets. Clearly, the European semester has a key role to play in encouraging member states to make ambitious reform commitments, and the UK has an interest in making those reforms happen. However, an ambitious EU-level reform agenda is also a key part of the equation and an essential counterpart to national level reforms.

In conclusion, the Government are committed to ensuring that, in line with section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993, this House approves the economic and budgetary assessment that forms the basis of the convergence programme. Following the House’s approval of that assessment, the Government will submit the convergence programme to the European Commission, which is expected to make its recommendations to all EU member states in late May. Those recommendations will then be considered by ECOFIN council and agreed by Heads of State or Governments at the European Council.

The convergence programme explains the Government’s medium-term fiscal policies as set out in the 2014 autumn statement and Budget 2015, and also includes the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts. As such it is based entirely on previously published documents that have been presented to Parliament. Unlike other member states, the UK does not submit its Budget to the Commission for approval, and cannot be subject to any action or sanctions as a result of its commitments under the stability and growth pact. I look forward to the debate.

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4.39 pm

Cathy Jamieson (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (Lab/Co-op): I am grateful for the opportunity to respond to the motion on behalf of the Opposition. Looking back over the corresponding debate last year, I was interested to see that the Minister’s predecessor, the right hon. Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan), told the House that, due to the tight timetable,

“the Treasury has made every effort to provide early copies of the convergence programme document in advance of today’s debate.”—[Official Report, 30 April 2014; Vol. 579, c. 851.]

I acknowledge that today the Financial Secretary indicated the difficulties in providing the document in a timely fashion. I received a copy only on Friday. At more than 250 pages long, it was perhaps not ideal, but it certainly made for interesting weekend reading.

Mr Gauke: Does the hon. Lady recognise that many of those pages were familiar, having been in the Budget documents? No doubt, by Friday, she had already read and digested all the Budget documentation.

Cathy Jamieson: I was just about to say that I know the Minister is courteous and accommodating, so I understand that the delay might have been unavoidable. As he quite often does, he has anticipated a number of the questions and points I intended to raise—indeed, the whole thrust of my remarks is just how familiar some of the documents and the issues they cover are, given that they have been discussed already and are likely to be debated again tomorrow. I hope to be able to do the subject justice this afternoon.

Some things have changed since last year. Looking across the Chamber, I see that, unlike last time, the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg) is not in his customary place. I know what a keen interest he normally takes in European matters, having had the pleasure of his company in many European Committees, including one only this morning. As the Minister last year observed, the hon. Gentleman

“could go on for hours and hours on that particular subject.” —[Official Report, 30 April 2014; Vol. 579, c. 854.]

Given his absence from the Chamber this afternoon, the debate might be shorter than was anticipated.

As the Financial Secretary observed, once again we have been provided with a barrage of figures, accompanied by bouts of backslapping, boasts and congratulations from the Government to themselves. The overarching theme of the document is to show just how well the Government have done—and, no doubt, the Government would say that is entirely in order from their perspective. However, the document—and to some extent this debate—is something of an exercise in repackaging. Bits of the Red Book and bits of the Office for Budget Responsibility’s “Economic and fiscal outlook” are spliced together with a new binding—a theme and variations on the Budget, except there is little theme and scant variation. Although the Government can try to repackage the Budget, I would argue that they cannot mask some of the problems we have already raised and the reality of the failure.

Part of me thinks that the Minister’s tune, like the Chancellor’s last week, strikes a pretty discordant note, because the truth is that, under even the mildest scrutiny, the Government’s economic credibility behaves like a

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sand castle in the waves, melting away before our eyes. Attempts have been made, through choice language and careful presentation, to obscure the impact that this Government have had, and continue to have, on the people and public services of this country. The theme that runs through the Red Book and the report we are discussing today is that everyone can put away their umbrella, because the sun is shining, people across the country are better off, and we should all be very grateful as we walk hand in hand into the sunlit uplands of peace and prosperity. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”]

I hear the cheers from the Government Benches. Hon. Members may wish to wait for the next part of my speech before further congratulating the Government. The picture is very different for the millions of people across the country who are still firmly mired in the slough of despond because of what has happened to their lives. For example, there are those who are £1,600 a year worse off since this Government took office, or those who are £1,100 a year worse off as a result of the tax and benefit changes made by this Government, including the rise in VAT. The hundreds and thousands of people across the country, including many in my constituency, who are forced to rely on food banks—a persistent and pernicious feature of Tory Britain—are not feeling the benefits of the recovery. For them the sun is not shining. They can see through the smoke and mirrors that the Government use to try to paint a glowing picture.

To judge only by the language and tone of the document in which the Government claim to have laid the foundations for a strong economy and a fairer society, one might be forgiven for thinking that the worst was over. In some ways that is the most troubling aspect, because we know that the worst is yet to come. The Chancellor may have shuffled the numbers around, but no shuffling can conceal the truth about the Government’s economic plans. As the OBR said, the Budget will mean

“a much sharper squeeze on real spending in 2016-17 and 2017-18 than anything seen over the past five years”,

and a

“sharp acceleration in the pace of implied real cuts to day-to-day spending on public services”.

Perhaps I do not share the Chancellor’s or the Minister’s sunny disposition, or perhaps I am more in touch with the reality of the lives of people across the country. I do not see much fairness in the document before us or in the Government’s approach. The cuts of more than 5% planned for 2016-17 and 2017-18 are twice the size of any annual cuts in this Parliament. That has resulted in a somewhat erratic trajectory, described by the OBR as a “rollercoaster ride” of public spending. Remarkably, for all the cuts yet to come, the Government continue to repeat the tired mantra that “we are all in this together.”

That is not borne out by the evidence. Wage growth has been stagnant over the course of the Parliament. Energy bills, on the other hand, have gone up by around £300 over the past five years. Although the Government boast of more jobs and high rates of employment, we have to consider what kind of jobs these are. Many are low paid. For evidence of that, one need look no further than the state of the nation’s tax receipts. Income tax receipts and national insurance contributions are £97 billion lower over the course of the Parliament than was forecast in 2010. Jobs are often insecure and uncertain, typified by the over-reliance on zero-hours contracts. Alongside

24 Mar 2015 : Column 1368

the proliferation of insecure, low-paid jobs, the wealthiest have been handed a £3 billion tax cut, while the poorest have lost out disproportionately from the cuts to tax receipts and the increase in VAT.

Simon Kirby (Brighton, Kemptown) (Con): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Cathy Jamieson: I will give way in a moment.

Labour has announced today that under no circumstances will we increase VAT in the next Parliament. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is about to say something from his Government’s point of view. Perhaps he will give the same assurance.

Simon Kirby: As the hon. Lady mentioned income tax, I was thinking of the millions of people taken out of tax and the 27 million people benefiting from the increases in the personal allowance, many of whom, in my constituency, are among the lowest paid. It is all very well to say that we are helping the rich, but we are helping the low paid even more.

Cathy Jamieson: Under a Labour Government, there would be a new 10p starting rate for tax, and we would also reverse the tax cut for millionaires, which this Government gave and which by no stretch of the imagination can be seen to be fair. It is interesting that the hon. Gentleman did not mention VAT. I assume the Minister does not want to intervene at this point to give me an assurance that his Government would not raise VAT in the next Parliament.

It is worth looking back and considering that this is the first Parliament since the early 1920s in which the average person in work will be worse off at the end than they were at the beginning, and the poorest are worse off than the rest. Last week Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies spelt it out in language that I think everyone, including the Government, can understand:

“Looking only at changes implemented by the coalition the poorest have seen the biggest proportionate losses.”

That sounds pretty conclusive to me: the poor have lost the most.

The Minister has given his account of what will happen, but I think that he has been pretty coy about what is really in store for the future. What about the £12 billion of welfare cuts that the Government have committed to? They have already overspent on their welfare plans by £25 billion over the course of this Parliament, while at the same time imposing the unfair and iniquitous bedroom tax, so it is difficult to see how that £12 billion squeeze will be achieved.

When interviewed by Andrew Neil a few days ago, the Minister gallantly held the Government line and steadfastly refused to say where the cuts will be made. While we can perhaps applaud his loyal and resolute nature, he really should be more forthcoming about just where the axe will fall next, because voters across the country will be wondering what the Government are keeping from us. What more can he tell us today? He appears still not to want to say anything about VAT, so I will move on and deal with the Government’s pretentions to fiscal credibility.

For most people, a Government who are fiscally credible are a Government who meet their own fiscal targets. The budget deficit will be around £90 billion this year, and next year’s budget, far from being balanced,

24 Mar 2015 : Column 1369

as was promised in 2010, is projected to show a £75 billion deficit. Meanwhile, public sector net debt will be £217 billion higher in 2015-16 than was projected in 2010. How can the Government claim to be credible when they have missed their own targets by such wide margins? The end result of all that failure, all those missed targets and broken promises, is even bigger spending cuts.

As my right hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor pointed out last week, it really has come to something when a Government are forced to boast that spending as a proportion of GDP will fall only to 1964 levels—levels last seen over 50 years ago. It is not a pretty picture. Close scrutiny of the OBR tables shows that 2018 spending, on the historical comparative measure that the OBR uses for day-to-day spending on public services, will fall to its lowest level since 1938. Despite their best efforts, the Tories are still the party that wants to take us back to the 1930s.

The Red Book is trying to perform a delicate balancing act; it is trying to assure us that the worst is over and that stability has been restored while at the same time plotting deeper cuts than anything we have seen in this Parliament. I think that it is seeking simply to paper over the cracks of failure and evade the debris of broken promises. It is for that reason that we will be voting against the Government’s motion today.

4.53 pm

Mr Gauke: We seem to have entered day five of the Budget debate. Let me make one or two brief points in response to the hon. Lady. First, let us remember what the state of the economy was in 2010, and the state of the public finances. Our borrowing levels were over 10% of GDP, which is a peacetime record, and we were forecast to have the highest level of borrowing in the G20. Over half of that amount has now been dealt with, but we have further to go and further steps are needed to deal with borrowing. That is why this House overwhelmingly voted for the charter for fiscal responsibility, which means that the cyclical current budget will be balanced by 2017-18. That is a target that those in all parts of the House signed up to, including Labour Members, but we heard nothing from them during the Budget debates, or today, about how they would meet that ambition. Whereas my party has set out our plans for finding £12 billion from welfare cuts, £13 billion from departmental spending and £5 billion from tax evasion, tax avoidance and aggressive tax planning, we have had no such indications from Labour. There is a huge hole where there should be an Opposition party policy.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman constantly talks about cuts—very unpleasant cuts that are going to affect a lot of poor people—but the real problem is an income problem, because we have a tax gap of £120 billion through evasion and avoidance that the Government refuse to recognise to its full extent. If we looked at the income side and made sure we collected the tax that should be paid, then we could address the problems with the deficit—if they are serious problems—and, at the same time, not inflict cuts on poor people.

24 Mar 2015 : Column 1370

Mr Gauke: The Government do not recognise the £120 billion figure, nor did the previous Government or, as far as I am aware, does any statistician. One individual has put that methodology forward, but Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has set out in some detail the numerous flaws within it. As for tax, I agree that it is important that we get the money in. It is worth pointing out that the yield from HMRC’s activities has gone up from £17 billion a year to £26 billion a year under this Government. We have a proud record of collecting more in tax, and we will maintain it.

I do not intend to detain the House for long on this occasion. The fact is that this Government are getting the deficit down, while living standards are going up, employment is going up, and we are fixing the mess that we inherited. Is there more to do? Yes, of course there is, and we hope to have the opportunity to address that over the next five years.

Question put.

The House divided:

Ayes 300, Noes 199.

Division No. 182]


4.57 pm


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Amess, Sir David

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Baldry, rh Sir Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, rh Gregory

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, rh Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Sir Malcolm

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burstow, rh Paul

Burt, rh Alistair

Byles, Dan

Cable, rh Vince

Cairns, Alun

Campbell, Mr Gregory

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Cash, Sir William

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, rh Stephen

Crouch, Tracey

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Sir Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evans, Mr Nigel

Evennett, rh Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Field, rh Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, rh Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hague, rh Mr William

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, rh Matthew

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harris, Rebecca

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Sir Oliver

Heath, rh Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, rh Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Hunter, Mark

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

James, Margot

Javid, rh Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, Gareth

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Sir Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, rh Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Sir Peter

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Main, Mrs Anne

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Karl

McCrea, Dr William

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, rh Esther

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, rh Anne

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mulholland, Greg

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Offord, Dr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, rh Sir Richard

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, rh Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Sir John

Redwood, rh Mr John

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, rh Sir Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Russell, Sir Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simmonds, rh Mark

Simpson, rh Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, rh Sir Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, rh Sir Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, rh Sir Peter

Teather, Sarah

Thurso, rh John

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, rh Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, rh Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Roger

Willott, rh Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, rh Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Gavin Barwell


Lorely Burt


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jonathan

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Kevin

Bayley, Sir Hugh

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blears, rh Hazel

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Bryant, Chris

Burden, Richard

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Sir Tony

Danczuk, Simon

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Doughty, Stephen

Doyle, Gemma

Dugher, Michael

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Griffith, Nia

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Heyes, David

Hilling, Julie

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Mactaggart, rh Fiona

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGuire, rh Dame Anne

McInnes, Liz

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miller, Andrew

Mitchell, Austin

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Donnell, Fiona

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Phillipson, Bridget

Pound, Stephen

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Mr Steve

Robertson, Angus

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Sarwar, Anas

Sawford, Andy

Seabeck, Alison

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, Valerie

Watson, Mr Tom

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Woodcock, John

Woodward, rh Mr Shaun

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Noes:

Nic Dakin


Graham Jones

Question accordingly agreed to.

24 Mar 2015 : Column 1371

24 Mar 2015 : Column 1372

24 Mar 2015 : Column 1373

24 Mar 2015 : Column 1374


That this House approves, for the purposes of section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993, the Government’s assessment as set out in Budget 2015 and Autumn Statement 2014, combined with the Office for Budget Responsibility’s Economic and Fiscal Outlook (2015) and Fiscal Sustainability Report (2014), which forms the basis of the United Kingdom’s Convergence Programme.

24 Mar 2015 : Column 1375


5.11 pm

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

That the draft Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (Risk of Being Drawn into Terrorism) (Amendment and Guidance) Regulations 2015, which were laid before this House on 12 March, be approved.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): With this we shall take the following motion:

That the Civil Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2015 (S.I., 2015, No. 406), dated 26 February 2015, a copy of which was laid before this House on 27 February, be approved.

James Brokenshire: This secondary legislation has been brought forward to implement measures in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015. The measures were debated by the House very recently and the primary legislation was enacted only on 12 February. During Parliament’s consideration of the legislation, there was widespread recognition of the threat from terrorism and broad support for the measures in the Bill. The instruments bring to life two of those important provisions. In passing the legislation in February, the House accepted the need for these measures.

I should inform the House that the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments has considered both the instruments we are debating. I place on the record my appreciation for the forbearance that was shown by the Chair and members of the Committee in considering the instruments outside the normal time scales. The Committee cleared the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (Risk of Being Drawn into Terrorism) (Amendment and Guidance) Regulations 2015, but drew the attention of both Houses of Parliament to the Civil Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2015. I shall return to the issues that were highlighted by the Joint Committee later in my contribution.

It may help the House in its consideration of the instruments if I briefly outline what the Government seek to achieve by them and why we have brought them forward at this time. The regulations have been brought forward in respect of part 5 of the 2015 Act, which is concerned with reducing the risk of people being drawn into terrorism. During the recent debates on the primary legislation, there was a very informed debate on the duty that is imposed by section 26 of the Act, which is known as the Prevent duty. The regulations are crucial to the effective implementation of the new duty.

The purpose of the regulations is threefold. First, they amend schedules 6 and 7 to the 2015 Act to add Scottish bodies to the list of authorities that are subject to the Prevent duty and to those that are listed as partners to local authority panels, which are required to be in place by section 36. Those panels form part of the Channel programme—the deradicalisation programme—in England and Wales, and Prevent Professional Concerns in Scotland, which are programmes designed to provide support to those who are vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism.

Secondly, the regulations make a number of amendments to the Act that are consequential on adding those Scottish bodies. In particular they ensure that Scottish

24 Mar 2015 : Column 1376

further and higher education institutions will have the same requirement to have particular regard to the need to ensure freedom of speech and the importance of academic freedom while complying with the Prevent duty as their counterparts in England and Wales. It has always been the Government’s intention that provisions in part 5 of the Act would apply to bodies in Scotland. We have consulted Scottish Ministers, and they are supportive of adding Scottish bodies to the duty.

Thirdly and finally, the regulations will bring into effect guidance issued under section 29(1) of the Act for specified authorities in carrying out the Prevent duty. The guidance sets out the detail of what that duty will mean in practice for authorities subject to it, and seeks to explain the steps that should be taken to best secure compliance.

The House will recall that the Government introduced an amendment to the Bill to ensure that the guidance will only take effect following Parliament’s approval. During the passage of the Bill, a formal public consultation on the draft guidance took place, and hon. Members will have read the summary of responses referenced in the explanatory memorandum. More than 1,700 responses were received during the consultation, and another 300 people were reached over the course of five events held in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and Edinburgh. The responses enabled a thorough revision to take place, and the results of that revision are now before the House.

There are two versions of the guidance: one for authorities in England and Wales, and a separate one for authorities in Scotland. Following discussions with the Scottish Government, the Government decided that separate guidance that specifically addresses the particular circumstances of Scotland would be more helpful than trying to address those circumstances through one set of guidance. The Scottish guidance has also been subject to consultation through a targeted process undertaken by the Scottish Government.

Hon. Members will have noted that neither document addresses the issue of managing speakers and events in further and higher education institutions. How universities and colleges balance the Prevent duty with the need to secure freedom of speech and have regard to the importance of academic freedom is an extremely important issue that requires careful consideration. On account of that, the Government amended the legislation to ensure that institutions pay particular regard to the importance of academic freedom and freedom of speech when complying with the Prevent duty. As I made clear during the passage of the Bill, that freedom is important in challenging extremist views and providing almost an antidote to some of the extremism that might take place were it not for that challenge. We shall use the time before the duty commences to produce further guidance on managing speakers and events in further and higher education institutions, and it will be for the next Government to bring that to Parliament early in the next Session for the approval of both Houses.

Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con): In the context of human rights legislation, and particularly the Human Rights Act 1998 and the charter of fundamental rights, which is increasingly being brought in by the European Court of Justice, does the Minister believe that these proposals, and many aspects of the Counter-Terrorism

24 Mar 2015 : Column 1377

and Security Act 2015, will survive against those in the human rights lobby who are determined to put human rights ahead even of the prevention of terrorism?

James Brokenshire: Yes, I am confident of that. Obviously, we considered the implications of the Human Rights Act when the primary legislation was taken through this House. That does not necessarily mean that it will not be subject to legal challenge—we have legal challenge for all forms of legislation—but we are confident about the way the measure has been brought forward, and it touches on the competency of member states in national security issues. I recognise the long-standing and consistent approach that my hon. Friend has highlighted, and I am sure he will continue to highlight it to ensure that we get legislation in the right place and properly consider human rights challenges and other issues in that regard. I welcome his intervention.

As for the guidance itself, it is essential that it is accurate and workable for all institutions. It is not the Government’s intention that the duty in respect of higher education and further education institutions should commence for those sectors until guidance on speakers and events has been published. This, as I have explained, will of course be for the next Government to carry through.

It is important to take the opportunity to remind the House of the purpose of the new duty and its importance. The emergence of ISIL and the number of people—particularly vulnerable, young people—who have misguidedly travelled to Syria and Iraq present a heightened threat to our national security. The intelligence agencies tell us that the threat is now worse than at any time since 9/11. It is serious and it is growing. The threat has changed and so must our response.

As part of that response, we need to continue to combat the underlying ideology that feeds, supports and sanctions terrorism, and to prevent people from being drawn on to that path. The Prevent duty will ensure that such activity is consistent across the country and in all bodies whose staff work on the front line with those at risk from radicalisation.

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Minister place on record his support for the work being done by a group in my constituency to tackle the root causes and extremist ideologies that have been affecting people in Cardiff? They are doing fantastic work as part of the Movement for Change “Make a Choice, See a Change” campaign online and with their peers to combat ideology that may have affected some people in their community.

James Brokenshire: I commend the hon. Gentleman for highlighting the work of community groups in his constituency. Some incredible people and organisations are standing up against terrorism, highlighting the peaceful nature of the Islamic religion and challenging some of the ideological underpinning that has been perversely twisted by those who support ISIL and other terrorist and extremist organisations. It is the work of community, family and people in the locality and the neighbourhood that is making a real difference in standing together and confronting and combating pernicious ideology. This is

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a generational struggle. Bringing forward the guidance and the Prevent duty underlines the important responsibility we all have—government, community, family and individuals—to stand together to ensure that a clear and robust message is given. I know that good work is taking place in Cardiff and in many other parts of the country to do precisely that. I welcome the opportunity to put that on the record this afternoon.

I would like to turn now to the Civil Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2015. The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 introduced temporary exclusion orders, which enable the Secretary of State to disrupt and control the return to the UK of certain British citizens suspected of engaging in terrorism-related activity abroad. TEOs also enable the Secretary of State to impose certain requirements on individuals on their return to the UK.

The House will recall that the Government introduced two stages of judicial oversight of this power during the passage of the Bill. The first stage requires the Secretary of State to seek permission from the courts prior to imposing a TEO or, in exceptional circumstances, to seek such permission from the courts retrospectively. The second stage provides a statutory review mechanism to enable the TEO subject to challenge the imposition of the order and any obligations imposed on their return to the UK. That judicial oversight was introduced in response to concerns raised by right hon. and hon. Members on all sides of the House, and was welcomed during consideration of the amendments made in another place.

The Civil Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2015 are required to implement this judicial oversight in England and Wales. The instrument introduces the court rules for temporary exclusion order proceedings in the High Court and appeals to the Court of Appeal, which are essential to ensure we are able to operate the appropriate safeguards for this power. I have already mentioned that the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments has reported this instrument and drawn it to the attention of the House.

The Government have acknowledged the issues raised by the Joint Committee and committed to updating the rules by an amending instrument as soon as practicable. That amending instrument will be made by the Civil Procedure Rule Committee, and I can assure the House that the process for doing so is already under way. However, as the Government made clear in their response to the Joint Committee, we do not consider that the drafting errors acknowledged render the rules invalid or inoperable. The court rules are required in order to implement the important judicial oversight of TEOs in England and Wales.

Sir William Cash: My hon. Friend can probably guess that I am about to ask a question similar to my last one about judicial oversight, the charter and human rights legislation. I am sure he recognises that there is a potentiality, if not a certainty, that these matters will be challenged, particularly the exclusion orders. Does he not think that there is still time to consider imposing a restriction on those who have repudiated allegiance to the UK to prevent their returning to the country?

James Brokenshire: My hon. Friend tempts me into a broader debate that extends beyond the statutory instruments and deals with preventing from returning

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to this country people who have engaged in activity contrary to the interests of this country. This issue was considered at length in this House and the other place, and it was determined that TEOs were the appropriate mechanism, considering our international obligations and the issues he highlighted of legal challenge and ensuring an effective mechanism. We judge that the TEOs provide this, but we recognise the potential for challenge. Indeed, we have built in an oversight process through the scrutiny of the judiciary.

I hope that I can assure my hon. Friend that the rules are based on those used for similar preventive measures, such as terrorism prevention and investigation measures, some asset-seizing legislation and closed material proceedings, and therefore are based on the experience and judicial oversight applied to those rules. I hope that gives him some assurance of the careful consideration we have given to the rules.

Sir William Cash: I raised this question precisely because of my concerns about how the judiciary is effectively subordinated to the European Court of Justice, which overrides not only our Supreme Court but this Parliament. On matters concerning TPIMs, control orders and the rest of it, the Minister knows that people who should never have been allowed out have continued their stay.

James Brokenshire: I can assure my hon. Friend that TPIMs are robust and that we have taken steps to ensure their legal compliance. That was considered when they were introduced and during the passage of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011. I fear that I am straying from the statutory instruments, but I recognise his challenge and assure him that our consideration of the rules reflected our experience of similar orders and some of the operational legal practice that the rules intend to operate.

The regulations are needed to implement effectively the Prevent duty across England, Wales and Scotland, which ultimately will help the Government and law-enforcement agencies to keep the country safe from terrorism, and the court rules govern proceedings that are essential to ensure appropriate safeguards for the TEO. With those comments, I hope the House will be minded to support the instruments.

5.29 pm

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): I thank the Minister for introducing these regulations. It is important to understand the measures in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill and the implementation of the Prevent agenda in the context, I think, of some of the muddle the Government have created for themselves over the past five years. In 2010, they inherited 93 Prevent priority areas and in one year they cut them to 23. They then restored funding to seven areas, including Greenwich, to bring us back up to 30 priority areas. From next year, the Government will be increasing the number of priority areas to 50 and in their impact assessment on the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, the Government revealed that they expect this to rise to 90 areas over the next few years. In two years, then, we may be back where we started five years ago, but we have lost seven years thanks to the muddle coming from the Government.

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That was not the only poor decision that the Government made, either. They reduced funding for Prevent from £17 million to £5.1 million a year, but not all of that £5.1 million was spent. In one year, just £1.6 million was spent and overall, since the Government re-launched the Prevent agenda, just 40% of the money allocated to local authorities was spent.

Prevent is meant to be a national and comprehensive strategy, yet last year just four areas delivered Prevent projects. We have seen particular failings from some Government Departments. The 2011 Prevent review identified the need to support schools in counter-radicalisation. The Department for Education committed to an 11-point plan, none of which seems to have been delivered.

The Home Secretary is threatening schools and universities with contempt of court proceedings if they do not implement the Prevent agenda, while I think the Government have serious questions to answer about their failures to deliver on their own commitments. Some of us believe that the Government need to get their own house in order before challenging other institutions and public bodies.

What is also a matter of real concern is that, overall, the Government appear to have little hard evidence about what Prevent work is going on or how effectively it has been delivered. We know that the Home Office’s chief economist refused to sign off the impact assessment to the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill on that basis.

James Brokenshire: The hon. Lady made this point about the impact assessment the other day. Will she acknowledge that the matter to which she refers is in the regulations before us this afternoon and that there is also the Scottish duty? She has completely mischaracterised this point.

Diana Johnson: I know that when we discussed the primary legislation around the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, it was reported that the chief economist at the Home Office did say what I suggested, so the Minister has not refuted the statement I made. We now know from the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill that there has been recognition that the Prevent agenda matters and needs to be supported.

Yesterday, of course, the Home Secretary went even further, talking about introducing a counter-extremism strategy, although I understand that such a strategy has not been published and there is not much detail about it. Today, however, the Home Secretary has made several claims. She first promised to work with communities in a way that different parts of different communities around the country have been requesting for some time. She promised that she would be very clear about distinguishing between Islam and Islamic extremism. All that is very welcome and, I have to say to the Minister, about time too.

The guidance in front of us does not, however, go as far as it should in meeting the pledges the Home Secretary made yesterday, but I do want to say some positive things about it. As the Minister knows, the original guidance was put out to consultation over the Christmas recess period, and I think improvements have been made to it. The document is less prescriptive throughout, so it can plausibly be said to be introducing the risk-based

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approach that the Government said they wanted from the outset. I welcome, too, the introduction of a clear set of commitments on what the Home Office will do to support the implementation of the Prevent agenda. This has been clearly lacking, I think, since the Prevent agenda was re-launched in 2011.

Let me briefly mention Scotland. It is good to see the inclusion of the Scottish organisations. I listened carefully to what the Minister said about the consultation with the Scottish Government and the inclusion of the various Scottish organisations, but I should like to ask him a question. There is separate guidance for the Scottish organisations, but I understand that it was not issued for full consultation. The Minister said earlier that there was a targeted process for the consultation. Will he explain what he meant by that?

Sir William Cash: Would the hon. Lady be good enough to tell us to what extent, if any, she has taken the opportunity to discover the views of the Scottish nationalists on this question? Has she had any indication of their views? They are not even here, but I am sure that she can provide us with a fairly good guess as to what they might think. We did hear Alex Salmond suggest the other day that they would be putting their foot down on matters that they thought were important to Scotland, in their own terms.

Diana Johnson: During the Bill’s passage, as the hon. Gentleman will know, members of the Scottish National party made a great deal of fuss about the involvement of the Scottish Government in consultation about the public institutions in Scotland that would be affected by the Prevent agenda. I was pleased to hear the Minister refer to the level of consultation that had taken place with the Scottish Government. I may be presuming too much, but perhaps the absence of members of the Scottish National party this afternoon means that they are fully content with what is being proposed. Obviously we must wait and see, but there is no one here to put an alternative case.

Let me now deal with some of the areas in which the revisions of the guidance have not addressed some of the shortcomings that I considered to be present in the first draft of the document. I believe that they have been raised both here and in the other place, and also in the responses to the consultation. The Minister said that there had been more than 1,700 responses, which is a very large number.

The first of those areas is the definition of extremism, which remains unchanged in the guidance. It is still defined as, basically, “an opposition to British values”. The failure to define extremism is central to other problems that the Prevent agenda encounters, as was recognised in the 2011 Prevent review. Front-line professionals do not properly understand what extremism is. There is considerable evidence of that poor understanding. A survey conducted for the Department for Education in 2011 revealed that 70% of schools felt that they needed more training and information in order to build resilience to radicalisation. That was picked up repeatedly in the consultation responses, and it is also a clear issue in relation to the Prevent agenda. We know that only 20% of the people who have been

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referred to the Channel programme have been accepted. The overwhelming majority are incorrectly referred, because front-line professionals have misunderstood the nature of the issues involved.

It was a failure of the Government not to fulfil the commitments made in the 2011 Prevent review to improve front-line understanding of extremism, and it is disappointing that they are repeating their mistake by failing to include in the guidance either a detailed explanation of what constitutes extremism, or an explanation of how a risk assessment for extremism should be conducted. In Committee, I gave the analogy of child abuse: we will combat the issue only when we fully recognise it for what it is.

The failure to define extremism properly also means that the guidance fails to live up to the promise that the Home Secretary made yesterday to distinguish clearly between Islam and Islamic extremism. The definition of Islamic extremism is limited: an Islamic extremist is described as someone who is angry with the west and resents western intervention in wars in Muslim countries. The guidance talks of a “them and us” rhetoric. That ignores the fact that the majority of the victims of Islamic extremists are Muslims, and the fact that those who are most likely to encounter it in the United Kingdom are Muslims. There is still nothing in the guidance about intra-Islam sectarianism, such as involving Wahhabis, Salafists and those with other views that have been specifically connected to ISIL, in particular Salafism. There is no discussion of that important matter in the document. The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 was supposedly a response to that rising threat from ISIL-related terrorism. Does the Minister think more can be done in recognising that intra-Islamic sectarianism is not properly addressed in the guidance?

Those British people who have been leaving the UK to join ISIL are not generally joining a war against the west. They are joining a war against other Muslims, mainly Shi’as. This document should recognise the changing nature of this threat, and the need to recognise the degree of sectarian division related to groups such as ISIL within the UK.

In addition to this thematic problem within the guidance, I want to highlight some of the practical issues. The consultation highlighted confusion over what exactly was expected of non-Prevent-priority local authorities. Given that the Government seemed to be confused about exactly what a Prevent-priority area is, I am not terribly surprised that this is not addressed properly in the revised guidance. There is existing confusion about the role of central Government and the division of responsibilities within central Government. For example, how exactly is the burden of oversight shared between the body specifically charged with inspection of implementation—for example, Ofsted for schools—the Government Department with responsibility for that public body, for example the Department for Education, and the Home Office? What about the role of Departments, such as the Departments for Business, Innovation and Skills and for Communities and Local Government, in sharing good practice?

Several different bodies raised concerns about this in the consultation. It will be helpful if the Government publish a clear strategy as to how they will help promote best practice in relation to Prevent. Some of the obligations on certain bodies are unclear. Neither the guidance, nor

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the Minister in the other place yesterday, have been clear as to exactly what is expected of a nursery or childminder in terms of their responsibilities under Prevent. So I ask the Minister again today to set out exactly what this guidance means in practice for a childminder.

An issue raised in the consultation, which I also raised during the passage of the 2015 Act, was why the only NHS bodies to be included in the guidance are hospital trusts and foundation trusts. Under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 many more services are now going out to the private sector. Are those private companies going to be covered by the obligations under Prevent? Why are clinical commissioning groups and other commissioning bodies not included? General practitioners at the front line may come across people who are vulnerable and who may perhaps have mental health issues; should GPs also be under some of the Prevent duties set out in the guidance, and if not, why not? On the health and wellbeing boards that the Government established, I assume that because they are part of a local authority, they also have a Prevent duty.

On the provisions for universities, I am glad the guidance is less prescriptive than before. The new guidance has dropped the requirement that all academic presentations have to be submitted and vetted two weeks in advance, which was both absurd and unworkable. However, it is bizarre that the third paragraph of the guidance relating to universities states that further guidance will be issued to cover extremist speakers on campuses. As the Minister will be aware, that was one the most contentious issues. Yesterday the Minister in the other place did not seem to be able to explain why this was or how the issuing of updated guidance would work. I heard what the Minister said about the new guidance being a matter for the next Government, but I wonder whether he can answer the following questions. First, does he think the requirement for all speeches and presentations to be submitted two weeks in advance will be included in the new guidance?

Secondly, can the Minister explain how the external speakers guidance will be implemented? Will it require a separate statutory instrument and, therefore, approval by Parliament? Will the rest of the document have different implementation guidance from the external speakers guidance? Will there be a separate consultation?

James Brokenshire: I can answer the hon. Lady directly. Our contemplation is that there would need to be updated guidance and that a separate statutory instrument would therefore need to be approved by the House after the general election.

Diana Johnson: That is very helpful, and I thank the Minister for his straightforward response.

Yesterday, the Home Secretary announced that compliance with the Prevent agenda would be a requirement for universities in order that they may sponsor international student visas. Will the Minister explain whether this is Government policy that will actually happen, or whether it is a Conservative party pledge for the election? I am drawing this distinction because I understand that the coalition Government are not speaking with one voice on counter-terrorism issues these days, and I want to be clear about whether that is Government policy or not.

Sir William Cash: The hon. Lady has alluded to questions that might arise between the Conservative party and the Liberal party on terrorism. Would her

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party be in favour of putting terrorism on a par with or ahead of human rights? We have heard suggestions recently that human rights should trump terrorism.

Diana Johnson: That question opens up a whole new debate. We are dealing here with two specific statutory instruments. I know that there has been some tension in the coalition, particularly in the Treasury, with the Chancellor delivering his Budget and a separate Budget being delivered by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and I wanted to be clear about whether this particular proposal was Government policy or just Conservative policy. I was seeking guidance on that.

The focus on external speakers could create the risk that we ignore internal extremists. Where in the guidance is the specific reference to that threat? What would happen if a university’s Sunni society was agitating against the university’s Islamic or Shi’a societies? Have the Government considered the implications of such a situation for a university’s best practice?

While we are talking about universities, I also want to ask about the IT requirements. The guidance seems to imply that all universities should introduce the filtering of internet access through the university. Can the Minister explain the degree of filtering that would be involved? Is he confident that software exists that can do the job accurately? In the past, the platforms most commonly associated with extremism have been Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Would students be prevented from accessing YouTube? Does the Minister expect this provision to apply in accommodation provided by the university, such as halls of residence or other housing provided to accommodate students? Can he confirm that the provision will not extend to a requirement for universities to collect data on internet sites accessed by their students?

We know that the Oxford and Cambridge unions, both of which are private institutions that have a history of giving a platform to high-profile racists and extremists, are excluded from the terms of the guidance. Why did the Government choose not to specify in either the Bill or the Prevent guidance that those organisations should be covered by the duty?

There are measures in the guidance that we very much welcome. We recognise that it has been significantly improved since the draft guidance was published over Christmas. Most importantly, we recognise that it is an extremely important document. Counter-extremism is a vital part of our counter-terrorism strategy. But there are some flaws, which I have identified, that show that the Government are playing catch-up at the end of this Parliament for neglecting counter-extremism for their first four years. Because of that, we are not where we should be today.

I wish briefly to discuss the second statutory instrument before us, which sets out the procedural rules of judicial hearings in relation to temporary exclusion orders. Thanks to the Opposition, the 2015 Act contains judicial oversight for TEOs. I welcome the provisions in the Act and in these regulations today, which will enable judicial proceedings to hear sensitive and confidential information. It has always been the Opposition’s position that strong powers, such as TEOs, require strong checks on this power, and these regulations will enable those strong checks. Of course, the need to protect sources and sensitive information will impinge on the operation of the courts, but, as we have seen with control orders and

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subsequently TPIMs, that does not mean the courts cannot provide an effective check on Executive power. We think these regulations will be able to do that. We would add a slight caveat: the regulations are complex, as are the proceedings they are covering. We hope the Government will commit to keeping them under review and will be prepared to come back to this House with amendments if issues do arise during court proceedings that require the passing of further legislation.

5.51 pm

Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con): In the couple of interventions I made on the Minister and on the shadow Minister, I returned to a point I made in the lead letter in The Sunday Telegraph of 8 March. Following its lead of the previous week, I said that we were talking not about just an accident, but about a failure of legislation in dealing with the question of human rights and the charter of fundamental rights in relation to all the matters we are now discussing and to the whole problem of counter-terrorism. The Minister has had a pretty hard time from me over the past couple of years on this subject, but I wish to say to him that I acknowledge that difficult issues are clearly involved here. I am not denying that for a minute. But many of us were deeply disturbed when in a recent discussion—I cannot give the precise details but I am paraphrasing—the question arose as to whether taking action against terrorism would have human rights consequences. In that instance, the human rights lobby indicated that human rights should prevail.

I find that view completely impossible to understand, not least because the first human right is the right to be secure—the second, and equal, human right is the right to life. We have only to consider what happened in the case of Lee Rigby or in the case of the terrible murders that have been taking place in parts of the middle east to realise the difficulty that such a view represents. On the simple proposition that human rights does not trump terrorism, we have to be absolutely clear. I am very glad to see a slight nod from the shadow Minister, because she knows that this is true. But the trouble is that there is a tremendous amount in these documents—I will not make a long speech on this, but will simply get it on the record. We discussed judicial oversight in relation to an amendment when these matters were before the House of Commons. I cannot remember whether the amendment was defeated or withdrawn, but it then went into the House of Lords and it was that shambolic debate that we recall. Judicial oversight has now come in. My point is about the substance of the issue: if judicial oversight is part and parcel of these issues before us today, then on the basis that the judges have to obey the law and the law does invoke the question of human rights, be it under the European convention on human rights and the Human Rights Act, or the more difficult and invasive charter of fundamental rights, which is justiciable by the European Court of Justice, we have got a real problem on our hands in dealing with terrorism. The reason why many people whom we have tried to deport—in some cases for more than a decade—were not deported was to do with human rights. Everybody should be in favour of human rights, but there are questions over how they are applied and what the procedures and thresholds are.

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I conclude with this thought: we have not got it right. As I said in that letter in The Sunday Telegraph, tinkering with control orders, TPIMs and the rest of it might go some way to dealing with the problem but it will not resolve the issue if people can launch a challenge in the courts based on human rights or the charter of fundamental rights. They will not be deported and they will not be dealt with.

In the Prevention of Terrorism (No. 2) Bill that I introduced in 2005, I proposed that we should override the human rights laws to ensure the security of the citizens of this country. I said that habeas corpus was absolutely fundamental. All people who are accused of a crime, whether of terrorism or anything else, are entitled to a fair trial and due process. If we have those two things, and we override the Human Rights Act and the charter, we are in a position to deal with the problems, to satisfy the requirements of fair and judicial process and to ensure that the people have a proper trial.

My final thought is on this question of whether terrorists can get away with what they do. We know that there are many sleeping terrorists, so we are talking about a question not of if there is some form of terrorism, but of when. We should remember that the charter of fundamental rights, which came in under the Lisbon treaty, is much more difficult to deal with than the Human Rights Act, because of sections 2 and 3 of the European Communities Act 1972. In the context of the judicial process as a whole, it is imperative to recall that those on both Front Benches during the Lisbon treaty debates wanted to exclude that charter.

In one of his last statements to the House, Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, said that we had an opt-out from the charter. We in the European Scrutiny Committee took evidence on that matter. Lord Goldsmith, who analysed and negotiated the arrangements in the Lisbon treaty, gave evidence. Sadly, those arrangements did not work and we are now finding that the European Court of Justice is continuously getting involved in applying the charter on a case-by-case basis. My concerns about the charter remain in relation to terrorism. Unless we resolve that, we will not be able, either under these orders or other terrorism legislation in general, to provide the security and stability that the people of this country deserve.

Mr Speaker: I was pleased to hear the words counter-terrorism towards the end of the hon. Gentleman’s oration. We are all reassured.

5.58 pm

Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab): I am tempted to respond to some of the points made by the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), but, in the interests of time, I will not.

In his opening remarks, the Minister underlined the widespread recognition, on both sides of the House, of the need to combat the threat of terrorism. That recognition, I am sure, exists well beyond the House, among people of all faiths and none, and nowhere more so than in my constituency where I have a strong Muslim community. It is a tragedy for communities, for families and for the young people themselves who get sucked into the tyranny of the so-called Islamic State. Certainly those in my local Muslim community are quick to point out that that is an abuse of words, because Islamic State is neither Islamic nor a state.

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We need to be clear and to take care in our response to the threat of terrorism that we do not exacerbate the problem by reacting in a way that further alienates some sections of our communities. The risk of that has been made clear to me during my recent visits to mosques in my constituency by the very people who feel passionately that we need to resist the threat of terrorism. We also need to be careful not to respond in a way that puts undeliverable responsibilities on our institutions, and it is to that point that I will speak briefly, raising concerns about the guidance regarding higher education that apply equally to the section on further education.

Universities, like all public organisations, have clear responsibilities under the Human Rights Act to ensure freedom of expression, but universities have unique additional responsibilities. I am pleased that the Minister acknowledged that in his opening speech, when he spoke about the need to balance the struggle against terrorism and the implementation of the guidance with the responsibility to maintain academic freedom and the opportunity for debate in our institutions of higher education. I am pleased also that, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), he made it clear that the guidance would not take effect until the guidance on speakers is approved, not simply published as he said in his opening remarks—clearly, it was a slip of the tongue. It is reassuring that approval of the further guidance is needed before the rest takes effect.

The Minister will know, because I have mentioned it before, that 29 years ago, in my previous career in the universities sector, I drafted a code of practice on freedom of speech for the university of Sheffield. That was required in every university across the country under the Education (No. 2) Act 1986, introduced by the then Conservative Government, with the aim of ensuring that universities maintained that commitment to freedom of speech. The hon. Gentleman will know that the Act imposes on universities a duty to ensure that use of their premises

“is not denied to any individual or body of persons on any ground connected with…the beliefs or views of that individual”.

We considered that when we debated the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, now the 2015 Act, but I think it remains unclear—I hope the consultation will produce some clarity—how the requirements of the 1986 Act sit alongside the responsibilities in paragraph 105 of the guidance.

Sir William Cash: Is the hon. Gentleman asserting that there is an absolute right to freedom of speech in all circumstances? Does he place any limitation on it?

Paul Blomfield: No, I am not asserting that. The right of freedom of speech is conditional in a number of ways. We have put in place legislation against incitement to racial hatred, for example. It is a question of how to get the balance right.

My point is that we need to avoid conflicting legislation, and there is a potential conflict between the guidance and the 1986 Act. For example, what position would a university be in if an action were brought by a third party to challenge a decision made under the provisions of this guidance on the basis of the university’s responsibility under the 1986 Act? Unless there is absolute clarity when the final guidance is published, universities

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may find themselves in a time-wasting and expensive legal quagmire, which apart from anything else sits uncomfortably with the Government’s views on unnecessary red tape.

My second concern relates to the general duty placed on universities to act against what is described as non-violent extremism, and it echoes a point made by my hon. Friend the shadow Minister. Non-violent extremism is defined in the guidance as:

“opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance”.

It is absolutely right to describe those values as fundamental to our society, but they are meaningful only if they allow space for those who do not share them. Clearly, as I said a moment ago in response to an intervention from the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), society does impose limits—for example, on incitement to racial hatred—but such limits have created crimes defined by this Parliament. The difficulty here is that we are giving our universities a responsibility to ban activities which are not themselves illegal, where the act of banning them may be seen by some to be in conflict with the very values that we are trying to protect.

We treasure our universities as the institutions that need to be able to debate our fundamental values. It was for that reason that the then Conservative Government included provisions on freedom of speech in the 1986 Act. We need to take great care when we legislate on these issues, and I fear that the guidance as it stands leaves too many unanswered questions.

6.5 pm

James Brokenshire: I am grateful for the contributions this afternoon and the broad support for the two orders that we have been discussing. A number of the contributions strayed into the broader principles and issues surrounding counter-terrorism. I shall not detain the House by repeating a Second Reading debate on the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, but some important points were raised and I wish to challenge some of the underlying assumptions.

For example, in respect of Prevent and the Prevent duty that this guidance refers to, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) made a number of assertions about the actions of this Government, and those assertions should be challenged. She asserted that there had been some muddle. The only muddle was the thinking of the Labour Government in their delivery of Prevent, and the fact that they conflated work on integration with combating terrorism activity, which stood in the way of doing that work effectively. That is why this Government were right to make a clear separation between the two parts of the work to ensure that they were effective.

The hon. Lady made various assertions about the activity that had taken place. Perhaps I can give her some figures, rather than the ones that she cited. I do not know where she got them from and I certainly do not recognise them. We have delivered more than 180 projects since 2011 under Prevent. The programme has reached more than 55,000 people. This year we are supporting more than 80 projects. We have provided a focus that did not exist under the Labour Government and, to judge from the shadow Minister’s comments, would not exist under Labour now. It has been useful to tease that out in the course of the debate.

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I heard the point highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) in relation to freedom, liberty and security, a subject to which he has rightly returned on a number of occasions. He spoke about the issue of human rights and how that may impact on the court rules and the orders before us this afternoon. As the lead Minister who was responsible for the successful deportation of Abu Qatada from this country, I well understand the challenges posed by human rights issues in the context of the Government’s actions in seeking to uphold security and the best interests of this country. Yes, I think more does need to be done, but I shall not stray into a broader debate on the need for a British Bill of Rights. Ultimately, liberty and freedom should reinforce and be reinforced by security. I do not see that as an either/or. They should be two sides of the same coin and support each other. This is no doubt an issue that will be returned to in the next Parliament, continuing the debate that took place in this one.

The hon. Lady referred to the impact assessment and the report that she read in the newspapers. Perhaps I may comment on that. The impact assessment looked at the impact of the specific statutory instrument before the House this afternoon, particularly the impact of adding Scottish authorities to schedules 6 and 7. Neither the impact assessment nor the chief economist’s statement were concerned with the Prevent strategy as a whole or the Prevent duty outside Scotland. I hope that clarification is helpful.

The hon. Lady also talked about changes in Prevent priority areas. Our approach is informed by the changing threat picture and by the advice we receive from the joint terrorism analysis centre. It is in that context that we set priorities, and it is right that we keep these things under review. It is not a question of going back to the past, as she wrongly asserts; it is about the here and now, meeting the challenges and threats we face as a country and protecting those things that we hold dear, and that is the Government’s priority. I am sorry that the hon. Lady has failed to understand the issues at hand. That underlines again why Labour is simply not competent to deal with these issues.

As I have said before, the question of how universities and colleges balance the Prevent duty with the need to secure freedom of speech and have regard to the importance of academic freedom is extremely important. The Government take that extremely seriously, which is why we amended the legislation to ensure that institutions must have particular regard to the importance of academic freedom and freedom of speech when complying with the duty—the point made by the hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield).

I reiterate that the Government are clear that universities represent one of our most important arenas for challenging extremist views and ideologies, but there is a risk that some people might use higher education institutions as a platform for drawing people into terrorism. We will use the time before the duty commences to produce further guidance on managing speakers and events in further and higher education institutions. It will be for the next Government to bring that guidance to the House early in the next Parliament for approval by both Houses, as I have

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indicated. I think it is important that there is a good understanding of the full guidance and how it relates in that manner.

Stephen Doughty: The Minister will be aware that I have previously raised concerns about that with him and with other Ministers. Given the context of devolution, particularly in the universities sector but also in education more generally, is it not absolutely vital that there are regular, proactive discussions between universities and Education Ministers across the United Kingdom, and will he ensure that in future there is Cabinet Office guidance on how often those matters should be discussed among Ministers across these islands?

James Brokenshire: The Prevent oversight board, which has an integral role in ensuring that the guidance before the House is properly recognised, has the ability to share good practice, and indeed the issues on adherence to it. That will provide a good mechanism for drawing Government together. It also needs to have good contact with the devolved Administrations. As the hon. Gentleman might know, I have already had discussions with the Welsh Government, and I certainly wish to see that continue in relation to the operation of the guidance. I also highlight the £40 million allocated for Prevent work in 2014-15 and the fact that the Prime Minister announced on 25 November that the additional £130 million that has been made available for increased counter-terrorism work will include additional funding for Prevent.

Schools and nurseries have a duty to care for their pupils and staff. The new duty will be seen in a similar way to their existing safeguarding responsibilities. The early years foundation stage framework makes it clear that providers must be alert to any safeguarding and child protection issues in a child’s life, either at home or elsewhere, so the work on the guidance supports and strengthens that. With regard to training, we have used Prevent to train literally tens of thousands of people to raise awareness of the need to adhere to an understanding of the issue, the threats and the risks within safeguarding, and that approach will certainly be extended further.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North asked whether we have covered all appropriate health bodies. The foundation trusts and NHS trusts identified are the most likely to have the most direct contact with people on the front line, with regard to their staff and the hospital settings. She referred to the issue of CCGs. We will certainly keep that under review in terms of extending the duty to other bodies, and I will have an open mind in adding it at that stage. However, a CCG is effectively a commissioning body rather than a body that delivers front-line services, and I hope that she understands that distinction.

Diana Johnson: GPs are very much in the front line and may well come across people who are very vulnerable, perhaps with mental health issues, for whom provision needs to be put in place under the Prevent duties that the other health bodies would have.

James Brokenshire: GPs are generally sole practitioners, or perhaps partnerships, rather than health bodies. We will continue to keep under review the sharing of the need to raise awareness of Prevent, which has already been rolled out to tens of thousands of front-line health professionals.

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The hon. Lady highlighted sectarianism and the different natures of the threat that we face. Prevent and our Contest counter-terrorism strategy cover all forms of terrorism, as we have made clear on a number of occasions. I hope she understands that the guidance extends to all forms of terrorism, of whatever nature.

I welcome the broad support—despite some of the comments that have been made—for the two orders, and I hope that the House will approve them both. That will make a difference in the fight against terrorism. It will also underline this Government’s commitment to ensuring national security and the safety of the public. We have that at the heart of our work and will continue to do so.

Question put and agreed to.


That the draft Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (Risk of Being Drawn into Terrorism) (Amendment and Guidance) Regulations 2015, which were laid before this House on 12 March, be approved.

Senior Courts of England and Wales


That the Civil Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2015 (S.I., 2015, No. 406), dated 26 February 2015, a copy of which was laid before this House on 27 February, be approved.—(James Brokenshire.)

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Mr Speaker: With the leave of the House, we shall take motions 7 to 10 together.

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


That the draft Extradition Act 2003 (Amendment to Designations and Appeals) Order 2015, which was laid before this House on 16 January, be approved.

National Health Service

That the draft Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 (Special Trustees) Amendment Regulations 2015, which were laid before this House on 3 February, be approved.

That the draft False or Misleading Information (Specified Care Providers and Specified Information) Regulations 2015, which were laid before this House on 11 February, be approved.


That the draft Companies, Partnerships and Groups (Accounts and Reports) Regulations 2015, which were laid before this House on 23 February, be approved.—(Mark Lancaster.)

Question agreed to.

Regulatory Reform

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 18(1)),

That the draft Legislative Reform (Community Governance Reviews) Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 11 December 2014, be approved.—(Mark Lancaster.)

Question agreed to.

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Delegated Legislation

Mr Speaker: With the leave of the House, we shall take motions 12 to 19 together.

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


That the draft Selective Licensing of Houses (Additional Conditions) (England) Order 2015, which was laid before this House on 4 March, be approved.

Energy Conservation

That the draft Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015, which were laid before this House on 9 March, be approved

That the draft Energy Efficiency (Domestic Private Rented Property) Order 2015, which was laid before this House on 4 February, be approved.

Public Health

That the draft Nicotine Inhaling Products (Age of Sale and Proxy Purchasing) Regulations 2015, which were laid before this House on 25 February, be approved.

That the draft Proxy Purchasing of Tobacco, Nicotine Products etc. (Fixed Penalty Amount) Regulations 2015, which were laid before this House on 25 February, be approved.

Financial Services and Markets

That the draft Bank of England Act 1998 (Macro-prudential Measures) Order 2015, which was laid before this House on 12 February, be approved.

That the draft Bank of England Act 1998 (Macro-prudential Measures) (No. 2) Order 2015, which was laid before this House on 12 February, be approved.

That the draft Mortgage Credit Directive Order 2015, which was laid before this House on 27 February, be approved.—(Mark Lancaster.)

Question agreed to.

Mr Speaker: Before I call the petitions to be presented, I must explain to the House how we will deal with their large number. I hope colleagues will be forbearing on this matter.

We shall deal first with the three petitions on subjects not relating to “Eligibility of Members to vote on certain issues in the House of Commons”. After those petitions have been presented, we will move on to the petitions on “Eligibility of Members to vote on certain issues in the House of Commons”. Once the first petition relating to this subject has been read to the House, with its prayer, subsequent petitions on the same topic should not be read out in full. Members should give a brief description of the number and location of the petitioners, and state that the petition is “in the same terms.” Members presenting more than one petition should present them together. When a Member has presented a petition, she or he should proceed to the Table and hand their petition to the Clerk, who will read the title of the petition and then hand it back to the Member. She or he should then proceed directly to the petitions bag at the back of the Chair. I will call the next Member immediately after the Clerk has read the title. At the expiry of half an hour, no further petitions may be presented orally, but they may be placed in the petition bag and will be recorded as formally presented.

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Progress of the Affordable Homes Bill

6.18 pm

Andrew George (St Ives) (LD): I wish to present a petition that was the product of constituents’ astonishment, indeed anger, that the House of Commons could vote by an overwhelming majority on 5 September to support my private Member’s Bill to scrap the Government’s under-occupancy penalty, otherwise known as the bedroom tax, and to improve opportunities for affordable homes—the vote was 306 to 231, at column 603 of Hansard, and these were eligible votes in the House of Commons—but could then effectively have its will defied by one party of the coalition that acted in a high-handed manner in refusing to grant the Bill the necessary money resolution. To any objective observer—and my constituents are paragons of objectivity—that represents a clear abuse of Executive power. The petition is signed by over 1,000 constituents, but I have also received many hundreds of letters, e-mails and messages of support and encouragement, with none opposed to the measure. Such a Bill shall not be stopped in the next Parliament.

The petition states:

The Petition of residents of the UK,

Declares that the Petitioners support the Affordable Homes Bill sponsored by Andrew George, further that the Petitioners believe that the bill should be allowed to progress and further that a petition in the St Ives constituency calling for the bill to be allowed to progress was signed by 1072 individuals.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to bring forward a money resolution to allow the Affordable Homes Bill to make progress.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


Expansion of St Joseph's Catholic Primary School, Barnoldswick

6.20 pm

Andrew Stephenson (Pendle) (Con): This is a petition to the House of Commons of the residents of Barnoldswick—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: There is no need to hurry the matter unduly. May I say what a pleasure it is to see the hon. Gentleman back in the Chamber and in very good voice? As I say, these matters do not need to be unduly hurried, but we all look forward to his petition.

Andrew Stephenson: Thank you, Mr Speaker.

The petition states:

The Petition of residents of Barnoldswick,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, West Close Road, Barnoldswick is over-subscribed and wishes to expand to meet the needs of the local area, including a growing Catholic community.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to support the St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School’s proposed extension.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


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Planning permission for McDonald's in Kenton (Newcastle)

6.21 pm

Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab): I wish to present a petition on behalf of my constituents in Newcastle. A similar petition online—at www.mcdonaldspetition.co.uk—has collected 860 signatures so far. The petition calls on this House to listen to the democratic will of local people and the council, who have rejected a planning application for a McDonald’s drive-through in Kenton, Newcastle, and urge the Government to reject any appeal that may be considered by a Minister. The restaurant would be opposite Europe’s largest secondary school—which is also my old school—on a busy main road and a minute’s walk from another similar restaurant. The council has rejected the application, but an appeal was lodged on the last available day to the Planning Inspectorate, which takes the decision away from local people.

The petition states:

The Humble Petition of the organisers of the website mcdonaldspetition.co.uk

Sheweth that the Petitioners are campaigning to promote and strengthen local democratic oversight of the planning system; further that local people in Newcastle have rejected planning permission for a McDonald’s fast food restaurant opposite a school in Kenton and further that an appeal has been made to the Planning Inspector.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House will urge the Government to listen to the democratic will of local people in Newcastle and duly reject the appeal to the Planning Inspector for planning permission for a McDonald’s fast food restaurant in Kenton.

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


Eligibility of Members to vote on certain issues in the House of Commons

6.23 pm

Mr Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): It is a pleasure to be joined by so many colleagues to present petitions from up and down the country calling for English votes on English laws. Petitions have also been raised by many dozens of other colleagues and constituencies. In just a few weeks, there will be a general election at which we will face a decisive choice on a number of important issues, one of which is whether the people of England should be allowed to determine their own destiny in areas where decisions have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament, or whether MPs representing Scottish constituencies should be allowed to continue to decide issues that will have no effect whatsoever on their constituents.

We have set out proposals to ensure basic democratic fairness. The Opposition are, of course, silent. They want to maintain the flexibility to strike a cosy deal, backed by nationalist MPs who want to tear our country apart, so this is an issue they would prefer to avoid. That will not satisfy the thousands of people who have signed this petition and whose voice is heard tonight. I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for allowing us time to present the petition. As you have said, I will read it out in full so other colleagues do not need to do so. I wish to

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present a petition on behalf of those in the Beverley and Holderness constituency who want to ensure English votes for English laws.

The petition states:

The Petition of residents of Beverley and Holderness,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that when Parliament makes decisions affecting only the people of England or England and Wales then those decisions should be made only by the Members of Parliament elected to represent England or England and Wales.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons creates fairness in the devolution settlement by ensuring decisions having a separate and distinct effect on England or England and Wales, are only decided by the Members of Parliament elected to represent England or England and Wales.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con): I rise to present a petition in the same terms as that of my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart) on behalf of my constituents in Daventry. I also have a similar one, which I carried out online, with about 300 signatures. This is the second petition that I have presented on this issue since I became a Member of Parliament. It is a very strong and current theme in the pubs and on the streets of the villages in my constituency, so it gives me great pleasure to present this petition.

The Petition of the residents of Daventry.


Simon Reevell (Dewsbury) (Con): I, too, rise to present a petition in the same terms on behalf of the people of Dewsbury. It is no more and no less than a request that such matters are dealt with fairly from the perspective of those of us who live in England, who want no more than that enjoyed by those who live elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

The Petition of the residents of Dewsbury.


Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot) (Con): I rise to present a petition in the same terms as that of my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart) on behalf of the constituents of Newton Abbot. English laws must be made only by English MPs: this is the heart of democracy.

The Petition of residents of the constituency of Newton Abbot.


Sir Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire) (Con): I rise to present a similar petition in the same terms on behalf of the residents of North East Hertfordshire, who feel most strongly about this issue.

The Petition of residents of North East Hertfordshire.


Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): I rise to present a petition in the same terms as that of my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart) on behalf of my constituents in Crawley, who believe that they should have equal weight in decisions that affect their lives in England. It is my pleasure to present the petition.

The Petition of residents of Crawley.


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Karen Lumley (Redditch) (Con): I rise to present a petition in the same terms on behalf of the residents of Redditch County. They do not want any more powers transferred away from this House, and want to ensure that English Members of Parliament are able to take decisions that only affect them.

The Petition of residents of Redditch County.


Sir Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton) (Con): On behalf of my constituents in Rutland and Melton, I present a petition in the same terms as that of my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart). We believe in a balanced and fair constitution that offers English votes for English laws.

The Petition of the residents of Rutland and Melton.


Dame Angela Watkinson (Hornchurch and Upminster) (Con): I rise to present a petition in precisely the same terms as that of my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart). It contains 276 signatures from the residents of Hornchurch and Upminster.

The Petition of the residents of Hornchurch and Upminster.


Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con): I rise to present a petition in the same terms on behalf of my constituents in Congleton, who consider this to be a matter of fairness and justice for themselves and all the people of England.

The Petition of the residents of Congleton.


Mr Robin Walker (Worcester) (Con): I rise to present a petition in the same terms on behalf of the residents of the faithful city of Worcester. It has been signed by more than 400 residents and 100 residents have signed a similar petition online.

The Petition of the residents of Worcester.


Sir David Amess (Southend West) (Con): I rise to present a petition in the same terms as that of my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart). It has been signed by many constituents in Southend West who are incensed about the unfair voting arrangements for English Members of Parliament.

The Petition of the residents of Southend West.


Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall) (Con): I would like to associate myself with the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart) and to present a petition in the same terms on behalf of my constituents in South East Cornwall.

The Petition of the residents of South East Cornwall.