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Thirdly, the Government say that they want to win the forthcoming election. Logic would say that they would want to nurture their Labour heartlands, so it is surprising that, with this policy, they are doing the very opposite. It will be interesting to see how those with businesses and jobs in and around the ports, the traditional Labour heartlands, will react to this government policy come the general election. My noble friend Lord Bates talked about the anger out there on this issue. Maybe, since I am speaking from this side of the Chamber, I should be pleased that the Government are pressing their own self-destruct button, but surely this is too great a price to pay. The Government are hell-bent on driving a nail not only into the coffin of the ports businesses but also into their own.

I feel sorry for the Minister, who must defend this extraordinarily illogical policy in a few minutes. Perhaps he will hold up his hand and say, "Sorry, we've got this wrong-we will look at it again", but the Government seem pathologically incapable of ever admitting that they are wrong, so I will not hold my breath. They

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seem to be acutely embarrassed by all the bad publicity that the policy is getting and, to stifle any further debate at Westminster, as my noble friend Lord Jenkin said, they have now at the 11th hour invoked the privilege amendment procedure so that there is no possibility that the amendment can return to the other place to be further debated, thus prolonging their agony. Is it not ironic that it takes a Conservative amendment, tabled by my noble friend Lord Bates, to try to save jobs in the docks, with the Labour Party in the other place voting against it? What a sorry state of affairs.

4.45 pm

Lord Patten: My Lords, I agree with everything that my noble friend Lord Cathcart has just said, except in one very narrow instance. He said that we should feel sorry for a Minister, but that flies in the face of proper practice. One should never feel sorry for Ministers under any circumstance. I am not at all sorry that I heard my noble friend's speech, or the extremely forceful speech of my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding, who set out all the arguments that we need to have in front of us.

In a few moments we are about to hear a Statement from another place bringing forward proposals for constitutional reform of your Lordships' House. There is no mention anywhere in the Statement, a copy of which has fallen into my hands, of reform of another place and its procedures. I see my noble friend Lord Bates nodding, which is a very great accolade-and I thank him for it. If there was ever a case for reform of the other place happening first, so that procedures are properly treated and your Lordships' House is treated with respect, this is it. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, that the Leader of the House has been splendid in what she has tried to do to protect our liberties. I am very pleased that she is in her place. It is up to her now to try to put this right.

Lord Tope: My Lords, I associate the Liberal Democrat Benches with pretty well all that has been said thus far in this short debate. The only point on which I would disagree is the description by the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, of the ports as "Labour heartlands". I am not at all sure that the people of Liverpool, Bristol, Hull or Newcastle would recognise that description any more-but that is a detail.

All the points have been made fully and well. I have no need to make them again and could not do so as well as the noble Lords, Lord Bates and Lord Jenkin, have done, on the use of the privilege on this occasion or the substantive issue that brought about this situation. Like other noble Lords, I, too, have had innumerable representations from various ports. Many have been cited and it probably does not add much to the debate to quote more, but in one instance in Liverpool a company that has already gone into administration faces a backdated demand in the region of £1.1 million, with the consequence of 27 job losses for that company. As I think the noble Lord, Lord Bates, said, the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce described in some detail the desperate efforts of an accountant trying to find some justifiable reason for not qualifying the

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accounts of the company whose statutory accounts he was trying to prepare, because of the backdated liability. Sadly, it is not reported whether he was successful.

These are not things that might be going to happen or the usual worst-case scenarios that we all plead in aid from time to time. They are actually happening now. I join noble Lords who have spoken already, regretting-though they spoke perhaps in anger rather than regret-that we are not further able to debate these issues or express a view on them today. However, this is not the end of the matter; I am sure that in other ways and at other times we will return to the issue and will look to the Government to find a more satisfactory solution than has been found thus far. In the mean time, I associate these Benches with what has been said. Whether I feel sympathy for the Minister, who is the latest in the long line of people trying to defend the indefensible on this issue, is not relevant. I await his latest attempt in trying to defend the indefensible.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, two issues arise in respect of these amendments. One is financial privilege and the other is the ports and what happened in the review of how rating impacted on them. So far as concerns financial privilege, noble Lords will be well aware that this is a matter for the House authorities and not the Government. Page 919 of Erskine MayParliamentary Practice, 23rd edition, states:

"The Commons have long included not only bills dealing with public expenditure and revenue but also Bills which deal with local revenues or charges as matters to which their privilege extends".

That was in place long before this Government came into being. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, I say that financial privilege is a matter for the House of Commons. That is why the Cabinet Office does not provide detailed guidance on it for government departments.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, is the noble Lord saying that there has been no change to the Cabinet Office guidance because it is a matter for the House of Commons? The whole of that guidance is about people who are going to introduce Bills into the House of Commons. I cannot understand his argument.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I was going to go on to say about the guidance that I am not aware that particular changes have been made in this regard, but what I can say to the noble Lord is that it is open for representations on issues and that is where he may wish to pursue his inquiries.

I was about to say that the advice of the House authorities is that all the amendments that were considered in respect of the latest round of debates were considered to be an infringement of privilege. The issue about the ports has been debated in your Lordships' House-and certainly in the other place-on more than one occasion. Therefore, this is not about stifling debate. Is it shameful to adopt this because this place has expressed a view on it? The reality is that the other place has expressed a view on this as well and has not agreed with your Lordships' House. It has a view on this as well.

Let me get to the heart of the matter. This is why I find this whole debate so bizarre. I can understand noble Lords opposite wanting to keep the issue of the

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ports alive to try to embarrass the Government. I noticed that the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, was trying to come to the aid of the Government, or so he expressed it. He said that he was not prepared to speak, but he seemed to have a script in front of him when he was giving us the benefit of his views.

Let me be clear. If the amendments passed at this end had been accepted by the Government, they would not have impacted one little bit on the ports issue. The amendments deal with the impact of the business rate supplement. The business rate supplement cannot possibly come in until April of next year. It would have no impact on what happened to the ports in that review in 2006 and 2008 and the adjustments that were made in 2005. To try to use this as a mechanism to open up debates around the ports is entirely outwith how we should be approaching these matters.

As to "would" or "could", the amendments in the Bill in effect impacted on how the rating list and adjustments to it would come about. Anybody who knows anything about the rating system knows that there will be changed situations between one revaluation and another. A property may have been extended, which could impact on its rateable value. If that happens, there is currently no formal reporting requirement on the person who generated that extension, but these things are reviewed by the valuation office. To say that you could not adjust the valuation list if there were no default on the part of the occupier or the person subject to liability would fundamentally change how the valuation list is maintained. Many of these adjustments are inevitably retrospective. When the valuation office comes around to doing its work and identifies that there has been a change, that leads to an adjustment to the valuation list.

That is a general point. There is a separate debate on the issue of the ports but that is not before us today. That issue is not impacted on by these amendments; it is not impacted on by this Bill. The Bill focuses on the business rate supplement, which does not come in until April of next year at the earliest. Apart from the GLA and the Crossrail levy, I understand that nobody as yet said that they are proposing to introduce a business rate supplement.

It is entirely false to have another go at the issue of the ports on the basis that we are perpetrating a great injustice by not accepting these amendments. Had these amendments been accepted, they would not have changed the position one little bit in respect of the ports. Noble Lords may feel that the action that the Government have taken, particularly in relation to the eight-year repayment period for those liabilities, is not what they would like to see. I am always happy to talk to my noble friend Lord Mandelson to make sure that he is acquainted with these issues. However, that is a separate issue from the Bill.

Lord Bates: My Lords, is that an undertaking from the government Bench-given that the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, is now in his place-that the Government will be willing to engage in a cross-party discussion chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, to see what can be done to save jobs and British ports?

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Lord McKenzie of Luton: No, my Lords, the noble Lord cannot take that from what I said. I said that I would bring it to the attention of my noble friend. The noble Lord says that this Government should be about supporting jobs and business. That is exactly what we have been about as a Government, sometimes in the face of opposition from the party opposite. We are not going to take any lessons on that issue. There is a whole irrelevancy about the impact of these amendments on the issue of the ports. It is about time that we were very clear about that.

I accept and note that there are concerns generally about how financial privilege is operated. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Patten, that my noble friend Lady Royall has been assiduous in trying to support and protect Members' interests. I am sure that she will continue to do that.

I have dealt with the issues. There are separate issues around financial privilege. The issues around the ports have become conflated with these amendments, which, frankly, they should not be. These amendments are to do with the BRS. The BRS could not, and would not, operate back to 2006; it will not operate until 2010. If I have not done justice to noble Lords who spoke, I am very happy to try again, but I hope that noble Lords will accept that it is a matter for the House authorities to determine financial privilege. However, there is nothing that I have heard or read that suggests that there was anything inappropriate in that determination. We have not sought to stifle debate around the ports issue; there has been plenty of debate on it. These amendments have nothing to do with that issue anyway.

Motion agreed.

Building Britain's Future


4.58 pm

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows.

"With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a Statement on the draft legislative programme-our plans to build a stronger, fairer and more prosperous Britain.

In the last year we have taken action to prevent a collapse of banks, protect homeowners against recession and maintain vital investments in public services at the time people need them most. Now as we seek to move our economy out of recession we are setting out the steps we are proposing to support growth and jobs in the economy.

In the last two recessions tens of thousands of young people were written off to become a generation lost to work-a mistake this Government will not repeat. And so today we are announcing new measures-to be paid for from the spending allocations made in the Budget and from switches of spending-to meet new priorities that include creating new growth,

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new jobs and new housing. Targeted investments to support jobs and strengthen growth are also the surest and fastest way to reduce deficits and debt in every country.

So my first announcement is about new jobs for young people. Starting from January, every young person under 25 who has been unemployed for a year will receive a guaranteed job, work experience or training place. In return-and I believe there will be public support for this-they will also from next spring have the obligation to accept that guaranteed offer. This is the first time that any Government have guaranteed that jobs and training will be available to young people and, crucially, have also made it mandatory for young people that, if there is a job available, to take this work up or have their benefits cut if they do not.

To underpin this guarantee, as part of the investments we announced in the Budget, £1 billion is being set aside for the Future Jobs Fund that will provide 100,000 jobs for young people, with another 50,000 in areas of high unemployment. From this September, we will realise our pledge to all school leavers that every 16 and 17 year-old will receive an offer of a school or college place or a training place or apprenticeship. And from this September we will also offer 20,000 new full-time community service places. This complements the help for adults who have been unemployed for six months-who will get access to skills training or a jobs subsidy, part of around £5 billion we set aside in the Budget and Pre-Budget Report for targeted support with jobs and training.

In total, through the action taken so far, and by rejecting the view that government should cut investment in a recession, we are preventing the loss of around 500,000 jobs. And our continued investment in giving immediate help through Jobcentre Plus to people made unemployed is already making a difference, with each month around 250,000 people moving off unemployment.

New jobs for the future will also come through making the necessary investments in low-carbon energy, digital technology, financial services, bioscience, advanced manufacturing and transport-the building blocks of the competitive economy of the future. So we will use the coming Queen's Speech to ensure the British economy is best placed to take up these opportunities.

First, the new energy Bill will enable us to support up to four commercial-scale carbon capture and storage demonstration plants for Britain. The Bill complements the £1.4 billion of public investment provided in the Budget and up to £4 billion now on offer from the EIB. In addition, following our reforms to the policy, planning and regulatory regimes, we will see between now and 2020, as we meet our renewable energy targets, around £100 billion invested by the private sector. These investments will make Britain a major global player in the low-carbon market, with another 400,000 green jobs by 2017, taking total British employment in the sector to well over a million.

Secondly, the digital economy Bill will help underpin our commitment to enable broadband for all by 2012, working towards a nationwide high-speed broadband

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network by 2016, with additional government investment unlocking new jobs and billions of extra investment from the private sector.

Thirdly, a new innovation fund will be announced today by the Science Minister-£150 million of public money which will over time lever in up to £1 billion of private sector investment in biotechnology, life sciences, low-carbon technologies and advanced manufacturing. Over the coming weeks the Transport Secretary will set out plans to advance the electrification of transport, cutting rail carbon emissions on newly electrified lines by around one-third. Lord Davies will lead a new drive to improve the country's infrastructure, and so increase the efficiency with which projects are taken forward, with the establishment of a new body, Infrastructure UK. Further, an asset sales board will work with the Shareholder Executive to achieve our £16 billion assets sales target-money that can be redirected to public investment.

These investments will strengthen our economy and create new jobs. And we believe investment by government and the private sector will enable the economy to create over the next five years 1.5 million new skilled jobs in Britain.

In every part of the country there is an urgent need for new social housing and for new affordable home ownership. So the Housing Minister is announcing that in the next two years-from the reallocation of funds-we will more than treble the extra investment in housing from the £600 million announced at the Budget to a total of £2.1 billion today, financing over the next 24 months a total of 110,000 energy-efficient, affordable homes to rent or buy, and in doing so creating an estimated 45,000 jobs in construction and related industries. By building new and additional homes we can now also reform social housing allocation, enabling local authorities to give more priority to local people whose names have been on waiting lists for far too long. We will consult on reforms to the council house finance system to allow local authorities to retain all the proceeds from their own council house sales and council rents. We want to see a bigger role and responsibility for local authorities to meet the housing needs of people in their areas.

We will continue to take forward the far-reaching reforms of financial supervision that we have embarked upon, domestically and globally, since the financial crisis hit in mid-2007. For those who argue that this crisis is falling off the agenda, let me make it clear: sorting out the irresponsibility and regulatory weaknesses that led to the crisis remains an urgent imperative and one that we will continue to prioritise both at home and abroad.

The financial services and business Bill will ensure better consumer protection, including a ban on unsolicited credit card cheques and, in addition, the FSA is taking action to ensure there can be no return to the old short-termist approach to executive pay in the banking sector. To help tackle tax avoidance, the Treasury has also published today a new tax code for banks.

Alongside our strategy for growth and jobs, we will introduce new legislation: for education, to address child poverty; and a policing, crime and private security Bill. In doing so we will create a new set of public

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service entitlements for parents, patients and citizens, securing for them more personal services tailored to their needs. For patients in the NHS this will mean enforceable entitlements to prompt treatment and high standards of care: a guarantee that no one who needs to see a cancer specialist waits more than two weeks; a guarantee of a free health check-up on the NHS for everyone over 40; and a guarantee that no one waits more than 18 weeks for hospital treatment.

The Health Secretary will bring forward, later this year, proposals to further focus the NHS towards prevention and the earliest intervention; to extend the choices for people to have treatment and care at times that suit them and, whenever possible, in their own homes; to reform and improve maternity and early years' services; and we will shortly consult on far-reaching proposals for how we need to modernise our health and social care systems so that our country can meet the challenge of an ageing society.

The second set of public service entitlements will be for all parents, with the guarantee of individually tailored education for their child as part of our far-reaching reform of our schools system. I want all our children to have opportunities that are available today only to those who can pay for them in private education. It is right that personal tutoring should be extended to all who need it, so there will be a new guarantee for parents of a personal tutor for every pupil at secondary school and catch-up tuition, including one-to-one, for those who need it. So that every school is a good school, and so that we meet the national challenge to eliminate underperforming schools by 2011, we will see the best head teachers working in more than one school as we radically expand trusts, academies and federations to increase the supply of good school places throughout the country.

The third set of new public service entitlements is the offer neighbourhood police teams can make to all citizens in every community. Already, since April last year, there are 3,600 teams in place, offering to every part of the country policing tailored to the community's needs. We will now go further, and guarantee local people more power to keep their neighbourhoods safe, including the rights to hold the police to account at monthly beat meetings; to have a say on CCTV and other crime prevention measures; and to vote on how offenders pay back to the community. Our policing, crime and private security Bill will give the police more time on the beat by changing and reducing the reporting requirements for police officers on stop-and-search forms. New rights to ensure that women are better protected against violence will take account of recommendations made in response to our violence against women and girls consultation, to be published this autumn.

We will also legislate to ensure protection for children, with a new and strengthened system of statutory age ratings for video games. Because British citizenship brings responsibilities as well as rights, we will now require newcomers to earn the right to stay, extending the points-based system to probationary citizenship. Very simply, the more you contribute to your community the greater your chance of becoming a citizen.

The Foreign Secretary will introduce legislation to prohibit the use, development, production, stockpiling

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and transfer of cluster munitions, bringing into British law the international agreement we led the way on signing last year.

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