|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Allen : Does the Prime Minister accept that the House and the Government have attacked antisocial behaviour very effectively? That is certainly the case in my constituency, but does he agree that there is another side to that cointhat as well as attacking antisocial behaviour we should promote social behaviour in our youngsters? Will he consider the possibility of including social behaviour as a core activity in the national curriculum, so that we can prepare youngsters to take best advantage of the schooling that is on offer? In that way, we could do for social behaviour what we have done so effectively for literacy and numeracy.
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend raises an important point. Citizenship education became a statutory part of the national curriculum in September 2002. That framework gives us our best chance to teach young people about responsibility, but he is also right to draw attention to our measures on antisocial behaviour. One thing that we know is that the more we invest in young people at the earliest possible age, the better chance we have of making sure that they become responsible adultshence the importance of programmes such as Sure Start. That is why it is important that, as well as acting to clamp down on antisocial behaviour, we should continue to invest in the education of our young people. That education, of which citizenship is a part, is the best way to ensure a more secure society in the future.
Q5.  Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North) (Lab): The Government have rightly attached great importance to the question of fair access to universities through their proposal for the Office for Fair Access, but given that 43 per cent. of young people go to universities yet 100 per cent. go to secondary school, and considering the importance of secondary education in the prospects of young people of continuing to university, is there not an even more powerful case for an office for fair access to secondary schools?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend's point is partly met by the independent schools adjudicators, who oversee complaints and disputes about admission arrangements. I think the other thing I would say to him is that the more we can encourage, especially in the
Q6.  David Burnside (South Antrim) (UUP): May I ask the Prime Minister what is in the best interest of the United Kingdom: the re-election of pro-war President Bush, or the election of anti-war Senator Kerry?
The Prime Minister: Can I just say to the hon. Gentleman that I have learned enough in my six or seven years as Prime Minister not to interfere in the American presidential election? That decision is, and should be, for the American people alone.
Mr. Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): The Prime Minister will be aware that the International Monetary Fund has recently revised its growth predictions for the British economy in 2004. Instead of a growth figure of 2.4 per cent., it now estimates growth of 3.1 per cent. Does he agree that that is eloquent testimony to the success of the British economy?
The Prime Minister: Yes, it is. It comes on a day when unemployment has yet again fallen. We now have more than 1.5 million more jobs in the economy than in 1997, when some people said that we would lose 1 million jobs in the British economy. We have actually got record levels of employment, and unemployment is now at its lowest level for well over 25 years and almost 30 years. That is a result of the stable economic policies pursued by the Chancellor, the new deal and the measures that we have taken to ensure that opportunity is not the privilege of a few, but open to the many.
Q7.  Matthew Taylor (Truro and St. Austell) (LD): Is the Prime Minister comfortable with the fact that because the council tax is unrelated to ability to pay, he pays the same council tax, earning £175,000 a year, as the security guards who provide security in the House of Commons and are paid less than £17,000?
The Prime Minister: There is a debate about how local government is best financed, but I must say to the hon. Gentleman that when one actually looks at the different systems of local government finance, the first starting point on which everyone should agree is that there is no perfect system. One can point to anomalies in respect of any system, but I do not myself thinkalthough of course we look at this with an open mindthat local people would like to have their income tax decided by local authorities. If that is the Liberal Democrats' policy, I think that they would be as well to conceal it pretty carefully.
The Prime Minister: Opposition Members say, "Spot on," but as I recall, they opposed the financing. The point that my hon. Friend makes is important. There is a danger for some of the programmes that are not financed on a recurrent basis that funding comes to an end. I will look into the situation in her constituency. Obviously, there is always a limit on the amount of money that can be spent, and we are investing a considerable amount in the children's fund, neighbourhood renewal projects, and so forth. There is a particular issue of what happens when those projects are up and running and doing well and funding is suddenly cut short. That is precisely what we are looking at now, which will obviously form part not just of deliberations on the Budget but of the comprehensive spending review.
Q8.  Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde) (Con): The events in Morecombe bay were both tragic and unpardonable, but further to the Prime Minister's answer to the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Geraldine Smith), does he recognise that also at the heart of the matter is the pool of illegal immigrants in this country who fall easy prey to the despicable activities of illegal gangmasters? In the light of that tragedy, what action will the Prime Minister take to remove those people from this country?
The Prime Minister: It is precisely for that reason that we do remove illegal immigrants from this countryactually, thousands and thousands a year. That problem faces this Government as it did the previous Government and Governments right around the western world. This goes far wider than the particular tragedy and is not in a sense to be connected with that, but the debate that we have been having on the subject of identity cards is a very relevant question for the future because we will not be able to control the problem with the old methods.
Mr. Russell Brown (Dumfries) (Lab): My right hon. Friend referred to a decrease once again in unemployment, but there is still growing concern about the number of people on disability benefits who are not getting the opportunities and choices that others receive. What more can the Government do to give people on incapacity benefit and disability living allowance the opportunity to take part in constructive society?
The Prime Minister: There are two measures in place: there is a tax credit that is available for disabled people to ensure that work pays for them; and there is also, of course, the new deal, which specifically targets some of
Q9.  Ann Winterton (Congleton) (Con): With the inclusion of the 10 new countries in the European Union, the United Kingdom is set to lose £3 billion of European regional funding for 2007 to 2013. Do the Government intend to supplement that shortfall to present levels, and will they do so by taxing the hard-pressed British taxpayer even more?
The Prime Minister: I cannot entirely work out what angle the hon. Lady is coming from. Is she asking us to support the programmes or to ditch them? I thought that it was a matter of common cause across the House that we supported the accession countries entering the European Union. Obviously, as that happens, unless we increase dramatically the overall amount of the EU budget, there will be less for those countries that are already in the EU and are wealthier. Of course we look at specific programmes and whether we need to bridge the funding for them, but it is important to recognise that the alternative is either not having those countries in the EUthat would be a huge mistake for Europeor pushing up the European budget, which we have made clear, as the Chancellor did again yesterday, we do not favour.
Q10.  Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): Last year, one in four deaths in England and Wales led to an autopsy, as opposed to one in eight in Scotland and to one in 12 in Northern Ireland. Does the Prime Minister agree that many of those 121,000 autopsies caused unnecessary distress and delay to already grieving families? Is it not time that the coroner service was urgently reformed to ensure consistency across the UKnot least in the reporting of drugs-related deaths?
The Prime Minister: First, I express once again my condolences and sympathy to the family of the hon. Gentleman's constituent. May I tell them, through him, that I understand their anxiety, and that it is the reason why there is an inquiry? Once it has completed its work, and we know exactly what happened to those six members of the Royal Military Police, we will obviously be in a better position to communicate with the families on the basis of precise details. However, those six people died in the course of their duty in circumstances in which they demonstrated enormous courage and bravery[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman has asked about medals, but it has already been made clear that we will look at that later when the inquiry is complete.
May I simply tell the hon. Gentleman that those people died with immense bravery, trying to make Iraq better? No matter what is going on in Iraq at the momentthese terrible terrorist attacks were almost certainly instigated by people outside Iraq and are directed against Iraqi peopleit is crucial to the security of the region and the world that Iraq is helped to achieve stability, prosperity and democracy in the long term. That is precisely what those people, including the hon. Gentleman's constituent, were doing, which is why the House, while it should answer the questions that the hon. Gentleman has quite properly asked, should thank that person and all those who have died in the service of their country doing something very important for the future of the world.