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My hon. Friend raises an important point, but I cannot immediately say where this point could be taken further so that hon. Members could follow it up. On this side of the House, we all believe it is very important that individuals at work have the right to join a trade union and to have it recognised. We also believe that the standards British companies operate with workers in this country should not be
double standards; the same ones should apply to companies abroad. That is why we included a responsibility to report on such matters in the Companies Act 2006. The hon. Lady raises an important point; I will ascertain which Minister is responsible for taking the matter forward and write to them.
John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): The Leader of the House might be aware that in Scotland more than 65 per cent. of children who leave care aged under five return to their parents. In England, more than 60 per cent. of children taken into care aged under five are adopted. The children in care Bill will be debated later this year, but will the Leader of the House ensure that Government time is given to debate such issues before the draft Bill is published?
Ms Harman: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. We need to be absolutely sure that children at risk of neglect or abuse are put in a place of safety and well cared for. We also want to ensure that if parents can care for their own children, they are supported in doing so. For too long, the family justice system has been a poor relation to the criminal justice system. What it does affects peoples lives for ever, and it is a big priority for the Ministry of Justice. The Secretary of State for Justice will answer questions next week, and perhaps the hon. Gentleman can raise the matter then.
Graham Stringer (Manchester, Blackley) (Lab): Yesterday the media were briefed that the Manchester super-casino was dead in the water. It has profound constitutional implications for our relationship with the other place if we are to kowtow to its decisions. If the super-casino does not go ahead, we also need to know how we will replace the 3,500 jobs that will be lost. Can my right hon. and learned Friend arrange a debate on these matters that are very important to the people of Manchester?
Ms Harman: We recognise that there was a difficult situation and a deadlock was reached. Therefore, the question is one of how to take matters forward. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that while we await the gambling prevalence study, further consideration will be given to the question of the regeneration of east Manchester. I know that my hon. Friend will play a big role in the discussion, along with the local authority, about how needed regeneration is brought to Manchester.
Ann Winterton (Congleton) (Con): Will the Leader of the House ensure that we have a debate in the near future in Government time on FRESthe future rapid effect system, which is the biggest procurement project by the Army, with costs that started at £6 billion but now stand at £16 billion? It will fix the Armys military direction for the next 30 years. I secured a half-hour Adjournment debate in Westminster Hall some considerable time ago, but the issue is far too important for just Back Benchers. Will she speak to the Secretary of State for Defence and ensure that we have that debate?
Ms Harman: I will draw the hon. Ladys point to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who will answer Defence questions on Monday. All hon. Members would agree that the way in which we effect the procurement of the Ministry of Defence is important for supporting our armed services and their work. It is also important for our manufacturing industry.
Geraldine Smith (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Lab): I am concerned that we are facing another postal strike today after Royal Mails refusal to enter into meaningful negotiations with the Communication Workers Union. However, the root cause of Royal Mails problems appears to be the damaging impact of unfair competition, which could easily jeopardise the universal service obligation if it is allowed to continue. That worries me because I have a large rural constituency, and I therefore ask the Leader of the House to my pass on my concerns to the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and to arrange an urgent debate on the matter.
Ms Harman: My hon. Friend has raised an important issue. We all want that dispute to be settled as soon as possible by negotiation. She also questioned the structure of and framework in which the negotiations are taking place. I will do as she asks and draw it to my right hon. Friends attention.
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): I welcome the right hon. and learned Ladys announcement that we are to have nearly a full days debate on the draft legislative programmethat is an enormous improvement on her proposal of last week. Does not the new process, which I welcome, have two consequences? First, might not the Loyal Address be a little shorter since so many details of the Bills will already be in the public domain? Secondly, are there implications for the traditional five or six-day debate that we normally hold after the Queens Speech?
Ms Harman: If the right hon. Gentleman is asking about the length of what the Queen reads out in the Gracious Speech, I do not anticipate its being shorter. Her Majesty will announce the legislative programme; we will simply be able to debate it before it is done and dusted and set in stone. People will have an opportunity to discuss what should be in the Gracious Speech. I do not expect the debate after the Queens Speech to be shortened, unless that appears to be acceptable.
Mr. Paul Truswell (Pudsey) (Lab): My right hon. and learned Friend will know that the recently published White Paper on planning has generated considerable debate outside this place, especially about public involvement in the planning process. Will she arrange an early debate in the House so that hon. Members can express their views on the White Paper proposals before they are drafted into a Bill?
There will of course be many further opportunities for discussing the important and difficult question of planning. We need to ensure that necessary developments that are in the public and local interest are effected as swiftly as possible, with as little expense and effort as possible for those who implement them,
and that local people who are likely to be affected have an opportunity to respond. The debate is important and will doubtless continue in the House.
Stewart Hosie (Dundee, East) (SNP): I welcome the right hon. and learned Lady to her new job. Today, The Scotsman published a story that cited a report by Scottish Widows, which suggests that some 41 per cent. of people in Scotland39 per cent. throughout the UKsave nothing for the near future. That is worrying. Will the Leader of the House ask the Chancellor of Exchequer to make a statement on the Governments attitude to savings, their plans to encourage people to save more, and especially their view of one of Scottish Widows recommendations, which is to increase the annual contribution limit for those with individual savings accounts?
Ms Harman: The hon. Gentleman could raise ISAs with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I thank him for his words of welcome to me in my new position. The Governments approach to pensions has been to offer people the possibility of saving more for their retirement safely, with the amount being topped up by their employers. I also draw attention to safe savings for those on low incomesfor example, the regulation that we introduced to protect people and support those who invest in credit unions.
Mr. Jim Devine (Livingston) (Lab): May we have a debate in Government time on the performance and behaviour of Greenbelt, a factoring company, which charges homeowners up to £400 a year and provides little or no service? It is Farepak for homeowners. Yesterday, its lawyers wrote a threatening letter not only to me but to my constituent, Paula Hoogerbrugge. Paula has been monitoring the companys performance nationally. She is a single mum, yet it not only sent her a threatening letter, but its representatives contacted her employers with a clear view to having her silenced or sacked. Will my right hon. and learned Friend join me in condemning that despicable behaviour?
Ms Harman: I thank my hon. Friend for raising the matter in the House. The behaviour that he describes is worrying and I will raise it with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. Important financial sectors must have proper methods of probity.
Mr. Paul Goodman (Wycombe) (Con): The Wycombe rape crisis centre in my constituency supports approximately 200 victims of rape, sexual assault and childhood abuse a year. According to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, it faces closure because
it was only given a matter of weeks notice that it wouldnt receive funding in the coming year.
I know that the right hon. and learned Lady, as Minister for Women, takes such issues seriously. I gather that up to 190 other projects are affected. May we have a debate in the near future on sexual assault and rape?
I pay tribute to the important work that the voluntary sector contributes to supporting women and men who have been the victims of serious sexual
offences. The rape crisis centre movement does important work, which is funded by a combination of national and local finance from health and social services budgets. Wearing my hat as Minister for Women, I undertake to look into the position in the hon. Gentlemans constituency. The Government have invested a great deal in developing a network of sexual assault referral centres to ensure that women who suffer violent sexual assaults are properly supported. That is important not only to help them with the aftermath of that terrible crime but to support them to give evidence in a prosecution so that perpetrators can be brought to justice. Rape is a repeat offence; until perpetrators are brought to justice, they continue offending.
[That this House commends the Holocaust Educational Trust for its tremendous work in educating about the horrors of the past, reaching thousands of students across the country; congratulates the Trust for its flagship Lessons from Auschwitz Project which has seen over 4000 sixth-form students and teachers visit the Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau; notes that the project provides participants with a unique insight into the catastrophic results of what can happen when racism spirals out of control; further notes that the project encourages young people to use their rights as citizens and contribute positively to a future free from discrimination, racism and hatred; further notes Government support for the project which now enables the Trust to facilitate these visits to Auschwitz-Birkenau for two 16 to 18 year old students from every school and further education college in the UK; recognises the far reaching impact this funding has on young people across the UK; and calls upon the Government to continue this vital support of this project and its commitment to ensure Holocaust education remains an integral component of school teaching in the UK.]
The motion commends the trusts work and the Government for their funding, which allows visits to Auschwitz for two 16 to 19-year-old students from every school and further education college in the UK. May we find time to debate the trusts work so that we can encourage the Government to continue the funding in future and ensure that holocaust education remains an integral component of school teaching in the UK?
Ms Harman: It is important to recognise and support the work in schools to remember and understand the terrible events of the holocaust. I join my hon. Friend in congratulating the Holocaust Educational Trust on its work. The Governments financial support is important but I know that its work is mostly done by volunteers. I pay tribute to the volunteers who keep that important work going. We must never forget.
Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con):
I am sure that the Leader of the House will be aware that, as a progressive but traditional moderniser in the House, I
would be very happy indeed to chair the Modernisation Committee if elected, if she has some difficulty in that. But seriously, I have very much appreciated the private conversations that she and I have had about her job and modernisation. Will the right hon. and learned Lady be more specific about when the motion on her appointment to the Committee will come before the House, so that I can be there personally, as the veteran member of the Committee, to support her appointment as Chairman?
Ms Harman: I thank the hon. Gentleman in two respects. First, I thank him for all the work that he has done over the years on the Modernisation Committee, which has made a difference to the House. As a Member for 25 years, I can see the difference that the Committee has made to how Members can do their work here. I thank him for being the backbone of the Committee, along with colleagues on my side of the House. Secondly, I thank him for the sentiments behind his offer to nominate me to chair the Committee, were the House to see fit to put me on it. I assure him that he will not regret that offer and the trust that he has placed in me. I undertake to do my job properly as Leader of the House and, if I am chosen, as the Chair of the Modernisation Committee.
Helen Jones (Warrington, North) (Lab): I wonder whether my right hon. and learned Friend could find time for a debate on support for working carers, and on the operation of the carers allowance in particular. It discriminates against those on low pay who are trying to keep themselves in work, particularly those whose hours fluctuate. Before the Governments review of the national carers strategy is complete, will she ensure that the House has a proper opportunity to debate how financial support for carers should operate to keep in work those who wish to work?
Ms Harman: There will be an opportunity to debate those issues in the Health and Social Care Bill, but my hon. Friend raises a very important point indeed. There are a growing number of older people in this country, and the front line for the support and care of those people is the family. That is what most older people want and what most families want. We do not want to have to make people choose between their job and the care and support that they want to give older members of the family.
Perhaps as Minister for Women I could tell my hon. Friend that one of our three priorities will be supporting those families who are supporting older relatives. That includes not only rights at work to flexibility, but financial support. We have gone a long way to give financial support to families with young children. We need to do more to give financial support to those doing the incredibly important work of caring for older relatives. I shall bring my hon. Friends points to the attention of the relevant colleagues with whom we are working.
John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con):
May we have a debate on the Floor of the House and in Government time on sexual health and reproductive rights? Given that the UK still has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in western Europe and that many young women understand neither how their bodies work nor
how to access contraception, does the right hon. and learned Lady agree that we need dramatically to improve the quality of sex education in this country, not least in schools, in order both that children can acquire the biological facts and that they have the opportunity to discuss their views, their values and their relationships?
Ms Harman: I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that point, which was discussed in the debate on the Opposition motion yesterday. It is important that we recognise that it is a crucial issue not only for young women and girls, but for young men and boys. There is still much too high a rate of sexually transmitted diseases, although progress is being made on that, and although the rate of teenage pregnancy is falling, it is still much too high. One of the things that will affect that in future is the issues that my hon. Friends concerned with education have raised. The issue is about ensuring not only that young people receive the right advice and information, but that they have aspirations and want to make absolutely sure that they get on with their lives and not have early, unwanted and unintended pregnancies.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): When can we have a debate on the Prime Ministers impressive proposals for constitutional reform? It looks as though we are reaching a position where we might have a written constitution or a new Bill of Rights. Before any decision is taken on who should be drafting such important documents, will my right hon. and learned Friend undertake to ensure that we have a discussion in the House on the proposals, so that we can have an input into who is selected?
Ms Harman: I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Justice has said that if there is further information, he will give it in a statement to the House. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said when he introduced the paper on constitutional reform, there will be a number of proposals to improve the accountability of the Government to Parliament and to improve and strengthen the relationship between Parliament and the people. A number of proposals will come forward, and we shall obviously want the fullest possible debate and engagement of hon. Members.
I need to mention to the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) that I perhaps did not respond to his point about timing. I hope that the motion will be moved early next week, but since I have unfortunately not given him quite the right information twice on this matter, let us hope that I get it right third time lucky.
Mark Hunter (Cheadle) (LD): Members in all parts of the House agree on the need to curb CO2 emissions. However, given that the international activities of UK companies account for some 12 to 15 per cent. of global CO2 emissions, could the Leader of the House please find time for a debate on the impact of climate change on people in developing countries?
Ms Harman: The point that the hon. Gentleman raises is a big concern not only to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, but to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development. The people who contribute least to the problem of global warming, but who are first to suffer its effects, are those in poor countries. I assure the hon. Gentleman that that is one of the main motivations behind the Climate Change (Effects) Bill and is embedded in our international development programme. As for British companies, one of the important things in the Companies Act 2006 is the openness that they are required to have about their corporate responsibility, not only when they are doing things in this country, but in their operations abroad.
David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): In view of the comments made by the new Minister for Trade and Investmentthat trade unions are a backward-looking irrelevance with no place on todays agendaand of his past campaigns to curb maternity leave, freeze the minimum wage, frustrate environmental law and block corporate killing legislation, could the Leader of House find time in this place to hold a pilot confirmation hearing for the former Digby Jones, as a precursor to all such appointments to the House of Lords in future years?
Ms Harman: My hon. Friend will know that we believe strongly in good minimum standards for all people at work, including in respect of health and safety and the minimum wage, and that we think that the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill is important. Nobody should go to work and lose their life as a result of a business trying to cut costs. I can further say to him that it is for the Prime Minister to choose his Ministers and that all Ministers are collectively accountable for Government policy, including me.
Mr. Christopher Fraser (South-West Norfolk) (Con): On 14 June, I raised with the right hon. and learned Ladys predecessor my concern that the Department for Transports high-level output specification for the railways would be kicked into the long grass over the summer recess. I am pleased to have received a letter from the former Secretary of State for Transport, which states:
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