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12 Dec 2007 : Column 365

Mr. John Baron (Billericay) (Con): I agree with much of what the Minister has said, but does he not think that it is an absolute shambles that the recent Public Accounts Committee report highlighted the fact that almost half of all forces accommodation is substandard and that there are significant gaps in the Ministry’s understanding of its estate and where priority funding is needed? What will the Minister do about that?

Derek Twigg: I welcome the report, but I do not accept the facts. More than 90 per cent. of the accommodation is in category 1 or 2. We recognise the legacy of underfunding over decades, and I hope that Opposition Members accept their responsibility for that, not least in terms of the Annington Homes deal and how it has affected accommodation. We continue to give priority to the worst accommodation. We are doing a great deal to improve provision, with 12,000 family homes improved over the past six years and £5 billion to be spent over the next 10 years. We have made significant inroads into the problems that we inherited and for which we, of course, now have responsibility.

I turn now to the speeches made in the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Hamilton) made some interesting comments about education, as did the hon. Member for Westbury (Dr. Murrison). I can assure the House that we continue to work hard with our colleagues in the education Departments on the problems in the system.

My hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian also made an important point about the challenge that we face in distributing the resources, and he set out the difficulties that the shortage of skills causes to our efforts to improve housing. He also noted the role of local connections in prioritising service personnel. He mentioned Scottish issues, and I have had discussions with those members of the Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly who have responsibility for armed services matters.

Mr. David Hamilton: I realise that time is very short, but will my hon. Friend also have discussions with the Royal British Legion Scotland, which is separate from the UK Royal British Legion and is, of course, older?

Derek Twigg: I have good relationships with Poppyscotland and am happy to have discussions with that organisation at any time.

The hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock) made some interesting points about the Select Committee hearing on the subject of health, at which a good debate took place. He also mentioned the Annington Homes deal, which has caused so many problems for housing. However, he agreed that the military covenant was not broken and that the Government were doing a significant amount to improve things.

The hon. Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Simpson) is a distinguished historian with great experience of the staff college. I always listen to his views, although I am not sure that I agree with his picture of the relationship between chiefs and Ministers. I see the chiefs all the time and, although they are robust and put forward their views, we have a good relationship. If he goes back to Alanbrooke’s diaries and their account of his relationship with Churchill or of the relationship that
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the Adjutant-General had with Churchill, he will know that history offers us some interesting guidelines. I always listen to what the hon. Gentleman has to say, but I do not accept his analysis on this occasion.

My hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk (Mr. Joyce) raised some important issues about spending on the armed forces and the public debate that we should have. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Marsden) made an important point about our service and support for veterans. It is important that we support them, whether with mental health care or priority treatment—the Secretary of State for Health and I have recently announced some initiatives on both points. Veterans are important, so I hope that all hon. Members will support Veterans’ day on 27 June next year. We are getting ever more support for that day from local councils and local authorities.

The hon. Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer), of course, has great experience. I always listen carefully to his comments and he made some important points. However, he will know that significant work is also going on in recruitment and retention. I recently met the chief personnel officers for each service to talk about that and we continue to do lots of things to deal with the problem.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr. Jones) made a point about compensation. The 2005 scheme introduced a lump sum and a guaranteed income payment scheme. It is important that we recognise that, to the most seriously injured, that can amount to significant amounts of money—hundreds of thousands of pounds during a person’s lifetime.

The Liberal Democrats have produced a document called “Our Nation’s Duty” that fails to recognise the progress made by the Government or the measures that we have taken. I do not think that they understand the many things that we are doing.

The hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) spoke specifically about health. I visit injured service personnel in Selly Oak, Headley Court and elsewhere, and I also speak to their families. Overwhelmingly, they believe that the Government are providing excellent support and medical care. As for aftercare, Headley Court provides excellent rehabilitation, and good progress has been made elsewhere with welfare for families. To improve matters further, we introduced in October a pathway of care that allows us to follow injured personnel from the time they are evacuated back home right through to their eventual discharge. The pathway of care will be rigorously monitored, by Ministers and by those involved at the centre. I believe that that important step forward will ensure even better standards of service and care for our armed forces personnel.

The hon. Member for North Devon talked about establishing military wards in the medical defence units around the country. Those units have military medical people who work with NHS staff, but we do not believe that they should have solely military wards, as usually there are not more than two wards full of military patients at any one time. However, it is true that we are developing a military-managed ward at Selly Oak. Lots of military people are involved in that, including a military ward master, and we are also in discussions about how the new hospital building there can be used to improve the care that we offer.

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In the minute that remains, I want to remind the House about all the things that the Government have done for the armed forces. For example, their pay rise this year was the best in the public sector, amounting to more than 9 per cent. for the most junior ranks. Military personnel also get an operational bonus worth £2,320, as well as council tax relief. The welfare package for our armed forces is the best that we have ever had, and the facilities at Headley Court and Selly Oak offer greatly improved support and welfare provision for casualties and their families. I believe that our armed forces now get the best medical care that has ever been provided.

As I said earlier, significant amounts of money have been spent on housing for our armed forces, and much progress has been made in that regard. Other improvements include the modernisation of terms and conditions for the Gurkhas, which has been welcomed by many people. In addition, we have taken many initiatives to improve recruitment and retention in the services.

I welcome this debate. The Government are doing a great deal to improve the support extended to our armed forces and their families. I believe that it has never been better, but we continue to look at what more we can do, and I am sure that the Command Paper that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has announced will lead to further improvements in the future.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 71, Noes 302.
Division No. 27]
[4.16 pm


Alexander, Danny
Baker, Norman
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Brake, Tom
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Lorely
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Clegg, Mr. Nick
Davey, Mr. Edward
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Donaldson, rh Mr. Jeffrey M.
Featherstone, Lynne
Foster, Mr. Don
George, Andrew
Gidley, Sandra
Goldsworthy, Julia
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hemming, John
Holmes, Paul
Horwood, Martin
Hosie, Stewart
Howarth, David
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunter, Mark
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Kramer, Susan
Lamb, Norman
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
McCrea, Dr. William
Moore, Mr. Michael
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Price, Adam
Pugh, Dr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Robertson, Angus
Robinson, Mrs. Iris
Robinson, rh Mr. Peter
Rowen, Paul
Russell, Bob
Short, rh Clare
Smith, Sir Robert
Stunell, Andrew
Swinson, Jo
Taylor, Matthew
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Webb, Steve
Weir, Mr. Mike
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mark

Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Willott, Jenny
Wilson, Sammy
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Ayes:

Dan Rogerson and
Mr. Adrian Sanders

Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, rh Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Chapman, Ben
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, rh Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
David, Mr. Wayne
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Meale, Mr. Alan
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, rh Edward
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, rh James
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Russell, Christine

Ryan, rh Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Vaz, rh Keith
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Joan
Ward, Claire
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Winnick, Mr. David
Wood, Mike
Woodward, rh Mr. Shaun
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:

Alison Seabeck and
Ms Diana R. Johnson
Question accordingly negatived.
12 Dec 2007 : Column 368

12 Dec 2007 : Column 369

12 Dec 2007 : Column 370

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

Mr. Deputy Speaker forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.


12 Dec 2007 : Column 371

Northern Rock

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): I must tell the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister and that there is a 10-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches.

4.29 pm

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD): I beg to move,

We are very much in the middle of a banking crisis that is without precedent— certainly in my lifetime and probably for most of the last century. I was always brought up to believe that banking runs occur in far-off countries and that the lender of last resort is an obscure academic construction that appears in monetary textbooks, not the real world. However, I suspect that when the dust has settled on the Northern Rock affair, future generations will think of it much as people think of the South Sea bubble: a major historical event when a speculative bubble in financial markets burst. If one were to be pessimistic by thinking that the crisis will continue unabated, one could well seek a historical precedent in the Creditanstalt in Austria in 1931. Those events had major financial and economic repercussions.

We are dealing with enormous sums: approximately £30 billion of Government loan, which excludes the deposit guarantees. To try to help Members get their heads around that, I point out that 30 billion is a “3” with 10 noughts. It is impossible to be precise about how much money is involved because the Government do not give the necessary information, and neither does the Bank of England. The information can only be inferred from the Bank’s balance sheet, but the figure is approximately of that order of magnitude.

To put the amount in context so that we can make sense of such an enormous number, I simply equate it to a little bit less than the annual defence budget. Given that it is a one-off payment, we are talking about six Iraq wars. Such a sum would build a high-speed train route from London to Edinburgh, and enough money would be left to build another one to Glasgow. The sum is the equivalent of about £5 million for every Northern Rock employee.

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