Previous Section Index Home Page

26 May 2010 : Column 167

Mr Laws: We are obviously going to allocate the apprenticeships out, but is the hon. Gentleman really suggesting that if we are advised by the Treasury and the Department for Work and Pensions that a part of that particular guarantee is not working, we should go on spending wastefully, in the current environment? I can tell him that we will have to take very difficult decisions, and that we must start by taking decisions when there are clear recommendations. We have had such recommendations on that.

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): May I thank my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for his swift action on the freeze on backdated port taxes, which is in stark contrast to the months of inaction under the previous Government, which led to the collapse of Scotline and the loss of local jobs in Goole? May we have an assurance that the new system will be worked out swiftly, and that that will involve full and proper consultation with the port operators and businesses, which would be in stark contrast to the previous system?

Mr Laws: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. We quite understand the distress and concern that has been caused in the ports and elsewhere by that situation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced earlier this week that we would freeze the existing obligations for the rest of the financial year, and we are currently looking very carefully indeed at what action we can take to resolve the matter which, as my hon. Friend will be aware, affects not only the ports, but many other businesses across the country. That is why we are determined to move swiftly, but also to take time to get things right, and to consult in a proper way.

Tony Lloyd (Manchester Central) (Lab): Will the Chief Secretary give a very straightforward answer to this question? What estimate did his officials give him of the number of people who would lose their jobs either directly or indirectly because of the cuts, and of what that will cost?

Mr Laws: It is impossible to pick a figure out of the air, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman-he will be delighted to hear this-that Treasury officials and the Governor of the Bank of England pointed out the beneficial effects of this package in keeping interest rates down and stopping the tax on jobs that would otherwise eliminate them. It is therefore likely that over time the net effect of taking such action will be to support employment and the economy rather than to eliminate jobs.

Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con): The new shadow Chancellor shows some nerve coming here complaining about efficiency savings, given that he was responsible for so much waste. An example of that waste is the so-called national Potato Council, which costs the taxpayer £50 million a year. How much money was wasted there? I am glad to see it go, and I am glad to see other cuts being made as well.

Mr Laws: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is staggering that we have been able to find so much waste in Government expenditure, in spite of the state of the
26 May 2010 : Column 168
public finances and public borrowing. We would have expected the previous Government to have taken action to eliminate some of the waste. We are determined that the exercise that we have embarked on will be not only an efficiency drive, but one that delivers real cost savings in a way that some of the exercises under the last Labour Government simply did not do.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is the convention that the letter left for him by his predecessor should be kept confidential between them? Will he say whether any of the officials in his Department have expressed disappointment that he has broken that tradition, and is it not true that he just bought himself a cheap soundbite to cover the fact that on 6 May he did not support £6 billion in cuts, but on 7 May he did?

Mr Laws: The only people who have expressed regret are Labour MPs.

Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): I congratulate the Chief Secretary on his announcement of 50,000 additional apprenticeships. Will he confirm that this will help, first, constituencies such as mine, where we face, like the rest of the country, record youth unemployment and, secondly, productivity and improvements in our manufacturing sectors, which suffered record drops under the previous Government, and the recovery of which is so important to our business-led economic recovery?

Mr Laws: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, first about the importance of supporting manufacturing, which has had a particularly tough time during the recession, and, secondly, about supporting young people, because we must be conscious that young people so far have borne the brunt of the recession in terms of unemployment. We are all aware of the consequences if young people stay out of work for a long time and of the scarring effect that it can have on their opportunities. That is why we were so determined to introduce these additional 50,000 apprenticeships, which will make a real difference.

Sandra Osborne (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) (Lab): In my constituency, 300 young people are currently benefiting from the future jobs fund. They do not think it is a waste of time, and I have heard nothing but positive feedback from the DWP locally. Will the Chief Secretary provide the evidence that he is receiving from the DWP, which is contrary to what we have been told, and what would he suggest I tell my constituents, still suffering from the ravages of the last Tory Government, about the future jobs fund?

Mr Laws: I suggest that the hon. Lady tells her constituents the truth about the catastrophic amount of debt left by the last Government, their total irresponsibility and the risk that would have been posed to the country's economy and their prospects if we had a Government sitting around doing nothing as her Government did for the past two years.

Several hon. Members rose -

Mr Speaker: Order. There is heavy pressure on time today, and I am sorry to say that we must now move on.

26 May 2010 : Column 169

Speaker's Statement

12.17 pm

Mr Speaker: I want to make a very short statement. In accordance with Standing Order No. 2A, I will now announce the arrangements for the ballot for the election of Deputy Speakers. The ballot will be held in the Division Lobbies from 11 am to 12 noon on Tuesday 8 June. Nominations may be submitted in the Lower Table Office from 10 am to 5 pm on the day before the ballot-Monday 7 June. A briefing note with more details about the election will be made available to Members and published on the intranet.

26 May 2010 : Column 170

Point of Order

12.18 pm

Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I ask your advice, drawing on "Erskine May"? The Chief Secretary has repeatedly said that he has been advised by the DWP that the future jobs fund is not working. He said that it is not working; he did not say that it was more expensive than other cheaper programmes. Given that that is very different from the advice given to previous Ministers, and from the views of Jobcentre Plus, those on the future jobs funds and doing those jobs, and those running those programmes across the country-and also different from the view of the Prime Minister who described one of the future jobs fund programmes that he visited during the election as a good scheme-will the Chief Secretary now publish the advice that says it is not working, according to "Erskine May", which states that

Mr Speaker: The right hon. Lady has again demonstrated her parliamentary ingenuity, but I fear that she knows very well that what she has just raised is not a point of order, but a point of debate, and she has put her views-and probably the views of her colleagues-fairly and squarely on the record.

Did Mr Straw wish to raise a point of order?

Mr Jack Straw (Blackburn) (Lab) indicated dissent.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Very sensible.

Mr Speaker: We are grateful to the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) for his sedentary commentary.

Bill Presented

Identity Documents Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Theresa May, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Hague, Secretary Kenneth Clarke and Damian Green, presented a Bill to make provision for and in connection with the repeal of the Identity Cards Act 2006.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 1) with explanatory notes (Bill 1-EN).

Business without Debate

Adjournment (Whitsun)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 25),

Question agreed to.

26 May 2010 : Column 171

Select Committees: Allocation of Chairs

12.21 pm

The Leader of the House of Commons (Sir George Young): I beg to move,

Select committees appointed under SO No. 152:

Business, Innovation and Skills


Children, Schools and Families


Communities and Local Government


Culture, Media and Sport




Energy and Climate Change


Environment, Food and Rural Affairs


Foreign Affairs




Home Affairs


International Development

Liberal Democrat


Liberal Democrat

Northern Ireland


Science and Technology


Scottish Affairs






Welsh Affairs


Work and Pensions


Other specified select committees:

Environmental Audit




Public Administration


Public Accounts


On a more consensual note, I am pleased to move the motion on the Order Paper standing in the names of the leaders of the three main parties. This motion paves the way for the first election of Select Committee Chairs by secret ballot of the whole House, by allocating each Chair to a specific party in accordance with the proportions that you have notified to the party leaders, Mr Speaker, in accordance with Standing Order No. 122B.

This is something of a landmark moment for Parliament. It is a clear break from the past. Gone are the days when the Government had the upper hand in appointing who scrutinised the Government. Now we are passing that power to the House. This is what was overwhelmingly endorsed in the previous Parliament, in accordance with the recommendations of the Wright report. We supported that from the Opposition Benches, and I am pleased to bring it before the House now from the Government Benches.

Although all hon. Members will be entitled to vote in the ballot for each Chair, only members of the party specified in the motion will be eligible to stand as candidates for that post. If the motion is agreed to, arrangements for a ballot will be made under your supervision, Mr Speaker, in accordance with the remaining provisions of the Standing Order. Nominations will close at 5 pm on Tuesday 8 June. The ballot will take place the following day, Wednesday 9 June, between 10 am and 5 pm.

26 May 2010 : Column 172

The Wright Committee recommended that Ministers and Parliamentary Private Secretaries should voluntarily abstain from voting in the ballot for the Chair of the Select Committee that shadows their Department. The Government accept that recommendation, and I urge ministerial colleagues to abide by it.

The House may have spotted that the motion refers to the Children, Schools and Families Committee. It is the Government's intention to change the name of that Committee to the Education Committee, reflecting the new name of the Department. However, our priority today is to press ahead without further delay, so we will seek the House's approval for the change of name at a later date, along with any further changes that may be proposed to the Select Committee structure.

Hon. Members have sought clarification on the scrutiny that the House will undertake of the Deputy Prime Minister and his role. As well as answering questions as part of the questions rota, it is our intention to bring forward proposals for the establishment of another Select Committee to complement the scrutiny that will take place every five weeks at oral questions. This will happen in due course. I commend the motion to the House.

12.23 pm

Ms Rosie Winterton (Doncaster Central) (Lab): I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his appointment as Leader of the House. I know that he spent some years shadowing in opposition. I am also grateful to him for advance sight of his statement.

The work of Select Committees is an extremely important part of the work of this House. I know from my time as a Minister how rigorous Select Committee Chairs and members are in holding Ministers and their Departments to account. It is therefore important that we get on with the business of electing Chairs, which is a departure for the House in how we establish Select Committees, and part of the Wright Committee proposals, which we welcomed.

Because this is such a new approach, I want to say gently that it is unfortunate that hon. Members have not had more notice of this motion, as that may have enabled more of them to contribute to the debate. If we had had the statement at the end of business today, or tomorrow, it would not have eaten into the time available for debating the Queen's Speech.

In addition, the Leader of the House made no mention of the future of regional Select Committees. That is unfortunate, given the huge impact that £6 billion of cuts will have on our regional economies and what the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills has said about the popularity contests that he intends to run to decide the future of regional development agencies and the support that they give to businesses.

Mr Graham Allen (Nottingham North) (Lab): The motion makes no mention of the Back-Bench business committee, which this House unanimously agreed should be created within one week of a general election. I appreciate that there are some practical difficulties, but more than 60 Members of this House from all parties have requested that the committee be brought forward. In the light of that, will my right hon. Friend press the Leader of the House to let us know when Back Benchers will be able to decide their own business, as opposed to having people on the Front Benches decide it for them?

Next Section Index Home Page