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30 Jun 2010 : Column 861

The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman fought the last election on £50 billion of unspecified cuts. That is why the figures published today show that public sector job losses would be higher under Labour in the next two years. He can say all he likes about bankers; the fact is, his party would not introduce a bank levy until the rest of the world had decided to do it. We have done it in seven weeks.

Q11. [4730] Annette Brooke (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (LD): My constituent Milly, aged five, wrote to me recently asking why there are special days for mothers and fathers and not for children- [Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order. The hon. Lady will be heard, and that is the end of it.

Annette Brooke: Will the Prime Minister commit to working with voluntary organisations to raise the profile of our children's day on 20 November, to celebrate the United Nations convention on the rights of the child and indeed to celebrate the achievements of all our children, whether they be rich or poor?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Lady has a long record of supporting children's day and the United Nations convention, which was signed in 1990. I think we should raise the profile of the day, and I know she will be pleased to note that the coalition is making good progress on that. Only this morning the Minister of State, Department for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for Brent Central (Sarah Teather), held a seminar about special needs children and how we must ensure that their needs are properly protected under this coalition Government.

Q12. [4731] Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): The Prime Minister might have noticed that the people of Scotland did not choose his party, except in one seat out of 59, and they did not choose the Conservatives' poodles, the Liberal Democrats, either. Can he assure the House, as an absolute chill runs through Scotland at the 1.3 million hidden job losses that he did not publish, that any proposals for cuts in public services and expenditure in Scotland, and any Barnett formula cuts, will be brought before the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs- [Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order. We are grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but the question is too long.

The Prime Minister: I am well aware that the Conservative party did not sweep Scotland, and I thank the hon. Gentleman for reminding me of it.

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What I said I would do if we formed a Government was to go straight to Scotland and Wales to meet the First Ministers and have- [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman has asked a question; he might as well listen to the answer before he starts shouting at me. I said that I would have proper meetings and have a respect agenda in which we respected the devolved Assemblies. I have to say that under the last Government there was a whole year during the financial crisis when the Prime Minister of our country did not even meet the First Minister of Scotland. That will not happen under this Government-we believe in respect.

Q14. [4733] Matthew Hancock (West Suffolk) (Con): May I tell the Prime Minister how pleased my constituents were when he found £50 million to help further education colleges that were promised funding but left high and dry by the previous Administration? Will he ensure that the application for an FE college in Haverhill in my constituency is given the attention it deserves, so that Haverhill can get the FE college that it is promised?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes a very good public spending application, and I am sure that the Treasury will have been listening carefully. He also makes a very good point: even in a difficult Budget, when reductions had to be made, we have boosted spending on FE colleges and increased the number of apprenticeships, after the shambles left by the last lot.

Q13. [4732] Graham Jones (Hyndburn) (Lab): The Local Government Chronicle has listed my constituency as the one that has received the biggest cuts in Britain-nearly £3 million at district level. As the Prime Minister will be aware, it is an area of poor health, low incomes and some of the worst housing in Britain. In fact, at the weekend the Liberal Democrat leader of Burnley borough council, the neighbouring council, said:

Does the Prime Minister agree with his colleague in the Liberal Democrats?

The Prime Minister: Of course there will be difficult decisions in the Budget and on public spending reductions. Everybody should know that and should be honest about it rather than pretending that they would not have happened if we had had a different Government. What we will do is help areas of need through the tax changes we are making and also through the regional development grant of £1 billion, for which areas such as Hyndburn are able to bid to ensure that they get an increased private sector, to try to get the motor of our economy going again. That is absolutely vital.

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Speaker's Statement

12.31 pm

Mr Speaker: On Monday the shadow Home Secretary, in exchanges across the Floor of the House, and the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), in a subsequent point of order, complained that details of a Home Office statement on non-EU migration had been passed to the media before the statement itself was delivered to the House. I undertook to look into the matter and to report back to the House. Having made inquiries, I am now able to update the House.

I have established that at a Home Office press briefing on Monday morning, copies of a statement were made available to journalists- [ Interruption. ] Order. The content of that statement was very similar to that delivered orally in the House by the Home Secretary on Monday afternoon. As Members know, I am concerned that Ministers should make key statements to the House before they are made elsewhere. In this case the opposite happened, and this was a discourtesy to the House. The Home Secretary is present, and will wish to take this opportunity to say something.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I deeply regret the fact that on Monday, in my attempt to assist the House by changing from making a written ministerial statement to making an oral statement, the copy of the statement that would have been made in writing to the House was handed out to the press before I made my oral statement. I take full responsibility for that, and I have no hesitation in apologising to the House and in assuring the House that I will ensure that it will not happen again.

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the Home Secretary for what she has said, and I will take- [ Interruption. ] Order. I will take no points of order on that matter.

Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab/Co-op): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On Tuesday 22 June the Deputy Prime Minister told the House that he was due to meet with the chief executive of Sheffield Forgemasters the following Friday. I understand that no such meeting took place. Can you inform me how the Deputy Prime Minister can set the record straight?

Mr Speaker: It is not a responsibility of the Chair- [ Interruption. ] Order. The House really must calm down; otherwise it gives a very bad impression to the public who take an interest in our proceedings. A commitment may or may not have been made. The matter is important and the hon. Lady has registered her concern forcefully on behalf of her constituents. The matter is on the record-and I suspect that she will pass copies of the record to those in her constituency interested in it-but it is not a matter for the Chair.

Mr Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West) (Lab): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. You have recognised that it is an important issue. It is all the more important because the Deputy Prime Minister and many Ministers from his party in the coalition have been so disrespectful and have made suggestions about the personal motivation of the chief executive, whom he was due to meet, that have to be repudiated. I am grateful, therefore, that you took this matter seriously, sir.

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Mr Speaker: I take all matters seriously, but I genuinely do not think that this is a point of order for the Chair. I have the very highest respect for the hon. Gentleman, who has long service in the House, but it is difficult for me to see how he can have a point of order further to a point of order that I have just ruled is not a point of order. However, he has raised his point, even if it is not a point of order, and he has registered his views firmly upon the record.

Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have often said that you are here to protect the House and to allow it to do its business in holding the Government to account. Will you take up with the Government the fact that although we have had a European summit and a number of European Council meetings, and although five stalwart Labour Members have already volunteered for the European Scrutiny Committee, we have no such Committee to scrutinise the Government's behaviour in Europe? This is the latest that that Committee has ever been set up.

Mr Speaker: I am afraid that that is not a task for the Chair- [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman will not be too disappointed if he waits. He was looking uncertain, but I am trying to allay his uncertainty. He should be grateful to me.

Michael Connarty: I did not say anything.

Mr Speaker: Order. I do not want sedentary gestures from the hon. Gentleman. I am trying to help him. The matter is not one for the Chair. The information is now firmly in the public domain. Of course we are all in favour of the speedy composition of Committees with important scrutiny work to do, and the Committee to which he refers, which he has himself chaired with distinction, is an important case in point.

Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that you are very keen that Members of the House should always be factually accurate. On Tuesday 22 June, in answer to questions, the Deputy Prime Minister cited my constituency and said that it had an electorate of 52,000. In fact, on 6 May the electorate was 72,920. I would hope that you, Mr Speaker, would remind Government members of the importance of being factually accurate, when they have all the resources of Government to enable them to quote accurate figures, not figures plucked from the tops of their heads.

Mr Speaker: My response to the hon. Lady's point of order-I respect her for raising it-is that, as the Speaker, I am keen on accuracy, but it is not my responsibility, from the Chair, to enforce it. However, she has registered her views-which, I sense, was an important part of her purpose.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Honestly, this is not about the previous matter, although it is slightly allied. I am glad that you are being short with Ministers these days-and there have been other instances, I am afraid, in which Ministers have continued to brief the papers very substantially. I think that we heard another example of it from the Prime Minister today. He referred to plans for Royal Mail that have not been explained to the House, but which have been substantially trailed around the newspapers. Will you investigate that issue as well?

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Mr Speaker: The hon. Gentleman suggests that I have been short with Ministers. I am not sure about that, but I would say to him, and the House, that I have always been short-and I am entirely untroubled by the fact, which is probably just as well. On his point of order, I would say it was a good try, but he needs to explore the matter in other ways. Knowing his indefatigability, I feel sure that that is what he is about to do.

Derek Twigg (Halton) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You related a specific instance concerning the Home Secretary, and we have now had two apologies from Ministers in the past 24 hours. Will you discuss with the Leader of the House how we can train and encourage Ministers to have due respect for the House and its Members?

Mr Speaker: I think that the hon. Gentleman is seeking to continue the debate. What I have said on this matter is very explicit. Today's exchanges speak for themselves, but again, as a committed constitutionalist, he has put his concerns on the record, as he was perfectly entitled to do.

Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could you advise the House on how we can stop the danger of Prime Minister's Question Time slipping into Opposition statement time?

Mr Speaker: The hon. Gentleman will accept that that is a matter for the Chair, and I hope that he will be comfortable that I will discharge my obligations to the House appropriately.

Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. At 11.24 this morning I went to the Vote Office to ask for a copy of the second report by the independent Committee on Climate Change, on energy. I thought that appropriate, as this afternoon's debate is about energy efficiency. Unfortunately, the Vote Office informed me that the report had not yet been made available to it, and that this followed a pattern from last year. Can we ensure that in future the reports from the independent Committee on Climate Change are made available to the Vote Office promptly?

Mr Speaker: It is important for the House and its opportunity to debate matters of public policy properly that relevant documents be made available in the Vote Office in time for debates. The hon. Gentleman has registered his point with his characteristic force. It is on the record, and those on the Treasury Bench-including appropriate Ministers-will have heard it.

Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Lab): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether you could perhaps encourage the promotion of the report of the Committee on Climate Change by Parliament-because it is a report to Parliament-rather than its being launched elsewhere.

Mr Speaker: I fear that that is somewhat outwith the scope of the Chair. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her confidence in my capacities, and her desire to extend my agenda, but I am not sure that I can agree to her request on this occasion.

Members have been waiting patiently and we are grateful to them, but if there are no further points of order, we come now to the presentation of Bills.

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Bills Presented

Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

John McDonnell, supported by Kate Hoey, Tony Lloyd, Mr David Anderson, Michael Connarty, Austin Mitchell, Mr Frank Doran, Kelvin Hopkins, Jim Sheridan, Mr David Crausby, Ian Lavery and John Cryer, presented a Bill to amend section 232B of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 to extend the circumstances in which, by virtue of that section, industrial action is not to be treated as excluded from the protection of section 219 of that Act.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 22 October , and to be printed (Bill 4 ) with explanatory notes (Bill 4-EN) .

Sustainable Livestock Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Robert Flello, supported by Andrew George, Mr Philip Hollobone, Caroline Lucas, Alun Michael, Zac Goldsmith, Martin Horwood, Hazel Blears, Henry Smith, Mr Michael Meacher and Peter Bottomley, presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to improve the sustainability of the production, processing, marketing, manufacturing, distribution and consumption of products derived to any substantial extent from livestock; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 12 November, and to be printed (Bill 5 ) with explanatory notes (Bill 5-EN) .

Public Services (Social Enterprise And Social Value) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Chris White presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State and local authorities to publish strategies in connection with promoting social enterprise; to enable communities to participate in the formulation and implementation of those strategies; to require that public sector contracts include provisions relating to social outcomes and social value; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 19 November, and to be printed (Bill 6 ).

Daylight Saving Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Rebecca Harris, supported by Joan Walley, Mr Tim Yeo, Mr Frank Field, Mr Greg Knight, Caroline Lucas, Stephen Phillips, Mr Adam Holloway, Stephen Pound and Zac Goldsmith, presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to conduct a cross-departmental analysis of the potential costs and benefits of advancing time by one hour for all, or part of, the year; to require the Secretary of State to take certain action in the light of that analysis; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 3 December, and to be printed (Bill 7 ).

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