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The Government trumpet the progress made on apprenticeships, and I welcome apprenticeships, as they are potentially of enormous benefit. However, the fact remains that the greatest increase in apprenticeships, as of this moment, is in the post-24 age group, and there is a suspicion that this is just a rebadging of the old Train to Gain scheme. In addition, the headline figures do not take into account the number of short apprenticeships—these are not the two or three-year courses that we commonly think of as apprenticeships which will enable people to go into work. My Committee will be undertaking an inquiry into this in the new year, and I hope to be able to drill down to find out exactly what the situation is.

Mr Hayes: I am sorry to have to intervene, because I know that time is short. Let me assure the hon. Gentleman that I take his work seriously in that regard and that we, like him, are determined to see apprenticeships of the right quality and to see bureaucracy cut so that more firms can be involved. He is right to say that apprenticeships matter, but the brand matters too and we are as committed to quality as he is.

Mr Bailey: I welcome the words of the Minister, whose commitment to this cause I would not doubt for a moment. I am sure that we will have an extremely enlightening inquiry in the new year.

I shall highlight two measures that would cost the Government very little but would help. First, they should continue the funding for the graduate internship scheme—these are funded internships for graduates in small businesses. This has proved to be of enormous benefit to small businesses and to the graduates, and the total cost to the Government would be about £8 million. Given that this is a win-win situation—it helps the small businesses and graduates, and the cost would be lower than that of keeping them unemployed—I would have thought it was an obvious thing to continue. Also it sends messages to young people thinking of going to university that there is career progression after graduation. In the context of the highest level of graduate unemployment since 1992, that is a very important thing for the Government to do.

Secondly, small businesses are crying out for a financial incentive to encourage them to employ young people. The Government have introduced national insurance breaks. The existing scheme has not been very successful, and there is £850 million allocated for it. It should be broadened to existing businesses or, as the CBI says, a possible cash payment should be established for companies that take on young people and give them meaningful employment. These are not the words of tax-and-spend merchants; they are coming from the Federation of Small Businesses and the CBI—the authentic voice of the business community. If the Government do that, without great cost, it could make an impact on youth unemployment.

5.57 pm

Nigel Adams (Selby and Ainsty) (Con): I speak as someone who knows what it is like to have been made redundant, and I have also seen my father lose his job in his 50s. I can tell hon. Members that there are not many things worse than when a breadwinner comes back home to his family to tell them that he is out of work

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and there is no income. I also recall that as a 17-year-old I was asked, somewhat prematurely, to leave school, and I found myself having to look for work. My first job was not the one that I would have ideally wanted, but it was work and it provided my first wage—£48 a week, as I recall it. Getting a start is crucial for young people and I always tell the youngsters I talk to that being in the workplace is much better than not being in work at all, because they have to get something on their CV.

It is easy to go for the headlines and talk down our economy, but I would like to take a moment to talk up this Government’s efforts to improve youth employment chances, not just through job creation, but through their support of the apprenticeship scheme programme. Just over two months ago, the Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning announced cuts to bureaucracy to encourage employers to take on a large number of apprentices, and this serves as a proven way to fill the skills gap in our economy. As someone who has owned and run businesses, and actually created employment before entering this House, I am all too aware of the damage caused by excessive red tape and bureaucracy. It is vital that we reduce regulation in order to encourage businesses to employ youngsters. I am pleased that the Government have set about tackling this via the red tape challenge.

Meg Hillier: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Nigel Adams: I would love to but I need to crack on; we have only got four minutes each.

This Government also promised 50,000 extra apprenticeships in 2010-11, but the figure has been surpassed and we have seen a record year—an increase of over 50%. In fact, in my constituency 850 people are on apprenticeships, an increase of 67% in the last year. Only by proving to business and the private sector that it is worth their while investing in youngsters can we fulfil our long-term goal of reducing unemployment, and I am confident that, via apprenticeships, we are taking the right steps towards that aim.

Hon. Members can do more than their bit to help young people and others back into work. That is why I organised a jobs fair in my constituency, and I know that many of my colleagues have done something similar. More than 1,100 jobseekers came through the door—both unemployed, and employed but looking for new opportunities. It was evident to me at my jobs fair that vacancy statistics from Jobcentre Plus do not necessarily reflect the actual climate. Its figures for October 2011, published in the Library, would have people believe that at least three jobseekers apply for every vacancy advertised in my constituency—a deficit of employment. However, many of the work and training opportunities offered by the 52 different organisations that turned up to my jobs fair were not advertised in the Jobcentre Plus system, and never are. I am also pleased to say that the feedback from the jobs fair was very positive, and lots of people have received interviews and job opportunities and have started work. Indeed, I have visited some of the youngsters who have started work.

I am confident that the Government have a credible plan for getting this country’s finances back on track, reassuring businesses and reducing regulation. Labour should take note that—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order.

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6.2 pm

Pat Glass (North West Durham) (Lab): I had prepared something long and detailed, but I will keep my remarks brief because I want to let other Members speak.

When I made my maiden speech in May 2010, I spoke about unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, in my constituency; and when I checked my predecessor’s maiden speech, made in 1987, I discovered that she, too, spoke about unemployment in the north-east and North West Durham.

Mr Hayes: I remember that.

Pat Glass: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that. Anyone looking at those two speeches could be forgiven for thinking that this is a deeply entrenched problem that cannot be dealt with, but actually, that is not true. Between 1997 and 2010, North West Durham, like most of the post-industrial north, underwent an economic and social revolution, with the support of the previous Government, but it is amazing how quickly the clock has turned back to the 1980s. Under a previous Conservative Government, male unemployment in Consett, in my constituency, reached 100%. Can people now imagine what it is like to live in a place with 100% male unemployment?

Youth unemployment in my constituency has doubled in the last 12 months and now stands at 35%. Unemployment generally has increased by 20%, and it is a direct result of Government policies. The Prime Minister tells us that we need to rebalance the economy from the south to the north and from the public sector to the private sector, so that, as public sector jobs disappear, they are replaced by private sector jobs. We would all agree with that, but in my constituency, full-time relatively well-paid public sector jobs are disappearing at a rate of knots and are being replaced by very few part-time, poorly paid jobs.

If the Government are serious about delivering on unemployment in places such as the north-east, they need to be serious about a growth strategy. We do not need enterprise zones and short-term grants. We have had those before and they do not stay: as soon as the grants run out, the jobs disappear and everybody runs back to the south-east. We need instead proper infrastructure investment, so that private companies are attracted to the area and stay. That means investment in roads and rail, airports and broadband. Some 46% of my constituency is a broadband blackspot.

We need investment in skills. Nissan came to the north-east not because of the grants but because of the skills that were there when the shipyards and the steelworks closed down. We need investment in a growth strategy for the regions. But what have the Government done? They have cut public expenditure for infrastructure and jobs, and cut investment in skills. The abolition of the EMA has led directly to falls in participation rates at 16 to levels that we have not seen since the 1990s, and the tripling of tuition fees has led to a 12% reduction in university applications this year.

Young people are having a hard time from this Government and it is due not only to the abolition of the EMA and the rise in tuition fees, but to the cuts in home-to-school transport, home-to-college transport, careers services, youth services and local bus services.

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Young people are becoming more cynical now than they have ever been about politics and the role of the Government. I am pleading with the Government now to listen to the suffering out there and start putting in place a proper plan for growth and jobs for young people.

6.5 pm

Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys) (Con): It is a great pleasure to be called to speak in this important debate. I know the Opposition like to make their Wednesday afternoons political theatre, but there are many people on the Government Benches who are concerned about youth unemployment and have ideas about how the situation can be improved.

As the MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, I represent the fourth most deprived Conservative-held seat in the country. That is no badge of honour. It is with no sense of satisfaction that I report that year on year youth unemployment has risen 36% since September 2010. I take no pleasure from the fact that even on the figures that were fed to The Times by the Labour party, the number of long-term youth unemployed has risen from 75 individuals to 100 individuals since May 2010, but I point out to Labour Members, as they seem to have failed to understand earlier, that there are 276 constituencies where youth unemployment has fallen or remained static since May 2010, according to the same figures as they obtained from the House of Commons Library.

I am sure that everyone who speaks in the debate will say that apprenticeships matter, and they matter to me. I have taken on one apprentice, Nathan, in my constituency office, and he is excellent. Many on the Government Benches have done the same, but we in the House obviously cannot solve the problem alone. I am delighted that, thanks to what the Government have been doing, the number of apprenticeships in my constituency has risen from 300 to 940.

Meg Hillier: All hon. Members would agree that apprenticeships are a good thing and that we want more of them, but what would the hon. Gentleman say about the issue that I have picked up on on doorsteps throughout the country, which is that young people with A-levels, and sometimes with degrees, are going for apprenticeships that would normally have been available to young people with lower levels of qualifications, thereby pricing them, so to speak, out of the market? Does he share my concern about that and will he raise the issue with Ministers in his Government?

Paul Maynard: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising that issue. It brings together a number of points that Members are likely to make this evening. First, we should welcome the fact that better qualified individuals are now seeking apprenticeships. We should not say that apprenticeships are only for those who are not academically inclined. Secondly, the Labour party now disapproves of older people seeking to take on apprenticeships. It was a Labour Government who commissioned the Leitch review, which wanted to see more older people going into apprenticeships.

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I represent a seaside town. I know the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne) does not understand the economics of seaside towns, so I shall try to explain to him that one of our fundamental problems, as the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright) pointed out in The Guardian interview that I saw in the debate pack, is that of generational worklessness and the potential for generational exodus, even—people not finding opportunities in seaside towns and having to leave.

For members of the third generation who do not have a job and cannot find a job, the inclination to go out and look for a job, and even seeing that part of their life involves going out to work, is lost. Part of the solution is getting the older generation into apprenticeships and into work as much as the younger generation. That is why, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) tried to make clear, the problem did not start in May 2010. It did not start even in May 1997 or May 1979. There has been a gradual structural problem of worklessness, particularly in post-industrial societies. Tourism and hospitality are not like coal mining or the steel industry, but they have none the less gone through a period of decline in my constituency and we have seen employment and opportunities fall as a consequence, so there is a challenge.

The shadow Secretary of State mentioned the Prince’s Trust, which does a fantastic job in my constituency. Three times a year it takes a group of 12 young people from deprived backgrounds. I have been to one of the thank you parties at the end of a session and heard the powerful tales of how they got into the situations they found themselves in. Many brought their problems to Blackpool from outside the town. Many came from broken homes, broken families and disappointed backgrounds, yet they have struggled and managed to succeed.

What frustrates me about the debate is not so much the usual political to and fro, the misuse of statistics and Members trying to portray things as good or bad, but the Labour party’s failure to understand that this is not about who is to blame. It is about trying to understand why worklessness occurs in our society, why young people are unable to enter employment and what we need to do to get them there. The Government are making progress. I would of course like it to be faster, but we are putting the building blocks in place and I welcome that.

6.11 pm

Derek Twigg (Halton) (Lab): There could hardly be an issue of greater importance to my constituents in these challenging economic times than jobs and security for their families. Almost every day I hear about the consequences of unemployment and poverty in my constituency. It is not just about people losing their jobs; it is about people losing their homes or worrying about keeping their homes and the resulting stresses on family life.

Youth unemployment is a major concern in my constituency. Nationally it is at an 18-year high, at 991,000, with long-term youth unemployment up by almost two thirds this January and by a staggering four fifths in Halton. We are again seeing the familiar face of Conservative Governments: mass unemployment, people

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being thrown on the scrapheap and young people hit particularly hard. To put things in context, back in 1993, in the twilight of the miserable 18 years of Conservative rule, youth unemployment in Halton stood at a massive 22.7%, and it was almost 27% in the autumn of 1985. For most of the early 1990s the rate remained stubbornly above 20%, even as late as 1996, well after the last recession.

Under the Labour Government youth unemployment in Halton was mostly below 10%, which was not good enough, but it was still a lot less than it had been under the previous Conservative Government, and at times it fell as low as 4%. Of course, any youth unemployment is unacceptable, but comparing what the previous Tory Government and the current Tory Government have done shows the natural progression and where they are going. Their economic policy is failing and hurting. It is clearly not working because the Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast that the Government will borrow an extra £46 billion over the next year. As the Business Secretary said on 15 March:

“Cuts without economic growth will not deal with the deficit.”

The motion before us also refers to the International Monetary Fund’s concerns about the Government’s approach. A few weeks ago I met some young people in Runcorn who were on a training scheme to get jobs in the construction industry, which is massively difficult to get into. They were desperate to get work, but they want the confidence that there will be jobs for them. I regularly meet young people who want to work and get those skills. Only last Sunday I met members of the Halton Youth Parliament in Runcorn, who told me that one of their biggest problems is transport. When they are looking for a job or training or a college place, being able to get there is vital. The Government’s cuts to transport, particularly bus transport, have been very hard for my constituency.

There is of course concern about the banks, which should be doing more. I strongly support our proposal for a £2 billion bankers’ bonus tax, which would fund work for 100,000 jobs and allow every small firm taking on extra workers a one-year break from national insurance contributions. The banks should be doing more to help the unemployed, particularly young people. I have twice raised concerns about bank lending to small businesses with the Chancellor on the Floor of the House, and he is looking again at what more can be done. We shall see about that, but there must be a recognition that not enough is happening and that the policy is failing. He has to do more to help young people who are unemployed. It is important that we make it clear that we must have a growth strategy.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Derek Twigg: I will not, because I have very little time remaining.

Finally, in my constituency we have done a great deal of work with the local authority and local businesses, with the help of the previous Government, to bring forward important projects, such as the Mersey multi-modal gateway, the new Mersey gateway bridge, the Daresbury science and innovation campus and a number of other important projects. Some of those are supported by the Government, but they were developed under the previous

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Government, which had a growth policy to encourage jobs in areas of high unemployment that need development and need to see—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order. I call Lorely Burt.

6.15 pm

Lorely Burt (Solihull) (LD): I shall be very brief. There is not enough time to cover everything mentioned in the motion, so I will avoid the usual political knockabout in the first part of the motion, which is the Labour narrative about how we got into this economic situation. Those arguments are well rehearsed. What matters is not how we got here, but how we get out. I agree with some of the suggestions the Opposition have made. I have long campaigned for a 5% VAT rate on home renovation materials and have asked the industry to analyse the cost-effectiveness of that proposal.

Mark Lazarowicz: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Lorely Burt: I will not, if the hon. Gentleman will forgive me.

I agree that we could work up a programme to give national insurance relief to small companies taking on new workers, maybe even in the form of a rebate after the first complete year of employment. I have got lots of other ideas, which I hope colleagues in the Treasury will consider. Again, I agree with the Opposition: we need more incentives to stimulate private business to rev up the engine of growth.

It all boils down to growth, but it must be growth in the private sector, not growth led by creating jobs that do not exist, which is what one could argue the future jobs fund did. The Minister has outlined all the steps we are taking to create jobs and prosperity. The motion says only two things about youth unemployment: that long-term youth unemployment is up, and that we should not have scrapped the future jobs fund. Well, youth unemployment is up, but it grew under Labour by 40%—going from 664,000 unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds in May 1997 to 924,000 in May 2010. According to the latest statistics, that figure is 991,000. I hope that a Labour Member will intervene to explain to me how that equates to a 68% increase because, according to my mathematics, that seems more like 7%.

Meg Hillier: I thank the hon. Lady for giving way, especially given that time is short. Does she not agree that, out in the real world, people do not want the bickering. What they are concerned about, as we should be, is that an entire cohort—for example, graduates—is experiencing a higher rate of unemployment. We should be addressing the whole cohort issue, because we are condemning an entire group of young people to lower incomes and worse life chances as a result of Government policies.

Lorely Burt: I am sure we agree on the seriousness of the situation and all the different groups of young people who are affected. Unfortunately, the hon. Lady did not answer my question, but never mind.

Rachel Reeves (Leeds West) (Lab): Will the hon. Lady give way?

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Lorely Burt: I am sorry, but I will not give way.

Dealing with youth unemployment is incredibly hard, but the Opposition should not make political capital out of a relatively small increase in existing figures that are a legacy of their own figures.

Rachel Reeves: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Lorely Burt: I have only two minutes. I am very sorry.

The future jobs fund was well intentioned, but ineffective and expensive. It created new positions that were not, by definition, real jobs. It was so ineffective, in fact, that young people who were not on the programme fared better in getting real employment than those who were. It cost more than it saved, and failed to accomplish its targets. Now the Opposition are also calling for a bank levy to raise funds for a youth jobs fund. However, we have already introduced a bank levy, and it raises more each year than they managed to raise with their bankers’ bonus tax.

So what have we done for young unemployed people? We have concentrated on apprenticeships and getting people into real jobs. We have exceeded the targets in our apprenticeship scheme, with the provisional figures showing that the number of apprenticeships has grown by 58% across the UK and some areas showing growth of 198%. Perhaps the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne) would like to welcome the 82% rise in apprenticeships in his constituency. The Work programme is designed to ensure that people can get out of a cycle of benefits and get back into work that pays. The jury is still out on the Work programme, but I am really hopeful that the work of specialist agencies, using their skills to find jobs for long-term unemployed individuals, will bear fruit.

I welcome the fact that Labour Members are bringing ideas to the table. As I said, I agree with some of them, but not all. We will listen and we will work with all colleagues in this House for a more prosperous future for all our constituents.

6.20 pm

Mr Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab): Youth unemployment is the single biggest social and economic problem facing my constituency, and its effects will leave a scar on Hartlepool’s prospects for decades to come. My town has the dubious and unwanted distinction of having the worst youth unemployment in the country: 1,450 young people in Hartlepool—17.4%, or nearly one in five— do not have a job. We have not seen such levels of youth unemployment in my town since 1995. What is particularly worrying is that in my constituency unemployment is rising fastest among young people, and rising much faster than the regional or national average. Since this Government came to office 18 months ago, youth unemployment in Hartlepool has increased by some 60%, and it has been increasing fastest in the past six months.

Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab): I am grateful to my fellow Teesside MP for giving way. Does he remember when Middlesbrough football fans used to chant, “There’s only one job on Teesside”, in celebration of Joseph-Désiré Job, who played for the club? That is no longer very funny, because young people might be under the impression that it is actually true as hundreds of them chase every single job opportunity on Teesside.

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Mr Wright: As a proud Hartlepool United season ticket holder, I will never celebrate the achievements of Middlesbrough football club, but my hon. Friend is right to say that we have been here before.

When I was growing up in the 1980s, the spectre of unemployment haunted my constituency. The de-industrialisation of this country in the 1980s hit my region hard. In the recession of 1979 to 1981, an astonishing 20,000 jobs were lost in my constituency as shipyards, steelworks and heavy engineering firms closed their doors. In many respects, Hartlepool and the wider north-east is still, in 2011, adjusting to the huge economic shocks of the 1980s and 1990s. I suggest that the Government need to learn the lessons of history and acknowledge the problem that youth unemployment creates. They need to act decisively to ensure that the young people facing a bleak future are not abandoned permanently and that Hartlepool does not see once again, as we did in the 1980s, a lost and forgotten generation.

We all know that the longer a person is out of work, the harder it is for them to gain employment. Young people are hit particularly hard in this regard. They cannot get a job because they have not got experience, but they cannot get experience because they have not got a job. It does not have to be like this. The future jobs fund was a particular success in my constituency, helping more than 720 young people in Hartlepool to get a foot on the career ladder and providing them with tangible help and support into employment.

In contrast, we now have a Government stripping out demand in the economy and a Chancellor who is changing his growth forecasts more often than he changes his socks and neglecting the talent, potential and passion of the next generation. I urge the Government to change course—not to concentrate solely on deficit reduction to the exclusion of everything else, but to have a more sophisticated and holistic economic policy based on stimulating demand for our economy, providing a framework to make Britain the best place on the planet to do business and, crucially, providing good future prospects for our young people. Other nations are doing this. Germany now has a lower jobless rate in general and among young people than it did at the start of the financial crisis. It has achieved that through greater emphasis on infrastructure spending, ensuring that its economy will be more productive and efficient in future; and providing job subsidies, ensuring that its work force, particularly its young people, remain job-ready and equipped with the skills needed in the 21st century.

In my lifetime, in the 1980s, a Conservative Government abandoned a whole generation in my constituency. The rationale behind this was that such unemployment was a price worth paying. I implore the Government please not to make the same costly mistakes again.

6.24 pm

Guto Bebb (Aberconwy) (Con): My hon. Friend the Minister said that he believes strongly in localism, and so do I. However, having suffered under a Labour-led or Labour Administration in Cardiff for the past 12 years, it is sometimes difficult to keep supporting the idea of localism.

Since 2000, the level of Welsh GDP in comparison with the European average has fallen from 68.6% to 64.4%. At the same time, between 2000 and 2010, the

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proportion of young people aged 16 to 24 in Wales who are unemployed increased from 15.8% to 21.5%. The sad fact about this debate is that Opposition Members simply do not recognise that a failing economic performance is related to a failure to create jobs for young people.

Wales has had support from Europe on a regular basis because of the failure of the policies adopted by the Labour party in Wales. Such is the failure of the Labour Government in Wales to put together policies that make a difference that Wales is one of only eight regions out of 66 in Europe that have qualified for objective 1 funding to see its prosperity decline. To put that in context, over the past 10 years under Labour, Wales has gone backwards while even the Greeks have gone forward. That is the reality of living under Labour. I support localism, but in Wales we suffer for it.

We cannot divorce this debate from education, skills and training for young people. Recently, there was evidence from the largest inward investor in the south Wales valleys over the past five years that less than 20% of the young people who were referred for job interviews—not for high-level jobs, but for comparatively low-level jobs—had adequate skills in reading, writing and arithmetic, and, more importantly, adequate social skills. Is that a surprise when the Labour Government in Cardiff have deliberately decided to spend £600 per head less than England on educating young people? That is the reality of Labour.

We must take on board the need to create economic growth and prosperity. Jobs for young people will not appear in isolation. Opportunities for young people will come as a result of economic growth and success—something we desperately need. That is why it is crucial that we pay tribute to this Government for taking the issue seriously. The Work programme, which has been mocked by Opposition Members, will ensure that payments are made on the basis of performance. That is a move in the right direction. It means that people will have to be in position for 12, 18 or 24 months before payments are made. That is a sign of confidence in the ability of the programme to get people into private employment.

Mr Byrne: I am following the hon. Gentleman’s argument with care. Will he tell the House how he thinks the programme is going in his constituency, because long-term youth unemployment is up by 100%?

Guto Bebb: The shadow Secretary of State again makes the mistake of making a short-term point about unemployment in my constituency, without reference to the fact that the biggest employer in my constituency is the tourism industry, which is seasonal. As he wants to make an issue of youth unemployment in my constituency, it is worth pointing out that we have literally hundreds of people working in hotels, guesthouses and other tourism-related businesses there who are hard-working, successful and moving on. The sad fact is that a huge number of them are from eastern Europe. Those people have grasped their opportunity, but that opportunity has not been available to young people from my constituency because of the welfare state created by the Labour party, which is more interested in throwing money at a problem than solving it.

Mr Byrne rose—

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Guto Bebb: I will not take another intervention, because it would be unfair to my colleagues.

The Labour party has created a dependency culture, rather than a culture of can-do and change. As my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) made clear, young people should have the opportunity to take a job and to develop in that position. The Labour party’s policies have ensured that those jobs are not available. Many young people in my constituency have families and responsibilities, but because of the welfare system developed by the Labour party over 13 years, they are often better off not taking a job. The biggest change that the coalition Government are making is to ensure that when people take employment, they are better off. It is unacceptable that the Labour party believes that throwing money at people and allowing them to do nothing is more effective than changing the way we live and giving people the opportunity to make something of themselves in employment.

6.29 pm

Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) (Lab): May I say at the outset that I am disappointed that we have had only two hours to discuss youth unemployment and jobs, which is one of the most important issues in this country at the moment? I will use my four minutes to try to expose the myth that we are all in this together. Before the election, the now Prime Minister said that the north-east would be hit hardest and first, and that the public sector there was too big. What an absolute disgrace! It was an insult to everyone in the region, and what is more, only this week a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research North think-tank stated that 32,000 public sector jobs have been lost in the north-east so far this Parliament, yet 24,000 public sector jobs are being created in the south-east of England and 8,000 in London. Where is the fairness in all this? How are we in this together? It is not right. Why is the north-east continually hammered by this coalition Government?

Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con) rose—

Ian Lavery: Excuse me, but the hon. Gentleman has just come in. There are people who have been in here for ages.

In my constituency, 20.7% of young people are not in education, employment or training. It was once a thriving mining community, but we now have unemployment levels of 7.7%. Over the past five years, there has been a 67% increase in the number of jobseeker’s allowance applications, and over the past 12 months, a 19.8% increase. The number of applications from those aged 24 and under has increased by 34% in 12 months. It is an absolute disgrace.

The most horrendous statistic is that for every job vacancy in Wansbeck, there are 9.6 applicants. The jobs are not there for people. It is unacceptable, and we cannot continue to treat people like this. It has been said on numerous occasions, “Is this a price worth paying?” Do people believe that youth unemployment is a price worth paying? It is not. The lack of jobs and opportunities will see this country decline in the future. Young people should be seen as our future doctors, business men and women, nurses, firefighters, teachers, soldiers, sailors and council workers. We should treat them with a little decorum.

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Mark Lazarowicz: My hon. Friend is right to point out what our young people should be able to expect from the future, but is not the reality that because of what is happening, there is so much despair and fear among young people—fear that they will never get a real job—that it is essential that we get action now to provide jobs, and that we do not just rely on promises and schemes? That is what will give them hope. Otherwise, they will find their fears and despair justified.

Ian Lavery: I agree wholeheartedly. The 9.6 people going for every job in my constituency are now being threatened and told that if they do not secure employment, their benefits will be withdrawn. That is hardly a carrot-and-stick approach; it is basically a baseball-bat-over-the-head approach. Instead of encouraging people into employment, we are seeing quite the opposite.

The Labour party has proposed a five-point plan for growth and jobs, and the Government parties would be well advised to scrutinise it. What the Minister said absolutely appalled me: he said that they should not listen to the Labour party. Well, let me give him a message. I am here to represent hundreds and thousands of people unable to attract employment. The employment that is available is low paid. On youth unemployment and jobs, the Government should be listening to everyone from across the parties. People are asking me, and are entitled to ask, whether this is a cynical, political attempt to attack the north-east region and them as individuals, because of a fundamental lack of support for the Government parties.

Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran) (Lab): The problems that my hon. Friend is describing do not just affect the north-east. Does he agree that Government Members seem to be in denial about the scale of the problem and the fact that it will get a lot worse if they do not change course?

Ian Lavery: That is exactly right, and the economy shows clearly that borrowing is up by £46 billion, that CPI inflation is up to 5.2% and that RPI inflation is up to 5.6%. We have the highest level of unemployment for 17 years, the highest level of unemployment among women since records began in 1988 and almost 1 million unemployed young people.

We have to change course. Whether it is plan B, plan C, plan D, plan A plus or whatever, I say to the Government, please listen to what people are saying on the ground. Instead of saying, “We are not prepared to listen,” please listen to these people, who are desperate out there—the people who have been marching the streets of London, the disabled and the women, who I have already mentioned. Listen to what they have to say, please change course and let us see what can be delivered for the people who are most in need in the UK.

6.35 pm

Mark Simmonds (Boston and Skegness) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery), but the only point on which I agreed with him was when he said that this is a very serious issue, and that we need an extremely detailed and fundamental rethink of how we address unemployment.

Every single person who is unemployed, whether young, middle-aged or old, experiences a personal tragedy, and we need to do as much as we possibly can

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to address the situation, but the fundamental point is that we will not create jobs unless we have macro-economic stability.

To get macro-economic stability, we have to get the deficit under control, and the coalition Government must not change course. They must stick to the course that they have set, otherwise the economy will not grow, because controlling the structural deficit is a pre requisite of economic growth, not a substitute for it.

Of course there is growing unemployment, but youth unemployment grew by 40% between 1997 and 2010, so it is not a new problem or issue. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne), who speaks for the Opposition on this matter, made surreptitious use of statistics, with some of those that he gave painting a wholly inaccurate picture. Interestingly his only solution to the problem was more tax and more spend, the formula that clearly did not work under 13 years of the Labour party in government.

Mr Graham Stuart: Is it not true that in Hull and other cities throughout the country, the previous Government ignored youth unemployment, which stayed steady even as the general economy boomed? The truth is that on too many estates the Labour party abandoned people, threw them on welfare and did not provide them with the employment or education that they needed to better themselves?

Mark Simmonds: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I think I am correct in saying that 97% of current youth unemployment was inherited by this Government from the Labour Administration.

I have three or four suggestions for what the Government might do in addition to the excellent job that they are already doing. The first suggestion is to provide a greater emphasis on lifelong learning through not just traditional learning theatres, but online learning in particular. Secondly, the costs to, and regulations on, businesses must be reduced. For example, businesses are being used for informal tax gathering, which is highly regressive and has a disproportionate impact on small and medium-sized enterprises, thereby inhibiting their ability to create jobs. There needs to be a close look at exempting businesses from a raft of regulations and bureaucracy which has a negative impact on their ability to create jobs. We must also find mechanisms—I hope the Chancellor is looking at this—to incentivise businesses to invest, to create wealth and, therefore, to create jobs for young people and for others.

Owing to the long-term nature of the problem, the education system clearly fails far too many young people. It is clear also from the rise in youth unemployment, which began long before the current economic crisis, that the education system did not meet employers’ needs, but the Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, my hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes) is doing an excellent job of trying to make businesses and education link up and perform in that way.

The Government are absolutely right on their key policy areas, such as rolling out broadband to enable people to engage with technological businesses and innovation, and increasing the Work programme. It is absolutely right to involve independent sector providers to deliver personalised help. There is significant evidence

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in my constituency that the work providers and the Work programme are getting jobs for people whom the state structures had failed for up to 18 months beforehand. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to deliver improved apprenticeships. In my constituency they are up 67% this year, and in the east midlands the figure is 60%. They are significant achievements, and my hon. Friend should rightly be proud of them.

The introduction of university technical colleges is absolutely right, and I hope that there will be many more of them. Then there is the new enterprise allowance and the link between volunteering and work experience. My hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) was right that it is important for people to get something on their CVs. A link with the voluntary sector may enable that to happen. The Government are on exactly the right lines. They need to continue and they must not be deterred from controlling the structural deficit.

6.40 pm

Rachel Reeves (Leeds West) (Lab): It is right that we should have the chance to debate youth unemployment today, as our economy continues to flatline and unemployment is rising. It is just a shame that neither the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions nor a single member of the Treasury Front-Bench team has bothered to turn up. How complacent and out of touch this Government are.

The last time we debated the economy in this House was on the day when new figures showed that youth unemployment had reached a 17-year high, with 991,000 young people out of work. Next week we shall have an update on those numbers, but in the last few weeks the Government have done nothing to address the national youth unemployment crisis. It is almost two years since this country moved out of recession, yet the prospects for unemployment and youth unemployment are gloomier than ever. Labour has set out a five-point plan for jobs and growth, and called on the Government to introduce an alternative to their plans, which are hurting but not working. Businesses up and down the country are seeing demand hit. Young people out of work and facing trebled tuition fees are seeing the impact. Families struggling with high VAT and rising energy prices are feeling the impact. All are still waiting for a plan for jobs and growth from this Government. We are all waiting for some leadership from this out-of-touch Government on a jobs and growth plan internationally as well. Every day of waiting is a day wasted, with potential going untapped and opportunities squandered.

Richard Graham: I congratulate the hon. Lady on her appointment. Can she explain to me how it was that during the 13 years of Labour Government, 5,600 private sector jobs were destroyed in my constituency of Gloucester?

Rachel Reeves: What I do know is that in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, as in mine, youth unemployment and long-term youth unemployment is going up on this Government’s watch.

There has rightly been concern from all parts of the House today about youth unemployment. My hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright), whose constituency has the highest youth unemployment in

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the country, rightly talked about the impact on his constituents. My hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham (Pat Glass) gave a passionate speech about youth unemployment and its effect in the north-east, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery), who talked about people in his constituency being hammered by this Government’s policies. My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich West (Mr Bailey), in whose constituency long-term youth unemployment has risen by 106% in just nine months, was right to talk about the need for a national insurance holiday for small businesses. My hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Derek Twigg), in whose constituency long-term youth unemployment has gone up by 81% in nine months, raised the prospect of Royal Bank of Scotland bonuses of £500 million this year, with no tax on bank bonuses to fund youth jobs—a policy proposed by the Labour party.

Mr Winnick: We have heard many eloquent speeches about unemployment from our right hon. and hon. Friends, unlike those from Government Members. In the 10 constituencies in England with the highest jobless rate for 18 to 24-year-olds, eight are in the west midlands, and of those eight, six are in the black country. We should bear in mind the devastation that is occurring once again, as in the 1980s, in the west midlands and the black country.

Rachel Reeves: My hon. Friend is right to talk about the impact on his constituents. That is why we need a five-point plan for jobs and growth across the country, including the black country.

Unemployment is at a 17-year high and youth unemployment is almost 1 million. Despite the complacency on the Government Benches, the Government must do something to tackle the crisis. Long-term youth unemployment is at its highest for a generation, with 120,000 young people out of work for more than six months, up a staggering 64% since January. The number of young women who are long-term unemployed has risen to 37,500—the highest level in a generation. Whatever Government Members say, the number of young people in long-term unemployment was falling when the coalition Government were formed and it is increasing on their watch.

Paul Maynard: Will the hon. Lady tell me in how many constituencies, according to the figures she requested from the House of Commons Library, did long-term youth unemployment fall between May 2010 and September 2011? I, too, have the figures.

Rachel Reeves: The answer is in a very small minority of constituencies. In the hon. Gentleman’s constituency of Blackpool North and Cleveleys, long-term youth unemployment is up 233%, so enough of the complacency—he should be urging the Government into action rather than going along with their out-of-touch attitude.

Throughout the country, the number of young people looking for work has increased in 196 out of 202 local authorities since September last year—97% of local authorities have rising youth unemployment. Even in the Minister’s constituency of South Holland and the Deepings, 50 more young people have been looking for

9 Nov 2011 : Column 401

a job for more than six months, which is a 71% increase since January. I see the impact in my constituency of Leeds West day in, day out: 105 extra young people have been looking for work for more than six months, which is a 66% increase. Those numbers speak of a devastating impact on the lives of individuals and families, and they are the result of this out-of-touch Government’s complacency on youth unemployment.

Rising youth unemployment also shows that the Government’s plan A does not make economic sense. With unemployment at a 17-year high, inflation soaring and growth flatlining, the Government are set to borrow an extra £46 billion in this Parliament—and that is before the Office for Budget Responsibility comes up with its revised forecast on 29 November. We are all paying the price for the Government’s failure to get a grip on unemployment with higher Government borrowing and debt.

Robert Halfon: Will the hon. Lady answer the question that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne) did not answer when I asked him? Why did youth unemployment rise by hundreds of thousands on her watch and under her Government despite all the taxpayers’ money that was spent on one scheme or another?

Rachel Reeves: With long-term youth unemployment up 140% in nine months, the hon. Gentleman should be asking questions of this Government rather than looking back to the past. The reality is that unemployment was falling when this Government came into power; now it is rising. That is the difference between a Labour Government and a Conservative-led Government.

The Government like to blame anyone but themselves—that seems to go for Government Back Benchers as well. First they blamed the snow, then they blamed the royal wedding, and now they blame the eurozone, but the truth is that the economy was flatlining and unemployment was rising before the eurozone crisis hit. They needed a plan for jobs and growth before the problems in the eurozone erupted, and they need to change course now more than ever. It is time they took responsibility for their actions.

In the wake of this national crisis of youth unemployment, what have the Government done? More than a year ago, their very first act was to abolish the future jobs fund, which was worse than doing nothing. The future jobs fund got 100,000 young people into work. Before the election, the Prime Minister said that that same future jobs fund was a good scheme. Why did he cancel it, and why did he cancel it before he had a replacement? The Work programme—the Government’s replacement—is no substitute for the future jobs fund. It has one third less funding and is making less of a difference to young people’s lives.

We need jobs and growth and young people need hope and opportunity. They deserve a plan that gets the economy moving and improves the prospects of those leaving school, college and university. That is why Labour has set out a five-point plan for jobs and growth. A £2 billion tax on bank bonuses will both support the construction industry and guarantee a job for 100,000 young people. What could be fairer than using some of

9 Nov 2011 : Column 402

the record bank bonuses to get young people back to work? Bringing forward long-term investment projects— which my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham mentioned—utting VAT temporarily to give immediate help to our high streets and struggling families cutting VAT to 5% on home improvements, and a one-year national insurance holiday for every small firm taking on extra workers, will make a huge difference to small businesses and to the 991,000 young people who are out of work today. This is a five-point alternative that offers hope and unlocks opportunity. It is a five-point plan that would get young people back to work, get businesses hiring and get our economy growing. I urge hon. Members to support this action for the sake of the young people up and down this country who have been tossed on the scrap heap by this Government, just as they were in the 1980s and 1990s under Tory Governments of the past.

It is time to learn the lessons. We cannot afford the cost of spiralling unemployment, or of young people leaving school and college without the hope of getting a job. Call it what you will—plan A-plus, plan B or Labour’s five-point plan—but for the sake of 1 million young people waiting for action, I urge hon. Members to support the motion.

6.50 pm

The Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning (Mr John Hayes): How could we not be moved by what the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright), my hon. Friends the Members for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard) and for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb), and the hon. Members for North West Durham (Pat Glass) and for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) said about the plight of young people in their constituencies? Let there be no dispute about this: there is no denial and there is no complacency. [ Interruption. ] Of course this matters to all hon. Members in this House, and it ill befits Opposition Members to suggest that they have a monopoly on care.

Ian Austin: Will the Minister give way?

Mr Hayes: I will not give way.

Hearing Labour Members talk about generational joblessness reminded me of the plight that my father and my grandfather suffered in the ’30s when they were jobless. The story now, as we have heard from Members across the House, is no less tragic than it was then. That is why the Government are doing something about it.

All hon. Members who have spoken in the debate must be disappointed by the motion. Like worn-out conjuror’s paraphernalia, it is all smoke and mirrors. It resembles the economic policy that the last Government practised when the shadow Chancellor was their senior economic adviser, and we all know where that led. It led to the point at which the shadow Secretary of State, who introduced this debate, left his famous letter saying “There’s no money left”. We can see the shadow Chancellor’s footprints and fingerprints all over the motion.

Mr Byrne: I am genuinely grateful for the tone that the Minister is trying to strike, but does he understand the signal that it sends, in a debate on youth unemployment, when the Department for Work and

9 Nov 2011 : Column 403

Pensions Minister cannot be bothered to turn up for more than half the debate and the Secretary of State is nowhere to be seen?

Mr Hayes: The right hon. Gentleman obviously wants to make party political and partisan points. However, I was suggesting, perhaps unfashionably—perhaps this is not typical for the Opposition—that this matter goes beyond party divides, and that we should be united in our concern and in a call for action.

The shadow Chancellor is not without redeeming skills. I understand that, when he was at public school, he was good at playing the violin. So Balls fiddles while Byrne roams around talking down Britain’s chance to succeed.

Let me deal with the three principal points that have emerged from the debate—first, the future jobs fund. It was by far the most expensive part of the September guarantee package, at £6,500 for each individual, and 50% of the people who were under the influence of the fund found themselves unemployed eight months later. That is why we questioned its value—not because it did no good, but because it did not do enough good and was simply not cost-effective.

The second big issue that has been raised today is that of NEETS. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne) and the hon. Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) must know that the NEETS figures are part of a deep, long-term structural issue. Throughout the good years, the NEETs figures were at an unacceptable level. The right hon. Gentleman will see from the figures that in 2009, on Labour’s watch, the number of NEETs rose to 925,000. The truth is that youth unemployment involves long-term structural and systemic issues, and this debate was a chance for us to consider them seriously. Instead, what we have heard from the Opposition was little more than party political knockabout.

The third point to emerge from the debate relates to apprenticeships. Let us deal with them head on. I shall leave aside the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has rubbished all those in his constituency doing apprenticeships in their 20s—people like those at Jaguar Land Rover or at BT.

Mr Byrne: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Hayes: No, you had your chance.

The right hon. Gentleman rubbished people at BT, Honda and British Gas—[Hon. Members: “Give way.”] I give way to him.

Mr Byrne: Will the Minister tell the House by how much youth unemployment will fall as a result of his apprenticeship programme?

Mr Hayes: The right hon. Gentleman knows the answer: over two years, the growth in apprenticeships for people under the age of 19 has been 29% and for people aged between 19 and 24 it has been 64%. Labour could only dream of those figures, and would have died for them in government. The number of apprenticeships for young people is growing. There are new opportunities, and while Labour is deliberating, the Conservatives and Liberals are delivering. That is the difference.

9 Nov 2011 : Column 404

Ed Balls (Morley and Outwood) (Lab/Co-op): Does it not tell us everything we need to know that when there is a debate in the House on tax support to create jobs for young people, there is not one Treasury Minister on the Front Bench for the opening and closing speeches? Is that not a matter of great shame for the Government and an embarrassment for the Department for Work and Pensions?

Mr Hayes: I offer the shadow Chancellor this, and I do so fraternally: if just occasionally he would temper his belligerent bombast with a degree of humility about the advice he gave the previous Prime Minister and Chancellor, he might manage to stop his reputation flatlining.

The motion shows that the old conjuror has learned no new tricks. Once again, we have profligacy dressed up as prudence. It is public policy transvestism: from a distance, the promise of tax breaks may look alluring; only up close can we make out the underlying 5 o’clock shadow of debt and downturn. That is all the 5 o’clock shadow Cabinet can offer.

Some people think that many of the Opposition Front Benchers have been over-promoted, but I give them a second chance. I have a very small bet at very long odds that there is an outside chance that some of them may make a half-decent job of it.

This Government are acting on apprenticeships. We are acting on the Work programme. We are acting on work experience. We are working on getting people into jobs. That is the difference between this Government and the previous Government. We care too, but we act as well.

Ms Rosie Winterton (Doncaster Central) (Lab): claimed to move the closure (Standing Order No. 36 ).

Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.

Question agreed to .

Main Question accordingly put.

The House divided:

Ayes 234, Noes 290.

Division No. 394]

[6.58 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Bell, Sir Stuart

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blears, rh Hazel

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Chapman, Mrs Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Crausby, Mr David

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Tony

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

Darling, rh Mr Alistair

David, Mr Wayne

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobson, rh Frank

Dodds, rh Mr Nigel

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Dowd, Jim

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goggins, rh Paul

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hosie, Stewart

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jackson, Glenda

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Jowell, rh Tessa

Joyce, Eric

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lloyd, Tony

Long, Naomi

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Ian

MacShane, rh Mr Denis

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Shabana

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Michael, rh Alun

Miliband, rh Edward

Miller, Andrew

Mitchell, Austin

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Mudie, Mr George

Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Paul

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Pound, Stephen

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Joan

Seabeck, Alison

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Simpson, David

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Watson, Mr Tom

Watts, Mr Dave

Weir, Mr Mike

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Sammy

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Woodcock, John

Woodward, rh Mr Shaun

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Ayes:

Yvonne Fovargue and

Phil Wilson


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Bebb, Guto

Benyon, Richard

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Blackman, Bob

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, Paul

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Cable, rh Vince

Cairns, Alun

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davey, Mr Edward

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Dorries, Nadine

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, Michael

Farron, Tim

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Mr Roger

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Greening, rh Justine

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hague, rh Mr William

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, Mr John

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Hopkins, Kris

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Hunter, Mark

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lancaster, Mark

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Mr Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lord, Jonathan

Luff, Peter

Lumley, Karen

Main, Mrs Anne

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Mensch, Louise

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Mills, Nigel

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, Richard

Paice, rh Mr James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, Mike

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm

Robertson, Hugh

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shepherd, Mr Richard

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, rh Sir Peter

Teather, Sarah

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Angela

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Simon

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Norman Lamb and

Jeremy Wright

Question accordingly negatived.

9 Nov 2011 : Column 405

9 Nov 2011 : Column 406

9 Nov 2011 : Column 407

9 Nov 2011 : Column 408

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Mr Speaker: With the leave of the House, we shall take motions 3 to 6 together.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

International Development

That the draft International Development Association (Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative) (Amendment) Order 2011, which was laid before this House on 7 September, be approved.

That the draft International Development Association (Sixteenth Replenishment) Order 2011, which was laid before this House on 7 September, be approved.

That the draft International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (Selective Capital Increase) Order 2011, which was laid before this House on 7 September, be approved.

That the draft International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (General Capital Increase) Order 2011, which was laid before this House on 7 September, be approved. —(Mr Newmark.)

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Urban Development

That the West Northamptonshire Development Corporation (Area and Constitution) (Amendment) Order 2011, dated 3 October, a copy of which was laid before this House on 10 October, be approved.—(Mr Newmark.)

Question agreed to.

9 Nov 2011 : Column 409


Free Fruit for Young Children

7.14 pm

Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab/Co-op): I rise to present a petition from the 195 children at Northway primary and nursery school in Wavertree in my constituency. The children are very concerned about the cancelling of the free fruit that they receive during their morning break, because of cuts to local authority funding.

The petition states:

The Petition of children from Northway Primary and Nursery School,

Declares that the Petitioners oppose the cancelling of free fruit for young children due to cuts to local authority funding; notes that fruit provides children with the essential vitamins they need to keep strong, fit, active and healthy; further notes that as a snack, fruit provides children with extra energy between breakfast and lunch which helps them to learn and declares that the Petitioners believe that the free fruit scheme may be the only way that some children are able to get fruit, as parents in financial difficulty may not be able to afford to buy fruit for their children.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to reconsider its deep cuts to local authority funding so that Liverpool City Council can afford to maintain its free fruit scheme in schools.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


Bradford-on-Avon Station Ticket Office

7.16 pm

Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD): I wish to present this petition on behalf of the users of Bradford-on-Avon station, who are campaigning to keep the station’s ticket office open, following publication of the McNulty report, which recommends its closure. They value the service it provides to the local economy, as well as to rail users. A petition in similar terms has been signed by about 1,200 local residents.

The petition states:

The Petition of users of Bradford-on-Avon station,

Declares that the Petitioners regard the Bradford-on-Avon station booking office as an essential service and an essential part of the town, further declares that the Petitioners believe that it is used frequently and in preference to the ticket machine, particularly by older customers, and that it is widely valued for the information provided and for the services of the booking office staff in opening and closing the wonderfully refurbished waiting rooms.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to take all possible steps to ensure that the Bradford-on-Avon station booking office remains open.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


Guisborough Royal Mail delivery Office

7.17 pm

Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) (Lab): I wish to present a petition in opposition to the closure of the Guisborough delivery office. More than 5,000 petitioners made up of residents, business owners and Communication Workers Union Royal Mail workers have signed the petition in opposition to the

9 Nov 2011 : Column 410

privatisation of the Royal Mail and the proposed closure of Guisborough’s delivery office. There has been no meaningful consultation with the community, local business, or the work force and their trade union, the CWU. No proper reasons have been given for the proposed closure of what the petitioners believe is the most efficient delivery office in the Teesside area. Royal Mail’s proposals to move operations to Redcar from Guisborough are unproven, unworkable and unwanted.

The petition states:

The Petition of residents of Guisborough,

Declares that the Petitioners are opposed to the closure of the Guisborough Royal Mail Delivery Office and the Government’s policy of Royal Mail privatisation; further declares that the Petitioners feel that there has been no meaningful consultation with the community, local businesses, the workforce and their trade Union, the Communication Workers Union; and declares that no proper reasons have been given for the proposed closure of what the Petitioners believe is the most efficient delivery office in the Teesside area.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to take all possible steps to ensure that Royal Mail consults with local partners and reviews the proposed closure of Guisborough Delivery Office accordingly.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


Blaydon Races 150th Anniversary

7.18 pm

Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab): I wish to present a petition on behalf of the Blaydon Races 150 organising group and its supporters throughout the north-east. More than 3,000 people have signed a similar online petition. The petition calls on this House to throw its weight behind the campaign for a fitting celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Blaydon Races, which falls in June next year. Specifically, the petition asks the House to urge the local authorities of Newcastle and Gateshead to work together to ensure that the 150th anniversary of this great north-east anthem is celebrated with a properly scaled and co-ordinated programme of activities.

The petition states:

The Humble Petition of the organising group of the Blaydon Races 150th Anniversary Campaign, namely Mr Steven Campion, Mr David Minikin, Mr Aidan Oswell, Mrs Lisa Christer Ovenden, Mr Andrew Ridley and Mr Anthony Pearson,

Sheweth, that the Petitioners are campaigning to encourage all those who cherish the history, culture and traditions of their beloved Tyneside to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Mr George Ridley's famous Blaydon Races anthem in June 2012.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House will urge the Government to actively encourage the local authorities of Gateshead and Newcastle upon Tyne to work together to coordinate a properly-scaled programme of appropriate celebrations.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.


Keynsham Railway Station Access

7.19 pm

Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con): I ask to present this petition from Mr Heard and Ms Friend, supported by more than 1,000 residents who live in and around Keynsham, in the county of Somerset. The petitioners are concerned by the poor facilities for the

9 Nov 2011 : Column 411

disabled at Keynsham railway station. Better access has been promised but never created. They therefore ask the Secretary of State to urge the relevant authorities to ensure that this takes place.

The petition states:

The Humble Petition of residents of North East Somerset,

Sheweth that the Petitioners believe that there are inadequate facilities for disabled people who wish to use Keynsham railway station.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your honourable House urge the Secretary of State for Transport to encourage FirstGroup plc to provide adequate facilities for disabled people at Keynsham railway station.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, etc.


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Cluster Munitions

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Mr Newmark.)

7.21 pm

Martin Caton (Gower) (Lab): I have sought this debate because I am very concerned at current moves within the UN convention on certain conventional weapons to adopt a new protocol that would ban some older and less sophisticated cluster munitions, but allow continued use of some weapons that are the most dangerous to civilians. This would be a major step backwards, as it would effectively undermine the convention on cluster munitions that prohibits ownership, manufacture and transfer of all cluster weapons, because they all kill and maim civilian children, women and men when they are used. Some 111 states have now joined this treaty, which requires a complete ban.

However, before I rehearse my argument on that issue, it might help if I take a step back and look at what cluster munitions are, what they do and whom they do it to, and describe how the convention on cluster munitions was achieved and what has happened since to take its provisions forward. Cluster munitions are air-dropped or ground-launched shells that eject multiple smaller sub-munitions or bomblets. Some have been developed for use against runways, armour and even electrical transmission systems to locate a specific type of target. However, their primary purpose in most circumstances in which they are used is to kill people—ostensibly enemy combatants, but in practice many others as well.

Cluster bombs can contain variable numbers of sub-munitions, but most often that means very large numbers. Each sub-munition contains explosives, a copper cone, a pre-stressed fragmentation sheath and an incendiary sponge. The main bomb breaks open in mid-air and the bomblets are released, effectively carpet-bombing an area the size of two or three football fields. Anybody within that area—military or civilian—is likely to be torn apart. Tragically, in conflict after conflict, because of where they have been used, many of the victims of that weaponry—even at the time of attack—have been innocent children, women and men who were non-combatants.

However, that is only the first part of the story. There is a longer-term impact, because many of the bomblets do not work properly. They fail to explode on immediate impact and are left on the ground after the end of hostilities, to be trodden on by farmers returning to their fields, pulled up when families are cleaning rubble from their damaged homes, or even picked up as playthings by children attracted by their shape and shine. They remain lethal.

Cluster weapons date back to the second world war, but were used most extensively by the United States in the Vietnam war, where villages were carpet-bombed with cluster munitions. In fact, in Vietnam the US sometimes employed cluster bombs that were designed not to explode on impact. They were called area denial ordnance, and when they were dropped they were effectively land-mining an area from the sky. That was deliberate, of course; but all too often ever since, the result of using cluster munitions has not been too different.

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Revulsion at what cluster munitions were doing to the ordinary people of Vietnam led in the early 1970s to calls for an international treaty. In 1974, Algeria, Austria, Egypt, Lebanon, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Norway, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Venezuela and Yugoslavia jointly put forward a document that included a section headed “Anti-personnel fragmentation weapons”. It said:

“Anti-personnel cluster warheads or other devices with many bomblets, which act through the ejection of a greater number of small-calibred fragments or pellets to be prohibited for use”.

Sadly, that initiative got nowhere at that time and the people of Vietnam are still living with the aftermath of that mass cluster bombing, 40 years later. Even now, every year, hundreds of Vietnamese civilians are killed or injured by American sub-munitions from cluster bombs dropped all that time ago. Some 22 countries have been affected by cluster munition contamination, with particular problems of unexploded ordnance in Indo-China, Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon.

Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling) (Con): Having visited southern Lebanon myself shortly after the ceasefire took place and after the Israelis had carried out a massive sowing of cluster munitions, I can say to the hon. Gentleman that he is absolutely right to point out the terrible dangers to men, women and children from these awful weapons, which are primarily used with the aim of, and have the effect of, killing and maiming civilians.

Martin Caton: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that contribution. He is absolutely right, and I shall say a little about what happened in Lebanon.

In 2006, the charity Handicap International produced a report documenting more than 10,000 known civilian casualties from cluster munitions, but it believed that the true figure could be as much as 10 times as high as that. What there can be no doubt about is that cluster munitions have caused excessive and disproportionate harm to civilians in every conflict in which they have been used over the past 40 years. People across the world realised this, especially when they saw on their television screens the use of millions of these weapons by the state of Israel against Lebanon and the consequences for its people. Sixty per cent. of Israeli cluster strikes were in built-up areas, with the inevitable impact on innocent human life. At the end of the conflict it was estimated that there could have been as many as a million unexploded cluster sub-munitions littering roads, schools, wells, houses, gardens and fields, taking their toll on the Lebanese population. A clean-up operation continues, in which the UK Department for International Development is playing a valuable and important role, but that, we should not forget, is a diversion of development aid money from other humanitarian projects.

At the end of that conflict, cluster munitions, as an issue, had gone up the political agenda across the face of the planet. Civil society was brilliantly organised by the Cluster Munition Coalition of more than 350 organisations in more than 100 countries. They found politicians who were willing to listen, ready to be convinced and prepared to act. From 2000 until 2007 attempts had been made to negotiate on cluster munitions at the UN convention on certain conventional weapons, and this

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had been blocked every time by the United States and others. When in 2006 a mandate to negotiate an instrument on cluster munitions, proposed by 27 states, was again prevented, Norway and the other countries involved decided to go outside the UN to move the issue forward.

That was the start of what became known as the Oslo process, starting with a conference in that city in February 2007. In doing that, Norway was following the example of Canada, which had used the same approach in securing the landmine treaty 10 years earlier. The Oslo process was quite remarkable. By getting people and their Governments to address the impact of cluster munitions, we saw quite radical changes of position over about a year, not least in this country.

On 23 November 2006, I secured an Adjournment debate in the Chamber on cluster munitions in which I urged the then Labour Government to play a leading role in the Oslo process and to take the initiative by announcing the UK’s intention to renounce all cluster munitions. The then Minister of State, Ministry of Defence who responded described cluster munitions as

“lawful weapons that provide a unique capability against certain types of legitimate target”,

and went on to say:

“Our military commanders judge the degree of force to employ to achieve the mission, subject always to strict compliance with international humanitarian law. We believe that that is a sufficiently adequate body of law. It puts considerable constraints on the use of cluster munitions.”

He added that

“a total ban on the use of all types of sub-munition would have an adverse impact on the UK’s operational effectiveness.”—[Official Report, 23 November 2006; Vol. 453, c. 802.]

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): If all those countries have signed the letter asking for these munitions not to be used, what action does the hon. Gentleman think should be taken against the manufacturers, because that is where the key lies? If they cannot sell them, they will not manufacture them.

Martin Caton: In the 111 countries that are signatories to the Oslo convention on cluster munitions, manufacturing, stockpiling or transferring them is clearly illegal and states should act against such practices. Our problem is the countries that want to hang on to their cluster munitions, such as the United States, Russia and China in particular. That is the point of my debate. I think that they are trying to use the convention in the UN to enable them to hang on to the munitions, and I will move on to that point later.

In November 2006 the Labour Government’s position was that we need cluster munitions, but by May 2008 the previous Prime Minister was in Dublin arguing very effectively with Ministers from other states for a total ban. An historic agreement was struck on 28 May to establish the convention that now has 111 members, and more are joining as time goes on.

Let us think about that. Many people knew that the issue of cluster munitions needed to be addressed for at least the last third of the 20th century and the first few years of this century. In just five years, remarkable progress had been made and continues to be made. The convention on cluster munitions that came out of the Oslo process is now in its second year of implementation and its momentum remains strong. There were two new

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accessions in September and three new ratifications. The same month saw Lebanon host the second meeting of states parties to the convention, in which 34 countries that have not yet signed the convention participated. That is a dynamic that I think needs to be encouraged.

That is what worries me about what the United States and others are now proposing. Having blocked use of the UN convention on certain conventional weapons for years, they have proposed a draft protocol that would ban certain cluster munitions produced before 1980. It is due to be debated between 14 and 25 November in Geneva. There are three possible outcomes: adoption of the draft protocol, ending negotiations with no result, or the adoption of a political agreement that is not legally binding but allows interim steps.

My objective is to urge the Government actively to resist adoption of the protocol. In doing so, and in fairness, I want to recognise the commitment of the Government, like their predecessors, to a complete ban as espoused in the convention on cluster munitions. I do not doubt Ministers’ respect for its integrity or their keenness to get every country to join. However, from written answers to questions I have tabled, and from what colleagues and I picked up in a meeting on Monday with the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt), I am worried that the Department may be in danger of making an error of judgment. I put it no more strongly that that, because I know that deliberations are ongoing.

My concern is that the Government feel that the Oslo process has stalled and that, therefore, any initiative that allows non-signatories to the CCM to commit to some renunciation of some cluster weapons is welcome because it might allow more progress towards the goal that all Members of the House want to see: a global cluster munitions ban. I understand that thinking but am convinced that it is quite wrong for a number of reasons. The proposed protocol seriously risks encouraging greater use of cluster munitions that have been banned by most countries because it would remove the current stigma that has been developing against the use of cluster munitions—the same stigma developed with landmines, with very positive results. Some welcome the protocol because it would allow a red light for certain old cluster weapons, which would mean the removal of more of those weapons, but there is a reverse side to the coin.

First, when we say that only some munitions are unacceptable, implicitly we are saying that others are acceptable, which means that they get the green light. For the draft protocol, that would mean the United States’ BLU-97 getting the okay. That is the cluster bomb that caused such civilian suffering in Serbia and Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. Amazingly, it would also give the okay to the Israeli M85, which was responsible for the slaughter in Lebanon. That cannot be a step forward.

Secondly, the protocol would also hamper efforts to achieve universal adherence to the convention on cluster munitions. The states that want the protocol want it to avoid making progress on the CCM, not to facilitate it. Thirdly, banning cluster munitions is increasingly making military sense, because they do not deliver. That is why 22 of the 28 NATO states have banned them.

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Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): I thank the hon. Gentleman for securing the debate and admire the passion with which he presents his case. Does he think that the UK’s position, given the role that the previous Prime Minister played in the Oslo convention, is looked at with particular significance by other nations?

Martin Caton: The role of the UK Government in Geneva could be critical. It is vital that they show a strength of will against what the United States and others are trying to do to protect the integrity of the current convention.

The draft protocol is not compatible or complementary with the convention on cluster munitions. The latter bans these weapons; the former allows for their use, production and transfer. The proposed protocol would—as I believe it is designed to do—undermine the convention on cluster munitions that came out of the Oslo process. It would set up a rival legal framework for cluster weapons under the auspices of the UN and would not remove a single weapon likely to be used in conflict. All the weapons banned would be 40 years old by the time the protocol required their removal, and they would be ready for decommissioning anyway. However, the draft protocol would legitimise the use of much more dangerous cluster weapons. It would be a body blow for the approach that drove the Oslo process, which was a humanitarian-centred partnership between civil society and Government that is a valuable model for future progress on multilateral disarmament.

The draft protocol contradicts existing international humanitarian law and is not the best way to engage with existing states that have stockpiles of cluster munitions. The International Committee of the Red Cross has pointed out that if it is established, this protocol would set a highly negative precedent. It would be the first time in history that international humanitarian law has moved backwards. I urge the Government, whatever they do, to resist this protocol. It will not move us forward; quite the opposite, it will take us back and reverse so much that has been achieved in the past five years.

I understand the Government’s desire to find ways to encourage recalcitrant states to begin the process of decommissioning cluster munitions. The best way to do that is by encouraging the development of a political declaration or plan of action stating that intention, rather than by creating an alternative international legal edifice that threatens our existing convention, which, in fairness, is delivering within a pretty speedy time frame. The draft protocol is not about cluster munitions disarmament; it is a fig leaf behind which the US, China, Russia and others intend to hide, so that they can continue to rely on dangerous, indiscriminate ordnance that will kill more innocent civilians if we let them get away with it.

7.37 pm

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): I congratulate the hon. Member for Gower (Martin Caton) on securing the debate and on the way he has for some years in this place consistently championed the cause of eliminating cluster munitions from the world. He has been tireless in drawing the matter to the House’s attention and in insisting that it should be high on the political agenda of successive Governments. I also want

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to acknowledge the presence here and contributions of the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir John Stanley) and my hon. Friends the Members for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) and for Wells (Tessa Munt).

I start by stating unequivocally that the UK and the Government remain fully committed to the objective of ridding the world entirely of cluster munitions. As the hon. Member for Gower said, the UK was one of the original 46 states to join the negotiating process for a convention to prohibit the use, development, production, acquisition, stockpiling and transfer of such munitions. Those negotiations ultimately led to the coming into force of the convention on cluster munitions.

It is fair to say that the previous Government and previous Prime Minister are entitled to take pride in the part that they played in that. I remember speaking from the Opposition Front Bench when the Bill that became the Cluster Munitions (Prohibitions) Act 2010 was going through its stages in the House of Commons. I am glad that that legislation was taken through without amendment and with almost universal cross-party support.

The 2010 Act paved the way for this country to ratify the convention, enabling us to become the 32nd state party to the convention in November last year. It comprehensively implemented in UK law the obligations set out in the convention and it prohibited activity including the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions from taking place within the UK, and by any UK national wherever in the world they might be. The Act also established appropriate penalties and enforcement mechanisms, up to a 14-year prison sentence.

The convention on cluster munitions is rightly recognised as one of the most significant disarmament treaties of recent years. It is a great testament to what can be achieved by states and non-governmental organisations working together. I want to make it absolutely clear that, for this Government, the convention remains the gold standard for work on cluster munitions—the standard that we want all countries to aspire to and to accept and to which this country is determined to adhere.

We take our obligations under the convention very seriously. Immediately after signing the convention in May 2008, the United Kingdom withdrew all cluster munitions from operational service. That represented some 38 million sub-munitions. The United Kingdom then began the active destruction of these stockpiles in anticipation of ratification. I am pleased to be able to tell the House that so far we have already destroyed nearly two thirds of those stockpiles, or some 25 million sub-munitions. Under current plans, it is our intention to destroy the remainder by the end of 2013, or five years ahead of the deadline imposed by the CCM. This represents an early and dedicated effort to realise as quickly as possible, and in a safe, secure and environmentally responsible manner, our obligation to destroy munitions that are prohibited by the convention. We have shared the experience that we have gained and the lessons learned from that stockpile destruction programme with other signatories, and those countries have appreciated that advice and assistance.

At the same time, we have played a full role in delivering on our treaty obligations regarding international co-operation and assistance. Between 2010 and 2013,

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the United Kingdom will spend more than £30 million on mine action work. This includes the clearance of unexploded ordnance, including cluster munitions, around the world. In addition to this programme, we have allocated significant additional funding for mine action work in Afghanistan and Libya. The provision of this assistance is based on our published mine action strategy, which includes three main objectives: first, to release land affected by the explosive remnants of war so that it can make a measurable contribution to the socio-economic development of affected communities; secondly, to help Governments to take full responsibility for their national mine action programmes; and thirdly, to improve value for money in mine action.

With this strategy, we are concentrating our support on the states in greatest need. As recognised in the Vientiane action plan agreed at the first meeting of the states party to the convention on cluster munitions, the United Kingdom believes that particular attention should be paid to the world’s poorest, least developed states. Our strategy therefore gives priority to work that helps those countries first. Specific examples of assistance programmes include £27 million for two partners—the Mines Advisory Group and the HALO Trust—principally for operations in Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Laos, Mozambique, South Sudan and Vietnam; and a further £5 million granted to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund that is supporting mine action in countries including Afghanistan, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Laos and Mozambique. We are fully committed to international co-operation and assistance. In just six months of our sponsored projects starting in Cambodia, Laos, Mozambique and Vietnam, 2.5 million square metres of land considered a high priority by those Governments for their national planning purposes had been cleared and returned to communities for productive use.

In addition to these efforts, the Government are fully committed to seeking a global ban on cluster munitions. That is a Government priority, and we continue to promote the universalisation of the CCM during all relevant bilateral meetings, as well as in multilateral forums.

Most recently, the UK, in partnership with non-governmental organisations and the International Committee of the Red Cross, hosted a workshop for Commonwealth countries, which was opened by my noble friend Lord Howell. The UK remains fully committed to the convention on cluster munitions and to a world free of cluster munitions. That is the standard we shall adhere to, that all states should aspire to and that we will continue to promote.

We cannot ignore the fact that, as the hon. Gentleman said, according to some estimates, 85% to 90% of the world’s stockpiles of cluster munitions are held by countries that are not parties to the Oslo agreements and to the convention. Nor can we ignore the fact that, sadly, there is little prospect of the non-Oslo states becoming parties to the convention on cluster munitions any time soon. That is a matter of profound regret. We continue to urge those countries, from the greatest to the smallest, to move forward and join the CCM.

It is in that context that negotiations have been under way for some time for a draft protocol VI on cluster munitions, within the convention on certain conventional

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weapons. The UK, along with the vast majority of signatories to the convention on cluster munitions, has participated constructively in those negotiations, but it has done so with a clear objective. We are determined to ensure that any protocol on cluster munitions that emerges from the talks for adoption by the CCW parties is complementary to and does not contradict the rights and obligations of states parties to the convention on cluster munitions. We also want to ensure that the additional humanitarian benefit that any proposed protocol would deliver is significant and demonstrable.

We think that working with the world’s major producers and users of cluster munitions towards a full prohibition—I emphasise that last phrase—is entirely consistent with our obligations under the CCM and that it would be irresponsible of us to refuse to engage with the countries that we wish to persuade to move towards adoption and implementation of the CCM, but which have so far refused to do so.

Martin Caton: I can see that the Government might be able to find a form of words that does not apparently contradict the CCM. However, these countries obviously will not give us a protocol that includes a complete ban, so what will happen in practice is that a green light will be given to some of the worst munitions, such as the M85. In practice, if the protocol goes through, it will contradict the existing convention and it will be very dangerous.

Mr Lidington: Negotiations are under way and we have a seat at the table. I think that we are right to take part in those talks. However, we are a long way from seeing a protocol that we regard as worth debating or as acceptable in any way.

I will go into a little more detail. The negotiations on protocol VI have produced a draft protocol that would see states that agreed to be bound by it take on a legally

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binding obligation to prohibit the use of pre-1980 stocks of cluster munitions. We reckon that that could account for a third of the world’s stockpile of these munitions. The draft protocol, as it currently stands—of course, it may be subject to change—would also create obligations regarding victim assistance, clearance of cluster munition remnants and reporting on stockpiles.

Some of those things, of themselves, would be a step forward, but we are disappointed by the progress achieved during negotiations on a draft protocol VI. Our approach to those talks remains unchanged. We will participate in negotiations at the CCW review conference this month, with the aim of getting the best possible result, and we will be guided by our determination to deliver a significant humanitarian outcome and, crucially, not to undermine the progress made under the Oslo treaty. We will therefore continue to press the world’s users and producers to give up more, to be more transparent and to be explicit in their commitment to work towards a world entirely free of cluster munitions.

Given that negotiations are ongoing and this review is about to start, it would not be right for me to go into further detail about the UK’s negotiating position at the Geneva conference, or to speculate on what the outcome of those negotiations might be. I can tell the House that the UK will take a view based on whatever final draft protocol might result from the negotiations between the CCW parties, but the UK Government remain firm in their commitment to the integrity of the CCM, to maintaining it as the gold standard and to ensuring that nothing that might be agreed—it is hypothetical at the moment—for protocol VI to the CCW undermines or contradicts countries’ obligations under the CCM. That is how we propose to take things forward.

7.51 pm

House adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No. 9(7)).