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House of Commons

Thursday 14 June 2012

The House met at half-past Ten o’clock


[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

Culture, Media and Sport

The Secretary of State for Culture Olympics, Media and Sport was asked—

Superfast Broadband

1. Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab): What his policy is on competition in the supply of superfast broadband services; and if he will make a statement. [111297]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (Mr Jeremy Hunt): Our aim is to ensure that we have as competitive a market for broadband as possible. That is why together with Ofcom we have taken a number of steps to ensure that the UK broadband market is one of the most vibrant and competitive in the world, including opening up BT’s ducts and poles to competitors and introducing new guidance on street works and micro-trenching.

Stephen Timms: So why are the Government, through the ill-judged Broadband Delivery UK exercise, recreating a taxpayer-funded monopoly for superfast broadband? Will the Secretary of State confirm that the number of firms on his framework has now fallen from three to two, and that all the deals so far have been with one of those companies, which stands to receive more than £1.5 billion? Is it any wonder that the European Commission is challenging the legality of what he is doing, or that Britain is lagging so badly behind on superfast broadband?

Mr Hunt: When the right hon. Gentleman’s party left office, we had one of the slowest broadband networks in Europe; we have put in place plans that will give us one of the fastest. His party had plans that would not have seen the roll-out of superfast broadband until 2017; we have brought that forward. We have also put in almost £1 billion of public money, so I think that our results have been pretty impressive.

Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): Wiltshire is one of the pilot areas for the roll-out of superfast broadband in England. Will increasing competition among broadband providers hasten its arrival? Despite the excellent efforts of the outstandingly good

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Conservative-controlled Wiltshire county council, none the less there have been some centrally based delays, so what can the Secretary of State do to assist in that pilot?

Mr Hunt: We are doing everything we can to reduce those delays, including seeking early clearance of state aid from Brussels, but we have put in place a competitive process that is led by local authorities, because we think that we will get the best results by putting them in the driving seat. That is why we have had a tremendous response, including from local authorities that, in almost every case, have agreed to match the money being put in by central Government, so in Wiltshire and throughout the country we will have an extremely good broadband network, if not the best in Europe.

Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD): I welcome that response and hope the Secretary of State understands the eagerness in Wiltshire, south Gloucestershire and Swindon to proceed with their framework. Can he tell us anything about the timetable for reaching a resolution of the state aid issue with the European Commission?

Mr Hunt: I hope to meet Commissioner Almunia next week or, certainly, in the next few weeks to hasten that process as fast as possible, and we still very much hope that all local authorities will have signed their contracts by the end of this calendar year, so that the digging of trenches and the laying of fibre along poles can take place from the beginning of next year.

2. David T. C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): What recent progress he has made on his plans to ensure the UK has the best superfast broadband network in Europe. [111299]

6. Eric Ollerenshaw (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Con): What recent progress he has made on his plans to ensure the UK has the best superfast broadband network in Europe. [111303]

7. John Howell (Henley) (Con): What recent progress he has made on his plans to ensure the UK has the best superfast broadband network in Europe. [111304]

13. Andrea Leadsom (South Northamptonshire) (Con): What recent progress he has made on his plans to ensure the UK has the best superfast broadband network in Europe. [111314]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (Mr Jeremy Hunt): I have now approved 37 out of 43 local broadband plans—that is, almost 90% across the whole country—and nine are in procurement. A number of those are almost ready to begin delivery, and the other projects are being prepared for procurement with support from Broadband Delivery UK, which is also finalising details for the broadband delivery framework contract.

David T. C. Davies: May I congratulate the Minister on the progress that he is making on superfast broadband, but ask that this not be done at the expense of those living in remote rural areas, such as parts of Monmouthshire, who have yet to see any form of broadband whatsoever?

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Mr Hunt: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and the whole purpose of the programme is to ensure that fast broadband speeds are available to everyone. Indeed, it is the people in the most remote areas who stand to gain the most in terms of preventing villages from being depopulated and helping people who are disabled to get their shopping done. There are all sorts of very important benefits, and I hope that the £57 million that we have allocated to Wales, which has been more than matched by the Welsh Government, will make that happen in Monmouthshire and throughout Wales.

Eric Ollerenshaw: Can the Minister confirm that when community-led schemes to bring superfast broadband to remote rural areas, such as Broadband for the Rural North in my constituency, initially raise their own funds, they will not then be discriminated against on access to future Government support?

Mr Hunt: We are specifically trying to set up a scheme so that, where people raise their own funds to solve broadband problems, it is possible to integrate that into the national network. Our objective is to enable as much local self-help work as possible, so I welcome my hon. Friend’s initiative and those taken by his constituents.

John Howell: Large parts of my constituency suffer from rural broadband poverty, but at an official level it is often masked because neighbouring Oxford has good broadband, and the level at which it is integrated is too great to show that granularity. What advice can my right hon. Friend give about making sure that those areas of rural broadband poverty in my constituency are recognised?

Mr Hunt: The comfort that I can give my hon. Friend is that our ambition, which is vastly higher than anything that we had from Labour, is that by 2015 90% of the country will have access to superfast broadband. However, it will not stop there, because we will have a plan in place for the other 10% which means that they will have a very good prospect of getting superfast broadband. In many cases—for example, in my own county of Surrey—plans are being put forward whereby there will be 100% access to superfast broadband by 2014. Good local authorities are thinking about the other 10% and making sure that they are not left behind, and we are doing everything we can to help them.

Andrea Leadsom: In my constituency we have lots of rural areas that are not going to be part of the superfast broadband roll-out. In one area in particular—in fact, it is where I happen to live—there is a large community of parishes where two thirds of people are home workers or involved in small businesses. What reassurance can my right hon. Friend give that we will be able to achieve access to the existing national infrastructure of fibre optic cabling to avoid having to reinstall new cables? In this area, there is a rural grouping who are trying to gain access to existing infrastructure and being denied that by private companies.

Mr Hunt: The best reassurance for the people who live near my hon. Friend is probably the fact that she lives there; I am sure that means that the issue will receive a lot of attention. People in remote areas who do not have access to good broadband are at the top of

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our minds. We are determined to put in place a structure that makes sure that even if they are not in the 90% covered by 2015, they will be covered very soon afterwards or we will have a structure that allows them to be covered within that framework.

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): Developing the best possible communications network is one of the key priorities for Belfast city council and the local administration in Northern Ireland, and great progress has been made. May I urge the Secretary of State to support Belfast’s bid for greater funding for superfast broadband, which is an excellent way of attracting the greater economic growth and further direct investment that we need?

Mr Hunt: First, I should congratulate the right hon. Gentleman, because Northern Ireland has some of the best broadband in Europe already. He is absolutely right. One of the other big differences between this Government’s policies and those of the previous Government is that we are not stopping at having superfast broadband for the whole country but want our cities to have some of the best broadband in the world and to aspire to the speeds that can be found in Singapore, Seoul and other cities. I hope that Belfast will be among them.

Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab): In the two years since this Government took office, they have not delivered 1 metre of extra fibre or one bit of extra bandwidth. BDUK is still sorting out its super-fragmented contracting process. Up and down the country, hundreds of thousands of people are denied decent broadband because the Government abandoned our universal broadband pledge. Does the Secretary of State deny that, under Labour, this year everyone would have had access to decent broadband to play their part in the innovation economy?

Mr Hunt: Let me remind the hon. Lady that when her party left office there was no money left. Quite how she thought that it was going to deliver universal access to broadband by 2012 when it left the country’s finances bust, I do not know. We took a plan that was clearly not going to work and instead put in place a plan that has much higher ambitions, with not only universal access to broadband but 90% access to superfast broadband and cities with ultrafast broadband—some of the fastest broadband in the world.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): One of the alternative ways of making faster broadband available is through the roll-out of 4G mobile services, but has the Secretary of State seen the analysis by Freeview that suggests that over 2 million homes may have their digital television service interfered with as a result, and that the funds secured by the Government to counter that interference may not be anything like sufficient? Does he agree with that analysis, and what is he proposing to do about it?

Mr Hunt: I absolutely agree that the roll-out of 4G is another opportunity. One of the options proposed by Ofcom would mean 98% coverage of 4G, which would be extremely important in many of the rural areas about which hon. Friends are concerned. We have an ongoing consultation about the mitigation plans for

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people whose signals will be affected by these auctions. Ofcom has not told me that it has any concerns about the plans that are in place, but I will listen to it very carefully in that regard.

Local Newspapers

3. Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (PC): What recent discussions he has had on the future of local newspapers. [111300]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (Mr Edward Vaizey): The Secretary of State specifically has had no recent discussions. However, I have taken part in a number of recent debates and events, including a Westminster Hall debate on 25 April, which was attended by no fewer than 50 colleagues, and a meeting with Johnston Press at the end of May, which 25 colleagues attended.

Jonathan Edwards: What discussions has the Minister had with colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government to extend the provisions of the Localism Act 2012 to include local newspapers as community assets? Under the terms of the Act, that would offer threatened newspapers a stay of execution while alternative ownership models were explored.

Mr Vaizey: I hear what the hon. Gentleman is saying. As he knows, the Department for Communities and Local Government has been successful in stopping local council newspapers competing with local newspapers, but local newspapers are private assets and I would be surprised if they could be registered as community assets under the right to buy. This is the first time I have heard this idea, however, and I will certainly let the Department for Communities and Local Government know that it is being proposed.

Simon Hughes (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (LD): Will the Minister talk to our colleagues in the Department for Transport, who are now considering responses to consultation about transport adverts in local papers, to see whether his Department could support the presumption that public notices should be in local papers unless a clear majority of councillors and the public think that there is better way of reaching the public?

Mr Vaizey: That consultation is being handled by our Liberal Democrat colleague, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), and I am sure that he will not sit on the fence when it comes to making a decision on that issue.

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): In recent years, 242 local papers have closed. Meanwhile, Ministers are throwing £40 million into local television, which will only add to the competition for advertising that local papers face. I know that Ministers have recently had some difficulty remembering all their conversations, but will the Minister tell us when they last discussed local television with News Corporation?

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Mr Vaizey: I am not aware that we have had discussions with News Corporation, but I will certainly look at the Department’s records. Local television is certainly an opportunity for local media, and—[Interruption.] I will write to the hon. Lady about this; I thank the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) for that lesson in etiquette, which I shall take on board. Many local newspaper groups are interested in local television, and I think this is a potential opportunity for local newspapers.

Special Advisers

5. John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): What arrangements he has put in place to recruit a new special adviser. [111302]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (Mr Jeremy Hunt): I recently appointed Guy Levin as my new special adviser, and he started this week.

John Mann: I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. Government special advisers are meeting as a group on a fairly regular basis, doubtless to get their instructions from 10 Downing street. Will the Secretary of State ensure that he receives a written report on those meetings, and that such reports are made public so that we can all see precisely what instructions 10 Downing street is giving to his and other special advisers?

Mr Hunt: We will be at least as transparent as the last Government on these matters, if not more so.

Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (Lab): Will this new special adviser be an additional cost to the taxpayer, or will he come from within the ranks of the Government?

Mr Hunt: There will be no additional cost to the Government on top of the existing budget for special advisers.

Children’s Health (Advertising)

8. Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) (Lab): What assessment he has made of the potential effects of advertising aimed at children on (a) childhood obesity and (b) children’s mental health. [111305]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (Mr Edward Vaizey): No assessment has been made. The rules on advertising content standards are the responsibility of the independent regulators—the Advertising Standards Authority and Ofcom. It is for those regulators to assess the sort of material that is appropriate for different audiences.

Chris Ruane: Half the adverts aimed at children encourage them to gorge on junk food and become obese, while the other half extol the virtues of size zero. Is it any wonder that 20% of children suffer with mental illness? Will the Minister look at the example of Sweden, which has banned advertising aimed at the under-12s?

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Mr Vaizey: Ofcom already has regulations in place to prevent the advertising of high fat, sugar and salt products in children’s programming. I understand that those regulations have had an effect, in that the exposure of young children to that kind of marketing has been reduced by between one third and a half.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I thank the Minister for that reply. Do you feel that it is time for the relevant Health Minister and yourself to have a joint campaign to address—

Mr Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is becoming a more experienced Member by the day. I ask him not to use the word “you”. Debates, including questions, go through the Chair. He is asking the Minister for a response. Perhaps he will complete his question. We look forward to it.

Jim Shannon: Thank you for that correction, Mr Speaker.

Would the Minister consider having a joint campaign between his Department and the Department of Health to ensure that the effect of advertising on children’s health is better addressed?

Mr Vaizey: I will take on board the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion that I should meet colleagues at the Department of Health to discuss what further measures we can take.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): Has the Minister had an opportunity to look at the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation report that highlights that young people, in particular young women, have problems with image and participation in sport that are leading to higher levels of obesity? I realise that sport is not his area of expertise, but what can his Department do to address the issues raised in that important report and to ensure that more young people participate in sport?

Mr Vaizey: Sport is certainly not my area of expertise, in every sense of the word. One only has to look at me to understand that. However, I do possess a talent for watching sport. I can give the hon. Gentleman the good news that my colleague, the Minister for Sport, has read the report and is working with Sport England on its recommendations.

Get Set Programme

9. Stephen Lloyd (Eastbourne) (LD): How many schools have registered for the Get Set programme; and if he will make a statement. [111306]

The Minister for Sport and the Olympics (Hugh Robertson): Nearly 26,000 schools and colleges in the United Kingdom are registered with Get Set, which is 84% of those that are eligible. Of those, 18,763 have gone on to join the Get Set network, and of those, nearly 16,000 have qualified for a share of up to 175,000 free games tickets, which are being funded through a levy on corporate hospitality.

Stephen Lloyd: I thank the Minister for that answer. What resources will the Department make available to the schools that have signed up for the Get Set programme, and what incentives are in place to ensure a high level of participation from schools?

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Hugh Robertson: The programme is run by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, so it is providing the resources. The incentives to schools to sign up included the fact that the Olympics were coming here in any event and will be very big news this summer, and the free games tickets that I mentioned.

Tessa Jowell (Dulwich and West Norwood) (Lab): The Get Set programme is inspiring young people across the country through the Olympic values of equality, respect, friendship, courage and excellence. Forty years ago, those values came under attack during the terrible massacre of nine Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich games. Yesterday, I wrote to you, Mr Speaker, requesting that we mark that tragedy in this House with a minute’s silence. Does the Minister agree that we should mark that tragic event, and will he undertake his own representations to you, Mr Speaker, on the matter?

Hugh Robertson: I thank the right hon. Lady for that question. Before I answer it, as this is the last DCMS questions before the Olympic games on 27 July, may I record all our thanks to her and to all parliamentarians across the House—a number of whom are sitting at the back of the Labour Benches—who have contributed to the delivery of the London Olympic and Paralympic games?

The right hon. Lady is absolutely right to draw attention to the tragic events in Munich 40 years ago. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is attending a commemoration event in the Guildhall during the games. I visited the Israeli Olympic committee some years ago when I was in opposition and am well aware of the importance of this matter to the state of Israel and to the Olympic movement. I will do everything that I can to ensure that it is marked in an appropriate fashion.

Children (Sport)

10. Mrs Helen Grant (Maidstone and The Weald) (Con): What progress he has made on encouraging more children to take part in competitive sport. [111307]

The Minister for Sport and the Olympics (Hugh Robertson): Through the school games, we are encouraging all schools to offer their pupils the chance to play more competitive sport. The number of schools participating is now more than 13,500. Additionally, 64 county festivals of sport will take place this year, with more than 112,000 children taking part. We also had the inaugural national finals in May, where more than 1,600 of our best young athletes competed in and around the Olympic park. I know that as a great champion of sport in the county of Kent, my hon. Friend will be delighted that the Kent school games were launched on Tuesday night.

Mrs Grant: Can the Minister update the House on the success of the Government’s school games?

Hugh Robertson: Absolutely. This year’s school games were an unusually successful event, precisely because of the proximity of London’s Olympics. Thanks to the work of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the finals were able to take place in the Olympic park, giving young athletes the chance to compete on the

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same stretch of track that the world’s best athletes will compete on in six weeks’ time. As I said, more than 1,600 children had that opportunity.

Mr Gerry Sutcliffe (Bradford South) (Lab): When we left office, 90% of children were doing at least two hours of sport a week, and some were doing a lot more. Does the Minister know what the current figure is?

Hugh Robertson: Yes I do, because the Secretary of State for Education has helpfully—unlike under the previous Administration, as the hon. Gentleman draws that comparison—made physical education one of only four core parts of the school curriculum, so everybody will at last be doing it. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, as a great supporter of sport, will support that.

Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): Football remains a very popular competitive sport for people of all ages. Does the Minister share my concern about the loss in the High Court of HMRC’s case against the football creditors rule, and will he discuss with his ministerial colleagues whether the Government may legislate to get rid of that rule, for which even the chairman of the Football League has said he cannot find any moral justification?

Hugh Robertson: One of the interesting things that came out of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport’s report on football governance, in which my hon. Friend played a key part, was that almost nobody responsible for football at any level tried to defend the football creditors rule. I know that he has a private Member’s Bill to abolish it. I believe that HMRC is contemplating an appeal against the decision, and clearly we want to wait and see how that plays out, but I believe it is a rule that has had its day.

Derek Twigg (Halton) (Lab): One problem is that once young people reach the age of 16 and leave school, they tend to drop out of sport in great numbers. Many people aged 16-plus go on to college and university. What discussions has the Minister had with his colleagues in the Department for Education about how we can address the problem and encourage more and more young people to continue with some sort of sporting activity?

Hugh Robertson: The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. Indeed, if we look back over the past 20 years or so, we see that the one thing that nobody has really managed to address has been post-school dropout. We are trying a new approach via the new youth sport strategy, which will be the key component of the next round of whole-sport plans. I very much hope that by linking schools much better to community clubs and putting people into colleges of higher education, which have not been well covered, we will tackle the problem in the next cycle.

Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con) rose—

Mr Speaker: Order. There is no hurry. I have seen the hon. Gentleman, but I am saving him up for his own question, which we will reach in due course.

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Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): The Minister will know that young people are inspired to get into sport by top sportspeople. Does he share my concern about what happened yesterday with the bidding for the Premier League broadcast rights? The empire of people who some of us do not think are fit and proper to have senior positions in the media has yet again got the bulk of Premier League matches.

Hugh Robertson: That is an interesting point, but it is a very complex matter. One of the very first things that I did as a new Minister was to secure an agreement from all UK sport governing bodies, to which the Premier League voluntarily signed up, to invest 30% of their UK broadcast income into the grass roots. If the league makes more money, that means more money for the grass roots, which we should support. The interesting point about yesterday’s announcement was the arrival for the first time of BT as a partner. I hope that that produces more competitive tension in the market.

Mr Speaker: Pat Glass. Not here.

Registrar of the Public Lending Right

14. Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) (Lab): What plans he has for the post of Registrar of the Public Lending Right. [111315]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (Mr Edward Vaizey): As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are consulting on the future of the Registrar of the Public Lending Right. Our proposed transfer of the function of the registrar, which currently exists as a stand-alone public body, would contribute to the Government’s commitment to simplifying the public bodies landscape and at the same time maintain and ensure the effective, efficient and impartial administration of the PLR scheme.

Tom Blenkinsop: I thank the Minister, but does he agree with the second children’s laureate, Anne Fine, that the proposed reorganisation of the registrar is based purely on ideology and will cost the taxpayer more money than it saves?

Mr Vaizey: No.

James Wharton (Stockton South) (Con): I thank the Minister for the work he has done with me in representing my constituents who work at the PLR, which is in my constituency. Will he confirm that the Government’s preferred option for the reorganisation of the PLR is one that will mean that jobs are not transferred from Teesside to London?

Mr Vaizey: My hon. Friend has been absolutely assiduous in representing the concerns of the people who work at the PLR in conversations with me and in writing to me. That stands testament to the active work of a great constituency MP. It is certainly part of our preferred option to ensure that jobs remain in the north and do not transfer to London.

Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) (Lab): It is now increasingly accepted that part of the long-term future of book lending lies in e-books being available in all libraries. In

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order for our libraries to move into the 21st century, the tensions between the public lending rights scheme and e-books must be addressed. Will the Minister therefore tell the House why he has not moved to implement the extension of the public lending right to e-books, as mandated in section 43 of the Digital Economy Act 2010?

Mr Vaizey: Part of the problem with e-books is that most publishers do not want e-books lent in libraries. I have had discussions with publishers on that on at least two occasions, and would happily discuss it jointly with publishers and the hon. Gentleman so he can hear their views first hand.

Olympics (New Sports)

15. Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): What recent discussions he has had on nominating a new sport for the next Olympics. [111316]

The Minister for Sport and the Olympics (Hugh Robertson): This is a matter for the International Olympic Committee, but I am aware of the ambitions of a number of sports. London 2012 will feature 26 sports in its programme. That will rise to 28 for Rio 2016, when golf and rugby sevens are added to the mix. Decisions about the 2020 summer games will be taken by the IOC in 2013.

Richard Graham: The Minister knows of one sport that is played by more than half a million people in this country and many millions worldwide, on more than 50,000 courts, and in which the current men’s world champion is from this country: squash. Does he agree that the case for squash is strong and that it should be supported as much as possible? Will he meet me, UK Sport and the World Squash Federation, which is headquartered here in London? Lastly, will he, and indeed you, Mr Speaker, agree to join a team that I intend to put together—a Lords and Commons squash team—to play squash on world squash day in October this year to support the bid?

Mr Speaker: We all look forward to the hon. Gentleman’s upcoming Adjournment debate on these matters—although some people might think he has already had it.

Hugh Robertson: I was heartily relieved that my hon. Friend identified the sport at the end of his question, before I had what is known as a Caborn moment. The simple answer to his question is that I am well aware of the ambitions of squash, and indeed of lacrosse, netball and a number of other worthy sports. [Interruption.] That list could go on for ever. The decision is for the IOC, but I will do everything I can to promote those British sports in which, as my hon. Friend correctly says, we would have a good chance of winning a medal.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): The Minister is aware that rugby sevens will be a new sport in the 2016 Olympics. Given the tensions about Team GB in football, are he and the UK Government discussing with devolved Ministers how to get over the thorny issue of having a UK rugby sevens team?

Hugh Robertson: To be honest, football is a bit of a one-off in that respect; there is absolutely no problem with GB teams in the other 25 sports. Rugby is in the

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process of assembling the necessary GB structures to support a team, in just the same way as golf is. I hope nobody stands in front of the ability of UK athletes to compete in an Olympic games for political reasons.

Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con): My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) asked about the inclusion of a new sport, but some sports have been squeezed out of the Olympics. Does my hon. Friend the Minister agree that the French should have a chance to upgrade their silver medal at cricket, which they have held for the past 100 years, and that we should bring Twenty20 cricket into the Olympics?

Hugh Robertson: That campaign is often run mainly by Australians—or used to be, until they slipped down the test rankings. Personally, I think it is important that for any sport trying to join the Olympic mix it should be the height of an athlete’s career to win a gold medal. I think that that is the case for rugby sevens, but I would need persuading that the height of an international cricketer’s career would be to win an Olympic gold medal, rather than an International Cricket Council world cup.

Jim McGovern (Dundee West) (Lab): It has been brought to my attention that one of Britain’s greatest ever Olympians, Dick McTaggart, who was born and brought up just down the road from me in Dundee, who won a boxing gold medal in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and a bronze medal in Rome in 1960, and who also competed in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, has been told that if he wishes to attend the London Olympics he should put his name in a lottery, and that if he is lucky enough to have his name drawn out, he could buy a ticket for £250—and that might not even be for boxing; it might be for synchronised swimming. Will the Minister use his good offices to ensure that Mr McTaggart is invited as a VIP guest to the London Olympics?

Hugh Robertson: I am not sure how Mr McTaggart has managed to get himself into that situation. There are two things he ought to do almost straightaway. First, he should go to the national governing body for boxing in Great Britain, whose president is the former Sports Minister—that would be a very good start. If that fails, however, he should approach the Olympians organisation run by the British Olympic Association, which exists precisely to ensure that former members of the Olympic family can attend events.

Topical Questions

T1. [111317] Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

The Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (Mr Jeremy Hunt): With permission, I would like to make a statement, as these are the last Culture, Media and Sport questions before the London 2012 games.

I would like to take this opportunity to express the Government’s thanks to everyone involved in the organisation of this tremendous project and, on behalf of the whole House, to wish Team GB the very best of luck in getting a record haul of medals this summer. With 43 days to go until the opening ceremony, the project is in a strong position. We have shown beyond

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doubt that Britain can deliver big construction projects on time and to budget, and yesterday my hon. Friend the Minister for Sport and the Olympics announced that there was still nearly £500 million in the contingency fund. We can also be proud of the legacy that the games will leave, including the transformation of east London, the regeneration of our tourism industry and thousands more children taking part in Olympic sport through the school games. Some 2.7 million people have already lined the streets to see the torch, but we can be confident that the best is yet to come.

Ian Lucas: Freeview has been a hugely successful way of delivering free-to-air digital television services, but its future is threatened by the upcoming 4G auction. Will the Minister look at the £180 million that the Government have set aside to assist those whose signal is affected, even though Sky will not like it?

Mr Hunt: I am a Freeview subscriber, or customer, myself. We have put in place a comprehensive programme, but Ofcom is now consulting on whether it is adequate, and we will listen carefully to any advice we receive from it.

T2. [111318] Eric Ollerenshaw (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Con): Following on from the questions about superfast broadband, I wonder whether my right hon. Friend would be prepared to meet the Broadband for the Rural North community group in my constituency or visit the Lancashire uplands, taste the air there and see what extra we can do to maintain the momentum of this vital project.

Mr Hunt: We would be delighted to provide support in any way we can, and certainly I or the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey), would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend and his constituents.

Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab): Last year, the Secretary of State promised a Green Paper to set out his strategy for the creative and technology industries. These industries are vital for the future of the British economy, and it is his job to back them up. Last week, the Green Paper was scrapped, and after a whole year of consultation and anticipation, there is now disarray. Is that because it has been vetoed by Google, or is he a lame duck Secretary of State who cannot stand up for the industry?

Mr Hunt: I am incredibly proud of our progress on the creative industries in the past two years, including through tax credits for the video games industry, the animation industry and high-end television production, and through putting in place plans for the best superfast broadband network in Europe. That is vastly more than anything that the right hon. and learned Lady’s Government achieved. We will continue with the legislative programme to ensure that Parliament passes a communications Bill before the end of the Session to give our creative and digital industries the best possible competitive future.

T4. [111321] Andrea Leadsom (South Northamptonshire) (Con): Many parents across the country are very concerned about the content of sex and relationships

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educational videos that are being shown to children as young as six and which have had no external rating whatever—in fact, they are being sold for profit by organisations. Will the Minister consider requiring the rating of such videos by the British Board of Film Classification?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (Mr Edward Vaizey): I certainly share my hon. Friend’s concerns. As a result of the point she has made, I will arrange to meet the British Board of Film Classification to discuss the issue, and she would be welcome to attend.

T3. [111320] Anas Sarwar (Glasgow Central) (Lab): Alex Salmond told the Leveson inquiry yesterday that he secretly backed the BSkyB bid because of the positive effect it would have on employment in Scotland, yet at the same time his now Employment Minister was signing a motion against the bid, while his MPs in Westminster were also voting against it. Can the Secretary of State tell us whether News Corp gave any indication of what the implications of the bid would be for employment in Scotland?

Mr Hunt: I do not recall hearing any such implications myself.

T5. [111322] Karen Lumley (Redditch) (Con): With the entire country getting into the Olympic spirit thanks to the torch relay, which passes through Redditch in a couple of weeks, will my hon. Friend look into the fact that no local residents from Redditch will be carrying the torch?

The Minister for Sport and the Olympics (Hugh Robertson): The best answer to that would be for my hon. Friend to take the issue up with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, which is responsible for nominating people. She should just be aware that a number of people have been nominated by the sponsors. However, places have gone to local people, so she may find them hidden in the sponsors’ allocations.

T7. [111324] Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): Earlier, the Secretary of State said in reply to one of my hon. Friends that there was no money left to expand broadband when he came into office. Where did he get the money, then?

Mr Hunt: By extremely clever use of resources, by agreeing a licence fee settlement with the BBC in record time, which allowed that investment to made, and by setting up a structure in which local authorities were willing to match fund money put in by the centre.

T6. [111323] Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con): Further to the answer given to the hon. Member for Wrexham (Ian Lucas) about the cost to households receiving free-to-view television and the impact of 4G broadband, will the Secretary of State look again at helping householders with the cost of installing professional filters to deal with the problem?

Mr Hunt: That is precisely what we are currently looking at. There is a consultation under way and we are looking at the problem carefully. We take it very

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seriously and welcome any representations made by my hon. Friend or any other Members to ensure that we get this right.

John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab): Has the Secretary of State found time to explain the ministerial code of conduct to his new special adviser, and if so, when?

Mr Hunt: The hon. Gentleman can be sure that I will be finding plenty of time to explain the ministerial code in a great deal of detail to my new special adviser.

T9. [111326] Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con): Will the Minister join me in congratulating the Olympic silver and gold medallists Ann Brightwell—formerly Ann Packer—and her husband, Councillor Robbie Brightwell, on the impressive array of sporting activities, involving all ages, that they are inspiring under the banner of Team Congleton? Does he agree that just that kind of local leadership is key to achieving the lasting Olympic legacy of increased sports participation of all ages?

Hugh Robertson: I would be very happy to do that. Will my hon. Friend please send my congratulations to them both?

Julie Hilling (Bolton West) (Lab): Two weeks ago, we had the honour of welcoming the Olympic torch to Bolton West. It was a wonderful event and the community turned out in force. However, I have been concerned to hear rumours and press reports that some of the community champions selected to carry the torch have been replaced by people who have paid to carry it. Does the Minister know whether those rumours are true, and will he be investigating?

Hugh Robertson: I have seen absolutely no evidence that that is the case. The majority of torch bearers are nominated by LOCOG, which has specifically gone out looking for community champions with the sponsors, which is where quite a lot of the controversy lies. LOCOG also wrote to the sponsors, discouraging them from allowing executives to run with the torch and encouraging them to find as many local champions as possible.

Mr Don Foster (Bath) (LD): Will lottery good causes be among the beneficiaries of any underspend in the Olympic budget?

Hugh Robertson: I think the key thing is to deliver the underspend first; then we will work out how to spend it.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): Following the question from the right hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster), can the Minister guarantee and assure the charities and good causes that have lost out to the Olympics that they will get the contingency underspend? Surely they deserve it, and it should not go back to the black hole of the Treasury.

Hugh Robertson: Under an agreement concluded by the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell), as soon as the land sales are completed on the park, the lottery will be repaid; indeed, that memorandum of understanding was improved when

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the transfer was made from the old Olympic Park Legacy Company to the new London Legacy Development Corporation. As I say, I do not want to get into discussions about how we might spend a putative underspend until we have actually delivered it. The key thing is to make sure we deliver these games on time and substantially under budget.

Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford) (Con): The Sports Minister will be aware that one of the factors in keeping girls involved in sport is the distinct lack of coverage in our national and local newspapers. Will he consider holding a round-table discussion with national and local media organisations to address that issue in the long term?

Hugh Robertson: One of the joys of my job is that I end up having round-table discussions with the media on a pretty regular basis—we did five hours of it yesterday. The great thing provided by the Olympics, above almost any other sports event I can think of, is the opportunity to promote the equality of sport. In Team GB, some of the most exciting prospects are our female sportswomen. I wish them all the very best and hope that they will drive the sort of improvement that my hon. Friend seeks.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): Does the Secretary of State accept that a reduction in VAT for hotel accommodation and tourist attractions would deliver a huge boost to jobs and tourism in places such as Brighton and Hove, would bring us into line with the rest of the EU, most of which has much lower VAT on hotels and visitor attractions, and would deliver a net benefit to the Treasury? What’s not to like?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (John Penrose): The industry is making this case very strongly to the Treasury and it is clearly an issue for the Treasury to respond to. What is causing problems at the moment is that the industry is promising higher returns, as the hon. Lady rightly points out, but the Treasury gets an awful lot of such promises from a whole variety of different parts of the economy and it would need some positive proof before it would be willing to engage on such an issue.

Leader of the House

The Leader of the House was asked—

House of Commons Reform

2. Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): What progress he has made on the implementation of the Wright proposals on House of Commons reform in the last 12 months. [111329]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of the Leader of the House of Commons (Mr David Heath): This Government have successfully implemented recommendations to introduce elections to Select Committee membership, established a Backbench Business Committee and, within the last 12 months, introduced an e-petition system to achieve a greater degree of public participation. The

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majority of the remaining recommendations of the Wright Committee are a matter for the House rather than the Government.

Paul Flynn: Can we improve the choreography of the parliamentary week by doing what the Wright proposals suggested—moving Prime Minister’s Question Time to Thursdays, allowing Wednesdays to be used for the increasingly important Back-Bench business debates?

Mr Heath: As the hon. Gentleman probably knows, the Procedure Committee is now completing and in the very late stages of production of a report on the parliamentary calendar. We would prefer to wait and see what suggestions the Procedure Committee makes rather than taking a unilateral view on what is best for the House.

Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con): What is the Government’s analysis of the effect of adopting the recommendations in the Wright Committee report? I understand that the creation of the Backbench Business Committee was blocked by the previous Government.

Mr Heath: It was indeed; there was no progress whatever under the previous Government on this matter. I am very proud of the fact that we moved quickly to establish the Backbench Business Committee. Speaking personally, I think it has been a great success. It is something that the House should have done some time ago. I look forward to building on it in the years to come, and I look forward to the review of the Backbench Business Committee’s work, which will give us an indication of how the House views its performance more widely.

Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab): The Wright proposals are about increasing ministerial accountability to this House, but there have been too many examples recently of Ministers preferring to do anything other than appear at the Dispatch Box to make statements on their own responsibilities or face departmental questions. This is a huge discourtesy not only to you, Mr Speaker, but to Parliament. To tackle this, might the Leader of the House consider introducing a penalty points system—or, with a reshuffle on the way, a “three strikes and you’re out” rule?

Mr Heath: That was what might be considered a bold attempt to transfer the answer for Question 1 that the hon. Lady had prepared to Question 2. I do not think that the Wright Committee was in any way concerned with the subject to which she referred. As she has raised the issue, however, let me remind her that the present Government have, on average, made more statements than their predecessors. We made 191 in the last Session, an average of 0.7 per sitting day, which compares favourably with the last Administration’s average of 0.4 per sitting day during the 2009-10 Session. We did almost twice as well as they did.


3. James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con): What progress he has made on implementing the recommendations of the Procedure Committee on debates on e-petitions. [111330]

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The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of the Leader of the House of Commons (Mr David Heath): Following the Procedure Committee’s report, we have updated and improved the e-petitions website. We have improved, for instance, the wording of the site and the search and submission functions, making the process easier and clearer for the more than 3 million people who have signed an e-petition since August last year.

James Morris: Does the Deputy Leader of the House agree that one solution to the problem of debating e-petitions would be for the Government to table a motion allowing Westminster Hall sittings on Monday afternoons during which e-petition topics could be debated?

Mr Heath: We are very sympathetic to that view. In fact, we said in our response to the Procedure Committee’s report that we supported its proposals for a pilot. It is for the Procedure Committee to present such proposals in Back-Bench time, but we are working well with the Committee to enable the House to reach what I hope will be a swift decision.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): I think that the Deputy Leader of the House will accept that our old friend Tony Wright, who was responsible for the recommendations of the Public Administration Committee, would want the House continually to evaluate the way in which their implementation is working. There is no doubt about the success of the Backbench Business Committee, but e-petitions seem to have been taken over by elements of the popular press such as The Sun and the Daily Mail. How are we going to react to that? It is not the way in which the system was intended to work.

Mr Heath: The hon. Gentleman has raised an important point. This was never intended to be simply a cut-out-and-send-back element in a tabloid newspaper’s campaign, but there is no evidence that all e-petitions are of that type: in many cases, they constitute a genuine expression of public sentiment on a subject. Besides, we have the filter of the Backbench Business Committee, which considers whether the House has already debated the issue in question, or will have an opportunity to do so in the near future. When the Committee considers it right for a debate to take place, it will stage one, and I think that it is doing a very good job in that regard. However, we are constantly evaluating what has happened, and we are keen to learn from the experience in order to make the arrangement even better.

Legislative Programme

4. John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): What recent discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues on scheduling of business to achieve the Government's legislative programme. [111331]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of the Leader of the House of Commons (Mr David Heath): My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House regularly meets colleagues in Government to discuss the legislative programme in order to ensure that Parliament has an opportunity to debate Government legislation fully.

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John Mann: There is no problem with debating Government legislation fully, because the Government have hardly any legislation to introduce in this increasingly part-time Parliament. Given that they have no ideas to present, will the Leader of the House make better provision for Back Benchers, including me, who have a whole raft of Bills to introduce which the public would like to see implemented? Will he give us time in which to introduce them, or not?

Mr Heath: We are seeing an interesting juxtaposition. Our Department is so often criticised for providing insufficient time for Members to consider legislation properly, and now the hon. Gentleman is saying that there is too much time for them to do so. I remind him that, only a few weeks after the Queen’s Speech, 11 Bills are already before Parliament. I entirely reject his criticism that there is any deficit in terms of the legislation that is before the House.

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con): I understand that during the last Parliament there was criticism of the amount of time given over to scrutiny of legislation. This Government are remedying that. Can the Deputy Leader of the House confirm that this Government will always give appropriate time for scrutiny of legislation on Report?

Mr Heath: That is absolutely right, and I was one of those who led the criticism of the previous Government, as so often we found that the time for scrutiny was constrained. One of the key areas is Report stage. We have been very careful to allocate more time for that—very often more than one day—to enable Back-Bench Members to have their say. There is a quid pro quo, however: when we do provide more time, it is important that the House uses that time in a sensible way and makes sure that matters that need to be discussed are discussed in a timely fashion.

Private Members’ Bills

5. Mr David Hamilton (Midlothian) (Lab): Whether he has any plans to bring forward proposals to reform the scrutiny of private Members’ Bills. [111332]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of the Leader of the House of Commons (Mr David Heath): I understand that the Procedure Committee has today announced that it will be conducting an inquiry into the procedures for consideration of private Members’ Bills and that it will put out a call for written evidence soon. I look forward to learning of its considerations and any recommendations it may put to the House.

Mr Hamilton: Will the Deputy Leader of the House address the fact that we currently have an archaic system, and will he give due consideration to the private Members’ Bills issue? If we change our hours, such Bills could be introduced on a Tuesday or Wednesday night, with votes at the end of the debate. We must get rid of our current archaic system, whereby the awkward squad on the Government Back Benches can talk out very good Bills introduced by Members on both sides of the House.

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Mr Heath: The hon. Gentleman has probably given the subject headings for the submissions he will put to the Procedure Committee. It is not for me to determine the outcome of this inquiry, but I look forward to hearing what the Committee has to say, because all of us have felt for some time that the matter is worth looking into.

Mr Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): Is the Deputy Leader of the House aware that the Procedure Committee would be delighted if the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr Hamilton) were to come along and give evidence to us? He is hereby invited to do so.

Mr Heath: I am happy to act as a conduit for that invitation, and I hope it will be accepted.

House Business Committee

6. Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): What progress he has made on introducing a House business committee. [111333]

The Leader of the House of Commons (Sir George Young): As I said in my answer to my hon. Friend on 19 April, we plan to honour our commitment in the programme for Government to establish a House business committee by the third year of this Parliament.

Mr Bone: By decentralising power and reforming Parliament, we can redistribute power away from an over-mighty Executive. The House of Commons should have power “over its own timetable.” Those are not my words; they are the words of the Prime Minister. Why is the Leader of the House dragging his feet? Surely he should be supporting our wonderful Prime Minister.

Sir George Young: We have not dragged our feet. As my ministerial colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr Heath), has just explained, at the first possible opportunity in this Parliament we introduced a Backbench Business Committee, which had been obstructed by the previous Administration, and we also made a commitment, which Labour never made, to introduce a House business committee by the third year. As I said in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) in April, we propose to honour that commitment, and I reject his suggestion that we have dragged our feet.

Natascha Engel (North East Derbyshire) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House guarantee that any House business committee will be entirely separate from the Backbench Business Committee?

Sir George Young: I am very happy to give the hon. Lady the assurance she seeks. We plan to keep the Backbench Business Committee in its current form. The committee to which my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough referred would look at Government business, and the two would work in parallel; the second would not displace the first.

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): May we have a guarantee that when the House business committee is set up there will be full and proper representation of

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the smaller parties in this House, and that those Members will be able to participate fully?

Sir George Young: I understand the concern the right hon. Gentleman expresses, and it is a concern that he also expressed when we set up the Backbench Business Committee. When the relevant proposals come forward, there will be an opportunity to take on board the representation he has just made.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): So far, the Wright Committee proposals have been a disaster for the smaller parties—fewer places for us on Select Committees; exclusion from the Backbench Business Committee. We need an absolute guarantee that, this time around, there will be representatives of the smaller parties on the House business committee.

Sir George Young: The harsh reality is that the hon. Gentleman represents a minority party. He will know that the way in which Select Committees are composed represents the balance in the House, and a Select Committee would have to be very big indeed for him to have a place as of right. We have recently changed the rules for the Backbench Business Committee to give access to him which he did not have before. As I said in reply to an earlier question, we will look in the round at the proposals for a House business committee when the opportunity presents itself.

House of Commons Commission

The hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, representing the House of Commons Commission, was asked—


7. Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): What proposals the Commission has to make it easier for hon. Members and staff to cycle to the parliamentary estate. [111334]

John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross): The House actively encourages cycling to work: officials work closely with the bicycle user group to review facilities for cyclists; a scheme is in hand to increase the number of bicycle parking spaces from about 250 to about 350; the House supported and enabled the establishment of the Barclays cycle hire station at Abingdon Green; a Dr Bike free maintenance check is available, as

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are facilities such as showers, lockers, bicycle tools and pumps—more showers will be provided this autumn; and, finally, there is a loan scheme for staff which can be used to buy cycles and safety equipment, and a cycle to work salary sacrifice scheme for staff is being implemented.

Mr Speaker: I have no idea what more there could be to ask, but I have a feeling that the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) will have an idea.

Dr Huppert: I thank my hon. Friend for that list. It is good to see that the House is taking some steps towards promoting cycling to work here, but more could be done to ensure that cycle parking is covered, that bikes are available for hon. Members and staff to borrow for short trips around central London, that cycle training is available for those Members who do not know how to ride a bike and would like to learn, and that people no longer need a pass to exit this place by bike.

John Thurso: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his lengthy but good list of aspirations. I know that he is a highly committed co-chair of the all-party group on cycling and was a leading member on the parliamentary bike run last Tuesday. I am sure that the members of the Commission and the management board, and the director general responsible, will have listened attentively to his requests and will do everything possible to implement them.

Thomas Docherty (Dunfermline and West Fife) (Lab): Does the Commission believe that closing the road outside the Houses of Parliament would greatly assist in trying to promote cycling?

John Thurso: It is a subject on which the Commission has not yet deliberated but, as the hon. Gentleman has raised it, I am sure that the Commission now will.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Speaker: Order. I am sorry to disappoint hon. Members; normally, I try to get through the whole list, but there is considerable pressure on time today, so we will move on to the urgent question from Amber Rudd. Just before she takes to her feet, I should just explain that this absolutely will not run any longer than midday and it could run for a lesser time—we shall see. There is heavy pressure on time, this is important and we will now hear from Amber Rudd.

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Fish Discards

11.32 am

Amber Rudd (Hastings and Rye) (Con) (Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State if she will make a statement about the decision on fish discards arrived at this week in the European Council meeting of Fisheries Ministers.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Richard Benyon): I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for asking this question, as it gives me the opportunity to run through some of what we achieved in the small hours of the morning in Luxembourg. On 12-13 June, I represented the UK at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Luxembourg to discuss the reform of the common fisheries policy. This was a critical negotiation where I was asked to give my agreement on key elements of this once-in-a-decade opportunity to reform the broken CFP, through agreement of a “General Approach” text. My aim has all along been to combine radical political ambition with a strong focus on the practical means to ensure early delivery. I am pleased to report to the House that we secured agreement to key planks of the reform we are seeking. This includes some key demands that I know the House has sought previously, and that remain hugely important to the British public.

We successfully made the case for measures to progressively eliminate discards, with deadlines that kick in quickly after the conclusion of the reform. The text provides for a landing obligation in pelagic fisheries from 2014, and a staged implementation in our other fisheries between 2015 and 2018. Although not all member states shared our ambition for urgent action, a commitment to implement a landing obligation, with a provisional timetable, is a major step in the right direction.

We also secured the inclusion of provisions setting out a genuine regionalised process to replace the centralised one-size-fits-all approach. The UK has led work with other member states over the last year to find solutions to that. The provisions allow us to work together regionally—for example with other North sea member states, to agree the measures appropriate to our fisheries. That is a crucial start in moving decision making closer to fisheries.

As for my other top priority, we secured a responsible approach to setting fishing levels. Overfishing has been a central failing of the CFP, and the UK was adamant that the text should include a clear legal commitment, and deadlines for that, to achieve maximum sustainable yield in line with our international commitments. Through the discussions in Council, the UK has played a leading role in developing solutions and building alliances with other member states to shape the text we agreed in the early hours of yesterday.

This is not the end of the process. The Council of Ministers has now given a clear steer but the dossier will be co-decided with the European Parliament, so we will continue to work with others to improve the legal provisions and we will also guard against any weakening of the approach. This is a major step towards real reform on a long and difficult road and I do not expect these negotiations to conclude until well into 2013.

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Amber Rudd: I thank the Minister for that answer. This achievement on a discard ban is a welcome step forward. Fish discards are recognised universally as obscene and unacceptable and I want to press the Minister, if possible, on certain elements of the subject. What are his views on slippage in the timetable, on the plans for implementation and on the consequences of the agreement for our fishing communities?

What confidence does the Minister have in the timetable? It has already slipped from the original proposals, so will 2018 not be considered by some as the marine equivalent of the long grass? The industry is willing to move towards the ban, but what support will it get for the change in gears and working methods that will be needed to meet the requirements? Everyone can and will welcome the commitment, but what structure will be put in place to help delivery of the outcome while working within a quota system?

As the Minister will know, the problem of discards cannot be wished away without the means being provided. What are those means to be? Maximum sustainable yield is at least as important as the discards announcement and there is universal recognition that stock levels need to improve following years of overfishing. The statement says that maximum sustainable yield should be achieved “where possible” by 2015; what confidence does the Minister have in the phrase “where possible”? As the level of available scientific data is ever increasing, does the Minister agree that that adds weight to the target and, one would hope, momentum towards achieving it by 2015?

I particularly welcome the regionalised approach set out in the announcement. The previous one-size-fits-all approach of the common fisheries policy has failed. Mesh sizes in Hastings were decided in Brussels, which was absolutely absurd. Will the Minister tell us how he expects those welcome changes to impact on the everyday ability of the small fishing fleets up and down the country to carry on fishing? I know that he is acutely aware of the need for a fairer allocation of quota to support the smaller fishing communities. Can he tell us whether the proposed regionalisation addressed by the Fisheries Council will lead to a brighter future for the fishermen of Britain?

Richard Benyon: My hon. Friend is right to raise the question of the timings of any discard or land-all obligation. There is no doubt that the United Kingdom’s ambitions were greater than some of the dates in the proposal. They are only proposed dates, but I can assure her that they are considerably better than some of the dates being discussed in the wee small hours, which could definitely, and quite rightly, be construed as slippage or kicking the issue into the long grass.

Let us look closely at the dates. Unfortunately, the reform will not be in place until the end of 2013, but from 1 January 2014 there will be implementation of a discard ban on herring, mackerel and other pelagic stocks. The year 2015 will see the emergence of white fish land-all obligations, so we will be well ahead with many stocks in many fisheries ahead of the 2016 date, which was seen by many as the measure. However, some will not come in until 2018, as my hon. Friend says. Many of the fishermen in her constituency and elsewhere dislike the top-down management of fisheries for a variety of reasons, but often because of the controls

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that are imposed, such as catch composition measures and effort controls. A lot of those are incompatible with discards, so we have secured in the text a commitment to remove those where possible. I look forward to working through the detail of that.

On maximum sustainable yield, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. There is the international obligation to fish to MSY by 2015 where possible. The difference now is that we are proposing that what was a political statement should be a legal requirement. That is a major step forward. On the regionalised approach, it has to be said that when we were starting this reform process, the UK was a lone voice in calling for an end to the top-down management of fisheries. We now have allies and have got that into the text, which is a major achievement. Let us look at what this means for the small, inshore fleets. Like all fishermen, what they want most of all are more fish to catch. Fishing to MSY will mean that fish stocks will recover faster and better, so there will be more fish in the sea for such fleets to exploit. They will also see an end to the system that my hon. Friend described in which eliminator panels sit in a particular net and mesh sizes are decided perhaps hundreds or thousands of miles away from the seas in which those fishermen fish. This is a major step forward. There is much more work to be done and I assure her that it will not be through any lack of effort if we do not get precisely what we want in the text.

Mr Tom Harris (Glasgow South) (Lab): May I begin by saying how disappointed I am that this important issue is being dealt with through an urgent question rather than a formal statement by the Government?

There are elements of this agreement that will be welcomed on this side of the House and throughout the country, chief among them being the agreement in principle on a ban on the shameful practice of discards. However, any deadlines that were discussed were vague and did not feature explicitly in the final agreement. Why was this? Can the Minister tell the House if Tuesday’s meeting ended with a comprehensive vote including all participating members? A commitment without a deadline is no commitment at all. Without a legally enforceable deadline, what assurances can the Government give that the practice of discards will indeed end in the time scale he envisages? The Minister told The Guardian on Monday that as he entered negotiations in Luxembourg, the Government had

“still not fully worked out its position”

regarding a deadline. That is an extraordinary approach to negotiations. Does the Minister really believe that to achieve the best outcome from negotiations we should announce in advance that we have no position—that we have not made mind up our mind about what we want?

On the regionalisation of fisheries policy, will the Minister explain what practical differences will be made to the common fisheries policy that will represent an improvement on the previous one? The big disappointment is the potentially devastating delay until 2020 of a commitment to reach sustainable levels of fishing stock, which will mean another eight years of guaranteed overfishing. Tragically, once again politics has trumped science. Does the Minister agree that a failure to rebuild fish stocks more quickly will damage the UK fishing industry, particularly inshore fleets at the low-impact, sustainable end of the industry?

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Finally, what measures will the Government put in place to make sure that smaller inshore fishermen and their communities receive a fairer distribution of quotas? The House will give the Minister one cheer for his efforts this week, but the future of our fishing industry and the recovery of our fish stocks are too important to sacrifice to yet another Euro-fudge.

Richard Benyon: Let me start by formally welcoming the hon. Gentleman to his position. I look forward to working with him in the coming months on these important issues. He asked about the dates in terms of a discard ban. I should state quite clearly that when I was asked by The Guardian on Monday morning whether I would share the dates I was taking to the negotiations, I had very clear dates in my head, but we have a protocol—a courtesy—that we agree the UK line with all devolved Governments. I was very grateful to have the support of all the devolved Governments in Luxembourg. We had a very good spirit in the UK delegation room—we work well together. We agreed that UK line very clearly and we stuck to it.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether there was a vote in the plenary meeting of the Council of Ministers. At the end, the Danish presidency, which has been superb throughout—it is a great ally of the British programme, and has led very well—asked people to register any opposition to the proposal. One or two small countries did so, and one or two slightly large countries did so too. We should be under no illusion: there are people who do not want the policy to be reformed, and do not support the United Kingdom’s ambitions on discards, regionalisation and moving to sustainable fisheries. It is up to our colleagues from all parties in the European Parliament to make sure that a robust position is maintained and that the Council of Ministers continues to push on the deadlines that we have asked for.

The hon. Gentleman asked what the measure means for a regionalised approach. I am really pleased that the United Kingdom position has been adopted, and we pushed right through to the end to make sure that if a group of countries fishing in a sea basin decides on the details of measures that are currently decided in the Commission but which will in future be decided in those regionalised groups, the Commission can then implement that. In the original text, there was a clear indication that other measures could be imposed by the Commission in that process. We want to make sure that where countries agree, we have a truly regionalised position—a truly bottom-up system of managing our fisheries—and I think that will be welcomed.

The hon. Gentleman is wrong about our dates on maximum sustainable yield. We want to stick to our Johannesburg commitment, which was a political commitment, and make it a legal commitment so that we fish to MSY by 2015 where possible. He accepts that the science is not always clear, but we want to hold ourselves to account as much as possible. He asks about a fairer distribution among different sectors of the industry. He knows—if he does not, he should—that I have been working extremely hard on this. I want to make sure that we keep all those small ports and creeks that support the local fishing industry in business. There is a social dimension to the management of the industry. We have to maintain the diversity of the fleet, which is not easy, but it is a clear priority for the Government. I hope that he, like his predecessors, will continue to support that.

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Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Speaker: Order. If I am to accommodate colleagues, I need short questions and short answers.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on what he has delivered and the progress that was made, particularly on regionalisation, which is music to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s ears. Will he update the House on the question of a register for UK fishermen so that we can tackle the problem of slipper skippers, which will also help with discards? Will he confirm that it will be fish caught against quota on which we will proceed, not just fish landed, as that is one of the main issues with discards? Will he confirm that there will be support for fishermen to invest in the selective gear that has been successful in Denmark and Sweden?

Richard Benyon: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her support. It is a priority quickly to overcome the absurd position that we do not know who holds quota in this country. We want to work with devolved Governments to make sure that we have that register as quickly possible to ensure that we know and perhaps to slay some of the urban myths that football clubs and celebrities own quota. I have never managed to find out the facts about this.

The important point on discards is that we know how to make this work. We begin with a really good experience of working with the fishing industry. Catch quota schemes will result in 0.2% of discards of cod for vessels in those schemes. We want to incentivise fishermen not to catch fish that they would otherwise discard. We want to make sure, too, that where there is a land-all obligation there are supply chains that ensure that those fish are eaten or go into other systems. We should not just transfer a problem out at sea to landfill. The most important thing is that we have time and a clear direction to ensure that we can use all the work that we have done with the industry to make this effective and to stop the problem in a practical sense.

Mr Frank Doran (Aberdeen North) (Lab): It is important to welcome the progress that has been made in the Fisheries Council and congratulate the Minister on the effort he has put in, but does he agree that the discards situation is complex, particularly in the mixed and white fisheries in the North sea—the situation is much easier to resolve in pelagic fisheries—and that we will not resolve the problem through European rules? We need practical regional measures, as has been shown in the Scottish prawn fisheries, where these practical approaches have managed to reduce discards by over 70%.

Richard Benyon: I entirely agree that there are fantastic practices in British waters that we want to see as part of the scheme and that it is not just a question of having a big-bang end to the practice. We want to use existing evidence and to work with the industry. I know that we can achieve that and look forward to working with the hon. Gentleman’s all-party parliamentary group on that.

Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): As a former Fisheries Minister, I congratulate my hon. Friend on what he has achieved. People have been trying for decades to get the

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sorts of reforms he has achieved, and had it not been for his leadership and that of the UK Government we would not have got where we are. The issue of discards is of considerable interest to large numbers of my constituents, many of whom have written to me about it. It is quite a complex matter, so will my hon. Friend consider sending a “Dear colleague” letter about discards to all Members of the House so that we can forward it to our constituents?

Richard Benyon: I am very keen to involve all Members of the House. My hon. Friend, like me, represents a constituency that is almost as far from the sea as it is possible to be, but we get letters from constituents who are massively concerned about the marine environment. I want to ensure that we keep up the political momentum on this and so want to work with Members on both sides of the House to ensure that we keep up the pressure and are effective through all the institutions that are involved so that ultimately we get the result we need.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): The Minister will recall that I have called a number of times for the abolition of the common fisheries policy and the restoration of historic fishing waters to member states. I still believe that that is the only final solution that will work, but in the short term we have inched forward. Will he explain how the system will be policed, whether there will be penalties, precisely what will happen to the excess catches and whether Britain will be monitoring, and indeed policing, rogue vessels from overseas that are fishing in British waters?

Richard Benyon: Britain has been policing illegal fishing, whether by UK or foreign vessels, and will continue to do so. I am pleased that we recently instigated a very heavy fine on an overseas vessel fishing in our waters. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I want to ensure that fisheries are managed as close to member states as possible. There are some good words in the text that allow member states to take action when it is right for them to do so. Subsidiarity is supposed to underpin a lot of European legislation, and I ask him to look at the provisions we secured on regionalisation. Whether or not we had a CFP, we would still have to work with other countries because we are talking about an ecosystem, fish that swim in our waters and those of other countries, and the historical fishing rights that go way back beyond the European Union, so I think we have a good message and that it is something he can be pleased with.

Andrew George (St Ives) (LD): I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend on the progress he has helped to secure in the negotiations. Does he agree that if the regional dimension of the common fisheries policy is to succeed it is critical that fishermen are engaged as key stakeholders in the management of those regions?

Richard Benyon: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is absolutely right. For too long fishermen have felt right at the bottom of the decision-making process, under layer upon layer of control. I hope that we can have a system that is simpler and closer to them. In December I sat up late into the night discussing with Commission officials where an eliminator panel should sit in a net that was to be used off the Shetlands. That

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is an absurd system. I hope that a more regionalised approach will mean that decisions are taken by fishermen and closer to where they fish.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): I, too, welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow South (Mr Harris) back to his rightful place on the Front Bench. The Minister said that he wanted particular dates for the implementation of the policy against these immoral discards. Did he achieve the dates he had in mind in the negotiations?

Richard Benyon: No, but I failed to achieve them only by about a year. We can argue and quibble, but the important thing is that we agreed a general approach. Had we not done so, we would have becalmed the whole reform of this broken policy, possibly for years, and sent a message to the European Parliament that the Council does not really think it is important, and those who believe the current system works would have won, which would have been a disaster.

Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall) (Con): As someone who sat up into the early hours of the morning listening to the negotiations, I really congratulate the Minister. Can he confirm that any discard ban will not prevent fishermen from Looe, Polperro and the Rame peninsula in my constituency from discarding seasonally prevalent fish, such as the red gurnard, that are not assessed as under pressure by the Marine Conservation Society?

Richard Benyon: I thank my hon. Friend, who is very knowledgeable about these issues. I do not know the details stock by stock, but what we want is an end to discards. There were proposals made in the negotiation process that, through de minimis levels that we considered much too high, would in effect have meant that there was not a discard ban. We must be clear about where we want to go, but we want to ensure that we work with fishermen in her constituency and elsewhere to achieve that.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I thank the Minister for his statement. With Diane Dodds, a colleague and Member of the European Parliament, I have been working on this issue for some time and therefore give it a cautious welcome. Does he accept that, in the spirit of the agreement, further effort, known as reductions, in the context of the cod recovery plan for the Irish sea, which affects Northern Ireland fishermen, will not be imposed in future?

Richard Benyon: One of the reforms we want as part of the process is a greater movement to multi-annual plans, which I like because they actually take power away from politicians. The horse trading that goes on in December is less possible when we have a good multi-annual plan. What the hon. Gentleman is talking about is a bad multi-annual plan, one that was not thought through properly, does not work and in many cases achieves the reverse of what was intended. I will work with him,

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Diane Dodds and anyone else to ensure that we get the right kind of multi-annual plans system within the reforms.

Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): I, too, congratulate the Minister, who has achieved a great deal on discards in his time in office. I think that the local management of fisheries and fishermen owning up to the way fish stocks are managed are essential. We have to ensure that cod discards, which are still going on in mixed fisheries off the south-west, are stopped as soon as possible.

Richard Benyon: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has been a hearty proponent of an end to the top-down management of fisheries and an enemy of discards both here and in the European Parliament, and I will continue to work on that. We should be very grateful to organisations such as Fish Fight for the part they played in exciting popular culture in support of what we are doing, but it is also worth paying tribute to the small groups of scientists, officials from DEFRA and other organisations that have been working to end discards and reform this policy for a long time.

Stephen Mosley (City of Chester) (Con): I give three cheers for this agreement, which represents a huge step in the right direction. However, given that some European countries, most notably France, remain opposed to some of its key elements, will the Minister ensure that he keeps up the pressure so that there is no slippage in the proposals?

Richard Benyon: I was pleased to welcome the new French Minister to the negotiations and very glad that I did not have to do what he did: ring his Prime Minister at 4.30 in the morning to get his authority to support the proposals. I can assure my hon. Friend that we work with every country that we feel can move this forward. It is really important that we do not just sit back because we have a general approach agreed; there is a lot more work to be done. I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s support.

Andrea Leadsom (South Northamptonshire) (Con): How miserable of the Opposition to refuse to applaud the remarkable progress made by my hon. Friend in an area of EU policy that has been calling out for reform for literally decades. Will he please tell us what the process is now for this to receive approval from the European Parliament and what his concerns about that might be?

Richard Benyon: We now enter a process of Kafkaesque complexity. The reforms will go to the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee in October, and we will then consider what it thinks of them. They will then go to the plenary session of the European Parliament. They will then be examined again by the institutions early next year through a trialogue process. We will then come forward with a reform, hopefully about this time next year, for implementation in January, which is in 18 months’ time.

Mr Speaker: I thank the Minister and colleagues.

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Business of the House

11.59 am

Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House give us the business for next week?

The Leader of the House of Commons (Sir George Young): The business for next week will include:

Monday 18 June—Consideration in Committee of the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill (day 1).

Tuesday 19 June—Debate on a motion relating to the application of article 8 of the European convention on human rights, followed by debate on a motion relating to financial services market abuse.

Wednesday 20 June—Opposition day [2nd allotted day]. There will be a debate on disability benefits and social care, followed by a further debate on a subject to be announced. Both debates will arise on an Opposition motion.

Thursday 21 June—Motion relating to the work of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, followed by a motion relating to the mis-selling of interest rate swap products to small businesses. The subjects of these debates have been nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.

Colleagues will wish to be reminded that the House will meet at 9.30 am on this day.

The provisional business for the week commencing 25 June will include:

Monday 25 June—Consideration in Committee of the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill (day 2).

Tuesday 26 June—Opposition day [3rd allotted day]. There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject to be announced.

Wednesday 27 June—Conclusion of consideration in Committee and remaining stages of the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill (day 3).

Thursday 28 June—Business to be nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.

I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 28 June will be a debate on social mobility.

Ms Eagle: I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week. We are all particularly looking forward to the visit next Thursday of Aung San Suu Kyi, which is the cause of the change in the start time.

This week the part-time Chancellor has been whingeing to a group of business leaders because they have not been publicly defending his decision to cut taxes for the richest 1%. This, in a week when we learn that FTSE 100 bosses have awarded themselves an extremely generous pay rise of 12% on average, with one in four pocketing staggering pay rises of 40% or more.

How do the Government respond? On Second Reading of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill on Monday, the Business Secretary announced that he is to water down proposals, which were already inadequate, to give shareholders binding votes on executive pay. Instead of encouraging business leaders to lobby for an even bigger

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deal for the richest 1%, does the Leader of the House not think that the Chancellor should clamp down on unwarranted and exorbitant rewards for those at the very top?

With the Chancellor disgracefully ducking his own statement on banking reform later today, how are we ever going to get him into this Chamber to explain what has happened to his abandoned slogan: “We’re all in this together”? We have also had an independent report this week on child poverty, which states that the previous, Labour Government cut child poverty at a pace and scale unmatched in any other industrial country. It reveals that measures that Labour introduced in government stopped almost 1 million children growing up in poverty, and it states also that measures introduced by this Government were both “unfair” and “short-sighted”.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies expects the number of children growing up in poverty to increase by 600,000 over the next two years, but the Government’s response is to try to redefine poverty, not to deal with the problem. There we have it: a Government who cut taxes for the richest and make the poor poorer while trying to cover it up. Will the Leader of the House finally find time for a debate on fairness? The Chancellor in his Budget made the wrong decision, and he also chose the wrong economic strategy. Britain is in a double-dip recession made in Downing street. Next week the G20 is meeting in Mexico, and this is an opportunity for the Government finally to come up with a plan B, but I fear that Ministers will have trouble even making it to the G20 given that they are constantly U-turning. A holding pattern over Heathrow seems like a more realistic ministerial destination than Mexico.

The Chancellor made good use of the recess to perform mass U-turns on his omnishambles of a Budget, and I now understand why there are so many recesses at the moment: the Government have built time into the parliamentary calendar to allow Ministers to slip out all their U-turns when the House is not sitting. Does the Leader of the House agree that Ministers should have the guts to come to the House to announce their U-turns?

House building is down, homelessness is up, rough sleeping is up and young people find it impossible to get on the housing ladder. What is the response of the Minister for Housing and Local Government? He spends his time spinning figures that are palpable nonsense. In what parallel universe can the Minister for Housing and Local Government describe a year-on-year drop of 68% in the number of affordable housing starts as an “impressive” and “dramatic” increase? He claimed that there was a “net loss” of 45,000 homes between 1997 and 2010, before deciding that that figure was not sufficiently dramatic and press-releasing that we ended up with 200,000 fewer homes.

In fact, the Government’s own statistics show that by May 2010, when compared with May 1997, there were an additional 2 million homes in England. Will the Leader of the House therefore arrange for the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to make a statement explaining the antics of the Housing Minister as well as his flawed understanding of simple mathematics?

The pay of FTSE 100 bosses is spiralling out of control, the number of children growing up in poverty is increasing, house building is down and homelessness is up. What we need from the Prime Minister and this

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Government are less PR and more delivery. To date, it is a pretty sorry record from an out-of-touch and incompetent Government.

Sir George Young: I begin on a consensual note and agree with what the hon. Lady said about next Thursday, when we welcome Aung San Suu Kyi in Westminster Hall.

“Part-time Chancellor”, the hon. Lady says, which is all very well coming from a shadow Leader of the House who a few weeks ago assumed new responsibilities for heading up her party’s policy unit. I hope that she is not going to be a part-time shadow Leader of the House.

On executive pay, the previous Government had 13 years but did absolutely nothing about it. Since January we have been consulting on the most comprehensive reform of governance on directors’ pay, and greater transparency on what executives are paid; strengthening shareholder rights by legislating so that they can hold companies to account; and calling on responsible business and investors to promote good practice. We will announce the final package shortly and do in two-and-a-half years something that Labour wholly failed to do in 13.

On child poverty, the previous Government’s target was to halve it by 2010. They failed. Although relative child poverty numbers fell over the past year, children were no better off in real terms, as it was largely due to a reduction in median incomes. Absolute poverty also did not change, so there are some perverse incentives in the current system, given that, perversely, in a recession it seems that poverty statistics are getting better. That is why we are consulting on a better range for measuring child poverty, something that looks at the causes as well as the monetary measures. In a report it will be announced that the Government intend to consult in the autumn on new, better measurements of child poverty, and when we introduce universal credits that will lift hundreds of thousands of children and families out of poverty.

The hon. Lady asks for a debate about fairness. I have announced a number of Opposition days, so she is perfectly welcome to choose fairness as the subject of one of them. Indeed, she might have chosen fairness for the debate yesterday; it would have been far better than the one that we had.

As for the sittings of the House, we are now sitting in September, which we did not do at all during the previous Parliament, and sitting like-for-like for more days than the previous Parliament.

As for housing, under the previous Government house building starts fell to the lowest level in peacetime since the 1920s. The hon. Lady asked what we were planning to do. We have plans for 170,000 affordable homes during the current spending review. We have reformed the planning system and we are making more public land available to house builders. We are taking a range of steps to assist the housing market.

Apparently, we do not deal with our problems in the same way as the Opposition. This morning we discovered an interesting new technique for establishing party discipline from a prominent Labour blogger in the New Statesman, who wrote: “Challenge Labour and you’ll find a horse’s head on your pillow”. It is no wonder that one insider was quoted as saying:

“We’re all being terribly positive at the moment.”

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Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Speaker: Order. A great many right hon. and hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye. I remind the House that there is a statement on banking reform to follow, and then a very heavily subscribed debate on mental health under the auspices of the Backbench Business Committee. I am keen to accommodate as many colleagues as possible, but if I am to do so I require short questions and short answers.

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): At this time of year, local groups such as New Forest’s Normandy Veterans Association commemorate the greatest amphibious invasion in history. In two years’ time, it will be the 70th anniversary of that invasion. May we have a statement from a Defence Minister indicating whether there will be Government support for the surviving veterans to revisit the beaches in 2014 for the 70th anniversary commemorations?

Sir George Young: Let me begin by commending the fortitude and bravery of those veterans who, 70 years ago, landed on the beaches of Normandy. At this stage, planning for 2014 is in its incipience, but we will mark this important anniversary. The Ministry of Defence plans to work closely with the Normandy Veterans Association, and once planning gets under way, we will discuss with it some key issues, particularly what support we will be able to give to those who want to go to Normandy in person to take part in the commemorative service.

Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): There has recently been much discussion about proposals to change the regulation of child care. Many child minders, child carers and parents in my constituency have approached me with real concerns about what this could mean for quality. Do the Government have any plans to pursue this agenda? Whether or not that is the case, will the Leader of the House find Government time for a debate on this, because I am sure that many other hon. Members would like to raise their constituents’ concerns about the implications of such action?

Sir George Young: There will be an opportunity on Monday for the hon. Lady to question my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education, who has responsibility for this. If she is unable to do that, for whatever reason, I will make inquiries of my right hon. Friend to see whether we plan any changes along the lines that she suggests. We want to drive up the quality of child care, be it provided by child minders, day nurseries, or other settings in which early years assistance is given to young children.

Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): Last week my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister met his Mauritian counterpart, when I understand that the future of the British Indian ocean territory was discussed. May we have a debate on the importance of the right of self-determination of the Chagos Islanders in deciding the future sovereignty of their islands rather than having those decisions made in London, Port Louis or Washington?

Sir George Young: I understand the strength of feeling on the issue that my hon. Friend raises. I sat next to the ambassador for Mauritius at a recent dinner, where we

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discussed this. Foreign Office questions on Tuesday may provide a forum in which he can pursue these issues in greater detail.

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): Yesterday the Leader of the House told us that he thought the priorities for this Chamber should be the eurozone and Syria. This morning, two Secretaries of State made key announcements—one on the definition of poverty and the other on snooping. Yet three out of the four days of Government business that the Leader of the House has announced are on electoral registration. Why?

Sir George Young: The time that the Government have in the House is for their legislative programme. That is why we are spending time on the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill and why we had the Second Reading of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill on Monday. I was referring yesterday to Opposition days, when the Opposition can choose the subject. I suggested that instead of choosing the subject they chose yesterday, they could have chosen the eurozone or some other subject. I am delighted to see that they have chosen a serious subject for next week’s debate, and my right hon. and hon. Friends will engage in that. It is for the Opposition to choose subjects on which to hold Ministers to account; Government time is available for Government Bills.

Sir Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): The summer of 2014 will mark the centenary of the start of the great war. In view of the Leader of the House’s earlier answer, may we have a debate so that the whole House can discuss how we can join in to commemorate the great war?

Sir George Young: My hon. Friend makes a helpful suggestion. He will know that the Backbench Business Committee is the forum for bidding for such debates. I can only suggest that he presents himself to the newly established Backbench Business Committee and puts forward his proposal, which I am sure will have a lot of support on both sides of the House.

Mr Dave Watts (St Helens North) (Lab): Following the unacceptable comments made by the Prime Minister to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram), may we have a debate on the snobbishness and elitism that are demonstrated on the Government Front Bench and were clearly demonstrated by the Prime Minister yesterday?

Sir George Young: I am not sure that any discourtesy was extended by my right hon. Friend. Speaking from memory, I think he called the hon. Gentleman a poet; I am not sure that that is a form of abuse.

Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): My right hon. Friend, like me, is a keen cyclist. May we have a debate on the benefits of bringing the Tour de France to Yorkshire in 2016, for which a bid has gone in that has been supported by Welcome to Yorkshire, the county’s tourism body? I am particularly looking forward to one of the legs being held at Holme Moss in my constituency.

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Sir George Young: I bicycled to work, as did my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House.

On Tuesday, I saw a picture in the paper of my hon. Friend taking part in Bike to Work day, and I am sorry that he got as wet as he obviously did. As regards the Tour de France, I encourage Yorkshire to engage with the umbrella body, UK Sport, which would take the bid forward. In respect of the UK as a whole, I think that Scotland has put in a bid for the subsequent year. It is important that Yorkshire puts its bid through the appropriate sporting organisation.

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House tell us when we might next be able to debate the benefit cap in Government time? Rent levels in London mean that that policy will have disproportionate effects on many families, and particularly children. Jobcentre Plus tells me that it has written to 900 families in my constituency saying that their benefits are to be cut by an average of £200. This could lead to many thousands of children having to leave their homes in inner London. Mayor Boris Johnson has said that he is opposed to it. Will the Government give us some time to debate it?

Sir George Young: This issue was debated substantially when the appropriate Bill went through the House. My understanding was that Labour supports a cap on benefits in principle. In response to the hon. Gentleman—I hope that this will be helpful—a substantial amount of money is available in a transitional fund designed precisely to stop families having to move house at short notice. I hope that his local authority, Tower Hamlets, can apply to the Department for Communities and Local Government for the relevant funds in order to avoid any unnecessary hardship such as that which he has implied.

Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con): The car manufacturing industry is delivering some outstanding results. On top of Bentley, Nissan and Jaguar Land Rover announcing 3,500 jobs, Aston Martin in Gaydon has announced 150 jobs in bringing back a model to be manufactured in the UK. May we have a debate about how we can support that industry and the supply chain around it?

Sir George Young: I am sure that all Members of the House will have heard with sadness of the death of my hon. Friend’s predecessor as Member for Stratford, John Maples, who died over the weekend. We send our condolences to Jane and his children. I hope that the contribution that he made to politics encouraged my party to encourage a broader range of candidates to come forward for selection. I am sure that that helped enormously at the last election.

My hon. Friend may have seen some figures that came out this morning indicating a very substantial increase in car manufacturing output, which is one of our success stories. I was delighted to hear of the investment and jobs in the area that he represents. Car manufacturing in the UK grew by 5.8% in 2011. We are clearly very competitive in world markets.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): As the Leader of the House knows, the Home Secretary published her draft Communications Bill today. May we have a statement

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on the way in which Government Departments, and particularly the Home Office, communicate with Committees of this House? I have been waiting for five weeks for a response from the Home Secretary on a number of very important questions. Will the right hon. Gentleman have a word with her, or may we have a statement on the matter of providing timely replies?

Sir George Young: My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and her team do their best to respond promptly to questions from the right hon. Gentleman’s Select Committee. I understand that there is a high volume of correspondence between the Home Department and his Committee, and that, on occasions, responses are sought within very short deadlines. None the less, we will try to raise our game and give the right hon. Gentleman and his Select Committee the quality of service to which they are entitled.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Gallay Ltd is a successful manufacturing company in my constituency. In February this year, it applied for a licence to export 88 specialised air conditioning units to a previously approved company. Unfortunately, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has still not approved the export licence, and the company is likely to lose the order to an American company. May we have a statement next week on why BIS is acting in this manner?

Sir George Young: I commend what Gallay has been doing in my hon. Friend’s constituency, in winning exports for air conditioning equipment in a very competitive market. I understand that the order to which he refers involves Egypt, where the internal security situation is giving rise for concern. I will ensure that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and BIS process the application for a licence as quickly as they can, consistent with their obligation to ensure that such equipment is not put to the wrong use.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): I am sure that the Leader of the House will agree that, for at least 200 years, local newspapers have provided a vital communication link between those elected to this House and our constituents. In today’s Culture, Media and Sport questions, I was disappointed by the complacency of the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey) in his response to two questions on the subject. Papers such as The Huddersfield Daily Examiner are crucial to the democratic process, yet many of them are under threat. This month, for example, the Halifax Courier changed to weekly and online publication only. This decline in our local newspapers represents a real threat to our democratic process.

Sir George Young: I am sure that every hon. Member would agree about the importance of his or her local newspaper. The Andover Advertiser is certainly an important publication. I am sure that there was no complacency at all in the reply from the Minister who replied to those questions a few minutes ago, but, as the hon. Gentleman will know, there are trends throughout the country—and, indeed, throughout the world—that are making local newspapers less viable. I will get back to my hon. Friend and see whether there are any further steps that we can take, but hon. Members can also play their own part in making local newspapers readworthy by writing columns in them that make compelling reading.

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Mr Marcus Jones (Nuneaton) (Con): Unemployment in my constituency has fallen since the general election to 5.4%. Despite that good news, however, it is still far too high. My hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Dan Byles) and I are trying to help the situation by holding a local job fair on 28 June. Will my right hon. Friend welcome that initiative, and the similar work that Conservative Members are doing across the country? Will he also grant a debate in Government time on getting unemployed people back into work?

Sir George Young: I am delighted to hear about the job fair in my hon. Friend’s constituency. I know that many hon. Members have helped to set up job clubs in their constituencies—[Hon. Members: “Of all parties.”] Of all parties. They have given support in that way, and I pay tribute to the work that job clubs do in raising morale, enabling networking and finding suitable jobs for their members. I cannot promise an early debate on employment, but there might be an opportunity in some of the debates chosen by the Opposition or the Backbench Business Committee in the days to come to talk about the important subject of unemployment and the steps that the Government are taking to reduce it.

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): Later this month, it will be the fifth anniversary of the devastating floods in Hull in 2007. Given the uncertainty over the statement of principles, and over the Government’s plans to provide reasonable house insurance for my constituents and others around the country, please may we have a debate in Government time on what they are going to do to protect householders?

Sir George Young: The hon. Lady raises an important issue. I know that there has been a dialogue between Ministers and the Association of British Insurers to ensure that adequate household insurance is available to those who live on flood plains. I will ask the appropriate Minister—I think that it will be a Treasury Minister—to write to the hon. Lady to bring her up to date with the discussions that are taking place, which I think are related in some way to the investment that the Government are making in flood protection measures in the areas concerned.

Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con): As my right hon. Friend will be aware, the Coryton oil refinery in my constituency has failed to find a buyer yet. May we therefore have an urgent debate on the importance of the refining industry to the UK economy? During that debate, may we explore what further support the Government could give to the industry, and the possibility of offering it some form of financial assistance —as we did to the banks—so that Coryton can remain open?

Sir George Young: I understand my hon. Friend’s disappointment at the plans to close the Coryton oil refinery. It is disappointing that, so far, an alternative buyer has not been found. I understand that inquiries are still being made by the administrators, who are looking at a range of options for the future of the facility. I am not sure that keeping the refinery open indefinitely at public expense would be the best use of resources, but we are working with Thurrock council’s taskforce, which was set up in the light of the announcement, and I will ensure that my ministerial

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colleague at the Department of Energy and Climate Change does all that he can to achieve a satisfactory outcome. Of course I understand the concern of those who are losing their jobs.

Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (Lab): May we have a debate on the activities of the so-called private benefit check firms? Those companies operate on a no win, no fee basis, and they advise people on how best to claim welfare benefits. They can, however, subsequently claim up to 50% of the benefits back from the most vulnerable people in our society. The Leader of the House will be aware that the citizens advice bureaux already carry out that excellent work, and it would be helpful if the Government could promote the work that the CABs are doing in that area.

Sir George Young: I think that the hon. Gentleman is referring to Atos, the company that does the medical assessments to find out whether someone is entitled to benefit. There is of course an appeal against the initial decision in those cases. I think I am right in saying that Ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions have asked for an independent review of the whole assessment process and, so far, they have implemented the recommendations of that review. I will make inquiries of the DWP to see what further steps are being taken to ensure that benefit claimants who are entitled to benefit get the appropriate support.

Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): May we have an urgent debate on the situation facing British citizens in the Greek justice system, and on the inadequate support they receive from Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff? My constituent, Fran Prenga, is currently languishing in custody in Greece—having apparently not even been interviewed, never mind charged—in conditions that appear to fall below EU acceptable standards. May we have a statement from a Minister and a debate on this matter?

Sir George Young: First, I might have misunderstood the question from the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Jim Sheridan). If I did, and if I got the organisation wrong, I will write to him.

I share the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland) about Greece. I also have a constituent who is tied up with the Greek judicial system. I know that the FCO often does all that it can to help, but the Greek judicial system is somewhat obscure and difficult to penetrate, and one often needs to employ a local interpreter. There will be questions to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on Tuesday, and my hon. Friend might have an opportunity to raise this matter again at that time. I will warn FCO Ministers that he is on the case.

John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab): Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 196, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell)?

[That this House is greatly concerned by the Written Ministerial Statement of 24 May 2012 on the future of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) and the

14 Jun 2012 : Column 484 proposal to reduce the scope of the authority as well as change the licensing agreements from six months to two years with no inspections on application for a licence; understands that the GLA is a Government body which is fully supported by employers including Marks and Spencer; recognises the invaluable work which is carried out by its officers and staff to ensure the safety of workers across the UK; further notes that the GLA was established after the cockle-pickers tragedy which occurred in Morecambe Bay in 2004, yet understands that the Government plans to remove this area of regulation from the remit of the GLA; asks the Government to recognise that any cut to the remit of the GLA will have entirely negative consequences; and calls on the Government to rethink its proposals which will put vulnerable workers at serious risk of exploitation, injury and



The motion refers to a written statement sneaked out on 24 May, just before the recess, which heralds cuts to the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. The House will remember that the GLA was introduced after the tragedy involving the Morecambe bay cockle pickers. The cuts will result in an increased rate of death and injury in certain industries. Surely that merits a statement or even a debate.

Sir George Young: I cannot promise an early debate. I have now seen the early-day motion, to which seven hon. Members have appended their names. I will write to the appropriate Minister and get a response to the concerns that the hon. Gentleman has expressed. I am sure that the last thing the Government want to do is to

“put vulnerable workers at serious risk of exploitation, injury and death”,

as the motion suggests.

Karen Bradley (Staffordshire Moorlands) (Con): The majority of employment in my constituency is provided by small businesses. I am contacted regularly by such businesses that have concerns about what support they might receive from the Government and other agencies. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the support that is available to small businesses to reassure them and their employees that there is a great future ahead, and that they can grow and help us out of the recession?

Sir George Young: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Of course the Government want to support small and medium-sized enterprises. As she will know, a range of measures has been introduced to promote apprenticeships and encourage bank lending. I would welcome a debate on the matter, but cannot promise one in the immediate future. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill is currently in Committee. I am not sure whether she is a member of that Committee, but that would be an opportunity to take the matter further.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): The Public Administration Committee, with its Conservative majority, decided unanimously that Sir Alex Allan was not a fit person to be the independent adviser on Ministers’ interests. His collaboration yesterday with a political stunt robbed him of any claim to be independent. When can the House look at why the previous holder of the office resigned, and how the office—a very good reform—has been degraded and politicised by Sir Alex Allan?

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Sir George Young: I reject the hon. Gentleman’s description of Sir Alex Allan. The Committee on which the hon. Gentleman sat in the last Parliament, on which there was an in-built Labour majority, produced the same recommendation about an independent adviser, and the last Government rejected it. A similar recommendation was made in the report that was published in March, to which the Government will respond in due course.

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): I have genuine concerns about the way in which the BBC covered the jubilee celebrations, the sky-rocket salaries of senior executives at the BBC, the bias of the BBC and the licence fee of £145.50. When can we have a debate on the sustainability of this out-of-date and bloated organisation?

Sir George Young: The BBC is an independent body and is answerable for how it covers events such as the jubilee and the pageant. I understand what my hon. Friend has said. I am sure that the House would welcome a debate on the BBC. I can only suggest that he presents himself at 1 o’clock on a Tuesday to the Backbench Business Committee to solicit a debate on the BBC. I am sure that he would be supported by Members from both sides of the House.

Jonathan Ashworth (Leicester South) (Lab): A few moments ago, when the Leader of the House cantered through his statistics on child poverty, he accidentally forgot to report to the House that today’s figures show that the last Labour Government lifted more than 1 million children out of poverty. Given that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is today talking about shifting the goalposts—a change from the position that the Prime Minister took in opposition—and that much academic research expresses concern about levels of child poverty in the future, can we have an urgent debate on child poverty in this House?

Sir George Young: Of course we can, if his party chooses it as the subject for an Opposition day. I have announced two Opposition days for the next two weeks. The subject has not been announced for the second half of the debate next week. I am sure that the shadow Leader of the House will have heard the hon. Gentleman’s request, which would have been better directed to her than to me. The Government are anxious to see whether there is a better way of measuring child poverty than the way we have at the moment, which has a number of perverse consequences, one of which is that in a recession child poverty rates appear to improve because they are measured in relation to median incomes.

Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con): Will the Leader of the House allow us a debate in Government time on stillbirth certification? I have been after a Westminster Hall debate on this subject for some time. Such a certificate would help parents who have a stillbirth to come to terms with the death of their child, and give recognition to the fact that the birth has taken place. Following a previous question in business questions, the Leader of the House kindly got a letter sent to me from the Department of Health. It seems that the only reason we maintain the current system of stillbirth certification is to help the Department of Health and other Departments in the collection of statistics.