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House of Commons

Thursday 22 November 2012

The House met at half-past Nine 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—

Leveson Report

1. Mr Robert Buckland (South Swindon) (Con): When she expects the Leveson report to be published. [129104]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Maria Miller): I expect Lord Justice Leveson to deliver his report by the end of the month. The inquiry team will make an announcement about specific times later this morning.

Mr Buckland: If the Leveson inquiry recommends an end to the current system of press regulation, will the Government rise to the challenge and help to create a system that will quickly gain the trust of the public?

Maria Miller: My hon. Friend is right to identify trust as an overwhelming prerequisite for any solution to our problems involving the press. Certainly the status quo is not an option. The principles that will drive any solution are the need for an independent regulator, the need for tough regulation, and the need to do everything possible to preserve free speech.

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): Given that both the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister, who set up the inquiry, have stressed time and again the importance of giving Lord Leveson space in which to report and not prejudging the outcome, how helpful is it for colleagues of the Prime Minister, in the Cabinet and elsewhere, to make repeated comments in an attempt to undermine the report in advance?

Maria Miller: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for endorsing the importance of the report, and I join him in doing so. We must ensure that we look at the facts and the judgment of the inquiry. Comments expressing concern are coming from many quarters, but I urge everyone to wait and not to prejudge the findings of the inquiry, which will be forthcoming very shortly.

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Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need to study Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations very carefully, but that any decision affecting the freedom of the press is so important that it should be made only by Parliament? Does she accept that there is now almost total agreement that we need a new, independent regulator with tough powers, but that the decision on whether there should be any legislative back-up involving statute is of such huge importance that we need to be absolutely certain that there is no alternative before proceeding down that route?

Maria Miller: My hon. Friend is right to talk about the importance of the freedom of the press, but we must also ensure that there is robust and full redress for victims. Those are the things that we must balance, and that is why I think that it would be entirely appropriate for us to have discussions, whether in the Chamber or elsewhere in the House.

Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab): I agree with Members who have said that this issue is of enormous importance. Like me, the Secretary of State had an opportunity to meet victims of phone hacking and press intrusion yesterday.

The hon. Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale) was absolutely right to say that this is a matter for the House. In that context, may I ask the Secretary of State whether she intends to make a statement to the House on the day on which the Leveson report is published, and also whether she will ensure that the Government provide an early opportunity for the House to debate it? I have already asked for cross-party Front-Bench talks, but this is also a matter of great interest and importance for Back Benchers in all parts of the House.

Maria Miller: I thank the right hon. and learned Lady for the opportunity to clarify the position. She and I have already had discussions about this very issue. I hope that we will continue to have such discussions, and that they can involve the other parties as well. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will be able to make things clearer in his business statement later today.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): The Secretary of State will recall that the Leveson inquiry started as a result of the phone hacking scandal. Is she aware of recent evidence that journalists were using information like a trading commodity, one of them picking up the hack and then passing it to another to disguise the source of the hacking? Will Leveson cover that aspect?

Maria Miller: Obviously Lord Leveson has been looking at this issue in an enormous amount of detail, and criminal investigations are also in progress. I am sure that the specific issue raised by the hon. Gentleman, and indeed many other issues relating to the prevalence of phone hacking, will be dealt with in Lord Leveson’s inquiry report, which, as I have said, will be available very shortly.

4G Network

2. Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): When 4G network services will be rolled out in (a) England and Wales and (b) Central Bedfordshire. [129105]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr Edward Vaizey): EE is already deploying 4G services in 11 cities, and will be doing so in five more before the end of the year. We expect further 4G services to become available by mid-summer. It will of course be for the operators to decide when they will become available in Central Bedfordshire.

Andrew Selous: My constituency is only 34 miles north of the House of Commons, yet large parts of it, such as the village of Studham, have almost no mobile phone coverage. Many complaints have been raised with me about that, particularly by people running businesses and working from home. Will 4G help them?

Mr Vaizey: 4G should be helpful to them in the next few years, but I would also say that we take the issue of partial not spots, where there is not universal coverage, very seriously. That is one reason we are looking at making it easier to deploy mobile phone masts and increase mobile phone coverage, particularly in areas such as the one described by my hon. Friend.

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): Has the Minister seen reports this week showing that the failure to roll out 4G speedily will cost £120 million at Christmas alone—in sales just next month? Does he accept that the Government’s failure to deliver 4G speedily has an economic impact? Will he indicate when 4G will be available in my area and throughout the Principality of Wales?

Mr Vaizey: The spectrum for the 4G services that are going to be auctioned only became available when we completed the digital television switchover in October. We followed the previous Government’s timetable for that, so if anyone is to blame for the delay, it is them.

First World War (Commemoration)

3. Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): What plans she has to ensure a suitable commemoration of the centenary of the first world war. [129107]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Maria Miller): We have announced a series of measures to commemorate the centenary of the first world war. The Government’s programme will focus on the key themes of remembrance, education and youth. It will include national commemorative events, a major remodelling of the Imperial War museum, support for school visits to the battlefields and a special grants programme from the Heritage Lottery Fund to support young people in community projects.

Damian Collins: I thank the Secretary of State for that. Does she agree that it is particularly important to support community projects, especially those such as the Step Short project in Folkestone, which is working to commemorate the lives of the 10 million men who passed through the fort, going to and from the trenches, during the first world war?

Maria Miller: My hon. Friend rightly highlights the importance of local events, and I urge all hon. Members to examine the connection between their area and the first world war. It is by bringing it to life in this

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very local and personal way that we can give this commemoration the importance it needs. The Government are investing more than £50 million in projects such as the refurbishment of the Imperial War museum, but we will also be doing an awful lot more at a community level.

Access to the Arts

4. Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central) (Lab): What assessment she has made of access to the arts in each region. [129108]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr Edward Vaizey): My Department’s Taking Part survey shows high levels of access to the arts in all regions of England; the figures are 78.9% in England overall and 74.5% in the west midlands.

Tristram Hunt: First, may I pay tribute to the great work the Minister is doing on the Wedgwood museum? However, as a result of the extraordinary and disproportionate cuts to local authority budgets, great museums such as the Potteries museum and art gallery in Stoke-on-Trent face a funding and scholarship crisis. In a recent letter to The Guardian, the chair of Arts Council England, Liz Forgan, said that bodies such as hers cannot fill the vacuum. What talks is the Minister having with that great aesthete and lover of the arts the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to make sure that our great cities and regions continue to have access to great art?

Mr Vaizey: I met the great lover of the arts’ junior Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr Foster), only yesterday, and my Department has regular communications with the Department for Communities and Local Government. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we managed to keep the cuts to national portfolio organisations down to 15% or less, and we have massively increased the national lottery share for the arts. However, we do, of course, take concerns about local authority funding seriously.

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con): Does the Minister agree that funding for the arts through the national lottery has vastly increased because of the changes made by this Government?

Mr Vaizey: Absolutely. We increased the share for the arts and for heritage from 16% to 20%, which means that the arts will get hundreds of millions of pounds more of lottery funding.

Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab): The Minister’s Department is responsible for the arts, which are so important to not only our culture, but jobs and growth. The Government have already cut funding for the Arts Council by 30% and abolished the regional development agencies, which supported arts in the regions. Now, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt) has said, local government, which has always been such an important support for arts locally, is struggling with huge central Government cuts to its budgets. That is set to have a catastrophic impact on the arts in local communities, with some

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councils set to end their funding of local arts altogether. Will the Minister make an immediate detailed assessment of local government cuts in arts funding and place a copy in the House of Commons Library?

Mr Vaizey: It is an honour to answer a question from the right hon. and learned Lady, but I simply do not recognise the picture she paints. The arts are in a very healthy state in this country, as I said. We have maintained significant funding for the arts and for our national museums and heritage. We have substantially increased lottery funding for the arts and heritage. I will, of course, continue to engage with local authorities on this important issue.

BBC Licence Fee

5. Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): If she will bring forward proposals to reduce the BBC licence fee. [129109]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Maria Miller): It is right that the BBC should play its part in making savings alongside all other public sector organisations. The Government have delivered a real-term reduction in the BBC licence fee by freezing it at its current level until March 2017.

Mr Bone: I do not think the Secretary of State quite answered my question, but clearly we are not going to get a cut in the licence fee, as requested. May I make it much easier for her? The Secretary of State believes that everybody loves the BBC, so why make it compulsory to pay the licence fee? Why not just make it a subscription channel?

Maria Miller: I would never want to fall out with my hon. Friend, but I think that is exactly what I did say: we have already brought forward proposals to ensure that the BBC licence fee is, in effect, reduced by freezing it. I hope that he will welcome that and, of course, we will always strive to ensure that the organisation brings forth value for money.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): The Secretary of State will know that the BBC World Service is to be funded from the licence fee in due course. Whatever else happens, will she ensure that the World Service is not in any way jeopardised and that its ability to serve our national interest and to provide services to many viewers and listeners across the world is not reduced?

Maria Miller: The World Service has a unique role to play in broadcasting on a global level. The hon. Gentleman can have my assurance that we will continue to value that in the future, though the changes to funding that have been made are important.

Mr John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): May I urge the Secretary of State to resist any calls for a reduction in the licence fee? The BBC has already faced significant cuts to valued services, such as local radio, as a result of the budget constraints. Surely this is just yet another attack on the BBC by its enemies, at a time when it should be focusing its attention on getting its own house in order.

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Maria Miller: There must be recognition of the fact that the BBC received £3.6 billion in licence fee in this year alone. My hon. Friend is right to say that we cannot put the quality and standing of the BBC anywhere other than at the top of the pile, but when it comes to ensuring that we get value for the significant amount of money coming from the licence fee payer, it is right that that pressure should be there.

Tour de France

6. Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): What support her Department is giving to bids for the Tour de France to come to the UK in 2014. [129110]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr Edward Vaizey): UK Sport and British Cycling are discussing potential bids to host stages of the event around the UK in 2014. We have asked UK Sport to assess the strategic importance and financial viability of the bids and to provide support as necessary.

Jason McCartney: Can my hon. Friend confirm that the Yorkshire bid for the Tour de France in 2014 and its potential route over Holme Moss in my constituency will be given equal support and funding to the Scottish bid? May I invite my hon. Friend to come and have a look at Holme Moss, which is the most picturesque part of the world and would make a superb stage for the Tour de France?

Mr Vaizey: My hon. Friend is aware that we believe that the best chance of success will be to submit a single bid and we have reached out to Yorkshire to ask them to take part in a national bid. Anything he can do to help would be most welcome. I was grateful for his intervention, but I think it would be more appropriate for the Minister for Sport, to whom I spoke yesterday. He is keen to visit my hon. Friend’s constituency at the earliest possible opportunity.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): Will the Minister also reach out to Shropshire? As he will know, the national cycle network goes through the county, and he has visited the Wrekin, the wonderful landmark in Shropshire. Will he continue his conversations with the Minister for Sport and ensure that the Tour de France comes through that beautiful county?

Mr Vaizey: I have visited my hon. Friend’s constituency and can confirm its beauty. As I am standing in as proxy for the Minister for Sport, may I also confirm his acceptance of the invitation to visit my hon. Friend’s constituency?

Spending on Sport (Gender Audit)

7. Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): What plans her Department has for a gender audit of public spending on sport. [129111]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Maria Miller): The Department measures sport participation by gender via the Taking Part survey. In addition, Sport England’s Active People survey provides more detailed data on sport participation. Together,

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those provide a good understanding of the gender implications of public spending on sport. The Department has no plans to undertake a specific gender audit.

Barbara Keeley: I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. The Active People survey shows that more than 2 million fewer girls and women than men take part in sport, at both weekly and monthly intervals, but 12 million say that they want to take part in sport. Is not it time we had a full audit of public spending on sport to find out what it is spent on and why so many fewer women than men take part?

Maria Miller: The hon. Lady puts her finger on it. We know that there are participation issues, so rather than simply continuing to audit it, we are taking action. We already have our £1 billion youth and community sports strategy, which is looking at ways of ensuring that girls take part in sport, and the Active Women programme, a £10 million lottery programme aimed at getting women into sport. Of course, the most important audit of all was the Olympic games this summer, in which the very first gold medal was won by a woman, as indeed was the last. That is evidence that things are moving in the right direction, but clearly there is still more to do.

Mr Gerry Sutcliffe (Bradford South) (Lab): It is important to build on the success of the Olympics, particularly in participation, but the reason a survey is important is that we are seeing a drop in the number of girls involved in school sport, so there is a need to measure what is happening. I think the Secretary of State should speak with the Secretary of State for Education, who does not seem to like sport.

Maria Miller: I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I speak regularly with the Secretary of State for Education on this and many other issues and to ensure that we continue the excellent work of the school games, which has done so much not only to improve girls’ participation in sport, but to help more disabled people get involved.

Digital Television Reception (Baxenden)

8. Graham Jones (Hyndburn) (Lab): What steps her Department is taking to address problems with digital television reception in Baxenden. [129112]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr Edward Vaizey): There are a few factors that could affect reception in Baxenden, but I gather that the most likely cause is a wind farm—I do not know whether that information is available to the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, my hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes).

Graham Jones: I am grateful to the Minister, who is up to date on the matter. Baxenden, of course, has a weak signal from the Winter Hill transmitter, which has been identified by his Department as one of those that will be most adversely affected by the 4G roll-out. That will affect my constituency because the weak signal spans right across it. He is correct, because over the weekend scientific evidence indicated that the wind farm was the problem. I add that more turbines would probably alleviate the situation. What will he do to

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clarify the legal responsibility in this case and how my residents can get compensation in cases where it could be the wind farm or 4G that is the cause?

Mr Vaizey: As I understand it, mitigating the impact of the wind farm is the responsibility of its operator, which is now communicating with residents and providing solutions, such as moving aerials so that they can pick up signals from the alternative transmitter. As he correctly says, interference is not caused by 4G, because of course the 4G that could interfere with digital televisions signals has not yet been deployed.

Lottery Good Causes

9. Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): If she will take steps to accelerate the repayment of moneys taken from lottery good causes funds to support the London 2012 Olympic games; and if she will make a statement. [129113]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Maria Miller): The Government have put in place a new legal agreement with the Greater London authority ensuring that the £675 million that the lottery will receive from Olympic park land sales will be returned to the lottery earlier than previously planned.

Fiona Mactaggart: The point is this: when? The Olympic delivery third quarter report stated that the centrally held contingency funding remaining in the package will be transferred to the national lottery distribution fund for the benefit of lottery good causes. Those good causes, which are being hit by Government cuts and squeezes in philanthropy following the recession, want to know when they will get the money and how much interest they will be paid.

Maria Miller: I understand the hon. Lady’s concern with the plans that were put in place by the Government of whom she was a part and the timing of the programme we inherited. That is why we have made sure that the money will be repaid earlier. If she wants further details on that, which is quite complex, perhaps I can write to her.

Stuart Andrew (Pudsey) (Con): Lottery funding helped the Olympics to generate unprecedented levels of enthusiasm in sport, and was one of the factors that brought together a community sport group, a school, a college, a local residents group and a developer in my constituency to create a sports park for all who live there. Will the Secretary of State agree to meet representatives of those organisations to see how we can make this dream a reality?

Maria Miller: My hon. Friend rightly highlights the important role the Olympics played as a catalyst in making people aware of the importance of having the right facilities available in local areas, and we have made it one of the key parts of our legacy programme to make sure those facilities flourish. I would be happy to hear more about the initiative my hon. Friend mentions.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): Taking money from lottery-supported good causes was about the worst possible way to pay for the Olympics.

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The Secretary of State now has the opportunity to put this right. There is a £377 million underspend. Will she now pledge to return that money to good causes as soon as possible?

Maria Miller: I have to disagree with the hon. Gentleman. I think the role the lottery played in the delivery of the Olympics was absolutely right. He raises an important point, however, about rebalancing the lottery. As he will know, we have already put measures in place to do that and to bring forward this important repayment.

Superfast Broadband

10. Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab): What assessment she has made of the progress of the rural superfast broadband programme. [129114]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr Edward Vaizey): We are making good progress, and I can confirm the good news, which I know the hon. Lady will welcome, that the European Commission has now approved the UK umbrella state aid notification. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] A cheer for Europe in this Chamber is a thing of rare beauty, and we will continue, therefore, to progress our rural broadband programme.

Chi Onwurah: But the Minister for communications cannot hide the complete “comnishambles” over which he is presiding. That is why state aid approval was delayed for so many months. We have a multi-million pound superfast broadband process with no competitors. Will the Minister commit to ensuring that there is effective competition in the delivery of superfast broadband, so British consumers and businesses get the choice they deserve?

Mr Vaizey: I agree with the hon. Lady that we have a multi-million pound superfast broadband programme, and it is going to deliver superfast broadband to 90% of the country. I cannot make companies compete for these funds, but we do have a robust process in place to ensure value for money, and we are proceeding apace.

Charlie Elphicke (Dover) (Con): Will Ministers consider prioritising not spots for the roll-out, such as the village of Denton in my constituency, which has shamefully been neglected by BT, as well as areas that have poor mobile reception, such as St Margaret’s and Kingsdown, which get French mobile phone signals?

Mr Vaizey: For the 4G auction, we have put in place a 98% coverage obligation. Getting broadband to the village of Denton will, of course, be part of the Kent rural broadband programme, so it will be a matter for my hon. Friend to discuss with his county council.

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): The Government chose to abandon Labour’s target of universal broadband access by 2012, and last week Ofcom published figures that showed that 10% of the population— 5 million people—have no access to broadband whatever. The problem is especially bad in rural areas, where access is 50% worse than in urban areas. In north

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Lincolnshire, only one person in five has access to broadband, and in Ceredigion the proportion is one person in four. Whatever happened to the party of the countryside?

Mr Vaizey: We did not abandon Labour’s pledge; Labour’s pledge was unaffordable and it was unclear how it was going to be paid for. We have put in place a much better pledge—to deliver superfast broadband—and we have among the highest penetration of internet access in the world.

Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD): I congratulate the Government on getting this state aid approval. The Minister will be aware that some telephone exchanges serve residents and premises that cross local authority boundaries, so will he encourage authorities to work together even when they are not in the same consortiums, to ensure residents served by those exchanges are properly supported?

Mr Vaizey: We are certainly encouraging that, and a number of counties are working together, including Devon and Somerset, and Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. We will continue to encourage that where it is appropriate.

Cultural Sector (Merseyside)

11. Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab): What assessment she has made of the cultural sector in Merseyside. [129115]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr Edward Vaizey): Our most recent survey data show that last year, nearly 80% of adults in the north-west engaged with the arts and 4.9 million people visited DCMS-sponsored museums. Between 2010 and 2015, the Arts Council will invest £44 million in Merseyside organisations and £140 million across the north-west. National Museums Liverpool will receive £109 million in grant in aid.

Alison McGovern: I never get tired of hearing how successful the cultural sector is in Merseyside, so I thank the Minister for his answer. However, he knows as well as I do that National Museums is not the same as the support that local authorities formerly gave, and that before the disastrous cuts that they now face, leaders in Merseyside had been able to support the arts, so why will he not answer the question from my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman)? Why will he not say to us today that he will undertake a survey of local authority cuts and place that information about the arts in the House of Commons Library?

Mr Vaizey: The reason the hon. Lady does not get tired of hearing about the success of Merseyside’s arts organisations is that they are astonishingly successful. Liverpool had an incredible year as the European city of culture, its central library is being refurbished, it opened the first national museum for a century, the Liverpool Everyman is benefiting from a £28 million refurbishment, and only recently the Royal Court received a grant of £867,000 for its refurbishment.

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Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab/Co-op): One of Merseyside’s creative industry strengths is our video games sector. Will the Minister please update the House on the progress that his Government are making towards introducing a video games tax relief?

Mr Vaizey: I am delighted to have the opportunity to remind the House that we are introducing an important tax credit for the video games industry. Our negotiations with the European Commission are going very well and we are, I hope, still on target to introduce it next April.


12. Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): What steps she is taking to increase the effects of tourism on the economy. [129116]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Maria Miller): Tourism is a key priority for the Government. That is why we are funding VisitBritain’s biggest ever global tourism initiative, the GREAT campaign, which is expected to create 4.6 million extra visitors, £2.3 billion additional spend and nearly 60,000 jobs over the next four years. In addition, a major domestic campaign by VisitEngland is expected to create 12,000 jobs over three years, with £500 million extra spent by tourists.

Andrew Bingham: Recent research has shown that tourism in Buxton in my constituency of High Peak generated a massive £72 million for the local economy. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this demonstrates not only the huge financial and employment benefits of an effective tourism industry, but the fact that these benefits spread out to surrounding areas and all parts of the local economy, even those that would not necessarily be associated with tourism?

Maria Miller: My hon. Friend should not be surprised at that level of tourism in his area, given the fantastic international festivals, the wonderful Georgian architecture of Buxton and the way that it has inspired so much creativity over the generations. All Members of the House should be looking at the way that tourism can help to support their own local economies because it has such potential for growth.

Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab): What discussions has the Secretary of State held with Ministers in the Department for Transport regarding the needs of coach operators and the vital role that they can play in promoting tourism?

Maria Miller: As I said earlier, the role of domestic tourism is more important at present than even international tourism so connectivity through trains, coaches and our road network is a vital part of making sure that we maximise that. I will take a particular look at any issues that the hon. Lady wants to raise with me with regard to coach travel because it is clearly an important part of the domestic market.

14. [129118] Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con): My constituency is the only place in the world to have given its name to an international game and we are working hard to derive an economic benefit from this by attracting visitors to the town. May I extend an invitation to the Secretary

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of State to join together her responsibilities for tourism and sport by visiting Rugby as it prepares for visitors during the rugby world cup, which is being held in England in 2015?

Maria Miller: Again, my hon. Friend demonstrates the fact that tourism can play a role in a wide variety of towns—Rugby is, I think, the second largest town in the country. I will look carefully at any proposal to come and support the rugby world cup.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): If one goes on holiday to Poland, France or Italy, it is nice to be greeted in the hotel by a receptionist who is from Poland, France or Italy. The same does not often happen in the United Kingdom. Is it not time that the British hospitality and tourism industries did more to enable young British people to get jobs in British hotels?

Maria Miller: What is important is that hoteliers are able to use people who are best placed to support the visitors who stay in those hotels, whether those are young British people or people from other countries as well. I do not recognise the point that the hon. Gentleman is making.

17. [129122] Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): In welcoming the Government’s tourism strategy, may I ask my right hon. Friend to say a little more about how communities who are close to major gateways such as Gatwick airport can benefit from tourism so that people can enjoy, in my local case, the fantastic entertainment and retail facilities in Crawley and the beautiful countryside of west Sussex?

Maria Miller: It is right to point out that many areas of the country could be benefiting even more from tourism. That is why we are putting record levels of spend behind our domestic campaign to encourage people to consider Britain as the place for their holidays or short breaks.

Topical Questions

T1. [129124] Simon Hughes (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (LD): If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Maria Miller): As hon. Members will have noticed, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State is not with us for oral questions. He is currently in Rio de Janeiro leading a delegation to share London’s knowledge and expertise with our Brazilian counterparts, helping them to prepare for the World cup in 2014 and the Olympics and Paralympics in 2016—and, importantly, banging the drum for British business. With £70 million of contracts already won for UK companies in Rio, we are continuing to deliver an economic legacy for the UK from the most successful games of modern times.

Simon Hughes: Rio in November—it must be a hard life!

There is often lots of conversation about the difficulties of broadband access in rural areas. What can Ministers do to help people in urban areas such as mine, where

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in Rotherhithe, for example, people are not near the telephone exchange and broadband is therefore very poor indeed?

Maria Miller: The right hon. Gentleman raises an issue with which many people in the Chamber will identify. Urban areas by no means always receive the sort of connectivity that our constituents want. That is why it is important that we have put in place not only the rural broadband programme to deliver better connectivity in rural areas but the urban broadband fund for our urban areas, which will ensure that London has some £25 million to achieve the improvements that he talks about.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): The “Chance to Shine” survey published this week shows that the majority of parents who were surveyed—54%—said that since the Olympics their children have played less than two hours of sport and PE per week. Participation in sport in school is on the way down. The PE and sports survey published in 2010 told us that over 90% of schoolchildren were doing sport in schools. If we are to have any chance of instilling a sporting habit for life in our young children, we will have to start in schools. Will the Minister tell us what the Government intend to do to monitor what is going on in our schools?

Maria Miller: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right; we have to instil that habit of sport at the earliest age. As I have said before, I share his concern about participation levels among young people. We will be looking carefully at the findings from the “Chance to Shine” survey. I have already talked to him and to other Members about the school games, in which 50% of schools have participated, and through our youth sport strategy £1 billion is going towards supporting further participation. I hope that he will welcome those facts.

T2. [129125] Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): The London Olympics and Paralympics were clearly an outstanding success delivered on time and within budget, with an outstanding performance by Great Britain. Now comes the long-term challenge of delivering the legacy. Will my right hon. Friend confirm the position as regards progress in dismantling some of the venues that are due to be moved elsewhere so that everyone can enjoy that success?

Maria Miller: The decommissioning of venues is already well under way, with the transference of temporary venues to new owners, whether it is the volleyball courts or the beach volleyball courts that were just round the corner from here, from which the sand has been taken and used to create tens of new volleyball courts throughout London, including one in Wimbledon park.

T3. [129126] Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab): The Conservative party used to support a competitive telecommunications market. Why on earth are Ministers now establishing a new private sector monopoly in rural superfast broadband by simply handing all the Government subsidy over to BT?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr Edward Vaizey): I cannot keep on making this point, but I will. We are not handing the

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money to BT. It is a competitive tendering process, and if BT wins the contracts that local authorities put out, that is a matter for those local authorities.

T6. [129130] Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mark Pawsey) mentioned the rugby world cup in 2015. I must just clarify that he was referring to the rugby union world cup. The rugby league world cup is happening next year. Switching to football, do Ministers accept the case for introducing, on a trial basis, limited standing areas at football grounds for premiership and championship clubs whose management want to participate?

Mr Vaizey: We believe that seated stadiums offer the best experience for spectators and the best safety measures. That view is supported by the Government, the police and the sport.

T4. [129127] Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): Given the importance of the high standards and diversity in our media, will the communications Bill include any Leveson inquiry recommendations on media and cross-media ownership?

Maria Miller: We have always made it clear that we will take Lord Leveson’s thoughts and findings into account as we draw the Bill together.

T8. [129132] Mr Robin Walker (Worcester) (Con): I recently attended Worcester’s Gheluvelt park for a moving service to mark the 98th anniversary of the battle of Gheluvelt, at which the Worcestershire Regiment stopped the Prussian guard and stabilised the western front. As the 100th anniversary of those heroic actions draws near, what can the Secretary of State do to ensure that local connections with the first world war will be properly recognised amidst the national commemorations?

Maria Miller: An important part of the work that we will do to commemorate the first world war will be to ensure that every community, and indeed every individual, has the opportunity to find their own story, whether they have overseas connections or not. The Heritage Lottery Fund will be important in delivering the finances for that.

T5. [129129] Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): We have talked in this Question Time about the contribution of schools to developing sporting activities among children. Schools are also key to developing creativity among children, and Britain leads the world in the creative industries. Will the Secretary of State meet the Secretary of State for Education to discuss the effect of the EBacc plans on creative subjects in the curriculum, and to ensure that creativity is part of our children’s education?

Maria Miller: The hon. Lady needs to understand that the English baccalaureate has creativity at its heart. It includes English, maths, science, history, geography and languages, and will give students the opportunity to explore the heritage of this country’s literature. Sitting alongside that, the 123 new music hubs that have been established will ensure that creativity is at the heart of our children’s education.

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T9. [129133] Priti Patel (Witham) (Con): Essex is an important engine of economic growth in the United Kingdom. Businesses in our county are being held back by poor broadband infrastructure, and yet we have been placed 31st out of 35 on the Broadband Delivery UK project framework. Will the Secretary of State support local businesses in Essex by prioritising the roll-out of high-speed broadband?

Mr Vaizey: Essex has been awarded £6 million for its rural broadband programme. Although it is low on the list because of when it submitted its application to BDUK, we will work with Essex and a lot of work can be done before procurement.

Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab): There has been a huge increase in the number of betting shops opening in generic shopping units and the subsequent installation of the high-stake, high-price fixed odds betting terminals, which contribute to gambling addiction. Will the Secretary of State meet the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to agree a policy that places betting shops in a specific planning category to stop the increase in betting shops and high-stake machines? Will she carry out an investigation into the impact of those machines on gambling addiction?

Maria Miller: On the final part of the hon. Gentleman’s question, we believe that there is a need for more evidence on the impact of gambling within society. We are collecting that evidence now and are looking carefully at all the issues that he raised.

Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan) (Con): I pay tribute to the Secretary of State, the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey) and Ofcom for the auction arrangements, which satisfy all the mobile phone operators. However, will Ministers reassure the House that planning guidance will be put in place to enable mobile operators to introduce higher masts and bring about 4G roll-out much more quickly?

Mr Vaizey: We are looking at the planning regulations on mobile phone masts. We will bring forward proposals and consult on them in the appropriate manner. My hon. Friend’s point is well made. If we want to benefit from 4G, we have to make it easier to deploy networks.

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): I was concerned by the Secretary of State’s answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart). The Culture, Media and Sport Committee has been taking evidence in its inquiry into the creative industries. Every single witness has said that the Government’s plans for the EBacc will be devastating for the arts and culture. The Secretary of State must be the champion for arts and culture in government and must ask the Education Secretary to think again.

Maria Miller: The right hon. Gentleman needs to understand that as well as Ebacc’s creative content, many things are going on around that in schools. The issue has been carefully considered by Ofsted, which assesses the cultural development of individuals in schools. That is at the heart of what we are doing.

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Dr Thérèse Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) (Con): Today is the feast day of Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music, and it also marks the launch of celebrations in Aldeburgh for Benjamin Britten’s centenary year. Will the Secretary of State join me next year at the Red House to celebrate one of our greatest ever composers?

Mr Vaizey: I have already accepted a number of invitations on behalf of the sports Minister, and I am happy to confirm that the Secretary of State will, I am sure, make it to Aldeburgh next year to celebrate the centenary of one of our greatest composers whom children will learn about in school, particularly after we publish our national cultural education plan—the first of its kind in our history.

Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab/Co-op): Does the Department plan any legislative changes to the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, and if so, when?

Mr Vaizey: I am happy to confirm to the hon. Lady that the Government are doing an enormous amount to help libraries. We have given responsibility for libraries to the Arts Council, which has set up a £6 million fund to support them, and we have appointed a new libraries adviser, Yinnon Ezra. We are piloting the compulsory membership of libraries for schoolchildren and we have the Seighart review on e-lending. We continue strongly to support libraries. This is not about legislation; it is about action.

Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con): Under the previous Government, broadband provision in Northumberland was woeful, disorganised and underfunded. That situation is slowly improving, which brings great benefits. Will the Minister meet me—rather than the sports Minister having that pleasure—and fellow representatives in Northumberland, to discuss how we can improve the provision of broadband in Northumberland?

Mr Vaizey: As a matter of principle I never refuse a meeting with an hon. Member under my portfolio, and I would be happy to meet my hon. Friend—in fact, I would be delighted.

Women and Equalities

The Minister for Women and Equalities was asked—


1. Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab): What assessment she has made of the differential effect of unemployment across age groups. [129134]

3. Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) (Lab): What assessment she has made of the differential effect of unemployment across age groups. [129140]

6. Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): What assessment she has made of the differential effect of unemployment across age groups. [129143]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Esther McVey): Over the past year, unemployment has fallen in every age group and the number of people in work has risen by more than half a million.

Alison McGovern: The Minister’s answer concerns me slightly because in my constituency surgery I have heard from women in the 50-to-64 age group who are finding the labour market very tough. I believe that we have seen a recent increase in unemployment of more than 20% in that age group. What will the Minister do to help older women get back to work?

Esther McVey: The hon. Lady represents the constituency next to mine and we should both celebrate the fact that employment figures are up for every age group, locally, nationally and regionally. The unemployment rate for people over 50 is 4.5%, and for women over 50 it is 3.5%. Those figures are lower than the total unemployment rate of 7.8%. I would question your facts.

Mr Speaker: Order. I am sure the Minister is not questioning my facts, but I think I have the gist of what she is saying.

Tom Blenkinsop: Over the past two years, long-term unemployment among young women increased by 412% on Teesside, with 640 women aged 24 and under claiming jobseeker’s allowance for more than 12 months. Does the Minister agree with figures from the Office for National Statistics which show that under this Government, long-term youth unemployment among women on Teesside has skyrocketed, and what will she do about it?

Esther McVey: I believe that is only part of the story, and in the past, false breaks in unemployment statistics—particularly under the new deal—skewed figures. The Work programme has removed that anomaly, providing a true reflection of the facts. Youth unemployment is down, and the Government are doing significant things to help with 250,000 more work experience places, 160,000 more wage incentives, and 20,000 more apprenticeship grants. We are doing as much as we possibly can and, as I said, unemployment is significantly down under this Government.

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): Youth unemployment in Clwyd South is up 157% from this time last year. Does the Minister accept that her weasel words simply will not wash with those young people, and will she confirm how the Government intend to help them? Surely the Government should take the utmost action to get them back into work.

Esther McVey: They are not weasel words. Clwyd South’s statistics show that unemployment is down whether for 18 to 24-year-olds or for all claimant counts. We are doing significant work to support young people.

Jane Ellison (Battersea) (Con): It is extremely concerning for all hon. Members when young people are unemployed. Enormous numbers of jobs have been created in London in the past 10-plus years, and yet some young people have been left behind. Does that not highlight the fact

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that we must approach the problem from the point of view of education and skills, rather than pretending, as the Opposition do, that the problem started in 2010?

Esther McVey: I agree with my hon. Friend absolutely. For clarification, the unemployment figures for young people are affected by the rising proportion of people in education rather than in the labour market. Those who have left education and are unemployed in the 16 to 24-year-old population is 9%, which is lower than in the recessions of the ’90s and the ’80s. We are doing more than ever before for the youth of today.

Amber Rudd (Hastings and Rye) (Con): Youth unemployment in Hastings has fallen by 16% in the past year, which I welcome. Is the Minister happy with how youth unemployment is assessed? Some of my constituents find it confusing that young people in full-time education are still classified as unemployed.

Esther McVey: I agree with my hon. Friend—I referred to that in my previous answer. We need to get the statistics right. As I said, 9% of the total 16 to 24-year-old population are unemployed. We have put more in place than ever before to help that group of people.

Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con): May I declare an interest in the employment of women aged between 50 and 64? Will the Minister join me in welcoming the fact that the unemployment rate in that group is, at 3.5%, the lowest rate of unemployment for any group of women? Some 3.5 million women in that age group are employed, which is the highest number ever, and 60.6% is the highest rate of employment for the group.

Esther McVey: I agree with my hon. Friend—that is obviously a very talented group of women. She is correct that 3.5% is lower than before. It is half the total unemployment rate, which is 7.8%.

Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): Last month in Women and Equalities questions, the Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, the hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant), said she did not accept that the figure of 50% unemployment among young black men was accurate. On 24 October, in a written answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms), Glen Watson of the UK Statistics Authority confirmed that the figure is actually 52%. I listened carefully to the answers the Minister gave a moment ago about the definition of the unemployment rate. Is she saying that she does not accept the official figures? What will the Government do about the scandalously high level of black youth unemployment?

Esther McVey: We are doing a lot about this. Again, unemployment for that group is under a third—the figures the hon. Lady presents do not include people who are in education.

Workplace Diversity

2. Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab): What steps she is taking to support women and minority groups in the workplace. [129138]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities (Jo Swinson): In the current economic circumstances, we need more than ever to maximise the full potential of the diverse talents in our work force. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister confirmed last week that we will legislate to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees, ensuring that the benefits of flexibility are available as widely as possible. In addition, more than 50 leading employers are signed up to our “Think, Act, Report” initiative, covering more than 1 million employees.

Lilian Greenwood: The Government state that the new employment tribunal fees for claims relating to the national minimum wage will attract the lowest level of fee—£390—yet the average payout to workers who make a claim enforcing the minimum wage is just £165, which is less than half the cost of pursuing a claim under the new fee structure. Does the Minister agree that the new system of employment tribunal fees will unfairly punish women, disabled people, and black and ethnic minority workers, who are disproportionately represented among the low paid?

Jo Swinson: The hon. Lady raises the issue of access to justice, which I agree is important. That is why, in addition to the fee regime, there will be a remissions regime, which will mean that the people on the lowest incomes will not have to pay. The key point to remember about employment tribunals, highlighted by the figure she gave on the average payout in those minimum wage cases, is that they are often not the best route to resolving disputes. That is why the Government are legislating to make sure that there is more early conciliation, so that for employers and employees alike the stress, time and money involved in employment tribunals can be avoided in all but the most necessary circumstances.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton) (Con): Will my hon. Friend look at the cohort of older women who are being asked to work longer before they can claim their state pension? They are particularly difficult to place in the workplace. What measures will the Government consider to assist them?

Jo Swinson: This group of women is very talented and we need to be using their talents in the economy. The additional plans for flexibility are helpful not just for those with caring responsibilities for young children, but for people as they get closer to retirement age. Rather than falling off the cliff of working full time and immediately going into full retirement, being able to reduce hours and work flexibly can be helpful in that transition.

Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab): The Synod rejection of women bishops will have deeply disappointed the talented women who work in the Church of England, the vast majority of Church members who had expressed their support, and those in Parliament and across the country who supported women bishops. Does the Minister agree that we should urge the Church to look again at this swiftly, and that it cannot be left to lie for another five years? The Church is the established Church, so the issue affects bishops in Parliament and Parliament has to agree to the changes. She and the Secretary of State will know that many in

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Parliament will feel uncomfortable if new proposals come forward that further water down plans for women bishops, when the majority of those in the Church have already shown their strong support for these plans. Will she ask the Secretary of State to convey to the Church the willingness and readiness of Parliament to work with it and to support the views of the majority of Church members in support of women bishops?

Jo Swinson: The right hon. Lady will know that there is due to be an urgent question shortly, when this issue will be discussed in more detail. Personally, as a strong supporter of women’s equality, I share her disappointment and that of many others. As a Scottish humanist, I recognise that I may not be the best person to tell the Church of England what it should be doing. All our religious institutions are important. She raised the issue of the role of Parliament. She may be aware that I have not been a supporter of all-women shortlists for Parliament. There is an irony in that there is a continuing all-male shortlist as a result of this decision. She is right to highlight that a significant majority in the General Synod supported the move to women bishops. The fact that 95% of dioceses supported it gives some reassurance to those who would like to see this change happen.

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): Women are routinely paid less than men—15% less on average nationally; 23% less in London. However, the Davies report found that organisations with more women on their boards outperformed their rivals by 42% in sales, and significantly on return on capital and on equity. Does my hon. Friend agree that to promote greater equality in the workplace, companies must be far more open about their employment practices so that they have better outcomes?

Jo Swinson: Of course, the pay gap figures have just been updated and published this morning and they have come down slightly, but my hon. Friend is right to highlight that they are still too high. My hon. Friend highlights the fact that having more women on boards can help companies’ performance. I encourage employers to sign up to our “Think, Act, Report” initiative, so that they properly use the talents of women within their businesses at all levels.

Paralympic Games (Legacy)

4. Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): What steps she is taking to ensure that the London 2012 Paralympic games leave a lasting legacy for disabled people across the UK. [129141]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Maria Miller): The Paralympics were hugely successful. Now, we must ensure that we convert this success into an Olympic and Paralympic legacy that lasts beyond one great summer. The Government are working with Lord Coe so that the legacy programme delivers real and tangible benefits, including for disabled people.

Huw Irranca-Davies: The Paralympic games sent a tremendously positive message across wider society. Does the Minister regret, therefore, that the aim of

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achieving disability equality has been dropped by the Department for Work and Pensions? Is that not a completely contradictory message to send?

Maria Miller: I know from personal experience that at the heart of everything the Department does is giving people an opportunity to play a full role in society and looking at people for what they can do, not what they cannot do. That is exactly what we should be doing to support disabled people into work.

Supporting Women into Work

5. Charlie Elphicke (Dover) (Con): What steps she is taking to support more women into work. [129142]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities (Jo Swinson): The Government are taking strong action to support more women into sustainable work. We are delivering the biggest apprenticeships programme our country has ever seen, with more than half going to women. More than 200,000 women started an apprenticeship last year. Our tax cuts for 20 million people on the lowest incomes ensure that work always pays, and our radical reforms to parental leave announced last week will allow more women—and men—to balance their work and caring responsibilities.

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Charlie Elphicke: Is it not particularly important that we help partnered mothers with children into the workplace, particularly considering that in 1985 less than 30% of women with children under three were in the workplace but today it is nearly 60%?

Jo Swinson: I agree with my hon. Friend that it is important that we help working mothers who wish to work to play a full role in the labour market. That is also about ensuring that fathers who want to play a full role in parenting can do so. The ability to share parental leave between mums and dads in the way they choose, rather than how the Government dictate, is an important step towards achieving that goal.

Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab): The Minister will be alarmed, as we all are, by the big rise in long-term unemployment among women over 50—up from 50,000 to 62,000 since the election. The Work programme, which is designed to address that, does not seem to be delivering. What more can the Government do?

Jo Swinson: We are looking into this issue in detail, because we want to ensure that this group of women, as with all unemployed people, are supported. The Work programme provides tailored and targeted support to the individual, which is what is needed, and we will report back to the House about what more can be done.

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Women Bishops

10.31 am

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab) (Urgent Question): Will the Second Church Estates Commissioner make a statement on this week’s decision by the General Synod on women bishops?

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Tony Baldry): Yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury made it clear at the General Synod of the Church of England that the Church of England could not afford to “hang about” over the issue of women bishops and observed starkly that

“every day that we fail to resolve this issue…is a day when our credibility in the public eye is likely to diminish”.

Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham and the next Archbishop of Canterbury, said:

“The Church has voted overwhelmingly in favour of the principle. It is a question of finding a way that…is the right way forward.”

It is important for the House to recognise that there is overwhelming support in the Church of England for women bishops to be consecrated. The draft Measure rejected earlier this week was supported by clear majorities in 42 of the 44 dioceses in England. As I have repeatedly said, it is impossible for me to explain to parliamentary colleagues how a Measure that has had the clear support of 42 out of 44 dioceses failed to pass in the General Synod. Let us take all the votes passed in the General Synod: 324 members voted for women bishops, and 122 against; 94% of the bishops who voted on Tuesday supported the Measure, as did 77% of the House of Clergy; and even in the House of Laity, 64% were in favour. The Measure was lost by a handful of votes among the laity, because for the Measure to pass it had to clear the hurdle of a two-thirds majority in each House of the General Synod.

Speaking for the whole House, I am sure, my right hon. Friend and fellow Church Commissioner, the Prime Minister, made it clear to the House yesterday that the

“Church needs to get on with it, as it were, and get with the programme”—[Official Report, 21 November 2012; Vol. 553, c. 579.]

He observed that the Church of England needed a “sharp prod”.

I appreciate that frustrations exist in the House on this matter—a frustration that I share—and I think that the following needs to be understood. First, this is not an issue that can in any way be parked for the next couple of years or so, while we await another round of Synod elections. It must be understood that this issue needs to be resolved as soon as possible. I hope that it will be convenient for the House if I seek to arrange a meeting in the near future for concerned Members, together with the Bishop of Durham, the archbishop-designate, to explore how this matter can be resolved as speedily as possible.

There have been some suggestions in the press that it is impossible for the Church of England or General Synod to return to this issue until after a new General Synod has been elected in 2015. That is not correct: the rules prevent the same Measure from being reconsidered by the General Synod without a special procedure. It is perfectly possible for a different and amended Measure to consecrate women bishops to be considered by the

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General Synod. Although this is for the Church of England to resolve, as the Prime Minister made clear yesterday, I suspect that there will also be those in the Church of England who will wish to consider whether the election process to the General Synod is sufficiently representative, particularly of the laity of the Church of England, as Tuesday’s vote clearly did not reflect the overall and clear consensus of dioceses across England in support of women bishops.

It is my earnest hope that during the time I serve the Queen—whose appointment I am—this House and the Church of England as Second Church Estates Commissioner it will prove possible for me to bring before this House a Measure that will enable women to be consecrated bishops in the Church of England.

Diana Johnson: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his response to the urgent question, and I know that he is as disappointed as I am at having to speak on this matter today. May I also thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to raise this important matter on the Floor of the House today?

It appears to me and many others that the theological arguments over women priests—and therefore their position in roles of authority—were settled 20 years ago in the Church of England. The next natural step, on which I think there is agreement across the House, is to see some of the excellent ordained women priests now move into positions of leadership in our Church as bishops. Just as discrimination in the wider community is wrong, as it keeps the talents and abilities of all from flourishing, so it is important in the established Church that the talents, experience and skills of both men and women are used and that the Church is led by the very best, not just those who happen to be male. There should be no stained glass ceiling for women in our Church.

The Church of England now stands to be left behind by the society it seeks to serve and made to look outdated, irrelevant and frankly eccentric by this decision. It appears that a broad Church is being held to ransom by a few narrow minds, but as the hon. Gentleman said, the vast majority of members of the Church want to see women bishops. He set out clearly the votes that were cast at both diocesan and General Synod level. I was pleased to hear him say that there are questions to be asked about the convoluted decision-making structure in the Church, and in particular about the representative nature of the House of Laity, and whether an overhaul of the electoral system needs to be considered. The decision made by an unrepresentative minority in the House of Laity means that this essential modernisation of the Church of England has potentially been put back for another five years or more, with no guarantee of progress even then.

In fact, I think positions will become even more difficult. Many campaigners felt that they had offered concessions to accommodate those of different views and will perhaps now take a much less conciliatory approach, as they feel that the concessions have been ignored, with no willingness to compromise. As the Church of England is part of the constitutional settlement of this country, it is important that Parliament has regard to what the decision means for the country and the Church’s role in law making. With the decision made, we now see the entrenchment of the discriminatory

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nature of the 26 places in the upper House reserved for Bishops, who can only be male. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this cannot be right, and that Parliament and the Government have to consider what we should do, especially in light of the Government’s decision to abandon any wider reform of the Lords? Does he further agree that we must also consider whether the exemption from equalities legislation for the Church of England now needs to be re-examined?

Finally, I am pleased to hear the hon. Gentleman’s resolve on the need to sort this out as soon as possible, as well as what the Archbishop of Canterbury said. I understand that there will be moves by the Church to spend some time thinking about how to proceed, but it is imperative that those in the all-male group of bishops do not talk just to one another, but work with and alongside senior women in the Church to find a way forward. Unlike the Prime Minister, I think Parliament has a role to play and should now look at doing all it can to support the Church at this time. I hope that the hon. Gentleman agrees.

Sir Tony Baldry: I agree with almost all that the hon. Lady said. The really important point is that the whole House wants the Church of England to get on with this matter. It cannot be parked, and work needs to be done urgently to try to ensure that it is resolved as quickly as possible. In fairness, the House of Bishops gave the greatest possible leadership in the General Synod. However, as I sat there, the analogy that struck me was that it was a bit like Government Whips trying to talk to the Eurosceptics; there were those in the General Synod who, whatever the bishops said to them, were just not going to listen. So, in fairness, the House of Bishops in an episcopal-led Church was very clear about the need to make change. Those bishops work every day with women clergy in their dioceses and see the fantastic work that they are doing in the Church of England. That work must be valued and cherished, and we need to ensure that any changes do not square the circle by bringing forth proposals for women bishops who would be second-class bishops. I have made it clear to the General Synod on a number of occasions that Parliament simply would not approve any Measure that introduced women bishops as second-class bishops.

Mrs Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest) (Con): I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the whole House has sympathy with his position and great respect for the hard work that he has done in trying to resolve this matter. Does he agree that when the decision-making body of the established Church deliberately sets itself against the general principles of the society that it represents, its position as the established Church must be called into question?

Sir Tony Baldry: The hon. Lady makes a perfectly good point, and it is one that I have repeatedly made. As a consequence of the decision by the General Synod, the Church of England no longer looks like a national Church; it simply looks like a sect, like any other sect. If it wishes to be a national Church that reflects the nation, it has to reflect the values of the nation.

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): I thank the hon. Gentleman for doing a wonderful, and rather thankless, job on this issue over the years on behalf of

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parliamentarians. He was at the very stormy meeting yesterday between parliamentarians and the bishops. Peers and MPs of all parties were saying with one voice that if the Church does not get on and do this, Parliament will. Will he therefore convene an emergency meeting of the Ecclesiastical Committee, so that we can take legal advice as to what Parliament can do to help the Church to achieve the will of the people in the Church?

Sir Tony Baldry: It was because of yesterday’s meeting, and because I am conscious of the concerns being expressed on both sides of the House, that I would like to convene a meeting with the archbishop-designate. Justin Welby has great leadership skills, and it is he who will have to lead the Church of England in this matter. He needs to hear the voices from the House of Lords and the House of Commons that were heard in that meeting yesterday. We need to funnel our energies into helping him to resolve the matter.

Simon Hughes (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (LD): Thank you for granting the urgent question, Mr Speaker.

Can we all send our support, love and concern to all women who are ordained or hope to be ordained in the Church—including your chaplain, Mr Speaker, and all others? They must feel even more frustrated than we do, but we are not going to let them down. Given that, over the past 20 years, the Church has managed to sort out how parishes that did not want women priests could be looked after, does the Second Church Estates Commissioner not agree that it must be possible to resolve this issue? Will he invite the Minister for Women and Equalities to offer the services of the Government, not to tell the Church what to do but to offer it professional advice on how to deliver what the majority want, as soon as possible?

Sir Tony Baldry: I am sure that it must be possible to resolve this issue. The important thing is to continue to work at it until it is resolved. An increasing number of ordinands coming into the Church are women, and we need to have a Church in which everyone is valued. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is correct is saying that, at present, a number of women out there in the clergy are feeling undervalued. That is wrong; they are very much valued and cherished, and there needs to be a full place for them in our national Church.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): Since I was ordained as a priest in the Church of England 25 years ago, women have become vicars, rectors, deans, rural deans and even archdeacons, so it is ludicrous that they cannot now become bishops. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that we will have no truck with more concessions to the hard-liners who want to make women second-rate bishops. We need to speed this up. Would it not make sense to have a moratorium on the appointment of any more male bishops until there could also be women bishops—no nomination without feminisation?

Sir Tony Baldry: Of course, we could have done that if the Prime Minister still had control over the appointment of bishops.

Mr Bradshaw: Take it back then.

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Sir Tony Baldry: It was of course the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) as Prime Minister who, without any proper consultation, renounced the ability of Downing street to have any influence over the control of bishops. I am encouraged by the suggestions from Labour Members that the Prime Minister should take back the power to appoint bishops, but I suspect that might create a few problems. I think everyone will have heard the point made by the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant).

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I think my hon. Friend was wrong in what he said about the Eurosceptics, because the Eurosceptics happen to be right. The important point, which I hope he will accept, is that it is not for this House to say how the established Church is run. We may well have our own opinion, but it is a very dangerous thing for the House of Commons to tell the established Church how to run itself.

Sir Tony Baldry: I say, in all friendship to my hon. Friend, that as I sat through the debates in General Synod, it struck me that the Eurosceptics and the conservative evangelicals had quite a lot in common in their approach. Nevertheless, he makes a serious point on which the House should reflect. Since 1919, it has been the convention that although Parliament has the ultimate control over the Church of England—it is an established Church, after all, and the Book of Common Prayer is but an annexe to the Act of Uniformity—the Church of England comes forward with its Measures, and if they are passed by the Church of England they will be approved or otherwise by Parliament. I am sure my hon. Friend will understand that if the Church of England is a national Church and an established Church, it is right and proper for Parliament to make clear its views and opinions to the Church of England and for the Church of England to hear what Parliament is saying.

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): I am not involved with the Church of England and I am a lifelong non-believer, but I want to say to the hon. Gentleman, whom I greatly admire for the stance he has taken, that it is simply impossible to understand how on earth it can be argued that if women are considered appropriate to be deacons and priests, as they have been in the last 20 years, they are not worthy to be bishops. It is simply impossible to understand that. Will the hon. Gentleman also accept that, for many of us, this opposition to women bishops bears comparison with the opposition 100 years ago to women having the right to vote and to sit in the House of Commons? It is an anti-women attitude—a feeling that women have no place in public life, in religion or in politics—that I find contemptible.

Sir Tony Baldry: I agree with the hon. Gentleman. In fairness, if he reads the comments made by the Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday, he will find that the archbishop said exactly the same as him—that it is intolerable to have a situation where women can be priests, deacons, archdeacons and deans, yet not be bishops. In his own way, the hon. Gentleman is saying almost exactly the same as the Archbishop of Canterbury about this intolerable situation.

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Claire Perry (Devizes) (Con): Probably not for the first time, I find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) and in disagreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone). I think that we are elected on a far more democratic basis than the House of Laity.

I believe that there is very strong support for this Measure both in my constituency and in that of my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (John Glen). We share the most extraordinary Dean of Salisbury Cathedral, in the shape of the Rev. June Osborne. May we please urge the bishops to adopt the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Rhondda of a moratorium? It is in their control. They could do it themselves. I know that it would be a complicated process, but it would be less complicated than the fiendish voting structure that we saw yesterday.

If you will forgive me, Mr. Speaker, may I add that my heart goes out to those women who will be standing up on Sunday and doing, in many cases, a superior job of bringing people to God and bringing the comfort of Christianity to their constituents? This is disgraceful. Please could we all share in some sort of message of support? There will be change. We are behind this change. It has to happen.

Sir Tony Baldry: I am sure that women throughout the Church will have heard the encouraging comments of my hon. Friend, and those of, I think, every other Member who has spoken so far.

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): I joined the Movement for the Ordination of Women in 1976, and I find it incredible that we are still having this argument 36 years later. I am very pleased that the Second Church Estates Commissioner understands our feelings about the urgent need for this Measure.

May I suggest that too many concessions have been made to those who are opposed to women priests? That is what has given them hope, and it is why they have continued to fight. It is simply unjust to do that at the expense of women in the Church.

Sir Tony Baldry: The hon. Lady’s comments demonstrate the difficulty of striking a balance between various groups in the Church of England, and trying to ensure that everyone feels that there is a continuing place for them in the Church. It has always been a broad Church, and as far as possible we want to keep everyone in that broad Church. However, I assure the hon. Lady that I know, and the House has made very clear, that Parliament simply would not pass a Measure that discriminated against women, squaring the circle by trying to make them bishops but second-class bishops. Everyone has to understand that.

David Tredinnick (Bosworth) (Con): I think it important for Parliament to express a view, but I also think that it would be better for us to pass a short Bill requiring female bishops. We need to put the Church out of its agony, and to end the antiquated voting system to which my hon. Friend has referred.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is nothing new about female bishops? There is a 9th-century mosaic in a Roman basilica showing two saints, who are named, the Virgin Mary, and a fourth woman who is clearly

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described as Bishop Theodora: Theodora Episcopa. She was a female bishop. The Church has had them in the past.

Sir Tony Baldry: The occasions in the past when Parliament and the Church of England have gone head to head on matters of worship and doctrine—there were disputes about the prayer book in the late 1920s, for instance—are not happy precedents. I think it important for the Church of England to listen very carefully to what Parliament is saying. Although, in my view, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was absolutely right to say yesterday that the Church needed a “sharp prod”, I hope and believe that Parliament will give it time to sort itself out and get on with the issue, and I assure the House that we will do so as speedily as possible.

Dr Eilidh Whiteford (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Speaking as one who is part of the wider Anglican communion, I am profoundly saddened and disappointed by the Church of England’s failure to make progress on the role of women in spiritual and public life. It leaves us with the continuing anomaly that seats for bishops in the other place are available exclusively to men. I simply do not believe that that is sustainable in a modern democracy. Does the Commissioner believe that we might, in fact, be doing the Church a favour by seeking to review its constitutional status?

Sir Tony Baldry: The hon. Lady is absolutely right to remind us that the Church of England is part of a wider Anglican communion, and that the whole of the Anglican communion will be looking at how the Church of England conducts itself. I agree with the comments that have been made about the Church reflecting, and I think that everyone in it needs to reflect on how out of touch it now appears to Parliament—to every part and every corner of the House of Commons.

Tessa Munt (Wells) (LD): I pay tribute to the many women in my constituency who take part in the formal and informal structures of the Church. They are very important to rural life, and I know that my bishop—Peter Price, the Bishop of Bath and Wells—deeply appreciates the contribution of his large female work force.

I agree with what has been said about women on boards. Might the hon. Gentleman be able to explain to newer Members why this particular Church does not have to observe equalities legislation?

Sir Tony Baldry: May I correct a point that seems to be getting some coinage? The Church of England does not enjoy any particular exemption from sex equality legislation. Obviously, equalities legislation is entirely a matter for this House, but the legislation that applies to the Church of England applies to all faith groups in this country. If Parliament were to seek to change the legislation, it would apply to every faith group. That is clearly a matter for the House.

Ann Coffey (Stockport) (Lab): The bishops sit in the House of Lords on the basis of a moral authority, and they vote on a range of issues, including equalities legislation. It is now clear that the views of the established Church do not reflect the views of the British people, so is it not time that the bishops left the House of Lords?

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Is not the real problem that the Church of England is entitled, by right, to places in an unreformed, unaccountable and unelected House of Lords?

Sir Tony Baldry: I think it is rather tough that a number of people are taking out their frustration on the bishops, because the bishops gave clear leadership, with almost every single bishop who spoke and voted indicating that they want to have women bishops. They, too, are very keen to ensure that they are joined in the House of Lords by women bishops. There could be no clearer leadership in the Church than that given by the bishops of the Church of England on the fact that they want to have women bishops.

Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): I welcome my hon. Friend’s statement and agree wholly with what he was saying, and I particularly welcome the opportunity of parliamentarians meeting the archbishop-designate. May I link two points that my hon. Friend made? Speaking as a Eurosceptic and as someone who has stood, unsuccessfully, for election to the House of Laity, may I suggest to him that the House of Laity is about as representative of opinion in the pews as the European Parliament is of constituents? May I also urge him to move forward as quickly as possible with a review of the electoral arrangements for the House of Laity?

Sir Tony Baldry: It was my mistake for wandering down the route of commenting about Eurosceptics. One thing that we were enjoined to do in the General Synod was live in amity with all our colleagues, so I hope that I can always do that. My hon. Friend is correct in saying that a number of questions will continue to be asked about the arrangements for electing the General Synod, because we simply cannot have a situation where 42 out of 44 dioceses vote overwhelmingly for women bishops and that simply is not reflected in the vote in the General Synod and the House of Laity—that is simply unsustainable.

Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on all his work on this matter and thank him for it. I also wish to echo the sentiments that so many hon. Members have expressed about the contribution that women in the Church make in all our constituencies. Does he agree that the reaction that this has caused in the population as a whole, including on Twitter and in social media, has shown how important this issue is to the nation and how important it is that Parliament acts? I include in that the petition that has been started to raise the question as to whether there should be an automatic right for bishops to sit in the House of Lords if there are no women bishops.

Sir Tony Baldry: The hon. Lady clearly demonstrates that the Church of England has to be a national Church. It is the Church of the Remembrance day services, it is the Church of the coronation and it is the Church of which the Queen is head as Head of State and Head of the Church. One of the first things the Queen did during her jubilee celebrations was attend a meeting at Lambeth palace that was attended by all faith groups. What was very moving was that all those faith groups said that they felt confident in freedom of religion for them because of the role of the Church of England as

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the national Church. So the Church of England, as a national Church, is failing the whole nation and other faith groups if it does not reflect our national character.

Jane Ellison (Battersea) (Con): May I say, Mr Speaker, how much many of us supported the robust comments your Chaplain made in the media after this announcement was made? My oldest friend is due to be ordained in 2014, and the Church will be lucky to have her, as she is someone of huge talent. Surely the Church sees that it will not attract women of that calibre if they see that they will not be able to pursue the full extent of their talents.

Sir Tony Baldry: My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. We are very fortunate to have attracted into the Church over the past 20 years many women of extraordinary talent, leadership, skill and commitment. Indeed, the Church of England would not manage without their skill, leadership and commitment. We need to be able to continue to recruit people of that high calibre and I hope that we will continue to do so.

Mr Speaker: We are also all extremely fortunate in our Chaplain and I am most grateful to the hon. Member for Battersea (Jane Ellison) for what she said.

Jonathan Ashworth (Leicester South) (Lab): I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman’s remarks and many people will appreciate the way in which he has put them. It is clearly unsustainable for us to have an all-male episcopate. Does he agree that the decision sadly risks damaging the reputation of the Church in the eyes of many of our constituents? Will he consider working with the business managers to find a way for this House to express its will and send a clear, unanimous and courteous message to the General Synod that it needs to think again?

Sir Tony Baldry: I shall certainly reflect on that interesting suggestion with the business managers and the Clerks.

James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend East) (Con): Given that a significant minority in the House of Laity have spoken and said that women are not competent to be bishops, will my hon. Friend, alongside me, call on that significant minority to launch an urgent review into the competence of its own head of the Church of England?

Sir Tony Baldry: Those who voted against women bishops at General Synod did so because of their own particular theological convictions. While acknowledging those theological convictions, the Church now needs to find a way to move forward as speedily as possible to ensure that women can be consecrated as bishops in the Church of England.

Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman share my sadness and that of many other people that the Church has made itself appear so out of touch and anachronistic in its decision making? The head of the Church of England is a woman, but in the 21st century we cannot have women bishops.

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Sir Tony Baldry: I agree. It is a great sadness. I suspect that every right hon. and hon. Member has recently had representations from Church members on same-sex marriage. If the Church of England thinks that Parliament will listen to it with considerable attention on moral issues such as same-sex marriage and so on when the Church of England seems to be so out of step on other issues of concern to Parliament, it is simply deluding itself.

Oliver Colvile (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Con): I must declare an interest in that my sister is a vicar in the Church of England in your constituency, Mr Speaker, and I personally own the living of a parish in Oxfordshire. Does my hon. Friend think that if Mrs Proudie had been the bishop rather than her husband, Obadiah Slope would have had a rather different career path?

Sir Tony Baldry: I suspect, Mr Speaker, that that is true. It is reassuring to discover that there are still Members of this House who own livings of parishes in the Church of England.

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): I caution my hon. Friend about comparisons between the EU and the Church of England, as the EU forces people to vote and vote again until it gets the result it wants. Clearly, the Church of England has shown itself to be completely out of touch with the views not only of Parliament but of the country at large. Is it not time now for the General Synod to review its whole decision-making process so that it can reflect the wishes of its members?

Sir Tony Baldry: The General Synod will have to reflect on the comments made by my hon. Friend and others about its effectiveness, about how it is elected and about whether it represents members of the Church of England, the broader community and society as a whole. Historically and even today, church wardens have been elected by the whole community because there is recognition that in every parish church wardens represent the community as a whole. We will have to consider how the laity elected to the General Synod can reflect the broadest range of society—certainly among those who are members of the Church of England and perhaps among the community as a whole. I am quite sure that will be reviewed in the coming months.

Charlie Elphicke (Dover) (Con): As a Church of England believer, I have never understood how a woman can be head of the Church yet somehow women cannot be bishops. I urge that we consider bringing in a short Bill ordering that women should be able to be bishops in the Church of England.

Sir Tony Baldry: In the General Synod debate, part of which I sat through, there were some who argued that it was impossible for women to have headship, and I just could not understand how they sought to reconcile that with the fact that Parliament has made the Queen defender of the faith and that we are fortunate enough to have her not only as Head of State, but as head of the Church.

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Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD): This week’s decision reflects very badly on the Church, but also very unfairly; the Church, after all, is all the people who are part of it, not just one legislative committee. Does my hon. Friend therefore agree that, given that a large majority of them have shown that they are as keen to have women bishops as we in this House are, the problem lies not with the members of the Church of England, but with the paralysis of its decision-making structures?

Sir Tony Baldry: My hon. Friend is right to remind us at the end of these questions that the overwhelming majority of members of the Church of England want women bishops. It is now beholden on us all, whether in the Church of England or outside, to try to ensure that happens as speedily as possible.

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Business of the House

11.6 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 (Mr Andrew Lansley): The business for next week is as follows:

Monday 26 November—Remaining stages of the Small Charitable Donations Bill. In addition, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister plans to make a statement on the EU Council.

Tuesday 27 November—Consideration in Committee and remaining stages of the European Union (Croatian Accession and Irish Protocol) Bill, followed by a motion to approve a Ways and Means resolution relating to the Growth and Infrastructure Bill.

Wednesday 28 November—Opposition day (11th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject to be announced.

Thursday 29 November—A debate on a motion relating to Scotland and the Union, followed by a debate on a motion relating to the 40th anniversary of the expulsion of Ugandan Asians. The subjects for these debates have been nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.

Lord Justice Leveson intends to publish his report on 29 November. The Prime Minister plans to make a statement to the House subsequently.

Friday 30 November—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 3 December will include:

Monday 3 December—General debate on the Leveson inquiry.

Tuesday 4 December—Remaining stages of the Public Service Pensions Bill, followed by a motion relating to the appointment of IPSA board members.

Wednesday 5 December—The Chancellor of the Exchequer will present his autumn statement, followed by consideration of an allocation of time motion, followed by all stages of the Police (Complaints and Conduct) Bill.

Thursday 6 December—Business to be nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.

Ms Eagle: I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business. The recent military conflict in Gaza has horrified many Members of the House. There is widespread relief that there is now a ceasefire, but it feels like the possibility of a lasting settlement is slipping away as facts on the ground make any agreement harder to reach. We welcome the fact that the Foreign Secretary made a statement to the House earlier this week. As the Leader of the House will know, the Palestinian leadership are applying for full observer status at the UN. The Opposition support that application. Before the vote at the UN, will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate on the matter in Government time?

On the Justice and Security Bill, we had suggested to the Government a sensible way forward that would have given judges greater discretion and accepted the recommendations from the Joint Committee on Human Rights while at the same time ensuring that intelligence sources were protected. We regret that the Government

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did not seek to work on a cross-party basis. Yesterday, on three separate occasions, they were defeated in the other place when our Liberal Democrat colleagues joined Labour and Cross-Bench peers to improve the Bill. Will the Leader of the House arrange for the roving Minister, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), to make an urgent statement on how the Government will now proceed?

In business questions before the recess, I asked the Leader of the House about the forthcoming report by Lord Leveson. I said the House should have an opportunity to debate the report fully, and the Government should set out in advance the process for consideration of the inquiry’s recommendations. May I therefore thank the Leader of the House for announcing a general debate in Government time on the Leveson recommendations, which we now understand will be published next Thursday?

Does the Leader of the House agree that throughout this process we must remember to listen to the voices of the victims and their families, and also remember that this inquiry was the result of the gross intrusion they suffered at times of maximum distress? Will the Leader of the House therefore assure me that his Cabinet colleagues, particularly the Education Secretary, will not seek to undermine Lord Leveson or his report?

Will the Leader of the House ask the Deputy Prime Minister to make a statement on the elections for police and crime commissioners, as his appearance at this week’s Deputy Prime Minister’s questions left none of us any the wiser? The House has heard from the Home Secretary, but if the Leader of the House is successful in coaxing the Deputy Prime Minister to the Dispatch Box we could ask the great strategist why he was so keen to hold these elections in November. So successful was this strategy for getting out the Liberal Democrat vote that the Liberal Democrats managed to win exactly none of the elections they chose to contest last Thursday.

It appears that the Liberal Democrats used the PCC elections to test out their brand new election strategy. In north Wales, the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats endorsed one Winston Roddick, saying that

“as an independent candidate, he is free from party political pressure”.

He was elected, but it was subsequently uncovered that Mr Roddick was, in fact, a member of the Liberal Democrats masquerading as an independent. May we have an urgent debate on this new Liberal Democrat election strategy to hoodwink people into voting for them?

Has the Leader of the House had a chance to look at the winners of The Spectator parliamentarian awards? Will he join me in congratulating the Deputy Prime Minister on his award—for apology of the year? I predict he will be up for it again next year. May I also congratulate the Government Chief Whip, who won the award for resurrection of the year? My only disappointment is that I did not win tipster of the year for predicting that in this House.

Does the Leader of the House think we should nominate Mr Roddick, the not-so-independent police and crime commissioner, for politician of the year, as he is the only Liberal Democrat to have found an election-winning strategy? The Education Secretary should be given a special award for News International politician

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of the year now that Louise Mensch is no longer a Member of the House. Will the Leader of the House suggest which Cabinet Minister we could nominate for omnishambles of the year, because Labour Members think any number of them would be worthy winners?

Mr Lansley: I am grateful to the shadow Leader of the House for her response, particularly on the arrangements for a debate, provisionally set for Monday 3 December, on the Leveson inquiry. We now have a date for the publication of its report, and she asked further about that. The House will have heard what the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport said. As the report will be published in just a few days, it is absolutely right that we should wait and see what Lord Leveson says in it, and very shortly thereafter the House will have an opportunity to express its views.

The hon. Lady asked about the situation in the middle east. The Foreign Secretary made a statement on that, and there were further questions at Prime Minister’s questions yesterday. I have no doubt that the Foreign Secretary will want to keep the House fully informed. The Prime Minister said yesterday what we made clear last year at the United Nations General Assembly: that it would not be helpful for the question of observer status for the Palestinian people to be brought to a vote. None the less, if that question is brought to a vote, the Foreign Secretary will, of course, want to tell the House about our judgment on it.

The shadow Leader of the House asked about the progress of the Justice and Security Bill in another place. I and my colleagues will make it clear during the passage of the Bill in another place how we propose to respond to the progress of the Bill. We will look carefully at the votes and think carefully about them, but there is an important principle, which my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister without Portfolio and others have made clear: that in cases before civil courts the judge should have access to all the evidence. That is also a principle of justice that it is important to seek to maintain.

I am very tempted to have a debate on police and crime commissioners, not least because it would allow us an opportunity to set out clearly how, under this coalition Government, crime across the country is falling. Police and crime commissioners will be democratically elected and democratically accountable to enable us not only to sustain that reduction in crime, but to translate the priorities of the people directly into the priorities of policing in their areas. I do not understand why Labour Members now want a debate about this. The Labour party did not seem to be able to work out whether it wanted to debate it, deny it, support it, oppose it, say it was the wrong thing to do and then stand candidates for it. A debate would give us the opportunity to debate the position not of the current Deputy Prime Minister, but of the former Deputy Prime Minister.

I was interested in what the hon. Lady said about Mr Winston Roddick as the police and crime commissioner elected in north Wales. As it happened, my wife met him in Menai Bridge during the fair. He came up to her and asked, “Do you know anything about the police and crime commissioner elections?” She said, “As it happens, I do.” Curiously—I have checked with her— Mr Winston Roddick did not disclose any party affiliation whatever. So there we have it.

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I share with the House our admiration for many of those who were the recipients of awards from The Spectator last night, but especially so for my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary, who is an inspiration to all of us.

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): Will the Leader of the House arrange for us to debate a motion next week setting up a Committee of MPs who could educate the chairman of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority about the work of the House? Did my right hon. Friend hear the admission by that gentleman on this morning’s “Today” programme that although he understood a lot about what MPs do in their constituencies, he was totally ignorant about what they did in the House, other than, as he put it, attend a zoo for one hour every Wednesday? In the light of that amazing demonstration of his ignorance, if he is to continue in his post is it not essential that he gets educated properly?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend will know from the statement that I made about forthcoming business that my expectation is that in the week after next we will be able to debate the appointment of Members to the board of IPSA—not the chair of the board of IPSA, whose tenure continues. In my conversations with Ian Kennedy he has made it clear to me that one of the things that he regards as most important is that there is a better understanding of the work of Members of Parliament. I will further encourage him in that process.

Ms Karen Buck (Westminster North) (Lab): Could we find time for a debate on policing in London, specifically the proposal announced by the Met for a major programme of closures and downgrading of police stations across the city? May we have an opportunity during that debate to discuss the fact that police stations are already closing in advance of that consultation, including Marylebone and St John’s Wood in the London borough of Westminster? It is not acceptable for our constituents to face the loss and downgrading of police stations with no opportunity for anyone in Parliament to discuss that matter

Mr Lansley: It is not that there is no opportunity for such discussion. I recall that during the previous Business questions the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) raised issues relating to fire and rescue service stations across London and was subsequently able to secure a debate on that subject. It is primarily a matter for the Mayor of London as the commissioner of policing in London and for the London Assembly, but we here and those representing London here should have an opportunity to secure a debate.

Sir Roger Gale (North Thanet) (Con): My parliamentary neighbour and hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Laura Sandys) is attending a conference this morning and so is unable to be here, but I share her concern about what happened yesterday when a ship carrying live animals sailed from the port of Ramsgate in her constituency in appalling weather. The ship should never have been allowed to sail at all. It went halfway across the channel, turned back and had to unload the animals, which were then transported a long way across the country in absolute misery. This is absolutely intolerable, and it is done in the name of free trade. It is not a matter for an Adjournment debate. Will the Leader of the

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House arrange for the relevant Minister to come to the House and make a statement to explain what we propose to do to stop this in future?

Mr Lansley: I was not aware of those circumstances, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making me and the House aware of them. I will of course raise the matter with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and invite him not only to respond to my hon. Friend but to consider what form of statement it might be appropriate to make.

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): I hope that the Leader of the House will join me in congratulating Paula Dunn on her appointment as the Paralympics head coach of UK Athletics. She is the first woman ever to have held that role. In relation to supporting what she and other coaches might do, we had questions earlier today on the legacy of the Olympics for women in sport and the legacy of the Paralympics for disabled people, but no clear answers from Ministers, so may we have a debate in Government time on exactly what is happening and going to happen as regards the action needed to address those important legacy issues?

Mr Lansley: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising that issue. I think that Members of the House will share with her a sense of the real potential that the Olympics and the Paralympics gave for a legacy that is vital not only in respect of development in sport but of social change and understanding of the position of disabled people in society. It is almost difficult to talk about people being disabled when the thing that came most to the fore when watching the Paralympics was that we all have very different abilities. The Paralympics seemed largely to consist of people whose abilities were far in excess of mine and those of us who think of ourselves as not disabled. In truth, we all have very different abilities, and that very much came to the forefront; I thought it was very persuasive. The House is considering Olympic legacy issues through the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. I will talk to my colleagues about how we might find an opportunity to discuss and debate those issues, but it might also be considered by the Backbench Business Committee.

Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater and West Somerset) (Con): I have given the Leader of the House notice of my question, which is to do with my constituent, Katie Lock. Katie applied to work at the Olympics and got all the way through the training for the company, but her application was turned down by the Home Office. The Home Office has been singularly unhelpful at all stages in finding out why this young girl’s application was turned down. May we have time to discuss this, because I am sure that she cannot be the only person to whom this has happened?

Mr Lansley: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who did indeed raise this with me. I will ensure that he gets as full and complete a reply as I can secure for him from the Home Office as soon as I can.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): The House will remember the triumph of the Olympics. The only slight blemish was the security company G4S,

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which got into serious trouble and could not deliver the security that we expected. We were saved by our great troops, who stepped into the breach. Is the Leader of the House aware that G4S is now trying to ameliorate its financial position as regards the Olympics by failing to pay its supply chain and sub-contractors? Is not that a disgrace given that many of those sub-contractors performed absolutely to their contracts?

Mr Lansley: The hon. Gentleman raises an issue that I freely confess I was unaware of, although it may have been evident to the Home Affairs Committee consequent on its inquiries. From the House’s point of view, one of the routes to inquire into what happened in relation to G4S is through that Committee.

Tessa Munt (Wells) (LD): Does the Leader of the House agree that we could debate the priorities of the Environment Agency’s maintenance programme, particularly in Somerset, where there has been catastrophic flooding over the summer and throughout this autumn, including yesterday and today? Water is lying in the fields for weeks, and that increases its toxicity so that it eventually kills off the fish, birds and other wildlife when it is released into the rivers; it is unable to be drained away or pumped from those hundreds of acres of agricultural land. Is it not time to rebalance these priorities and look at the value of wildlife over food and farming?

Mr Lansley: It is important to recognise that the Government have put in place partnership funding arrangements with local authorities that are contributing to substantial enabling schemes to deter flooding. We expect to exceed our objective of 145,000 households being better protected by March 2015. In addition, I will talk to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs because it is important not only that we have adequate flood protection, but that the means by which we provide it are environmentally sensitive. In the wake of the flooding in my constituency in 2001, we were able to recreate some floodplains, which was an environmentally responsible way to provide flood protection.

Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab): Given the Government’s 20% cut to policing, which has necessitated a cut in the number of front-line police officers of 15,000 nationally and 100 in Croydon, may I echo the request of my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck) for an urgent debate on policing in London so that voters have the unequivocal facts before they go to the polls next week?

Mr Lansley: I encourage the hon. Lady to look in the Official Report at the questions that the Home Secretary answered last Monday, because I do not recognise her figures on the number of front-line police officers. Indeed, the proportion of officers on the front line is increasing, as is their effectiveness, as we can see from the further reduction in crime across the country that was reported recently. The first thing we should do is express our appreciation of the effectiveness with which police forces across the country are addressing the necessity of managing within reduced budgets. We should support police and crime commissioners in taking that forward and in responding to local priorities.

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Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: A large number of right hon. and hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye. As usual, I am anxious to accommodate as many of them as possible. The House will be conscious of the fact that there is an important Government statement and three pieces of business under the auspices of the Backbench Business Committee to follow. That information serves to underline the imperative of short questions and answers. We will be led in our mission by Mr Robert Halfon.

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): Has my right hon. Friend seen early-day motion 686 on compensation for Zimbabwean farmers who had their land stolen by Mugabe?

[That this House calls on the World Bank and the Zimbabwe government to respect the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) court ruling in April 2009 that granted compensation of EUR22.5 million to Zimbabwean and European farmers, including Timolene Tibbett, who were illegally and often brutally thrown off their land during the Mugabe land reform in 2000 and 2001; believes that settlement of this claim will demonstrate a commitment to international law from the coalition Zimbabwe government and build confidence with international investors that arbitration ruling for investments, no matter how small or large, will be respected to created jobs and opportunities in Zimbabwe; and cautions the World Bank against adopting the incoherent position of progressing with a debt write-off programme with the Zimbabwe government whilst not ensuring the Zimbabwe government honours the legal commitments arrived at via proceedings of the ICSID, which is a World Bank court.]

May we have a debate on Zimbabwe to ensure that we get justice and compensation for farmers, including my constituent, Timolene Tibbett?

Mr Lansley: I am sure that, like me, the House will have seen my hon. Friend’s early-day motion. I hope that we can find an opportunity for such a debate. To accelerate the process, it might be advisable for him and others to seek time to discuss the issue on the Adjournment.

Mr Dave Watts (St Helens North) (Lab): Given the Government’s promise to review the way in which the work capability test is carried out, may we have a statement on their progress, because to many Members it seems that nothing is improving?

Mr Lansley: The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions made a written ministerial statement yesterday on the further report by Professor Harrington, which has enabled us to make considerable progress in improving the work capability assessment.

Mr Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con): May I return to flooding, which adversely affected my Tewkesbury constituency yesterday? Given that further heavy rainfall is predicted for tonight, will the Leader of the House alert the relevant Departments that they may need to make a statement or respond to an urgent question on Monday?

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Mr Lansley: Many of us have experienced flooding, to varying degrees, in our constituencies. I know that my hon. Friend’s constituency has experienced serious flooding in the past and is at risk now. It is important that we keep the House fully informed—my hon. Friend will make sure that we do—about the steps that the Government can take, through both the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Communities and Local Government in supporting local authorities. I know that I do not need to encourage those Departments to keep the House and Members fully informed.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): May we have an urgent debate or statement on the devastating report that was published this morning by the chief inspector of the borders and immigration service? It revealed that in Liverpool there are 100,000 letters from Members of Parliament and the public that have not been opened. When may we have a debate on that important issue?

Mr Lansley: The UK Border Agency chief executive will have written to the right hon. Gentleman as Chair of the Home Affairs Committee to address some of the issues raised by the report and make clear that UKBA has accepted all the chief inspector’s recommendations. The chief inspector was clear that UKBA is now tackling those problems—and has been since April 2012—although I would not diminish the scale of the legacy problems it inherited and some of the difficulties and errors that have occurred. My colleagues in the Home Office are determined to ensure that UKBA not only deals with those legacy issues, but that it continues to improve the service it provides, and they will report on that to the House.

Nick de Bois (Enfield North) (Con): May I press the Leader of the House on the present crisis in the middle east and urge him to reconsider and try to find time for an urgent debate so that the House can make clear its views?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend will be aware, not least from the statement I have just made, of the many pressing issues that the House has to consider. There are opportunities through the Backbench Business Committee for Members to pursue those issues, which may—and often have—extend to international affairs.

Lucy Powell (Manchester Central) (Lab): May I ask the Leader of the House for an urgent statement or debate on the privatisation of Greater Manchester ambulance service? As he may know, the contract to run part of this important service was recently awarded to Arriva—yes, that is the bus and train company—despite the NHS bid winning on quality and service. Arriva was given the contract on cost alone. Patients and carers across Greater Manchester are rightly worried that the quality of their service will suffer as a result, and that they have been consigned to a poorer quality service than the rest of the north-west region.

Mr Lansley: I am sure the House will wish to welcome the hon. Lady to her place. Decisions on contracts of that kind are made locally within the national health service, not centrally by the Secretary of State, but I will ask my ministerial friends in the Department of Health

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to write to her with details on that case. My recollection is that the tender is often for patient transport services, rather than emergency responses, and one should be careful to distinguish between those two things. There are examples elsewhere in the country of where patient transport services are not administered by the local ambulance service trust but a good service is maintained none the less.

Gareth Johnson (Dartford) (Con): My constituent, Vaughan Williams, served on the arctic convoys during the second world war—a journey that Winston Churchill described as the worst in the entire world. Foreign Office rules prevent Mr Williams from receiving the medal he was awarded by the Russian Government, who recognised that he had risked his life to fight Nazism. May we have a debate on the bravery of those who served on the arctic convoys, and on the inappropriateness of rules that prevent full recognition of such bravery?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend may seek to secure such a debate on the Adjournment of the House or through the Backbench Business Committee, and judging from the response in the House he may be supported in that. I recall—as no doubt he does—that at Prime Minister’s questions a couple of weeks ago the Prime Minister made it clear that he will look personally at the question of a service medal relating to the arctic convoys.

Dr Eilidh Whiteford (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Is the Leader of the House aware of intense media speculation in recent days that the UK Government will not get any EU funding for carbon capture and storage in the current round because they have failed to provide funding guarantees? So far, the Department of Energy and Climate Change has refused to deny those rumours, which are causing great uncertainty and sending mixed messages on the UK Government’s commitment to carbon capture and storage. May we therefore have a statement from the Department at the earliest opportunity?

Mr Lansley: My colleagues at the Department have made it clear that, among other commitments, they will make an annual energy statement at some point this year. I will raise that issue with them, but they are aware of it—the Government’s commitment to carbon capture and storage has been made very clear on a number of occasions.

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con): Last week, I visited a school in Tamworth, where a 16-year-old history student asked, “Who is Napoleon?” They had also not heard of the Duke of Wellington. May we therefore have a debate on extending rigour in education, particularly in the teaching of history—history student numbers fell by 1.2% in 2011—so that future generations of history students know our history and chronology, and that the Duke of Wellington was a soldier and statesman, and not a public house?