I hope that when the Minister replies he will give some indication of the incentives that the Government can offer businesses to encourage them to offer apprenticeships. If they do so, the young men and women of tomorrow can have jobs. Like other Members, I took on a young man as an apprentice in my office here. After he had spent three years on a course, I offered

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him a job because of the qualifications that he obviously had, but also because he had the ability and an interest in it, and he needed that opportunity.

The Prince’s Trust is one of the great organisations that we all know and love, and we all recognise the good work it does. The hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) spoke some time ago about depression among young people. Among those who are not in work, 70% are depressed, and of those who are in work, 50% are depressed. It is a big problem that has not been touched on, but perhaps we can have an indication of what can be done about it.

In my constituency, 750 young people of 24 and under are unemployed. They need the opportunity offered by apprenticeships. The big employers are in agri-food, tourism, engineering and pharmaceuticals. If we can encourage each business to take someone on, that would help. We need to increase basic skill levels in literacy, numeracy and mechanics to help people fill in the forms to get a job. As parliamentarians we have a responsibility to help young people who are struggling. If we can deliver a vibrant and rigorous apprenticeship system, that will make a real difference to young people, to businesses and, in the long term, to the economy as a whole.

6.33 pm

Chris Evans (Islwyn) (Lab/Co-op): It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and to hear his Irish accent. The Celtic fringe is present in force today in this debate.

I begin with the good news that apprenticeship week is being celebrated in Wales with £40 million being given by the Labour-led Welsh Assembly for expanding apprenticeships. Has the Minister had the chance to read the statement by the Welsh Assembly Minister announcing a one-off payment of £500 to small and micro-businesses to overcome the barriers to employing apprentices? I hope that he will think about introducing something similar throughout the country.

The idea of apprentices always conjures up romantic images from the ’50s and ’60s of the draughtsman, the plumber and the electrician taking a five-year apprenticeship. As much as I welcome apprentices and apprenticeship week, I am concerned that a number of people believe that they are following an apprenticeship when they are doing nothing of the sort. It is not the regeneration of apprenticeships, but the rebadging of apprenticeships. I think of Morrisons as the largest employer of apprentices in this country. One in 10 apprentices work at Morrisons, but what are they apprenticed to do? What profession will they come out with? Is it a meat cutter, a green grocer or a fishmonger? I do not know, and I hope that we will look into that.

Apprenticeships that last only a matter of weeks or months devalue great apprenticeship schemes such as those at Pensord Press in Pontllanfraith in my constituency and in Jaguar Land Rover in the constituency of the hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy). The Richard report bears that out. He noted two things that I have seen myself: the quality and the quantity of apprenticeships. I was hoping to develop this point further, but I have only a minute. At the moment we have box-ticking, and many companies do not appreciate the worth of apprenticeships. I hope that the Minister will look at the

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example of Germany, where apprentices take an exam at the end of their apprenticeship, like a driving test. There is a qualification standard for each and every sector, so that employers know exactly what they are getting.

Unless we grasp the nettle now and unless we bring about real quality apprenticeships, we risk falling even further behind India and China, and that is the worst thing that we could do for our young people.

6.36 pm

Sarah Champion (Rotherham) (Lab): Not every young person wants to go to university, or indeed can afford to. From a young age, we should be promoting the range of options available post-school, but the Government have seen fit to scrap work experience at key stage 4 and career guidance. Insufficient apprenticeships are available for those who want one, particularly for 16 and 17-year-olds. Rotherham college of arts and technology faces a cut in its funding that means that it will lose 280 places for this age group, despite 14.7% of young people in Rotherham being unemployed—twice the national average.

In Rotherham, we are particularly short of apprenticeship places for engineering, even though we have the advance manufacturing park in the area. The main obstacle employers cite when looking to take on an apprentice aged under 21 is the perceived bureaucracy involved. However, this week, Tata Steel in Rotherham has announced 29 apprenticeships, and other organisations there are also proactively looking to increase the number of apprentices they support. I understand that some employers are nervous about the investment that they will need to make in a young person before seeing any return. However, my experience is that this initial investment pays off tenfold, as employers have a worker who understands their systems and is keen to demonstrate commitment.

I urge the Government to use public procurement to boost apprenticeship numbers. For a company bidding for a public sector contract worth more than £1 million, part of its contractual obligation should be to provide apprenticeships. This recommendation was supported by the cross-party Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, but to date has not been acted on. I mentioned the lack of placements for engineering apprentices in Rotherham. If the Government adopted this policy in public procurement, High Speed 2, which will come through Rotherham, would create 33,000 new apprenticeships throughout the country, immediately making obsolete the problem of the lack of engineering places.

For me, the only way out of a recession is to work our way out. I urge the Government to support apprenticeships more fully to enable our young people to do that. Because of that, I support the motion.

6.38 pm

Ms Karen Buck (Westminster North) (Lab): We have two tasks to fulfil today and I believe that we have fulfilled them. The first, arguably the most important, was to celebrate national apprenticeship week and apprentices. We have had speeches from Members on both sides of the House doing exactly that. From the Opposition Benches we had strong speeches from my hon. Friends the Members for North Tyneside (Mrs Glindon), for Inverclyde (Mr McKenzie), and for Bolton West (Julie Hilling). They spoke of their constituency experiences

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and praised those involved in delivering apprenticeships, whether SMEs, large employers, training agencies, and colleges.

Further education colleges do not get the attention and praise they deserve in this House. They are central to the delivery of the skills agenda in respect of apprenticeships. Apprenticeships deliver £3.4 billion of value to the economy, so they are not only good for the people undertaking them; they are also good for the wider economy. We have given them the praise that they deserve today, and I hope people will pay attention to the fact that there is cross-party consensus on the value of apprenticeships.

Our second task, however, is to draw attention to what more needs to be done and to what we can do better—and there is a great deal that we can do better. The BIS Select Committee Chair, my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich West (Mr Bailey), mapped out the Committee’s important recommendations and drew attention to the core tasks we all face in raising the status of apprenticeships: the task of acquiring parity of esteem for people going through the apprenticeship pathway; and the importance of increasing capacity and the role procurement can play in that. Some Members may remember the Monty Python sketch involving a summary of Proust. My hon. Friend managed to summarise his Select Committee’s recommendations even more quickly, as I think Monty Python allowed a little longer than six minutes.

Opposition Members have critiqued the Government in a variety of ways, including by drawing attention to the worrying fall in the number of places for young people, especially those aged between 16 and 18. We have talked about the growth in apprenticeship numbers—there has been significant growth, which started well before 2010—but they include places that were rebadged, such as adult training schemes originally provided under Train to Gain. The abolition of Train to Gain may have led to the loss of as many as half a million training places, and included in the quarter of a million increase in the number of apprenticeships are a substantial number of adult apprenticeships that would previously have been classified as adult training. Adult training is important and valuable, but it is not the same as apprenticeships, as the Richard report makes clear.

We have a long way to go to deliver the quality and range of apprenticeships, particularly for young people, that the Richard review recommended. The Association of Colleges says:

“Currently there are insufficient apprenticeships available for those who want one, particularly for 16 and 17 year olds. Despite incentive programmes such as the Youth Contract, employers remain reluctant to employ ‘untested’ young people, preferring those with more experience.”

The National Apprenticeship Service has also drawn attention to the fact that there are 10 applications for every apprenticeship, so the level of unmet need is clearly significant.

We also need to take a careful look at the balance of available apprenticeships across sectors. That point was made in powerful speeches by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) and my hon. Friends the Members for Islwyn (Chris Evans) and for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden). Welcome

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though apprenticeships may be in the fields of office work and administration, health and public services and retail and commercial enterprises, they account for 71% of all 19 to 24-year-old apprenticeship growth. There has been a recent fall in the number of construction apprenticeships and relatively modest growth in areas such as engineering. We will need greater growth in those vital sectors if we are going to help young men as well as young women and address some of the crises in youth unemployment and unemployment among black and minority ethnic communities.

There are other anxieties as well. Why in 2011-12 did achievement rates fall across all groups for the first time? The Minister must address that. How effective is the new careers advice and guidance regime in ensuring that the apprenticeship pathway is seen as a valued option for young people? The Association of Colleges says:

“As a flagship Government policy, apprenticeships must be effectively promoted. The general lack of awareness and understanding of apprenticeships amongst young people and the wider public is a serious issue.”

Several speakers on both sides of the House have mentioned the survey that found that just 7% of young people are able to name apprenticeships as a post-GCSE option. The Government must urgently address that.

Labour has a clear vision for vocational education and apprenticeships. We will introduce a technical baccalaureate at 18—a gold standard in vocational education, held in high esteem, that will command the confidence of business, parents and pupils. Through the measures outlined today we will confront head on the shortage of high-quality apprenticeships for young people. We will put business in the driving seat on skills and apprenticeships. Our taskforce, led by Professor Chris Husbands, will bring forward recommendations on apprenticeships and skills for 14 to 19-year-olds, a joined-up approach to the education and skills challenges we face as a country.

We need a stronger voice for business in delivering the skills agenda we need to compete in the global race. We need a system that is more responsive to the needs of local economies and that will drive forward the generation of new opportunities. Government procurement is one means to that end. We are confident that the procurement measures set out in our motion will do exactly what we expect them to do and will not fall foul of European rules or others.

We are looking at how to improve the quality of advice given to young people, following the shake-up of careers advice and guidance, which was heavily criticised by, among others, the Education Committee. We want to review the impact of the removal of the work experience requirement at key stage 4, which a number of Members have mentioned today. I want schools and colleges to provide apprenticeship taster days to teenagers. If pupils can take a few days out of the classroom to visit universities, I do not see why the same principle should not apply to apprenticeships. Young people from age 14 should be able to get the opportunity to visit companies that offer apprenticeships to see what is involved in the programme and understand the training and career opportunities available. That is Labour’s plan for apprenticeships, putting them at the heart of a new vision for vocational education in this country.

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In this national apprenticeship week we want to see a commitment to using the powers of Government to boost apprenticeship numbers and, especially, to meet the needs of a young generation facing almost unprecedented challenges in the workplace. It is simply not good enough that just 7% of young people see apprenticeships as a post-GCSE alternative. It is not good enough that two thirds of large companies do not provide an apprenticeship programme. It is not good enough that the message on the ease of delivery of apprenticeships has not got through to nine out of 10 small and medium-sized employers. We must do better at making sure that the barriers in their way are removed.

It is simply not good enough to ignore the potential of the procurement process as an effective lever for opening up opportunities, particularly for young people, and particularly in the skills and trades that most of us recognise as being at the heart of an apprenticeship programme and that will enable us to compete in the modern economy with the developed countries that, in many cases, are providing apprenticeships at three, four or five times the rate available in this country. That is why the Opposition have put forward a motion that praises the culture of apprenticeships, wants to see more of them provided and wants to see equality of status for them. That is why I urge Members to support the motion.

6.47 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Skills (Matthew Hancock): It is a great pleasure to be here, in national apprenticeship week, celebrating apprenticeships. We have had an extremely positive debate, with almost all contributions being positive and huge support on both sides of the House for apprenticeships. Success has many fathers. We heard first the claim that apprenticeships really got going in 1997. I had planned to say that they were in fact first mentioned in Chaucer 651 years ago, but then we heard the even greater claim from the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) that they are as old as human beings.

It has been a great national apprenticeship week so far. At 5.30 this morning I was learning from Morrisons apprentices how to fillet fish, and what brilliant apprentices they are. It is quite a skill they have with knives—I certainly cannot match it. I have only one note of mild disappointment, because the speech we just heard from the Opposition Front Bench was rather disappointing. I thought that the hon. Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck) sounded rather like the sultan of scepticism or the Eeyore of apprenticeships, only seeing the worst and determined to dampen, downgrade and darken the mood. But we will not darken the mood, Mr Deputy Speaker, because apprenticeships are a cause to celebrate, and celebrate them we will.

Let me turn to the many issues raised by Members across the Chamber. First, careers advice is vital, as the Chairman of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for West Bromwich West (Mr Bailey), said, as did the right hon. Member for Tottenham, in a powerful speech, and my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr Walker) and the hon. Member for Inverclyde (Mr McKenzie). We have introduced a new statutory duty on schools that came into force in September, and Ofsted has said that it is making it a priority to consider that. The new destination data that were brought in this summer not

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only highlight, as they have in the past, the proportion of pupils going to university but, for the first time, publish for all schools the proportion going into apprenticeships. That is an important step, as Members in all parts of the House will recognise. We look forward to Ofsted’s report in the summer on the implementation of the duty to provide independent and impartial careers advice.

The second issue, which was raised by many Members, is the importance of the link between youth unemployment and apprenticeships. It is a scandal that youth unemployment is as high as it is, falling though it may be, when there are skills shortages in key parts of our economy such as engineering and computing. This shows that the linkage between the education system and the skills system, on the one hand, and employers, on the other, has not been strong enough. As my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) so eloquently explained, increasing that employer focus is a vital part of the reforms that we are pursuing. Another part of those reforms is the introduction of traineeships so that as apprenticeships become more rigorous and more high-quality, there is a programme of support, alongside the DWP programmes, to make sure that people get the skills they need, including in English, maths and work preparation, to get a good job and to hold down a job. My hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Gavin Williamson), and the hon. Members for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly), for Edinburgh West (Mike Crockart) and for Eastbourne (Stephen Lloyd) also talked about the link between youth unemployment and apprenticeships. Several Members mentioned their local jobs clubs, and I wish them well. I am having a jobs club in Newmarket on Friday and look forward to it very much.

The third issue is how much apprenticeships are valued. The Chair of the Select Committee mentioned the recently published statistic that, on average, a higher apprenticeship increases lifetime earnings by £150,000. Let that figure go out there and let us all present and explain it, because it shows the value of apprenticeships.

Mr Lammy: The Minister makes a good point, but does he recognise that most of the growth in apprenticeships is at level 2, not level 3—the higher apprenticeships to which he refers?

Matthew Hancock: I absolutely recognise that there have been increases in the number of apprenticeships over the past two and half years in level 2 and level 3, and we are going to introduce levels 4, 5 and 6. In every age group there have been increases in the number of apprenticeships, and we should celebrate that.

Julie Hilling: Will the Minister give way?

Matthew Hancock: I cannot, I am afraid; I have virtually no time left.

The hon. Members for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden), for Rotherham (Sarah Champion), for Bradford East (Mr Ward), for North Tyneside (Mrs Glindon) and for Copeland (Mr Reed) talked about the value of apprenticeships. In particular, the hon. Member for Copeland spoke powerfully about how apprenticeships now reflect the modern economy and are spreading into relatively new areas of the economy. All this fits the

12 Mar 2013 : Column 267

argument made by the Prime Minister yesterday that there should be a new norm in our country whereby school leavers go to university or into an apprenticeship so that we have a high-skilled economy and a high-skilled work force, not only so that every individual can reach their potential—their personal best—but so that our economy can compete in the global race. I am glad to see cross-party consensus on the importance of the global race.

The hon. Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling) mentioned many things; I was intrigued by her speech. I want to pick out her mention of the world skills competition, which is a brilliant, fascinating and exciting competition that everybody should watch; certainly, I thoroughly enjoyed watching it.

Members have mentioned the need to increase the number of apprenticeships and I can announce that, in addition to the three apprentices in my private offices, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will advertise tomorrow for three further apprentices in our communications department. The numbers are going up and up.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Gordon Birtwistle) and the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Michael Fallon), have said, while we and many local authorities are broadly supportive of and, indeed, leading on procurement apprenticeships, such as those with Crossrail, I am concerned that the motion is defective, because it appears to call on the Government to exceed their legal powers. Given my assurances, I hope that the Opposition will not push for a vote.

Mr Marsden: The motion states that the Government should use

“the billions of pounds committed to public procurement”,

but our interpretation is that that does not automatically mean procurement in local government, although we believe that the Government have an important role to play in promoting that. I do not understand why the Minister thinks that the motion is defective.

Matthew Hancock: The phrase “public procurement” could easily be interpreted as including procurement in local government, national Government and agencies. The motion was tabled only late last night and it would not be advisable for the House of Commons to vote for something that might not be legal. I am afraid that we must resist the motion, but I hope that, given our reassurances, we can all agree on the need for procurement where possible and for it to represent good value for money. I hope there will not be a vote.

Finally, many Members, including the hon. Member for Islwyn (Chris Evans), mentioned the importance of increased quality and employer focus. Members discussed the cross-party desire for parity of esteem among vocational routes, apprenticeships and universities. It is my passionate belief that parity of esteem will come from parity of quality. We need to increase quality throughout the apprenticeship system so that all apprentices can be as good as the very best at MBDA, Morrisons and Rolls-Royce, which have been mentioned by many Members.

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We have taken steps to increase quality: we have insisted that people need to continue with English and maths if they do not have a C grade at GCSE, and have said that there needs to be a minimum of a year in almost all circumstances and a job as part of an apprenticeship. The removal of programme-led apprenticeships has taken out 18,000 apprenticeship places, which is a far higher number than that for the decrease in apprenticeships for 16 to 19-year-olds over the past year. Under the previous Government some apprenticeships did not involve a job, so apprentices were training with no prospect of a job, and astonishingly, some apprenticeships involved jobs without training. At their heart, apprenticeships are about earning and learning at the same time. Increasing quality is vital and I will not apologise for that.

We will respond to the Richard review and are in favour of rigorous apprenticeships that are responsive to employers’ needs. We want to ensure a new norm that gives everyone a good opportunity to reach their potential. We should not use a target to push people into university when it may be best for them to go into an apprenticeship. Instead, let us provide the best possible opportunities for young people, through university and apprenticeships, and a ladder of progression from level 2 to levels 3, 4 and beyond to new areas of the economy, including legal services and accountancy, as well as the more traditional areas of engineering and construction. In that way, we can ensure that there is the potential for everybody to succeed.

Mr Alan Campbell (Tynemouth) (Lab) claimed to move the closure (Standing Order No. 36).

Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.

Question agreed to.

Main Question accordingly put.

The House divided:

Ayes 237, Noes 292.

Division No. 181]


6.59 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blears, rh Hazel

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Sir Tony

Curran, Margaret

Danczuk, Simon

Darling, rh Mr Alistair

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Dobson, rh Frank

Doran, Mr Frank

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goggins, rh Paul

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hermon, Lady

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Jowell, rh Dame Tessa

Joyce, Eric

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McCrea, Dr William

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, Dr Alasdair

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miliband, rh David

Miliband, rh Edward

Miller, Andrew

Mitchell, Austin

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Mudie, Mr George

Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Owen, Albert

Perkins, Toby

Phillipson, Bridget

Pound, Stephen

Powell, Lucy

Qureshi, Yasmin

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Steve

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Sarwar, Anas

Seabeck, Alison

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Simpson, David

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watson, Mr Tom

Watts, Mr Dave

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Wilson, Sammy

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Woodcock, John

Woodward, rh Mr Shaun

Wright, David

Tellers for the Ayes:

Heidi Alexander


Nic Dakin


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, rh Gregory

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman, Bob

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brooke, Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Sir Malcolm

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, rh Paul

Byles, Dan

Cable, rh Vince

Cairns, Alun

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, Neil

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davey, rh Mr Edward

Davies, Glyn

Davis, rh Mr David

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Dorries, Nadine

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Garnier, Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Griffiths, Andrew

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hague, rh Mr William

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, Mr John

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kennedy, rh Mr Charles

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Leech, Mr John

Leigh, Mr Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Peter

Macleod, Mary

Maude, rh Mr Francis

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Patrick

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, Mr Stephen

Offord, Dr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, Richard

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Paterson, rh Mr Owen

Pawsey, Mark

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, rh Hugh

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Rutley, David

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shepherd, Sir Richard

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Iain

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, rh Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, rh Sir Peter

Teather, Sarah

Thornton, Mike

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Tellers for the Noes:

Mark Hunter


Joseph Johnson

Question accordingly negatived.

12 Mar 2013 : Column 269

12 Mar 2013 : Column 270

12 Mar 2013 : Column 271

12 Mar 2013 : Column 272

Business without Debate

Partnerships (Prosecution) (Scotland) Bill [Lords]

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Orders Nos. 59(3) and 90(5),That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Question agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time; to stand committed to a Public Bill Committee (Standing Order No. 63).

Partnerships (Prosecution) (Scotland) Bill [Lords]


That the Public Bill Committee to which the Partnerships (Prosecution) (Scotland) Bill [Lords] is committed shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.—(Anne Milton.)

Delegated Legislation

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

Rating and Valuation

That the draft Local Government Finance Act 2012 (Consequential Amendments) Order 2013, which was laid before this House on 10 January, be approved. —(Anne Milton.)

Question agreed to.

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

Legal Services

That the draft Conditional Fee Agreements Order 2013, which was laid before this House on 21 January, be approved.—(Anne Milton.)

12 Mar 2013 : Column 273

The Deputy Speaker’s opinion as to the decision of the Question being challenged, the Division was deferred until Wednesday 13 March (Standing Order No. 41A).

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): With the leave of the House, we shall take motions 7 to 12 together.

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

Legal Services

That the draft Damages-Based Agreements Regulations 2013, which were laid before this House on 21 January, be approved.


That the draft Armed Forces and Reserve Forces (Compensation Scheme) (Consequential Provisions: Primary Legislation) Order 2013, which was laid before this House on 14 February, be approved.

Legal Aid and Advice

That the draft Civil Legal Aid (Merits Criteria) (Amendment) Regulations 2013, which were laid before this House on 4 February, be approved .

That the draft Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Amendment of Schedule 1) Order 2013, which was laid before this House on 4 February, be approved.

Social Security

That the draft Guardian’s Allowance Up-rating Order 2013, which was laid before this House on 7 February, be approved.

That the draft Guardian’s Allowance Up-rating (Northern Ireland) Order 2013, which was laid before this House on 7 February, be approved.—(Anne Milton.)

Question agreed to.

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

Rating and Valuation

That the draft Non-Domestic Rating (Levy and Safety Net) Regulations 2013, which were laid before this House on 14 February, be approved.—(Anne Milton.)

The Deputy Speaker’s opinion as to the decision of the Question being challenged, the Division was deferred until Wednesday 13 March (Standing Order No. 41A).

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): With the leave of the House, we shall take motions 14 to 17 together.

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

Contracting Out, Wales

That the draft Local Authorities (Contracting Out of Tax Billing, Collection and Enforcement Functions) (Amendment) (Wales) Order 2013, which was laid before this House on 6 February, be approved.

Representation of the People

That the draft Electoral Registration (Disclosure of Electoral Registers) Regulations 2013, which were laid before this House on 25 February, be approved.

That the draft Electoral Registration (Postponement of 2013 Annual Canvass) Order 2013, which was laid before this House on 25 February, be approved.

12 Mar 2013 : Column 274


That the draft Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Regulations 2013, which were laid before this House on 25 February, be approved.—(Anne Milton.)

Question agreed to.

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

Tax Credits

That the draft Tax Credits Up-rating, etc. Regulations 2013, which were laid before this House on 7 February, be approved.—(Anne Milton.)

The Deputy Speaker’s opinion as to the decision of the Question being challenged, the Division was deferred until Wednesday 13 March (Standing Order No. 41A).


Food Banks

7.17 pm

Mr Iain McKenzie (Inverclyde) (Lab): I rise to present a petition signed by hundreds of my constituents, who, like me, are concerned about the increasing number of food banks up and down the country and about the fact that the number of people visiting food banks has increased dramatically since last year. I visited a food bank in my constituency, the i58 project, run by a local church, and was astounded to find out that it had dealt with more than 1,000 people since last September. It assumed that demand for assistance would peak around Christmas, but that has not happened, and the numbers have continued to escalate. It was asked to sign this petition on the ongoing problems facing constituents having to attend food banks to make it through the week on their low incomes or benefits. The petition states:

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Scotland Office and Department for Work and Pensions to work together to ensure there is an accurate count of the number of people using food banks in Scotland and that the Government take action to ensure that no families in the UK go hungry.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.

Following is the full text of the petition:

[The Petition of Inverclyde Constituents,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that as a result of the failings of both the Holyrood and Westminster Governments 13 million people live below the poverty line in Britain today; further that the reliance on food banks has dramatically increased in recent years with The Trussell Trust calculating that in 2011–12 food banks fed 128,687 people in the UK, an increase of over 100 per cent on the previous year. Excellent work is being undertaken throughout the country by national and local food bank providers to fill the void left by the failings of the Holyrood and Westminster Governments; however as one of the world's wealthiest countries we believe UK Citizens should not find themselves in this position.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Scotland Office and Department for Work and Pensions to work together to ensure there is an accurate count of the number of people using food banks in Scotland and that the Government take action to ensure that no families in the UK go hungry.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.]


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7.19 pm

Gordon Banks (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Lab): This petition has arisen as a result of the growing number of food banks in the UK and the growing number of people in the UK in the 21st century having to resort to them to feed themselves and their families. I pay tribute to the organisations that run food banks, such as the Trussell Trust, but particularly to the Gate, which operates a food bank in Alloa, and to Activ8 and WISH—women in sport and health—which do likewise in Sauchie, both in my constituency, and for which I am running the Alloa half-marathon on Sunday. Two weeks ago at Prime Minister’s questions I asked the Prime Minister to sign the petition, but despite his agreement to look at it and two e-mails to No. 10 since, I am still waiting.

More than 200 of my Ochil and South Perthshire constituents have signed the petition, which states:

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Scotland Office and Department for Work and Pensions to work together to ensure there is an accurate count of the number of people using food banks in Scotland and that the Government take action to ensure that no families in the UK go hungry.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.

Following is the full text of the petition:

[The Petition of Ochil and South Perthshire,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that as a result of the failings of both the Holyrood and Westminster Governments 13 million people live below the poverty line in Britain today; further that the reliance on food banks has dramatically increased in recent years with The Trussell Trust calculating that in 2011–12 food banks fed 128,687 people in the UK, an increase of over 100 per cent on the previous year. Excellent work is being undertaken throughout the country by national and local food bank providers to fill the void left by the failings of the Holyrood and Westminster Governments; however as one of the world’s wealthiest countries we believe UK Citizens should not find themselves in this position.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Scotland Office and Department for Work and Pensions to work together to ensure there is an accurate count of the number of people using food banks in Scotland and that the Government take action to ensure that no families in the UK go hungry.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.]


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7.20 pm

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): I, too, wish to present a petition on food banks on behalf of my constituents. The signatures were collected in the centre of Leith, a part of my constituency where, according to the latest figures, up to 30% of the population are income deprived and below the poverty line. Unsurprisingly, it is also where Edinburgh’s latest food bank is being set up. I pay tribute to those in the community who are helping to set it up and deal with the growing crisis of hunger that is affecting so many of our citizens, particularly families with children. Those setting up the food bank, like those who signed the petition, also want the UK and Scottish Governments to take action to ensure that no families go hungry.

The petition states:

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Scotland Office and Department for Work and Pensions to work together to ensure there is an accurate count of the number of people using food banks in Scotland and that the Government take action to ensure that no families in the UK go hungry.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.

Following is the full text of the petition:

[The Petition of Edinburgh North and Leith Constituents,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that as a result of the failings of both the Holyrood and Westminster Governments 13 million people live below the poverty line in Britain today; further that the reliance on food banks has dramatically increased in recent years with The Trussell Trust calculating that in 2011–12 food banks fed 128,687 people in the UK, an increase of over 100 per cent on the previous year. Excellent work is being undertaken throughout the country by national and local food bank providers to fill the void left by the failings of the Holyrood and Westminster Governments; however as one of the world’s wealthiest countries we believe UK Citizens should not find themselves in this position.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Scotland Office and Department for Work and Pensions to work together to ensure there is an accurate count of the number of people using food banks in Scotland and that the Government take action to ensure that no families in the UK go hungry.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.]


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Falkland Islands Referendum

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

7.22 pm

Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con): Today the Falkland islanders showed unity over their future, with a referendum in which 99.8% of the votes cast were in favour of remaining British. The referendum asked them:

“Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom?”

Only three people voted against. Argentina has now been beaten, I would suggest, both on the battlefield and at the ballot box. It is time for Argentina to accept that the islanders have a right to be there. They do not deserve to be bullied, threatened or intimidated by a close neighbour.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): My hon. Friend makes a powerful point about how the Argentines should behave. Does he agree that now is the time for the United Nations also to accept the will of the Falkland islanders?

Guy Opperman: I entirely endorse my hon. Friend’s point. This process will definitely be watched with great interest by the United Nations when self-determination, which is surely what a referendum is all about, is being considered.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on bringing this matter before the House. The referendum was clear: the Falkland islanders want to stay British. Does he feel that that message should be sent out from this House this evening to the Argentines—that the Falklands are British today, they will be British in 20 years’ time and they will be British for ever, as long as the people there want them to be?

Guy Opperman: I entirely endorse that point.

It is also right to remember those who passed away during the conflict 31 years ago, when 255 British troops died, 650 Argentinean troops passed away and three female islanders were also killed.

Oliver Colvile (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Con): Will my hon. Friend pay tribute to those members of the armed forces who gave their lives, especially those members of 3 Commando Brigade, which is based in my constituency and includes Royal Marines and the Royal Navy? They went out to the south Atlantic and did a deeply courageous job, and they should always be credited for all their hard work.

Guy Opperman: I entirely endorse that point.

Able Seaman Derek Armstrong, from the town of Prudhoe in my constituency, died when HMS Ardent was sunk on 22 May 1982. He was only 22 years of age. His memory is still celebrated by the fact that the most important award of the year given by his school, Prudhoe community high school, is the Derek Armstrong memorial award, which is presented each year to the best sportsperson. All troops, on all sides, should be remembered. We should pay particular tribute to those who are serving there and giving up their time to look after the Falkland Islands on an ongoing basis.

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Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman also pay tribute to Colonel Tony Davies and to the Falkland Islands veterans association? The association’s Liberty Lodge in Stanley accommodates many of the veterans who return to the Falkland Islands to remember some of the experiences that they went through in 1992.

Guy Opperman: I totally agree. The way in which we look after the Falkland Islands has got better and better, under the previous Government and now under this one. The organisation that the hon. Gentleman mentions does a great job.

It is right to make it clear that the United Kingdom wants nothing more than peace, trade and prosperity with Argentina and the other south American countries. There are so many problems in this world, and it is surely wrong that we are in any way falling out over these islands. While we in this House stand four-square behind the residents of the Falkland Islands and their overwhelming vote in favour of self-determination, we must try to reach out to the Argentine and other south American peoples and stress that this is a matter entirely for the islanders.

Neil Carmichael (Stroud) (Con): I welcome the overwhelming majority vote in favour of the Falklands remaining a British overseas territory. I suggest to my hon. Friend that that vote was in a way a reaffirmation of our position in Antarctica, and that it further underlines the importance and the peaceful nature of our activities in there.

Guy Opperman: Indeed, the 1959 Antarctic treaty froze all sovereignty claims there. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, whose private Member’s Bill, the Antarctic Bill, has passed through the House and is now law.

Many Argentines continue to work in the United Kingdom, and many British people work in Argentina. They are able to get along in a positive way. Perhaps the wisest words spoken in the past two weeks were those of one of the international electoral observers, who said:

“The Falkland Islanders are citizens and they have the right to express themselves.”

Those were the words not of a local, but of Senor Jaime Trobo, the Uruguayan electoral observer.

I suggest that now is a good time to evaluate from where the right to self-determination originates. The principle is set out unequivocally in article 1.2 of the charter of the United Nations, which states that one of the purposes of the United Nations is

“To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples”.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing a debate on such an important subject on such an important day for the Falkland islanders. Does he also think that this is a good time for the United States of America to show that it understands democracy, and for President Obama to come out in support of the rights of the Falklanders, rather than sitting on the fence as he seems to have been doing?

Guy Opperman: While we would all support President Obama, he seems to be acquiring some splinters by sitting on the fence for so long. The United States’ position is

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surely hypocritical, given that it uses and benefits from bases in British overseas territories such as Cyprus, Diego Garcia, Ascension and Gibraltar when it suits them. Because it does not use the Falkland Islands for those purposes, however, it is not so supportive of, or enthusiastic about, our claims and those of the Falkland islanders.

Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): I also congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this timely and important debate. I agree that the United States is being hypocritical in its approach to recognising the Falkland Islands’ sovereignty. However, we also need to pay tribute to Washington for recently refusing to agree to any more International Monetary Fund or World Bank loans to Buenos Aires—as have the British Government—because of the way in which Argentina has massively defaulted on previous loans.

Guy Opperman: The status of the World Bank loans and the international aid that was or was not going to Argentina over the last few years is indeed a matter of great regret and concern.

Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): Is not the Argentine President playing a cruel trick on her electorate by trying to divert attention from her own failings? There is not a chance in hell that the Falkland Islands will return to Argentina during her presidency, or any other presidency.

Guy Opperman: That was the problem in 1982, was it not? A President struggling to maintain domestic order was trying to divert attention from the realities of problems at home by attracting it to matters abroad. One is nervous about the potential for that to happen again.

Oliver Colvile: Is my hon. Friend aware that Ewen Southby-Tailyour, who was very much a member of 3 Commando Brigade, did all the mapping around the Falklands in 1978, and that it could then be used by the troops when we went in? It was a very good job that he ended up doing.

Guy Opperman: Preparation is essential to all future military endeavour, as my hon. Friend rightly makes clear.

Under United Nations resolution 2065, which is linked with UN resolution 1514, it is crucial that the interests of the population of the Falkland Islands are observed. That has to be the most important consideration. Resolution 1514 states:

“All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development…All armed action or repressive measures of all kinds directed against dependent peoples shall cease...and the integrity of their national territory shall be respected.”

Andrea Leadsom (South Northamptonshire) (Con): My hon. Friend is making an extremely powerful speech about a very important subject. Does he agree that it is vital to the interests of the economic development of the Falkland Islands for there to be certainty about the

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sovereignty of those territories, so that businesses, including those in the fishing waters around the islands and those conducting oil exploration, can operate honestly for the foreseeable future in an atmosphere of security and good will?

Guy Opperman: The Foreign Secretary made the same point last year, when he wrote:

“There are many areas on which we”—

the two countries—

“can co-operate: on joint management of fish stocks, on hydrocarbon exploration and on strengthening air and sea links between the Falklands and South America. We used to do this in the 1990s and ought to be able to do it again.”

I am sure that the Falkland Islands Government want more trade links and a greater expansion of trade with their nearest neighbour.

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. There could be no more emphatic expression of the will of the Falkland Islands people than they have enunciated in the last 24 hours, and there can therefore be no doubt in the Argentine Government of the islanders’ determination to remain British. Does my hon. Friend agree, however, that we should now be seeking to appeal to the reasonable Argentines—many of whom have long-standing connections with this country, not least with the principality of Wales—and forging an alliance with them over the heads of the ridiculous Government of Argentina?

Guy Opperman: My hon. Friend makes his point most eloquently. I could not possibly improve on it. I will point out, however, that barely two weeks ago, before the referendum, Argentina’s Foreign Minister was saying that this was a

“British attempt to manipulate the Question of the Malvinas Islands through a vote by the population implanted by the United Kingdom”.

It is ridiculous to suggest that these people, some of whom have been there for nine generations, have been “implanted”. They are men and women who were born on the Falklands and have lived there for generations, had children, and made their lives together. Like the populations of most countries in Latin America, including Argentina, the Falklands population has grown through a flow of migration. The Falkland Islands constitutes a nation of immigrants who have developed a distinctive culture and identity. For Argentina to deny them the right to self-determination is for it to question the Argentines’ own claim to the rights that they take so seriously.

Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con): Is it not the case that Argentina, sadly, does not have a particularly happy history on respecting the freedoms of its own people and democracy there? Will my hon. Friend join me in criticising Argentina for its actions against cruise lines and the predilection it appears to have developed in recent months for obstructing the free passage of civilian passenger vessels that happen to have any business or trade with the Falkland Islands?

Guy Opperman: The reality is that a blockade of protectionism and intimidation is taking place around the Falkland Islands. We have seen actions ranging from

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preventing the use of the Falkland Islands flag and disrupting shipping, as my hon. Friend made clear, to ongoing organisational protectionism. Do we really, in 2013, have large countries blocking free trade in that way?

Henry Smith: Does my hon. Friend also agree that it is anathema that Argentina is a member of the G20?

Guy Opperman: Given the state of Argentina’s finances and the insanity of its current financial situation, with inflation in excess of 25%, Argentina is hardly sending out any great lessons of financial propriety.

Mark Menzies (Fylde) (Con): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. May I just suggest that we have to be careful, as this debate is about the referendum and we are being dragged over other different subjects? I know that Mr Opperman wants to keep to the subject of the debate, so I ask hon. Members not to distract him—that would be helpful.

Guy Opperman: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Mark Menzies: My hon. Friend is making a powerful point in this debate. The people of the Falkland Islands have spoken and we must respect that. They should not feel intimidated, but if they do feel intimidated, the RAF, flying Typhoon aircraft built in west Lancashire, is more than capable of looking after their security.

Guy Opperman: Those aircraft will doubtless be backed up by some Sea King helicopters, a garrison of 1,200 soldiers, HMS Clyde and many other items under the water, not least a few submarines.

Let me deal with Europe and its role in determining this matter. I did not believe that the Lisbon treaty was good for much, but I was interested to read that it was good in that the European Union recognised the Falkland Islands as a “full associated territory”, like our other associated overseas territories, within part 4 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union. Apparently the Argentines are upset with something from Europe—I think they can join a large club, but I knew that the Lisbon treaty was good for something.

The Argentines continue to dispute this matter on an ongoing basis, but I suggest that they must now take into account the interests and desires of the Falkland Islands’ inhabitants. What has happened is applicable not only to the Falkland Islands, as it has due relevance to the other British overseas territories, including the 293,000 people who reside on a permanent basis in the 14 British overseas territories, all of whom will take great heart from what we have seen in the Falkland Islands today.

Relations with Argentina were not always so bad. In 1995, the Argentine and British Governments issued a joint statement when a deal was signed that identified a discrete area for hydrocarbon and other exploration, and work together. That agreement was scrapped in 2007 by the Argentine Government, which was a great shame. However, the facts are these: the inhabitants of the Falklands overwhelmingly want to remain a British

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overseas territory; it is not up to Great Britain to give the Falklands away; and it is the Falklands islanders’ own right to decide where their sovereignty lies.

Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con): My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that it is the right of the people of the Falklands to determine their own destiny, but does he agree that other countries around the world should now accept that the decision that has been made is the freely chosen wish of the people of those islands? I am talking about not just the United States of America, but all those countries that have sat on the fence and have failed to support the Falklanders’ desires to determine their own future.

Guy Opperman: I am happy to pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who has ploughed a strong but lonely furrow as the champion of the British overseas territories, all of which pay due credit to his work.

It is right that we are investing in the islands, moving positively forward and attempting to ensure that, building on the referendum, there is a celebration of the culture of the Falkland Islands and promotion of the fantastic opportunities there. The south American countries are our friends, as we would like Argentina to be.

Sir Gerald Howarth: In the year of the 31st anniversary of the campaign, surely we should recall the 255 men of Her Majesty’s armed forces who gave their lives for the security of the people of the Falkland Islands, including so many members of the Parachute Regiment based in my constituency of Aldershot.

Guy Opperman: We all remember those who passed away on all sides. For example, the Argentine troops were gentlemen led by lambs. They were chronically under-equipped and very poorly trained for the job their country asked them to do.

The people have spoken and the decision is now made. Gone are the days when colonial possessions could be disposed of by giving away power and territory regardless of the view of inhabitants. Let us instead celebrate the unique history and culture of a small island people who choose to remain British—and so they shall. That position and their choice in the matter are non-negotiable.

7.40 pm

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Hugo Swire): This has been a timely and useful debate and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman) on obtaining it and on his considered opening speech. I also thank hon. Members on both sides of the House for their contributions.

The Falkland islanders enjoy the support and friendship of Members from across the political divide in the British House of Commons. They will receive that message loud and clear as we debate this momentous day for the people of the Falkland Islands.

The referendum on the future of the Falkland Islands has been an event of momentous significance for that small community in the south Atlantic. An overwhelming majority, 99.8% of those voting, have chosen to retain the islands’ status as a British overseas territory, with an astonishingly high turnout—at which we can only look

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with jealousy, envy, amazement and, when it comes to our elections, incredulity—of 92%. Just three no votes were cast.

More than 50 international journalists have descended on Stanley. Those hon. Members who have visited Stanley, sometimes more than once, will know what pressure that has put on that place. They have been joined by academics, electoral experts and a formal observer mission made up of members from Latin America, the United States, Canada and New Zealand, who have confirmed that the poll was

“free and fair, reflecting the democratic will of the voters of the Falkland Islands.”

Mr Kevan Jones: Does the Minister agree that that is a very important point? The Falkland islanders can now argue not only that the election was free and fair but that the result shows the will of the people.

Mr Swire: My hon. Friend—I am sorry, Mr Deputy Speaker, I should say the hon. Gentleman, although he is also my friend—has visited the Falklands and what he says is absolutely the case. The world was watching, the Falkland islanders spoke and the world should therefore react accordingly. These were free and fair elections, observed by the international community, and the result is stronger because of that.

Not for the first time, the Falkland islanders find themselves the focus of intense political and media attention. Most will now understandably want life to return to normal, but they can do so secure in the knowledge that they have shown the world in no uncertain terms what political status they want for their home. The result of course reflected what the Falkland islanders have always asserted: their overwhelming wish is to maintain the islands’ status as a British overseas territory. The referendum was not some crude public relations stunt, as the Argentine Government sought to portray it. The islanders organised it not to indulge themselves in establishing the obvious, but to send the clearest possible message to those who either do not know or do not care about what future they want. Today’s absolutely decisive result undoubtedly achieved that and once again I congratulate the Falkland Islands people on their definitive act of self-determination.

The British Government backed the referendum from the outset. Support for the Falkland islanders is absolute, and the Prime Minister made that very clear in his statement earlier today welcoming the result. The Government would have respected whatever result emerged from Stanley but, as is reinforced by the interventions this evening, we are delighted by the overwhelming support for a continuing partnership with the United Kingdom, based on our shared values and mutual respect. For as long as the people of the Falklands wish their homeland to remain an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, we will stand by them.

Derek Twigg (Halton) (Lab): Like everybody else in the House tonight, I am delighted with the result. It is not unexpected, but it sends a clear message. But for the sacrifices of our armed forces, the referendum could not have been held. Even today, many individuals still suffer from their physical and mental injuries. I am sure

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the Minister will give due praise to our armed forces for what they did, and to our armed forces serving there now.

Mr Swire: As a former Armed Forces Minister, the hon. Gentleman is right to make that point, which was also raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth). This is a time to remember all those who lost their life in the conflict, but particularly the British lives lost in re-securing freedom for the islanders.

It would be wrong not to acknowledge that the main factor that led the Falkland islanders to hold the referendum was the increasingly antagonistic behaviour of the Government of Argentina over recent months and years. In many ways President Kirchner herself inspired the referendum. Her aggressive policies motivated the Falkland islanders to stand up so proudly for who they are and what they want.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis), I deeply regret the direction of Argentina’s policy. From harassing the Falklands fishing fleet, to threatening air links with the islands and issuing hostile letters to companies operating on the Falklands, it seems that the Argentine Government believe that the Falkland islanders can be bullied into submission, and that the British Government will eventually decide to negotiate away their rights. That is never going to happen.

Mr Kevan Jones: Does the Minister agree that when relatives of Argentines killed in the Falklands visit the islands, they receive a very warm and respectful welcome from the people of the islands?

Mr Swire: Indeed. It is my understanding that more than 20 nationalities took part in the referendum, including Argentines. That speaks volumes.

Michael Ellis: Does my hon. Friend agree that the behaviour of Argentina that he has just particularised shows the arrogant colonial power that the Argentines attribute to others?

Mr Swire: My hon. Friend makes his point extremely well. Even better is the comment of the Argentine columnist Andrés Oppenheimer, who wrote recently:

“Argentina’s latest offensive against the islanders may go down in history as a text-book example of diplomatic incompetence.”

The clarity with which the Falkland islanders have voiced their wishes compels Argentina to cease its destructive and counter-productive behaviour. It is simply not credible in the 21st century to pretend that the people living on the Falklands can be ignored, or that they do not exist, as Hector Timerman, the Argentine Foreign Minister, outrageously claimed on his recent trip to London. So I say to the Argentine Government, “Listen to what the islanders have said and put an end to your campaign of intimidation and bullying.”

My hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell), who is a stalwart champion of many things, but particularly of the British overseas territories, was right. As well as sending the clearest possible message to Argentina, the result of the referendum sends a message to the rest of the world. Neither the British Government nor the Falkland Islands Government wish

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to draw other countries into this issue. We respect those countries who express no opinion or who have honest disagreements with us on the matter, but what we cannot accept is other countries being misled into accepting a distorted picture of the Falklands issue.

The Argentine Government have claimed that the islanders do not exist, that the British military is holding them hostage as part of a wider policy to militarise the entire south Atlantic, and that they would be perfectly happy living under Argentine rule. None of these things is true. The islanders have known this all along, but the referendum has taken this message to a worldwide audience and has put the question of their wishes beyond any possible doubt. So we urge all countries who uphold democracy and political rights to respect the wishes of the islanders and to accept the referendum as a clear and valid expression of their views.

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Some people will ask whether this referendum will change anything. I believe that it will. No longer will anyone be able to question whether or not the islanders want the Falklands to remain a British territory, and no longer will Argentina be able to distort the facts of the matter, misrepresenting and ignoring what the islanders want. Politicians from the islands will be travelling far and wide in the coming weeks to raise awareness of the result and to dispel myths about their home, and the British Government will be offering them every support and assistance in doing so. But the biggest change of all would be for the Argentine Government to recognise that their bullying tactics have failed—

7.52 pm

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