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Danny Alexander: Those representations certainly will be heard as the Department for Transport and the Highways Agency develop their plans for that important route.

Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): The £3 billion investment in affordable house building will not make up for the cuts in 2010 that led to a 29% collapse last year, will do nothing for affordable house building this year or next, and therefore mean five wasted years under this Government. May I ask the Chief Secretary this question: is it true that the amount announced today is less than in the last two comprehensive spending reviews?

Danny Alexander: As I said in my statement, and the hon. Gentleman should welcome this, we will through this announcement be building more homes on average every year than in any year but one under the previous Government. Frankly, he should be ashamed of the fact that the number of affordable homes in this country fell by 420,000 during his party’s time in office—a total disgrace.

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): The announcement about the A63 is good news for the sub-regional economy in Humber and for my constituents in Brigg and Goole, and comes on top of other investments which have already been delivered, such as the Humber bridge, the Get Moving Goole project and the A160. We are doing very well on roads, but can I ask the Chief Secretary to continue to listen to representations about the electrification of rail services on the north and south banks of the Humber?

Danny Alexander: There has been a strong cross-party campaign on the A63, and I am pleased to have been able to make the announcement today. We will certainly to listen to the hon. Gentleman’s representations on the other subjects he mentions.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): We should obviously welcome any investment in the economy, but the Government should not have cut it in the first place. The Chief Secretary has mentioned on one or two occasions, as have other Ministers, that some of that investment will be financed out of efficiency savings. Are there any efficiency savings left?

Danny Alexander: This is the first Government who have made a serious effort to look for efficiency savings. I mentioned in my statement the excellent work of the efficiency and reform group in the Cabinet Office under my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office, which has yielded up a view that there are more savings yet to be had in Departments. That is why I announced today a rolling programme of efficiency reviews across major Departments to unlock yet further savings over the next two years.

Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con): I particularly welcome the announcement on the new regional air connectivity fund. Aviation capacity is often described as a south-east issue, but it applies right across the country, especially in Yorkshire. May I urge my right hon. Friend to continue to focus on connectivity between modes of transport and on the fact that this issue applies right across the country?

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Danny Alexander: I very much agree with my hon. Friend’s point. As the Member of Parliament for Inverness, I am all too aware of the importance of air connectivity for remote areas of the country. This fund will help to ensure that for all parts of the UK there is support available when those projects can be justified.

Mr William Bain (Glasgow North East) (Lab): Given that the Chancellor has had to admit that the spending round did not bring forward a single penny of new public capital investment for 2015-16, can the Chief Secretary tell the House when we will have the judgment of the Office for Budget Responsibility as to whether his statement today will make any difference whatsoever to growth this year, next year or the year after?

Danny Alexander: The OBR will publish a new growth forecast at the time of the autumn statement. At the Budget this year we allocated an additional £3 billion of capital in 2015-16 and for the remaining years of the decade, and the announcements today are partly about how we will use that money.

George Freeman (Mid Norfolk) (Con): I welcome this major package of investment, which contrasts with the record of gridlock under the previous Government. I particularly welcome the investment in science and research and development infrastructure, the investment in broadband for the rural economy, and the A14, which will help to unlock Britain’s fastest-growing city, Cambridge. With respect to the eastern region, may I ask that priority be given to the A47, which is a strategic artery linking east-west and linking the offshore energy cluster and the life science cluster with Cambridge? What reassurance can my right hon. Friend give us that in this £28 billion roads package, the A47 may yet be able to receive funding?

Danny Alexander: I am grateful for the welcome and I will certainly pass on the point about the A47 to the Secretary of State for Transport.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): Even the Chief Secretary must admit that the Government completely and utterly bungled the west coast rail franchise. The way that they are now implementing the roll-out of superfast broadband is exactly the same bungle. It is working out as a bung to BT. Is it any coincidence that the chief executive of BT is to become a Trade Minister, so it will get yet further bungs?

Danny Alexander: What a pathetic comment. There was a proper competition for all the contracts in every county in England, as well as in Scotland and Wales. The hon. Gentleman should welcome the fact that the Government are making a serious financial contribution—the first Government ever to do so—in the roll-out of superfast broadband across the country.

Mr Ben Wallace (Wyre and Preston North) (Con): Assuming that 10% of shale gas is recoverable, Lancashire and Yorkshire are sitting on $440 billion worth of gas. Will the Chief Secretary ensure that the communities that live closest to this potential development are generously compensated, and that a sizeable proportion of those

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revenues, which could potentially go to the Treasury in London, are used to improve and develop those great counties of England?

Danny Alexander: As the hon. Gentleman will see when he looks at the document that we published today, part of the announcement states:

“Operators will commit to provide £100,000 in community benefits at exploration phase, per well-site where hydraulic fracturing occurs. They will commit to sharing their proceeds with communities, providing one per cent of revenues to communities that host them.”

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): May I echo the Chancellor’s praise yesterday for the Chief Secretary for the great job that he has done as the Tory election strategists’ little helper? Beneath the hilarious hyperbole in today’s statement, is not the truth, as per the Chief Secretary’s own document, that gross investment is falling by £1 billion next year—by 1.7%—or is the document wrong?

Danny Alexander: We set out the plans for capital investment in 2015-16 and beyond yesterday and in the Budget last time. We have set aside £50.4 billion in 2015-16. That is £3 billion more than was previously promised, which we added to at the time of the budget. Those comments are ludicrous when we have not yet heard an apology from Labour for the mess they made of the British economy.

Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): I welcome the Chief Secretary’s statement. Affordable flood insurance for all is essential. Also, the A303/A30, which runs from Honiton up into Somerset and Wiltshire, is absolutely essential for the visitor experience in the west country and for its businesses. One final plea is for new school buildings for Tiverton high school and a new school building for Mrs Ethelston’s primary school in Uplyme.

Danny Alexander: I agree wholeheartedly about the importance of the A303 and those road connections. The south-west is a vital part of our economy and needs to be properly connected to the rest of the country, and this investment will do that. With regard to the specific points on schools, I will ensure that they are brought to the attention of the Secretary of State for Education.

Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran) (Lab): Is it not a shocking indictment of this Government that since 2010—[Interruption.] I suggest hon. Members listen to what I have to say before responding. Is it not a shocking indictment of this Government that since 2010, 84,000 construction workers have lost their jobs and construction output is down by 12%? Is not this statement just another example of smoke and mirrors that will do nothing to improve investment before 2015?

Danny Alexander: The hon. Lady is right to highlight the problems in the construction sector, but those problems started in 2008 when her Government were in office. They saw a major drop in output. By investing more in affordable housing, in both this Parliament and the next, we are giving companies in the sector certainty so that they can plan for the future and we are providing Government investment to help ensure that jobs are maintained in a vital part of our economy.

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Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): There is much to welcome in the statement: increased funding for affordable housing, science and green investment—it is all excellent. The announcement on the A14 will be welcomed by many. There is a long history of schemes for that road coming and going, while the poor design continues and the Huntingdon viaduct is well beyond its design life. Can my right hon. Friend confirm whether it will be a toll road? I certainly hope that it will not be. Can he be clear on that point?

Danny Alexander: The road will be taken forward according to the plans set out previously. That will include some tolling for new capacity.

Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab): The north-east leads the way in the British export industry, so can the Chief Secretary tell us what percentage of infrastructure spending will go to the north-east, and by when, to support the expansion of our manufacturing export base?

Danny Alexander: The hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight the fact that the north-east is the only region in the country that is a net contributor to the UK’s exports. The infrastructure investment announced today, for roads, broadband and so on, will help those industries. I cannot give her a precise breakdown, but I urge her to encourage the local enterprise partnerships in the area to take a full part in the local growth fund, which is a huge opportunity for the north-east.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): I warmly welcome the announcement of further investment in high-speed broadband. Nearly two years ago almost £1 million was awarded to the Labour-controlled Greater Manchester authorities to procure improved broadband. Today, thousands of my constituents in Bury, Ramsbottom and Tottington are still waiting and have seen no improvement whatsoever in broadband speeds. Will the Chief Secretary please undertake to speak to whoever it is, whether in Broadband Delivery UK or local government, to ensure that my constituents will at last see a real improvement in broadband speeds?

Danny Alexander: I am sorry to hear about the experience of the hon. Gentleman’s constituents. The Greater Manchester Combined Authority is actually one of the most innovative in the country. The earn-back deal, which we have confirmed agreement on today, will give those authorities a real incentive to invest in the local economy. I will certainly pass on his specific concerns to BDUK.

Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East) (Lab): I am afraid that half an hour of windy rhetoric from the Chief Secretary does nothing to make up for the dreadful, short-sighted decisions that this Government took when they first came to power three years ago. If investing in schools and homes is so important to them, why was one of their first actions to axe the Buildings Schools for the Future programme, and why did they cut the national affordable housing programme by 63%?

Danny Alexander: If investing in schools and houses was so important to the previous Government, why did they preside over a fall in affordable housing stock

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of 420,000 and cancel the survey to evaluate the maintenance needs of our country’s schools? It is also about getting the best value for taxpayers’ money, which, frankly, Building Schools for the Future was failing to do in a big way.

Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire) (Con): I greatly welcome the Chief Secretary’s announcement of investment in road infrastructure. I particularly welcome the reference to M4 improvement in the Chancellor’s statement yesterday. However, the mid-Wales economy depends on other improvements on the Welsh-English border at Llanymynech. The cost-benefit on the Welsh side is huge, but on the English side it is very weak. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that mid-Wales does not lose out on transport infrastructure improvement because of the way in which devolution works?

Danny Alexander: Many of these matters are devolved to the Welsh Assembly Government, and so it is for them to take them forward. I have regular and friendly discussions with the Finance Minister of the Welsh Assembly Government, and I will draw my hon. Friend’s concerns to her attention in my next conversation.

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): As regards capital spending that creates jobs, it would be wrong to say that this is a “jam tomorrow” statement; it is a case of jam in a couple of years and then only perhaps and not very generously. Can the Chief Secretary confirm that in 2014-15 flood capital spending will be £344 million less than we spent in 2010? If he is not sure, he can turn to the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon), who is on the Bench next to him and who should have been making that statement today.

Danny Alexander: In 2014-15 spending will be £358 million, rising to £370 million in 2015-16.

Oliver Colvile (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Con): May I give my heartfelt thanks to the Chief Secretary for mentioning the improvements to the A303 for which I have campaigned for the past 15 years? How long does he estimate that it will take for the dualling to become a reality?

Danny Alexander: The A303 is one of the most notorious transport bottlenecks in the country, and these improvements will have a major impact on the economy in the south-west of England. The Highways Agency will be developing the detailed plans, so we will need to consult on those, including, no doubt with my hon. Friend. This is part of the funding that was set out for between now and 2020 to deliver improvements on that route.

Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): I welcome the encouraging news about the Trafford Park extension of the Metrolink. Will the Chief Secretary comment on new Homes and Communities Agency regulatory powers that appear to be restricting housing associations’ ability to open up new and commercial income streams, with a knock-on effect on their ability to build more homes?

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Danny Alexander: I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s comments on the Trafford Park Metrolink extension. On her question, I will certainly look into that, because I do not want the Homes and Communities Agency to be doing anything that holds back housing associations from engaging in appropriate developments. I will take up her point with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con): Northumberland residents will welcome the good news about the A1, flood defences, and the potential school rebuilding programme. Greater funding for broadband is key to England’s least densely populated county. I know that my right hon. Friend has visited Northumberland. Will he give more details about the expanded broadband plans?

Danny Alexander: There is a broadband plan in Northumberland that has been negotiated by the local authority with the supplier, funded partly by national Government and partly by local government. Today’s announcement is about extending broadband to reach 95% of the population of Northumberland and to work with the industry to find ways to get broadband, whether mobile or 4G, to 99% of the population. We will keep my hon. Friend updated on that.

Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East) (Lab): I fear that the Chief Secretary does not really understand housing finance. The homes to be built from 2015 have a subsidy level of under £20,000 per unit, and that is how he is able to announce that there are suddenly double the number that there might otherwise have been. The problem with that, as he knows full well, is that it requires much higher rent levels, and that will have a knock-on effect on the housing benefit budget for years into the future. Is that sensible?

Danny Alexander: The move from social rents to affordable rents for homes newly built by housing associations is a right and fair way to ensure that there is a balance between the subsidy given to the individual and the capital subsidy given to the builder of the house. It allows us to build many more houses for the amount of money that we have available, and the hon. Lady should be grateful for that.

Jessica Lee (Erewash) (Con): I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement, particularly the announcements about my constituency, notably the improvements on the M1 at the junction at Long Eaton. I add to that the nearby work on the A38 at Derby and the campaign that I have been leading for many years to secure the reopening of the train station at Ilkeston, now agreed by the Department for Transport. Does he agree that all those points link together to bring great improvements and opportunities for the people of Erewash, as well as encouraging businesses to invest in the area?

Danny Alexander: It is clear that the hon. Lady’s campaigning is a model of parliamentary effectiveness and I urge her to continue with it to the further benefit of her constituents.

Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab): In response to my right hon. Friend the Member for

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Newcastle upon Tyne East (Mr Brown), the Chief Secretary spoke of his “commitment to the A1”. What he actually said in his statement was:

“Any hon. Member planning a trip to Scotland…will want to see a better A1 north of Newcastle.”

Is that really his idea of a commitment? If he can say nothing more credible—I hope that he can—is it any wonder that he inspires so little confidence in the country?

Danny Alexander: I am sorry to hear such a curmudgeonly response to what I thought was a very positive announcement. [Interruption.] The point that I was making in my statement was that there are a number of long-standing issues on our highways network that have never been addressed. We have set aside the funding and will bring forward the plans to ensure that the improvements to that route take place between now and 2020.

Mr Speaker: My sense is that there is nothing unparliamentary about the use of the word “curmudgeon”. It is very much a matter of taste.

Paul Burstow (Sutton and Cheam) (LD): I congratulate the Government on the announcements about social care spending and the health service. I draw my right hon. Friend’s attention to a capital project that will serve my constituency: the commitment to an investment of £219 million in St Helier hospital. However, that project has been stuck in the mud for the past three years because local NHS managers have been blocking its progress. Will he intervene with Ministers at the Department of Health to unblock that project and provide the much-needed investment?

Danny Alexander: I agree with the first part of what my right hon. Friend said. The massive reforms to health and social care that we announced yesterday are hugely important for the future of this country. I am proud to be part of a Government who are taking those matters forward. Much of the credit for that must go to him for the work that he did in government and for his campaigning outside government. On the latter point, I will certainly raise that matter again with Ministers at the Department of Health.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): It was quite reasonable for my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah) to try to find out exactly what the Chief Secretary has announced about the A1, so I will try again. Is he making a commitment to the dualling of the A1 from Newcastle to the Scottish border? If so, when will the work start? If he is not making that commitment, what is he announcing today?

Danny Alexander: I am committing to undertaking the improvements that are necessary to bring that road up to a proper standard. There is clearly the need for a detailed feasibility study to consider precisely what is needed at every stage of the route. The money is set aside for that investment between now and 2020, so it will take place.

Julian Smith (Skipton and Ripon) (Con): Superfast North Yorkshire is about to make North Yorkshire one of the first counties in England to deliver 90% broadband

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coverage, but we need a bit more help to get to 95%. We also have the Tour de France coming next year, and there is a big risk that the cyclists will come a cropper on our potholes. Can we have a conversation soon about how North Yorkshire can get the cash quicker?

Danny Alexander: I am sure that Ministers at the Department for Transport would be happy to have that conversation. As the hon. Gentleman will know, in the autumn statement last year, we set aside additional funds this year and next year for road maintenance and dealing with pinch points. I dare say that some of that money could be used to ensure that the Tour de France passes off without pothole-caused incidents.

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): Is not the A63 announcement more about news management than road management, given that the work is due to start no earlier than has been planned for many years? Is this not another case of jam tomorrow, while Hull continues to have traffic jams today?

Danny Alexander: As we are the first Government to have committed to undertake that work, I thought that the hon. Lady would have welcomed it.

Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): There will be a broad welcome for the certainty that is brought by the Chief Secretary’s announcement of a new prison in north Wales. However, any announcement on infrastructure spending by Departments whose responsibilities are devolved to Wales will have Barnett consequentials. Will he give a flavour of the consequentials that will accrue to the Welsh Government?

Danny Alexander: The Barnett consequentials of the 2015-16 public spending round were set out in the Chancellor’s statement yesterday. On the resource side, the Welsh Assembly Government will see a small reduction in their budget and, on the capital side, a small increase. I am sure that they will work with him to ensure that the money is used wisely for the benefit of the people of Wales.

Dr Thérèse Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) (Con): I welcome the A14 construction phase starting two years earlier, but I am particularly pleased by the publication of the

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draft strike prices. That should encourage SSE and ScottishPower to go ahead with their investment decisions in Galloper and the East Anglia Array, making Suffolk truly the green coast of the country.

Danny Alexander: The hon. Lady and I share a passionate commitment to green energy, and I hope that the strike prices now complete the picture for energy companies looking to invest. My message to the energy companies is, “You have the certainty you need, now bring forth the investment that the country needs.”

Mr Marcus Jones (Nuneaton) (Con): I welcome the announcement on superfast broadband and hope that Arley, in my constituency, will benefit. Will my right hon. Friend seek to ensure that far more priority is given to providing superfast broadband on our industrial estates that are, at times, being overlooked in the current roll-out?

Danny Alexander: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. I will say two things. First, I will draw his point to the attention of BDUK. Secondly, specific funding has been set aside to ensure that enterprise zones have the best broadband in the country. Broadband is a crucial part of those zones being able to attract the investment they need.

Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay) (LD): Despite the welcome news on capital spend on flood defences, there remains the very serious issue of flood insurance. As my right hon. Friend will know, the current agreement with the insurance industry runs out in just three days’ time, yet he is not promising legislation until the autumn. What can be done in the meantime to maintain affordable and available flood insurance, so that people can protect, mortgage and sell their homes?

Danny Alexander: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Let me repeat what I said in my statement. The existing statement of principles will continue until such time as the new arrangements that I described in my statement are put into place. The new arrangements will last a very long time and will protect his constituents. Alongside the extra capital investment we have announced today, they will ensure that we keep people safe from the risk of flooding.

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Business of the House

11.57 am

The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr Andrew Lansley): The business for the next week is as follows:

Monday 1 July—Motion to approve a ways and means resolution relating to the Finance (No.2) Bill, followed by remaining stages of the Finance (No.2) Bill (Day 1).

Tuesday 2 July—Conclusion of remaining stages of the Finance (No.2) Bill (Day 2).

Wednesday 3 July—Estimates Day [1st Allotted Day]. There will be a debate on public expenditure and health care services, followed by a debate on Rail 2020. Further details will be given in the Official Report. At 7 pm the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.

[The details are as follows: The Health Committee, 11th report, 2012-13, Public expenditure on health and care services, HC 651, and the Government response (CM 8624); and the Transport Committee, 7th report, 2012-13, Rail 2020, and the Government response, 9th special report, 2012-13, HC 1059.]

Thursday 4 July—Proceedings on the Supply and Appropriation (Main Estimates) Bill, followed by general debate on NATO, followed by general debate on corporate structures and financial crime, followed by general debate on the economic implications for the UK of an EU/US trade and investment agreement. The subjects for these debates have been nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 5 July—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 8 July will include:

Monday 8 July—Remaining stages of the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill.

Tuesday 9 July—Consideration in Committee of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.

Wednesday 10 July—Opposition half day [4th Allotted Day]. There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject to be announced, followed by the Chairman of Ways and Means is expected to name opposed private business for consideration.

Thursday 11 July—Business to be nominated by the Backbench Business Committee, including a general debate to mark the 25th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster.

Friday 5 July—Private Members’ Bills.

I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 4 and 11 July will be:

Thursday 4 July—Debate on the 8th report of the International Development Select Committee on post-2015 development goals, followed by debate on 10th report of the International Development Select Committee on Pakistan.

Thursday 11 July—Debate on social care reform for working age disabled people.

Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab): I thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business.

We are approaching the 65th birthday of the NHS, so will the Leader of the House now admit the truth: that in a reversal of their infamous airbrushed election

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poster, it is clear that this Government have cut the NHS and not the deficit? The Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill is due to return to the House on 8 July, but with only one day of debate for all its remaining stages. After the important recommendations from the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards last week, which the Prime Minister claimed he supported, why has the Leader of the House scheduled only one day of debate? I am sure he agrees with me that we must act to reform the problems in our banking system, so will he now undertake to provide a second day to ensure that all the necessary amendments have time to be heard?

Does the Leader of the House agree with the assessment that the Tory handout EU referendum Bill of the hon. Member for Stockton South (James Wharton), which reaches the House next Friday, is

“a transparently cynical attempt to combat the rise of UKIP and to try to appease Tory backbenchers”?

I see that the Leader of the House does not, but those are not my words; they are the words of Stockton South Tory Councillor Mark Chatburn. How long does the Leader of the House think that this farcical misuse of the private Member’s Bill procedure by Tory Whips will carry on before the obsessive anti-Europeans realise they have been sold a pup?

This week, we have seen two alternative Queen’s Speeches put down on the Order Paper, one from the self-proclaimed Tory Taliban and one from Labour MPs. They want women to lose their right to protection if they are sexually harassed at work. We want respect for our armed forces. They want to scrap the BBC. We want fair prices on our railways. They want to bring back smoking indoors. We want to tackle the scourge of zero-hours contracts. I am proud of our Labour Back Benchers and the work they are doing, but can the Leader of the House tell us whether he can say the same about his?

This alternative agenda kicks off next week with the plan to hijack the August bank holiday and turn it into Margaret Thatcher day. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] I can see that there is a lot of support for that among those on the Government Benches. Some might think that they are too obsessed with this controversial and divisive figure from the past, but I do not think they are showing nearly enough zeal. Why celebrate her once a year—why not every week? Are they not missing an opportunity? If they were real believers, would they not want Thursday, Friday, Thatcherday? I think she would be very disappointed in them. Perhaps we could name other days after current members of the Cabinet— 29 February could be named after the Deputy Prime Minister, because it gets noticed only once every four years and makes absolutely no difference to anything in the meantime.

Yesterday’s spending review underlined the scale of this Chancellor’s economic failure, with living standards falling, the economy stuttering, borrowing up, long-term unemployment up, prices rising faster than wages and bank lending down. He has not even managed to keep his prized triple A rating. He is presiding over the slowest recovery for more than 100 years, and businesses and families across the UK are paying the price. He can put on a mockney accent and eat as many posh burgers as he likes but, unlike millions of people up and down this country, he will never understand what it really feels like to be paying the price for his economic incompetence.

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With a public relations man as Prime Minister, this Government are all too quick to issue press releases but too incompetent to deliver them, so we need a debate in Government time on Government incompetence. In their fourth year in office, only one of the 261 new schools they promised in their “priority” building programme has actually been built; only seven of the 576 infrastructure projects they promised have been completed; and they have delivered a paltry 2,000 of the 100,000 new homes they promised under the NewBuy scheme. They said that they would set up a British investment bank to help businesses grow, but no business has yet had help. They said that they would set up the Youth Contract to get young people back to work, but no one has used it. They promised councils £530 million for superfast broadband, but so far they have paid out only £3 million. They said that they want more infrastructure spending, but yesterday revealed a £1 billion cut in capital spending. They said that they would bring down borrowing, but it is £245 billion higher than they planned. Is not the truth that they are posturing, not governing? They are spinning, not delivering. It is not just the Chancellor’s Byron burger stunt that was a sham—it is the whole Government.

Mr Lansley: I do so look forward to the shadow Leader of the House’s response to the business statement, but mainly—normally—for the humour. On this occasion, however, it fell short of her normal high standards, which is a pity—I look forward to future weeks.

The hon. Lady asked about NHS spending. The figures demonstrate that the coalition Government have met their commitment to real-terms increases in NHS resources year on year. In addition, the Chancellor’s statement yesterday confirmed that we will make provision for a further real-terms increase in NHS resources in 2015-16. As she must recognise, that contrasts with my predecessor as Health Secretary, the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), who regarded real-terms increases for NHS resources as irresponsible—that was the Labour party’s view. We are delivering on our manifesto promises. The NHS could not have afforded Labour’s irresponsible policies.

The hon. Lady asked about time on Report for the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill. I direct her to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor’s response on Tuesday to my hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom). We are clear that we will welcome, and consider positively and carefully, the Parliamentary Commission’s report and that, where necessary, we will legislate to bring its recommendations into force using that Bill. She must realise that the Government have allowed two days on Report more often than did our predecessors, but that that must be an exception rather than the rule. In this instance, as always, we will consider the requirement for debate on Report and make time available accordingly.

I will tell the hon. Lady exactly what the European Union (Referendum) Bill is about: it is about my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South (James Wharton) taking the lead and giving the people of this country a choice. There are Opposition Members who do not share her unduly cynical view and recognise that it is a genuine attempt by Parliament to exercise its responsibility and give people confidence that they can decide our

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future in Europe. I and my hon. Friends support it, and I hope that hon. Members from all parties will do so too next Friday.

Given the Chancellor’s statement yesterday and the Chief Secretary’s excellent statement today, I am not sure why the hon. Lady tried to rerun some of the arguments from the Opposition that were demolished by the Chief Secretary. If she wants to talk about future business, she can use the half day available to the Opposition on 10 July, and I would be delighted if they chose to debate living standards in this country, given that yesterday’s statement made it clear that a five-year council tax freeze would be available. I and many others saw council tax double under Labour. Yesterday, the Chancellor announced a three-year council tax freeze and two further years available.

In addition, 24 million basic rate taxpayers will benefit by nearly £700 from the coalition Government’s commitment to increase the personal tax allowance. The consequence of not having to impose the fuel duty escalator will be a saving of £40—13p a litre—for the average motorist. If, on the other hand, the hon. Lady wants to debate the economy on 10 July, she will have the opportunity, among other things, to debate why we are in this situation: because they doubled the debt, leaving us with the highest deficit in the OECD and £157 billion of borrowing, which we have reduced by one third to £108 billion this year.

[Interruption.] It is all very well Opposition Members making gestures to suggest flatlining. The economy did not flatline at the end of the Labour Government; it fell, as new statistics tell us, by 7.2%. There was a 7.2% crash in the gross domestic product of this country. That is the basis of the crisis that we had to resolve when we came into office, and if the hon. Lady wants to have a debate on that, we will be very happy to accommodate her.

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): Will the Leader of the House consider allowing a debate on the time allocated to Departments for answering oral questions in the House and, therefore, the time that Members have to scrutinise Ministers and hold them to account? During such a debate, we could perhaps examine why the Department for Transport, which has now been given responsibility for some of the largest capital expenditure in any Department in Government, answers questions for only 45 minutes. We could consider extending that to a full hour, which would be the proper amount of time to allow for correct scrutiny.

Mr Lansley: The total amount of time available is fixed, so if we give more to one Department, we have to take it away from another. We look carefully at the volume of questions to the various Departments—I promise my right hon. Friend that we do this rigorously—and we try to ensure that if a Department answers questions for less than an hour, it is because it has proportionately slightly fewer questions being asked of it.

Mr Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne East) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House find time for the House to debate a report prepared in 2008 by senior police officers and said to have been given to Lord Leveson’s inquiry? It alleges sustained and persistent access to information

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contained on the police computer and other organisations’ databases that is supposed to be confidential but is in fact widely shared via improper methods. We understand that the report exists. Will the Leader of the House confirm that that is so? Will he find time for us to debate it and, before we do so, may we see it?

Mr Lansley: The right hon. Gentleman will understand that, without prior notice of his question, I have been unable to ask my colleagues about the issue that he has raised, and I do not know the answer to his question about whether such a report exists. However, he will have heard my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary speaking at the Dispatch Box recently, setting out measures to promote the integrity of the police. I will ask her to respond to the right hon. Gentleman, but I think he should take considerable reassurance from the wide range of measures that she announced and that are being taken forward. They involve not only inquiries but proposals relating to the College of Policing and the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Mr Andrew Tyrie (Chichester) (Con): May I reinforce the request from the Opposition Front Bench for two days on Report for the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill? I take it that the Leader of the House rejected that request; at least, that is what I think I heard. Some months ago, the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, which I chaired, recommended that the Report stage be taken in September, but that was rejected too. We have now produced a further report with more than 100 recommendations. Colleagues from all over the House have told me that they would like an opportunity to consider those recommendations and express their views on them before the Bill goes to the other place. Frankly, I simply cannot understand why the Government are dragging their feet on this, bearing in mind that they were the prime movers in the creation of the commission. Nor can I understand their decision, in view of the fact that the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, the Justice and Security Bill and the Crime and Courts Bill all had two days on Report.

Mr Lansley: The Government, and the House, are grateful to my hon. Friend and his colleagues on the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards for the work that they have done and the excellent report that they have produced. That entirely justifies the decision that the Chancellor and the Prime Minister made to proceed by way of a parliamentary commission rather than a public inquiry. That is what has enabled us to reach this point at this time. I will not repeat all that I said to the shadow Leader of the House, but we should not regard two days on Report as anything other than the exception. We have allowed it more often than our predecessors did, but it must be—[Interruption.] It is not a matter of priority. It is a matter of judging the necessity for debating time on Report in the light of the amendments that have been tabled at that stage. I have announced the provisional business for the week after next. We are making rapid progress with the Bill and it is important that we continue to do so, but I will of course always listen carefully to what my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr Tyrie) has to say.

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Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): Can the Leader of the House explain why the Government have still not sent the royal charter on press regulation, which was passed overwhelmingly by this House, to the Privy Council? The motion on which we voted stipulated that it should be sent in May. Can he reassure the House and the victims that it is not because the Government are planning to do some kind of grubby backroom deal with elements of the press and to further water down Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations?

Mr Lansley: As I understand it, this is simply a matter of the proper processes relating to the approval of a royal charter by the Privy Council being pursued, in circumstances in which other proposals are also being presented. The Privy Council Office has gone through a process of securing the examination of other proposals as well, but these are matters of continuing discussion among my colleagues and I will ensure that the House is updated as soon as we are clear about the timing.

Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con): The Leader of the House will not be surprised by my question, because this is the fifth time that I have asked for a debate on the Francis report. In fact, I am now going to insist on one, if I may. I know that the Secretary of State for Health believes that there should be a debate on that issue. It is incredibly important for the national health service and for the people affected by what happened in Mid Staffs and by the Francis report. Will the Leader of the House please provide time for a debate in Government time on the Floor of the House before the recess? Giving excuses about approaching the Backbench Business Committee is simply not good enough. We want a debate, and we insist on it.

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend and other Members have discussed this matter with me, and I have written to my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) about it this week. I have said before, and I repeat today, that it is our expectation that we will secure a debate on the Francis report. However, after consultation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, I think it makes sense for us to do so at the point at which the Government are in a position to make their full response to the Francis inquiry. My hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr Cash) will know that an interim response has been made thus far. I cannot therefore commit to a debate on the Francis report this side of the summer recess, but I will continue to have discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on when it will be the right time to do so.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): The Leader of the House will know that it has been a very long time since we had a debate in Government time on Zimbabwe. The situation there is now grave. Mugabe has decided arbitrarily to call an election, without discussion and with very little of the global political agreement having been carried through. It is important that our Government should be involved in putting pressure on South Africa in this regard. Could we at the very least have a statement on this matter from the Foreign Secretary before the recess, as this is an important issue for British people?

Mr Lansley: I am sure that many Members share the hon. Lady’s concern about the situation in Zimbabwe, as they have done for many years. I will of course talk to

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my hon. Friends at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office about what form of statement might be made, if appropriate, to update the House. In respect of a debate, I should point out, perhaps not for the first time, that it is clear as a consequence of the Wright Committee reforms that, as significant areas are priorities for the House to debate as Members feel strongly about them, time has been made available to the Backbench Business Committee to accommodate them. It is therefore to the Backbench Business Committee that Members should make their representations. I am happy to stand at the Dispatch Box and be the intermediary to enable that message to be heard by the Committee, but Members should also make the case directly to the members of the Committee that there is a priority for such debates to take place.

Oliver Colvile (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Con): Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that money would be put into helping problem families. Plymouth has a significant number of such families, and that number has stubbornly remained high despite the very best work of Plymouth city council and the various agencies. May we have a debate on this matter, so that all of us who represent challenging inner-city areas can have a conversation about it and share best practice?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend raises an important aspect of the positive announcements made by the Chancellor yesterday. There are now many local authorities —Plymouth clearly is one—that are making increasingly effective use of the resources provided to the troubled families programme. Some £448 million over three years was announced in December 2011 by the Prime Minister, and the extension now announced for funding in 2015-16 enables a further expansion. I cannot offer time at the moment, but my hon. Friend makes an interesting point. Many hon. Members may now feel that they are starting to understand the benefit of this programme and the opportunity that the extension might give, and they are probably starting to think that it is time for them to start sharing that knowledge in this House so people can see the progress we are making.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): May we have a science-led debate on whether Ministers should be spending more time working out how to keep fossil fuels in the ground and less time squandering taxpayers’ money on tax breaks for shale gas that scientists say we simply cannot afford to burn if the Government are to keep to their commitment to limit global warming to below 2°, a commitment that was reaffirmed at the G8 last week?

Mr Lansley: I am not sure that I am likely to agree with the hon. Lady on the possible benefits of investment in shale gas exploitation, not least for hard-pressed consumers who want to see the benefits in terms of energy prices, and for the security of energy supply in this country. She has had opportunities during discussions on the Energy Bill to consider these matters and I am sure that there will be further opportunities in the future.

Eric Ollerenshaw (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Con): Following on from the previous question, from press reports this morning and from the statement by the

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Chief Secretary in reply to my neighbour and good friend the hon. Member for Wyre and Preston North (Mr Wallace), is it not time that the Chamber had a full debate on the impact of shale gas? As you know, Mr Speaker, we are very generous people in Lancashire, but we want to get to the bottom of the appropriateness of the compensation scheme, whether it will be underpinned by statute and how we will ensure that the communities most affected get the compensation they deserve.

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend makes further good points on this. I cannot offer a debate at the moment, but he will be aware that Ministers from the Department of Energy and Climate Change will be answering questions on 11 July. I will draw their attention to the points that my hon. Friend and other hon. Members have made. I have said that I cannot promise a debate immediately, but hon. Members may seek opportunities elsewhere. I hope that when the time comes, we can take forward what I think are rather exciting announcements about the potential capacity for shale gas exploitation, while making sure that Members of this House are aware of the benefits that will flow not only to consumers and the economy, but to their constituents.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): At 4.20 pm on 18 March, the Prime Minister, no less, stood up and urged this House to support a motion that would, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) said, call on the royal charter on press regulation going to the Privy Council meeting in May. I understand that the Government say that, bizarrely, the Prime Minister was beaten to it by the press barons. Will the Leader of the House guarantee that it will now go to the July meeting? That is the will of this House and the House of Lords. It was a deal between all party leaders and was supported by everybody. If it is not going to go in July, will he guarantee that he will write to me to explain why not?

Mr Lansley: I cannot make any such guarantee; it is not in my gift to do so. The will of the House was expressed very plainly but it has not been possible to comply in terms of timing. I will ensure that if not I then my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport writes to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr Rob Wilson (Reading East) (Con): Yesterday’s announcement of new funding for joint health and social care was a welcome step towards the integration of health and social care, and I think all of us across the House would welcome that. Yet some short-sighted councils are closing down care home facilities without providing proper alternatives. Labour-run Reading borough council wants to close the Arthur Clarke home in my constituency, which will cause great distress to residents and families, risks breaking up a successful work force and will end up putting greater stress on the local NHS. Will my right hon. Friend support a debate to highlight the issue of care home closures and their impact on the local communities they serve?

Mr Lansley: The Liaison Committee has timetabled a debate on public expenditure and health care services on Tuesday. Clearly the issues that my hon. Friend raises are relevant to that debate and he may wish to utilise that opportunity. I felt strongly that the Chancellor’s announcement yesterday was extremely important and

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welcome, and it followed the announcement made in the spending review of 2010. The NHS has used its resources, together with local authorities, in developing health and social care interactions very effectively, which has demonstrated how these additional resources might make a much greater difference in terms of promoting independence and preventive health care.

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): On shale gas, we learned from BBC news this morning that the Government were likely to announce a streamlined planning process to award drilling permits for shale gas, but we did not hear any more detail. We got one mumbled sentence in the statement from the Chief Secretary. For constituencies such as mine, this is a key issue because we now have the threat of fracking for shale gas close to two housing estates. May we have a debate in Government time on Government plans for shale gas? We need to explore the reality of what the exploration and exploitation of shale gas will mean for communities before we are hurtled into a streamlined process, which apparently will be announced on 18 July, the day the House rises.

Mr Lansley: I will not reiterate the points I have made, beyond saying that DECC Ministers will be here on 11 July to answer questions. I know that they will want to keep the House fully updated. I hope that we might have an opportunity for a debate between now and the summer recess, if not in Government time, then in Back-Bench time or elsewhere.

While I am at the dispatch Box, Mr Speaker, I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Reading East (Mr Wilson) that there was a debate on public expenditure and health care services next Tuesday. I was wrong; it is Wednesday.

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): We rely absolutely on the police and the intelligence and security services, who do a great job, but we must have confidence that they are acting within clear and agreed safeguards. This has been hit by a series of revelations over the last few weeks about GCHQ and the activities of undercover policing. Will there be an opportunity for an open debate in this House so that we can set out what we believe are the parameters within which they should do their vital work?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend will recall that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary came to the Dispatch Box when there had been previous press reports to give the assurances in relation to GCHQ that my hon. Friend and others have sought. These matters continue to be carefully considered inside Government. It is very difficult sometimes to have debates about some of these matters, but the House should remember that now, literally, following the Justice and Security Act 2013, we now have the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, part of whose work is to ensure that precisely those sorts of safeguards and scrutiny are in place.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Speaker: Order. There are still several colleagues trying to contribute and I am keen to accommodate them. I just remind the House that there are two debates

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to take place today under the auspices of the Back Bench Business Committee, the first of which in particular is extremely heavily subscribed, so there is a premium, both in this session and subsequently, on brevity.

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): Two weeks ago, the Leader of the House told me that the reason food bank use had trebled in the last year was that the Government were now advertising in job centres that food banks were available. To explore this further, may we have a debate to explain why, in Hull, police and retailers have been reporting a serious increase in food theft? Is it down to shops advertising food better?

Mr Lansley: Oh well, sarcasm does not always read so well in Hansard. The hon. Lady will find that I said this was one of the reasons—[Interruption.] One of the reasons for the increased take-up of food banks was that the previous Government did not allow relevant information and material to be made available in jobcentres, while this Government did. That is the simple fact of the matter.

Karl McCartney (Lincoln) (Con): The last time I stood here and mentioned the bullying and financial incompetence of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, I opened a veritable Pandora’s box of pain for myself and those close to me. Does my right hon. Friend think we should have a debate on IPSA, as many colleagues on both sides of the House have offered me their support and would no doubt like to discuss reforms to this unfettered regime, which continues to act like the KGB of our civil service, breaks the law, ignores the Data Protection Act and is now—I am personally pleased to report—in trouble with the Information Commissioner’s Office?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend feels strongly about IPSA. I believe that a number of Members feel the same on the basis of their personal interactions, but there are others who have felt that since its establishment, the service it provides has improved. Either way, I would say to my hon. Friend and the House that IPSA may have statutory independence, but that does not mean that it is without scrutiny. IPSA also has an informal relationship with Members, and that should be used to convey messages about IPSA’s operation. The Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is a mechanism that can be used—I know this as a member of it—to send messages to IPSA about how it does its work.

Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Lab): The Secretary of State for Defence is meeting the Colombian Defence Secretary today to discuss our further military support for the Colombians. Given the murder of four innocent protesters by the Colombian army and police over recent days, may we have a debate in Government time about why we are considering giving military support to a Government whose Ministers, including the visiting Defence Secretary, routinely name their political and social opponents as “terrorists”, thereby effectively placing a death sentence on them?

Mr Lansley: Beyond saying simply that I will ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence to respond to the hon. Gentleman’s points, I had better not trespass any further for fear of demonstrating my ignorance.

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John Glen (Salisbury) (Con): This week, Wiltshire police announced the relocation of Salisbury police officers to a new building shared with Wiltshire council, thereby saving £500,000 and avoiding a 50% under-occupancy. Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate on how to encourage effective collaboration between local public agencies so as to optimise service delivery and allow space in the outgoing building for the new Salisbury and South Wiltshire university technical college?

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend makes a good point. I know that work has been done previously both in Wiltshire and in neighbouring authorities to try to secure that sort of collaboration between authorities in order to deliver savings to all through the rationalisation of back offices and sometimes even of front-line services. Clearly, under this Government, local authorities have been taking exceptional measures to try to deliver efficiency savings and maintain front-line services. What my hon. Friend describes provides a very good example of how, with the new police and crime commissioners, we might find a greater impetus, and indeed a political impetus from elected commissioners, to try to make those savings happen.

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): Given that we have received news of an actual cut in planned capital investment and a virtual strangling at birth of the Heseltine proposals, may we have a debate on the Government’s plans to stimulate jobs and growth in economies such as those in Birmingham and the west midlands?

Mr Lansley: I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman and I listened to the same statements yesterday and today. What I heard, including today, was an announcement of £2 billion a year going into the single pot to support local enterprise partnerships across the country, and that will accumulate into a substantial sum of money. This is a devolution of resources that never happened under the Government the hon. Gentleman supported. Additionally, if I heard it correctly, £500 million extra is going into the regional growth fund, and we have all seen how that has made a big difference to projects. I am afraid that I do not recognise his premise; we are supporting manufacturing and growth across the regions.

Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire) (Con): There has been a huge and resounding welcome throughout Wales of yesterday’s confirmation that the budget for Sianel Pedwar Cymru or S4C is to be protected—demonstrating a commitment to Welsh language and culture by the Prime Minister and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, as well as the Wales Office. May we have a debate on the importance of S4C to demonstrate its significance for Wales, the economy, the language and the culture as well as to the Union?

Mr Lansley: I cannot offer my hon. Friend the prospect of an immediate debate, but he used his opportunity at business question last week, if I recall correctly, to raise this issue. I am pleased that he has found that his representations have been successful.

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): Facebook is providing a meeting place for paedophiles by continuing to publish on its pages indecent images of children, and

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it receives income from advertisements displayed alongside these pages from many household-name companies. The internet summit of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport did not even address the question of child protection on social media. When is she going to come to the House to tell us how she is going to bring this disgusting practice to an end?

Mr Lansley: The hon. Lady raises an issue of the greatest importance to Members, and indeed to people across the country and especially to parents. I will, of course, talk to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I was not present at the summit meeting with internet companies, but I know that she is working very hard on these issues. I particularly welcome the additional support given to the Internet Watch Foundation, which was previously based in my constituency and continues to operate out of Cambridgeshire. I hope that we will be able to work together across the House to ensure that we take every practical measure we can to reduce child exploitation and abuse.

Ian Swales (Redcar) (LD): Sixth-form colleges are a vital and highly successful part of our education system, but they are treated by the Government as orphans of the further education sector. This means that they face issues that school sixth forms do not. May we have a debate on sixth-form colleges, and which Department does the right hon. Gentleman think should respond to such a debate?

Mr Lansley: I cannot promise an immediate debate, although I must say that in due course such a debate would be useful and would be appreciated not least by myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert), in whose constituency are two very successful sixth-form colleges at Hills road and Long road. My hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Ian Swales) makes a very important point, and I hope that we can take it up at some point. If we had a debate specifically about sixth-form college teaching up to A-level, it would be the responsibility of the Department for Education to respond, but if the debate related specifically to apprenticeships and skills-based learning, it would engage the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): Given that the Health Secretary, the Work and Pensions Secretary, the Lord Chancellor, the Chancellor and even the Prime Minister seem to have a basic lack of understanding of basic statistics, when will the Leader of the House organise a training course for them, and will it be a back-to-basics training course?

Mr Lansley: Since I do not accept the premise, I am not planning to arrange such a thing.

Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen) (Con): It could be genuinely useful for Members of all parties to have a debate on youth unemployment, including on apprentices, in Rossendale and Darwen. Over the last 12 months, youth unemployment has dropped by 20%, and we have tripled the number of people entering into apprenticeships since the general election. It would useful to explore whether that supports our world-class manufacturing

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and what it says about the hugely successful 100 in 100 campaign, which we are now running for our second year.

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend makes very important points. I cannot offer an immediate debate, but I hope that an opportunity will arise before too long, because the 1 million apprenticeships created under this Government are vital and are making an enormous difference. We have persistent, worrying and continuing levels of youth unemployment, which grew under the last Government at a time when the economy was growing and even before we hit the Labour-induced recession. This programme should, through traineeships alongside apprenticeships, help some of the young people who have found the greatest difficulty getting into work. That will also help us to achieve the Government’s objectives clearly set out in the Queen’s Speech, which is to ensure that all young people gain access to traineeships, apprenticeships or college-based education.

Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): My constituent, 18-year-old Natalie McCusker, has been waiting more than 18 months for a lung transplant. I learned from a written answer on 15 May that waiting lists in the north-west are among the longest in the country. May we have a debate on selection and allocation policies for donated organs? As it is national transplant week in the week beginning 8 July, might that not be an apposite time to have the debate?

Mr Lansley: In this instance, it would be appropriate for the hon. Lady to approach the Backbench Business Committee or to seek an Adjournment debate, but I have great sympathy with her comments. As I have in my constituency Papworth hospital, the largest hospital provider of heart and lung transplants in the country, I am only too aware of the difficulties associated with accessing lung transplants and the availability of suitable organs for donation.

Mr William Bain (Glasgow North East) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House provide a debate on why nine in every 10 people being referred to the Government’s Work programme are being so badly failed by the scheme? Last Friday, a constituent told me she was referred to a scam employer paying her cash in hand, and the police were called in to close the business down. Do we not need to debate in full the growing problems with the Work programme?

Mr Lansley: I cannot offer the hon. Gentleman a debate immediately, but he would find it helpful to look at the written ministerial statement made this morning by the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Mr Hoban). It set out the new statistics, such as that the Work programme has enabled 132,000 jobseekers to escape long-term unemployment and find lasting work, up from 9,000 at the end of March 2012. The hon. Gentleman will see the impressive trajectory of improving performance under the Work programme.

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Points of Order

12.41 pm

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I draw to your attention the written ministerial statement provided this morning on flood insurance? There has been no opportunity to consider what is in that statement, and the Chief Secretary was not able to give full details in his statement earlier. My constituents are particularly concerned about flood insurance and the provisional deal that seems to have been reached by the Government and the insurance industry. May I ask that the appropriate Minister be brought to the Dispatch Box to answer questions, so that we can have effective scrutiny of the issue?

Mr Speaker: The Leader of the House has signalled an interest in coming in on this issue. He is welcome to do so.

The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr Andrew Lansley): If I may say so, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) asked a question at business questions, and she might have asked one that related to the issue she now raises. I would have been very happy to explain that, in addition to the written ministerial statement, following statements today there will be the presentation of the Water Bill, which will then be available for Members to see. As was made clear earlier, my right hon. and hon. Friends at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are today publishing a consultation that sets out the Government’s intentions and gives people an opportunity to respond.

Mr Speaker: I thank the Leader of the House for what he has said. In relation to the point of order made by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North, what I have to say is twofold. First, my understanding is that the motivation of the Government in issuing a written statement was that the time of the House would be heavily absorbed today by both the Chief Secretary’s statement and the business statement, and the Government were mindful of the fact that this is a Back-Bench business day. It is only fair to be clear about the motives of the Government on the matter.

Secondly, in so far as the hon. Lady feels dissatisfied—and she is a persistent and indefatigable Member—I assure her that she will find other opportunities for the matter to be debated. I do not know whether the Government will decide to come forward with an oral statement because of the intellectual force and personal charm of the representations that she has made today, but even if they are not so minded, the hon. Lady can apply for debates, and I have a hunch that she will do so.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On 18 March you were very wise—[Hon. Members: “Always.”] And on many other occasions—you are always wise and wonderful, never curmudgeonly, and all the rest of it. But, on 18 March, you very wisely dug the Government out of a hole and enabled the whole House to come to a view on the future regulation of the press, by allowing a manuscript amendment and a change to the order of business, without the normal rules of the House. That was a wise course of action to take. Since then, however, the declared will of the Prime

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Minister, the Government, the Opposition and the whole House, which was for the matter to go to the Privy Council meeting in May, has not been implemented. You are, as I understand it, a Privy Counsellor, and I suppose you could go to the Privy Council and insist that the matter be carried forward as swiftly as possible. You might not want to go down that route, but I wonder whether you could chase this matter up a little, because the whole House, the victims and all those who had their phones hacked would be profoundly disappointed if the matter did not go to the July meeting of the Privy Council, if legal advice were not provided, if no reason were provided to the House, and if no action had been forthcoming when we came back in September.

Mr Speaker: My response to the hon. Gentleman’s point of order, of which I did not have advance notice—I make no complaint about that; I simply point out that I did not have such notice—is twofold. First, I am a Privy Counsellor, but as the hon. Gentleman well knows, I do not call meetings of the Privy Council, which take place perhaps from time to time. Secondly, I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point—I would be exceptionally unwise if I did not—and if he is minded to pursue the matter, he will have multiple opportunities. I have a sense that the hon. Gentleman understands at least as well as I do that in campaigning quantity, persistence and, above all, repetition are at least as important as the quality of the arguments themselves.

Mr Elfyn Llwyd (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) (PC): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have ruled that there will be a tight limit on speeches today, because the debate is obviously oversubscribed. Do you not share my concern that the Secretary of State for Justice has not even bothered to turn up for the debate?

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I had not noticed the absence of the Secretary of State. It would undoubtedly enrich the House were he to be present, and there will be some sadness and disappointment if he is not present, but precisely which Ministers are fielded by the Government is, of course, a matter for the Government.

Bill Presented

Water Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Owen Paterson, supported by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Vince Cable, Secretary David Jones and Richard Benyon, presented a Bill to make provision about the water industry; about compensation for modification of licences to abstract water; about main river maps; about records of waterworks; for the regulation of the water environment; about the provision of flood insurance for household premises; about internal drainage boards; about Regional Flood and Coastal Committees; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Monday 1 July, and to be printed (Bill 82) with explanatory notes (Bill 82-EN).

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Backbench Business

Legal Aid Reform

[Relevant document: Uncorrected oral evidence taken before the Justice Committee on 11 June 2013, on price competitive tendering proposals in the Government’s Transforming Legal Aid consultation, HC 91-i.]

Mr Speaker: May I remind the House that this debate is extremely heavily subscribed, as a consequence of which I have had to impose a five-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches?

12.48 pm

Sarah Teather (Brent Central) (LD): I beg to move,

That this House has considered legal aid reform.

I thank the Backbench Business Committee for allowing the House to debate this very important issue. I am hugely grateful to the many Members who have remained in the Chamber on a Thursday afternoon even though the debate is not on a dividable motion. I offer my apology for the fact that I did not ask for a full day’s debate—clearly, there is much more desire to debate this matter than I expected when I went before the Committee.

As many in the House will know, the background to the debate is that just after the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 came into force, the Government began a new consultation, “Transforming Legal Aid.” That consultation closed on 4 June, and the Government are due to respond after the summer recess. The proposals were incredibly wide ranging and arguably more significant in some ways than those in the LASPO Act, but it looked as if the House would not get an opportunity to debate that consultation document before the Government responded. As the Government are currently proposing secondary legislation for the matter, my concern is that we may not get an opportunity to have a debate before the legislation is introduced.

Because the proposals are so complex and wide-ranging, I think it important for us to get the details right, and I therefore hope that the Minister will view the contributions of Members in all parts of the House as part of the consultation process.

I am grateful to the 31 members of all parties who supported my application to the Backbench Business Committee. I particularly thank the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), who is a former legal aid Minister, and the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis), who I know wants to speak later about some of the constitutional implications of the proposed changes.

The fact that so many organisations, including Mind and Shelter, have contacted Members of Parliament with briefings and queries demonstrates that it is not just lawyers who are worried about these proposals.

Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab): Is it not very disappointing that that the Justice Secretary has not bothered to come to the House today? As the hon. Lady has pointed out, the debate is very oversubscribed. More than 96,000 people signed the e-petition, and I believe that 96 Members of Parliament signed early-day motion 36. The Justice Secretary should be here.

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Sarah Teather: I would have been delighted to see the Justice Secretary, but I am, in fact, delighted that the Minister is present. I trust that he will listen carefully to what Members say today, and will relay it faithfully.

Sir Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): Like the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner), I am a member of the Bar, but unlike him I do not do any legal aid work.

Does my hon. Friend agree that although the debate is important, it would not have had to take place had the Government chosen a better way in which to find their savings? It would have been better to continue with the proposals for further privatisation of the prisons, rather than attacking the legal aid system.

Sarah Teather: I certainly think that there are better ways of finding savings. I hope that some Members will refer to the way in which we manage some of the services that we privatise. The way in which contracts are managed is very important. The privatisation of the interpretation and translation services, for example, appears to have led to greater delay and driven up costs.

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): I congratulate my hon. Friend wholeheartedly on securing a debate that is clearly of interest to Members in all parts of the House. About two years ago, I too secured a debate on legal aid, which I think she attended, and that prompted a great deal of interest as well. The issue is incredibly broad, covering such matters as the residence test and, in the case of criminal legal aid, choice and diversity. Is it not important to ensure that small providers can continue to provide a service?

Sarah Teather: I think there are critical issues involving choice.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green) rose—

Sarah Teather: I will struggle if I try to give way to everyone. May I at least respond to one intervention before I accept another?

I intend to speak about the residence test rather than about criminal legal aid, but I know that a number of Members—including the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner), who supported the application to the Backbench Business Committee, and my hon. Friends the Member for Redcar (Ian Swales) and for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland)—want to refer to it specifically.

Caroline Lucas rose—

Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen) (Con) rose—

Sarah Teather: I will give way first to the hon. Lady and then to the hon. Gentleman, but after that I must make some progress.

Caroline Lucas: I wanted to intervene early in the debate to crush the myth that this is about savings. It should be made absolutely clear that no money will be saved. Indeed, a barrister at Matrix Chambers has suggested that, rather than saving £6 million—which,

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in the great scheme of things, is not very much in any case—the changes are likely to generate on-costs of about £30 million.

Sarah Teather: I entirely agree with the hon. Lady. She was referring, of course, to the changes in civil rather than criminal legal aid. I think that the costs are likely to be significantly greater, especially if people remain in detention or cannot be released from hospital.

Jake Berry: Let me begin by drawing Members’ attention to my declaration of interest, largely because I am immensely proud of being a solicitor. What concerns me most is discrimination against small high street practices such as Holt and Longworth and other small firms in my constituency, which, although they are the backbone of our profession, will probably cease to exist.

Sarah Teather: I find it extremely worrying that the Government should pursue a line that would put small and medium-sized firms out of business, apparently deliberately. It flies in the face of everything they are trying to do to promote growth and the high streets. I trust that the Minister has noted what the hon. Gentleman said.

I hope that the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) will catch your eye later, Madam Deputy Speaker, because I know that she wishes to speak specifically about issues relating to civil legal aid for prisoners. I shall not have time to speak about that myself, but I think that it is important for it to be covered today.

Let me now say something about the residence test. As a former children’s Minister, I know that the proposed changes have particular implications for children, and as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on refugees, I am very concerned about the impact on those who seek sanctuary on our shores.

The Bill that became the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishing of Offenders Act was highly contentious and fiercely debated in both Houses. Many were persuaded of the need to save money, but all sought to ensure that the most vulnerable members of society would continue to have access to justice. Time and again, Ministers assured the House of Commons that when people’s lives or liberty were at stake, access to justice would be preserved. However, the new residence test appears to undermine that directly.

Schedule 1 of the Act lists the categories that the Government sought to protect from cuts—groups whom they recognised to have a vital need for legal representation. Children who may be subject to care orders, children with special educational needs, victims of domestic violence, victims of trafficking, asylum cases, those in immigration detention, those facing immediate homelessness, and those with mental health issues are just a few of the very vulnerable groups that are identified. I am afraid that people in all those categories may be denied legal aid if they fail to pass the residence test.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): Does the hon. Lady agree that what may happen—if it is not already happening—is that citizens advice bureaux and law centres will become overloaded with casework, and people in all the categories that she has listed will start coming to elected Members of Parliament for help?

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Sarah Teather: I think the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Those in what was originally a category of people needing legal aid will still have problems after being denied it, and will arrive at all our surgeries seeking our help with problems that still exist and are still insurmountable.

Mr Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton) (Con): I thank the hon. Lady for giving way; she is being very generous. Does she know whether the family of Jean Charles de Menezes would have qualified for legal aid under the new residence test? That is a very esoteric but important category which ought to be protected.

Sarah Teather: I understand that the family of Jean Charles de Menezes would not have qualified under the new test. As the hon. Gentleman says, that was an incredibly important case which had huge implications for policing policy, and it is for precisely that reason that we need to be careful about identifying categories of this kind.

A number of Members have said that the changes will not save money. That, I think, is the point. The Government are apparently not seeking to save money with the changes in the residence test; they say that their purpose is to shore up public confidence in the legal aid system. However, I do not think that the public will continue to have confidence in a system that denies access in certain cases, including the one that was referred to by the hon. Gentleman.

Particularly unjust, in my view, is the position of those who, having gained refugee status, will be forced to wait 12 months before becoming eligible for legal aid. I think it extremely unlikely that we would be complying with article 16 of the Geneva convention if we proceeded with that proposal. Many of the people involved are very vulnerable, and there is frequently a gap in communication between the Home Office and those who should be seeking care for them in the form of housing or benefits. Many would face a period of homelessness if lawyers did not intervene to ensure that local authorities do their duty.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Sarah Teather: I will, but I am conscious that I am taking up the time of others who wish to speak.

Keith Vaz: I am most grateful to the hon. Lady, who has been extremely generous in giving way. She is right about immigration, which has become more complex. One of the reasons for opposing these proposals is that the few remaining specialist legal aid immigration lawyers will disappear if they are accepted.

Sarah Teather: I fear losing specialists in immigration law. I already see constituents who are consulting lawyers who are, I am afraid to say, less than qualified to do the job, and that is what creates many of the delays and bad decisions in the first place.

Several hon. Members rose

Sarah Teather: I have tried to take as many interventions as possible, as I know that some Members will not get

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an opportunity to speak, but I also do not want to speak for too long, and there are some points I want to make on the residence test, so I shall continue

Were it not for the intervention of lawyers, many refugees would be homeless at the very time when the state has recognised they are absolutely in need of protection. They will also be unable to challenge other decisions, such as on special educational needs and other forms of care. Young unaccompanied asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable. The Coram Children’s Legal Centre provided an example of a young woman from Eritrea who was just 16. The Home Office accepted that she required refugee status. However, after that happened, as is often the case, her local authority began disputing her age. Were it not for the intervention of lawyers, she would not then have been cared for by the local authority, as she had no chance of proving she had been resident in the UK for 12 months; in fact, she had not been resident in the UK for 12 months, and she had certainly not been lawfully resident in the UK for 12 months.

Those who struggle to make a claim for asylum initially are frequently particularly vulnerable to wrong decisions being made. I include in that category young people, those who have experienced sexual violence, those who are claiming asylum on grounds of sexual orientation and those who have been tortured. Many of these people fail to disclose that in their initial interviews. It is only on subsequent fresh applications for asylum that the right decision is made, because all the information is provided. Once that fresh application is accepted, they become eligible for legal aid. However, they need a lawyer to put in an application, so these people find themselves in a position of not being able to gain the status they deserve. Similarly, victims of human trafficking may need to challenge the identification given to them. Without access to legal aid, they are unable to do that.

Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of this residence test is not about asylum seekers, but about British-born children. British-born children under the age of one will fail a residence test. I do not know whether Ministers did not communicate with the Department for Education, but it is common practice in care proceedings that a child will be allocated a solicitor. That is why certain categories of children were listed at the back of schedule 1 to LASPO. Examples of other kinds of case that would be excluded are British citizens who from time to time get wrongly deported—I am afraid that does happen—and high-profile cases such as that mentioned a few moments ago. I am aware that my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) wishes to raise Baha Mousa’s case and the case of Afghani interpreters.

Perhaps the most invidious and troubling cases, however, are those involving people in immigration detention. That, too, was specifically included in LASPO because it involved the state depriving people of their liberty. They must instigate their own proceedings. We often have indefinite detention for these people; their case does not automatically review, yet they will not be eligible for legal aid, because they are not lawfully here. The chief inspector of prisons has previously expressed concerns about that group, and this makes it significantly worse.

The argument Ministers have offered to me is that I should not concern myself with this group because exceptional funding is in place to support them. I want

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to debunk that myth right away. First, the application process for exceptional funding is exceptionally complicated; it is extremely difficult to provide the required evidence to the Legal Aid Agency, which is why very few people have applied, and people need a lawyer to be able to fill in the form. I understand that 100 cases have been accepted by the LAA, and the Public Law Project has told us it knew of just one case that had been accepted. Secondly, exceptional funding exists for cases outside the scope of LASPO, yet all the cases I have detailed are within its scope, but are outside that of the residence test. Thirdly, there is no procedure for urgent cases. That is not much good for people who may have a pressing problem with their housing or who are seeking a non-molestation order as a result of domestic violence. Finally, there is no exemption for those with no capacity to litigate.

The residence test is likely to be seriously detrimental to many of the most vulnerable groups that we have sought to protect during previous cuts to legal aid. I want to remind the Minister—as one former Minister to a current Minister—that being judicially reviewed is annoying. I remember that; it is very frustrating when we are taken to court, but we have to be humble enough to accept that Ministers, and others in public authorities, sometimes make the wrong decisions, and we also have to be man enough to accept the risk that some of the things people will JR us about may not seem to be particularly significant. That is what we need in a free society; that is the price we pay for making sure citizens are able to hold the state to account and for preventing overbearing state power from interfering with people’s right to live in the way they choose.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. [Interruption.] Mr Lammy, it is not a good idea to be on the move in the Chamber when one wishes to be called to speak. It is not a good way to try to catch the Speaker’s eye.

1.6 pm

Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab): I am very grateful, Madam Deputy Speaker. I seek your forgiveness for being on the move, but I was consulting colleagues about whether, given the importance of this debate, a vote of this House might be required, and whether I could invite colleagues to join me in the No Lobby after this debate. That would, of course, require Tellers.

Why is this so important? It is important because the Secretary of State has caricatured this debate as being solely about producers and suppliers of legal services. He has sought to suggest that it is about fat-cat lawyers and their fees. He also sought to suggest that this follows in a long line of reform to legal aid over the last 10 years and that ultimately it is about saving £220 million of taxpayers’ money. I think it is hugely important that Members are able to assert that that is not the case.

These are profound changes that would completely unsettle our constitutional arrangement, which begins with Magna Carta, where it was said we should not sell justice, deny justice or delay justice to anyone. When this House last met to discuss issues of such importance, the subject was the suspension of habeas corpus. On

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that occasion, the House met for three days, there was huge debate, we sat through the night, and then the House was able to vote. It is a travesty that the Secretary of State is not present, and that the Government seek to make such a profound change in our country by secondary legislation. That is why I urge Members to follow me into the No Lobby after the conclusion of this general debate.

John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the removal of people’s choice of advocate is a very profound change?

Mr Lammy: It is absolutely the case that in our system the choice of lawyer is fundamental and essential. In fact every democratic country we can think of enables that choice. That this Government should seek now to say that someone facing criminal charges cannot choose, and therefore have confidence in, the person to be charged with preserving their liberty is a huge exception to the democratic system we have sought to preserve for so long. Of course it will lead to huge miscarriages of justice.

Mr Henry Bellingham (North West Norfolk) (Con): I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way and I hope he gets extra time for taking a second intervention. I hear what he has to say, but does he agree that whoever was in power at the moment, having to make difficult choices, would almost certainly have to look at what is one of the most generous legal aid systems in the world and make savings to that budget? Does he agree that the problem is not so much the principle of the savings but how this is being done and the fact that there needs to be consultation on a number of specific points that, to be fair, the Government have agreed to reconsider?

Mr Lammy: The hon. Gentleman is right. It is totally unacceptable that the Government have sought to rush this measure through after a speedy consultation that lasted less than two months. It is wrong that there should not be a vote in the House and it is wrong to caricature previous changes to legal aid as having any relationship with these changes. When I was legal aid Minister, changes were made to scope in personal injury in an attempt to take out those who were caught up in speeding or traffic cases in the legal aid system. We introduced fixed fees to maintain costs. We introduced online and phone systems for free legal advice to limit costs. Those were the sorts of changes we introduced; we did not attempt to charge and make an attack on judicial review.

Judicial review is so important. Most people in this country feel that public authorities are benign until they have a disabled child, or one with special needs, and seek to challenge the local authority or the school, until they have an elderly relative in a care home and abuse goes on in that care home, or until they live in the path of High Speed 2 or Crossrail. There are people in this country who would seek to use judicial review and it is a travesty that this Government would run a coach and horses through it for £6 million.

The hon. Member for North West Norfolk (Mr Bellingham) mentioned savings and savings can be made in other ways. Tagging a defendant costs £13.41 in

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Britain, but £1.22 in America. Let us find the savings through cheaper procurement. Let us find the savings in the court system. Let us not rip up a democratic, constitutional system that we have had for so many years and that has served us well.

We have heard that the parents of Jean Charles de Menezes would not have received legal aid under the changes being made to the residence system. In fact, after these changes, babies in our care system aged under one would not get legal aid, even though children sometimes need access to it. There are many headlines at the moment about Jimmy Mubenga, a young man who lost his life in a deportation case. His family would not get legal aid. Is that really the kind of country we want to live in? Is that what we want to arm our Foreign Secretaries with when they are trying to speak powerfully to foreign Governments who seek to oppress their citizens? It cannot be, so I ask the Department to think again about the decision and to think very hard about the changes it is attempting to railroad through Parliament.

Those are the reasons it is important that we have the opportunity to vote. It is deeply concerning that it has taken senior Back Benchers going to the Backbench Business Committee to bring this discussion to the House in the first place. I cannot think of an occasion in the past few years when that has happened on such a major issue. I ask the Secretary of State to be mindful of the petition signed by thousands of people because they, too, are concerned about the situation.

The caricature that implies that those who are caught up in the criminal system are thick and therefore do not need a choice of lawyer is a disgrace coming from a Secretary of State for Justice. For legal aid lawyers to be caricatured as fat cats when their average salary is less than that of nurses and teachers in this country and when we are talking about high street firms in Bristol, Swindon and Brixton—places as different as that—is unacceptable. This is not about the producer, but about the citizen and the consumer. It is about hard-fought battles that have taken place in this Chamber over many years. I ask the Government and hon. Members to join me in the No Lobby after the debate.

1.14 pm

Mr Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) (Con): I declare any interest I might have as a practising solicitor, although not one who has ever done any legal aid paid work.

The Government have given a very clear explanation of how, under any reckoning, this country spends by far the most of any in the world on legal aid and will still do so after these proposed savings, which have to be made in these times of tough spending decisions.

Let us first acknowledge that the difficulties in providing criminal legal aid are not new. Indeed looking through my old notes for the debate, I found my question asking a Justice Minister in the previous Labour Administration what he was going to do about the then crisis, with barristers going on strike, some 25% of criminal law firms having closed shop in the previous four years and rates having been frozen for a decade. The then Labour Government acknowledged that the system was unsustainable and prepared, but subsequently failed, to introduce contracts for criminal legal aid tendering. Admitting their inability to reform the system, they then went for the relatively easy route of making savings through further rate cuts.

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Even then, the Labour Government were so frightened of initiating the cuts that they organised them to take effect after the general election. That was the position that this Administration inherited and one of the main reasons why we decided to reform civil legal aid first to allow the criminal legal aid market to settle after Labour’s cuts.

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): I have no argument about whether the savings should be made, but why does the hon. Gentleman think it is right to have a widespread attack on legal aid when the chair of the Criminal Bar Association has said that banking fraud cases are taking up 45% of the legal aid budget?

Mr Djanogly: They do. The consultation considers very high cost cases and identifies them as a specific area that needs to be looked at. I agree with that.

During debates on what is now the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, Labour spokesmen said that we should be looking at making savings by contracting criminal legal aid rather than touching civil legal aid. Now it seems that they have made another U-turn and are saying that they do not want criminal contracting at all. The position of Labour Members is not only inconsistent but deeply irresponsible, because they still acknowledge the need for legal aid savings but do not have a clue how to deliver them in practice. That is not the position of a party that can be serious about government.

Jake Berry: The criminal legal aid solicitors to whom I have spoken in my constituency have said that they would prefer a further cut in their rate to the structural changes the Government are talking about, because those structural changes mean that a solicitor in Rawtenstall has to travel to Blackpool to go to the police station. That is completely unsustainable.

Mr Djanogly: Further cuts in the rate are the easy option. The market is out of sync with the legal profession and it needs reform.

My theory is that Labour’s contracting proposals failed because they not only succumbed to the reactionary wing of the legal profession but shied from the bottom line facts of criminal legal aid contracting, which are that in order to get efficiencies and savings, contracting will always involve fewer but larger practices operating over a larger area. If the market is to be sustainable, there must be fewer firms each receiving a larger slice of the remaining pie.

Although I support the Government’s consultation and the contracting proposals in general, my personal view is that we are missing an opportunity radically to restructure the market and bring it into line with modern practice norms. At the core of that lies the need to consider the type of organisation that can bid and how they are paid. The historic position in England and Wales is that the client instructs a solicitor and then, particularly for more complicated advocacy, the solicitor employs a barrister. That involves two fees and I would strongly advocate moving to a single fee.

Karl Turner: I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman has read the consultation document. The proposals are very different from what the previous Government proposed

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under best value tender. There are major constitutional differences in these proposals that will ruin the entire criminal justice system.

Mr Djanogly: The previous Government were considering contracting, as were Labour Front Benchers during this Parliament. We need to appreciate that the Legal Services Act 2007, brought in by the previous Government with Conservative support, has transformed the potential for legal service provision. To cut a long story short, there is now no reason why solicitors and barristers should not go into partnership together, or indeed, with non-legal organisations, via alternative business structures. There is no reason why barristers should not take instructions direct from the client nor any reason why barristers should not themselves bid for contracts and employ solicitors. In practice, there have been blockers to this kind of progress, not least a barrister regulator that seems unable to see the writing on the wall for its own profession.

If I seem radical, I am explaining a scenario that would seem more or less natural to most Commonwealth common law countries.

Mr Bellingham: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am sorry, but the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) is on the move again. Surely right hon. and hon. Members should always stay in their seat and listen to the speech immediately after their contribution.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): The courtesies of the House are that a speaker should remain for the next two speakers, having contributed to the debate. It is regrettable. I did not see him move again, but I am sure that someone from the Opposition Benches will ensure that he returns quickly to hear the debate. Sorry for the interruption, Mr Djanogly.

Mr Djanogly: To retain the two-fee structure sends the wrong message either that the outdated current system can adapt to contracting or that it will soon be reversed and be back to inefficient business as usual. In the longer term both are unsustainable.

The legal profession, from mediaeval times, has always been against change. Most significant legal reforms emanate from Parliament. Our job is to create a marketplace for the future, not for the past. I support the Government’s proposals, but I recommend that we look again at bringing in a single-fee structure. Yes, that will force significant changes to criminal legal practice, but in the longer term it will provide a more flexible, efficient and sustainable platform for criminal legal aid provision.

I end by noting that it was not just the Labour Government’s inability to reform that constituted their failure but their shocking inability effectively to process legal aid payments and to monitor fraud and auditing systems. In all seriousness, when I started at the Ministry of Justice, the previous Minister had hardly been on speaking terms with the Legal Services Commission, and the delays and inefficiencies of the processing of claims, including criminal claims, were very serious indeed. Much of the processing has now been dramatically improved. The accounts published only this week are

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the first not to have been qualified in five years, and I congratulate the MOJ on that achievement. Significant savings have since been made by abolishing the LSC and reintegrating legal aid into the MOJ.

1.22 pm

Ms Karen Buck (Westminster North) (Lab): As the founding chair of the all-party parliamentary group on legal aid, I am pleased that Back-Benchers have organised an opportunity for us to discuss this important issue at this time and to touch on not just the “Transforming Legal Aid” agenda but the impact of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, much of which came into effect this spring.

As we know, the predominantly civil legal aid cuts that have come into effect have taken out of scope swathes of provision for benefits, social welfare and large areas of housing and employment. It has happened at the same time as local authorities are struggling with a 30%-plus reduction in their own funding, which has added to the squeeze on advice services. That impact is being felt up and down the country. Just this week, we were sorry to hear the news that Birmingham law centre was the first major urban law centre to go under. I am struggling to see whether we can sustain Paddington law centre, the second oldest law centre in the country, which has been hit by legal aid reductions and the loss of grant funding. Shelter, a major housing charity, has seen its advice services decimated as a result of cuts.

Mr Jim Cunningham: Does my hon. Friend agree that not only will citizens advice centres be affected, with people denied public justice, but small law firms will go out of business and 400 big companies will have a monopoly?

Ms Buck: My hon. Friend is correct. This is something that we will see in terms of the “Transforming Legal Aid” agenda. We are seeing advice deserts emerging. We are seeing the concentration of services in larger providers and, critically, we are seeing the loss of specialist services, which are so important. As is often the case with this Government, we are finding that cuts—the £350 million taken off the legal services budget—do not always mean savings. As we were warned, we are already seeing an increase in the number of litigants in person appearing in court. The Bar and judges warned that it would lead to additional costs.

A number of changes that have impacted on housing need have led to an 86% rise in homelessness acceptances in my local authority alone. Homelessness decisions remain within scope of LASPO, but debt and welfare advice provision does not and those issues are what lead people to the brink of homelessness in the first place. As a result of the loss of advice services and the dramatic increase in homelessness, we are seeing extra costs falling on local authorities and wiping out a number of the savings.

It was interesting to see in the comprehensive spending review statement yesterday further resources being directed to the troubled families programme. It is slightly ironic that we are rightly investing more in troubled families, knowing that debt and arrears are at the heart of the problems that they seek to overcome.

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Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North) (Lab): My hon. Friend is making a powerful argument. In my area, since April the bedroom tax has increased arrears in the city already by £750,000, pushing more families into misery and making them more in need of the very advice to which she refers.

Ms Buck: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is another excellent example. I am sure that colleagues will have examples from a number of areas of service and from all over the country.

On the “Transforming Legal Aid” agenda, while it is true that a Labour Government would have faced difficult and not necessarily popular choices about the justice system and legal aid, one of the elements that we regard as critical is maintenance of the ability for the accused to have a choice of lawyers. There is a risk that the proposed changes will lead to a loss of specialist services and quality services driven by choice, and potentially to miscarriages of justice.

I want to share with the House a letter I received from one of my constituents in the run-up to today’s debate. It is from Anne Maguire, one of the Maguire Seven convicted in 1975 of possession of explosives together with her husband, two teenage sons, brother and brother-in-law and a family friend. She received a sentence of 14 years. She and all her relatives and friend were innocent and their convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal in 1992. She says:

“Over many years, our solicitor Alastair Logan worked tirelessly without payment to overturn our wrongful convictions. Without his diligence and painstaking work, it’s no exaggeration that the miscarriage of justice we suffered would never have been put right. Under the government’s terrible proposals, solicitors’ firms such as Alastair’s would disappear to be replaced by a reduced number of large commercial operations with no interest in helping innocent prisoners.

Many more miscarriages of justice will occur if plans to award legal aid contracts to the cheapest commercial bidders such as the haulage company Eddie Stobart and to remove the ancient right of accused persons to choose their own lawyer are implemented.

I hope you'll attend the debate on Thursday”.

I am pleased to do that but also to join my colleagues in the vote.

I would love to be able to talk about the judicial review proposals and the accountability of public services that will be lost, but I want finally to touch on the issue of residency. As my parliamentary neighbour the hon. Member for Brent Central (Sarah Teather) has pointed out, urban constituencies such as ours with large migrant populations are most likely to feel the impact of the new residency qualifications. Those qualifications will have a particularly severe impact on children. I am indebted to a law company in my constituency called Just for Kids Law, which has raised with me its fears about the residency qualifications and the extent to which they will hit trafficked children and the children and families of victims of domestic violence, some of whom have come here on their husband’s visa. It will hit children and families of people who have come here to work in domestic service. This is something I am familiar with in my constituency and have many problems with. Finally, it will hit the babies and small children of British citizens who have been abroad and returned to this country, who will lose their qualification. That is a serious impact on the rights of children. I believe the measures must be resisted and look forward to joining colleagues in voting against them this afternoon.

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1.29 pm

Ian Swales (Redcar) (LD): I rise to speak as a member of the Public Accounts Committee who is concerned about the effectiveness of the proposed measures, and as a constituency MP who is concerned about access to justice for my constituents.

We are told we have the most expensive system in the world, but only last year the National Audit Office found that the cost of our system was average, after accounting for variances in the role of the civil service and the judiciary, and the costs have been reduced since that finding. As a previous speaker said, 48% of our criminal legal aid costs are for 1% of cases, so why does the Ministry of Justice not look specifically at those cases in order to save money?

Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): One of the misunderstandings in the mind of the public is that legal aid is a principal cost. In fact, our legal system costs half that of the Swiss and three quarters of the system in the other major European countries, and it delivers better results. Surely we should be proud of that?

Ian Swales: I am proud of that, and I am surprised by some of the comments from Front Benchers that seem to contradict what the right hon. Gentleman just said.

We also have a system in which tariffs vary widely across the country, sometimes paying twice as much for the same activity. Why does the Ministry of Justice not look into that? We often criticise the Ministry for not piloting its ideas, but they have tested this one by setting up five public defender services. They are proving to be three to four times as expensive as present local arrangements, and the one near me in Middlesbrough has already closed down. What has the Ministry learned and why is it planning to protect those offices from competitive tendering?

Mr Bellingham: The Crown Prosecution Service now has a lot of in-house lawyers, who are expensive and who have pensions, significant overheads and so on. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that going back to instructing the independent Bar, as used to happen, would result in savings and that the MOJ should look at that quite urgently?

Ian Swales: The hon. Gentleman has made his point fluently. I am not a lawyer and am unable to comment on those details, but I am sure that Ministers heard his point.

Looking at the effect on justice first, the evidence from the USA, where the MOJ’s planned approach is already in place, will give the public little comfort. Even people who are charged with the most serious crimes, including murder, are given low-cost lawyers and scant attention. Among the most serious duties a Government can have are to prevent people from dying in hospital and to prevent them from being wrongfully imprisoned. Why do we believe so strongly in choice in the first case while seeking to eliminate it in the second? Only through choice can standards be maintained and competitive pressures take effect. Yesterday, the Chancellor said:

“Our philosophy is simple: trust people to make their own decisions and they will usually make better decisions.”—[Official Report, 26 June 2013; Vol. 565, c. 306.]

I urge the Minister to follow that approach.

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I also urge the Minister to look carefully at the financial incentives in the proposed contracts. As we on the Public Accounts Committee know, there is touching faith in most Departments that their private sector partners will “do the right thing”. They will—but it will be the right thing to maximise their profits. It beggars belief that firms might get the same fee for a quick guilty plea as they get for a trial lasting days or even weeks. I know that the Secretary of State is a great believer in payment by results, but is he really looking for justice through short trials with few witnesses, or for innocent, vulnerable people to be locked up through a quick guilty plea? That is what his system will encourage.

Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): Does my hon. Friend acknowledge the serious concern that there will be an incentive for legal representatives to encourage clients to plead guilty, because the fee will be the same? That is deeply worrying.

Ian Swales: I agree with my hon. Friend. I repeat: private companies will seek to maximise their profits. I advise anyone who doubts that to check the financial incentives in the GP out-of-hours contracts and then look at what has happened to the number of people attending hospital accident and emergency centres.

I will now deal with contracting. This time last week, I was in Westminster Hall discussing the court translation services debacle—a true horror story. The response from the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant), showed breathtaking complacency about the overall effect on and cost to the courts system. She even seemed to be content with a present failure rate that is five times greater than the one contracted for. In addition, as has been noted, early results coming in on the new civil legal aid arrangements show more court cases, not fewer, and many cases doubling in length owing to inadequate representation. Again, I ask whether the Ministry is counting the full costs.

The most lucrative business in this country now seems to be winning Government bidding rounds, then—ideally—selling the contract for a quick profit, as we saw with the court translation service, or taking fat fees and getting other people to do the work, as we see in the Work programme.

Mr Raab: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Ian Swales: I am running out of time.

The Ministry has touching faith that many groups of lawyers will come together to bid; in fact, it will be largely the same magic circle of outsourcers, who hover like vultures around the award of almost every public contract—with the rumoured addition this time of a supermarket and a haulage company. One company likely to win work, of course, is G4S, with which the Secretary of State will be familiar from his previous job. G4S’s success in winning work in this sector raises the spectre that a person could be arrested, then have G4S legally representing them at the police station; providing the civilian staff processing them there; transporting them to court; representing them there; owning the court in which that person is tried; tagging them if they

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are on bail; and, if they are found guilty, transporting them to a G4S prison—oh, and it is quite possible that when they are released, G4S will be in charge of their rehabilitation. The potential perverse incentives in that chain are mind-boggling. I urge the Ministry of Justice to ensure that its contract packages meet its stated aims. The Ministry’s record on contracting is appalling. How will it be different this time?

I end with two questions for the Minister. First, if he or a member of his family were arrested, would he be happy with the new arrangements? Secondly, has he heard the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) express delight that he has just found the cheapest lawyer to fight his case against the Metropolitan police? I doubt it. Equal access to justice is a cornerstone of our society. The Minister has a lot to do to convince this House that that remains an objective of his Department and that it is competent to deliver it.

1.37 pm

Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab): Prior to my election to this House, I worked as a criminal barrister from my local chambers in Hull, and before that, I was a criminal solicitor. I was never a fat-cat lawyer—in fact, my waistline has increased only since coming to this place.

Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab): I am pleased that my hon. Friend is not a fat cat, but could he say whether fat-cat lawyers actually attend police stations at 2 o’clock in the morning?

Karl Turner: My hon. Friend makes a good point. As far as I know, it is very unusual for a partner in the firm to come out in the early hours of the morning. The important point is this: a solicitor who attends at a police station in the middle of the night is often dealing with extremely serious allegations—sometimes allegations of murder. I have been in that position on a number of occasions, representing clients who are alleged to have committed murder. The solicitor is there on his or her own, whereas the police have advice from the CPS and many officers to assist them. The solicitor is facing all that pressure and is not being paid properly, even under the current arrangements, for his or her expertise.

Of course we accept that in these straitened economic times, cuts have to be made to Departments across the board, but these plans are massively ill conceived. They will, in my respectful submission, irretrievably damage the criminal justice system. I will focus my remarks on price competitive tendering.

Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): Can the hon. Gentleman help with this point, then? If irretrievable damage is done to the criminal justice system by any change to legal aid, why was it that the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw), when Lord Chancellor, said:

“I hope that everyone…will accept that the growth of spending on legal aid seen in the early part of the decade and before is no longer sustainable”?

Karl Turner: It is very disappointing, but I suspect the hon. Gentleman has not read the consultation document.

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I shall go on to deal with price competitive tendering, but first let me try to bust a myth. There seems to be a suggestion that the Labour Government were particularly generous to criminal lawyers. We were not. Criminal lawyers have sustained cuts to fees from successive Governments. The current proposals are far reaching and, if they go through, they will be horrifically damaging to the criminal justice system. PCT will inevitably lead to the market being dominated by the big multinationals—the usual suspects—G4S, Serco, Capita, and probably the new entrants to the market who have absolutely no experience, Stobart.

The plans are also unconstitutional. They dismiss the notion that an accused might have the right to choose a solicitor. The cavalier ignorance of the Lord Chancellor was exposed when he remarked:

“I don’t believe that most people who find themselves in our criminal justice system are great connoisseurs of legal skills.”

Not only does he dismiss everyone requiring legal advice as a criminal before they have even been charged or had a trial, but he apparently has the naiveté to think that those who come face to face with the criminal justice system are not capable of judging the competence of their own lawyers. This is the “too thick to pick” point. The notion is completely contrary to attitudes applied to, say, health services in this country or education, where choice is deemed essential.

The proposals look to implement yet another changing fee structure. Fees would be cut by 17.5%, on top of the 2011 reduction of 10%. Firms that successfully bid for PCT will have demonstrated that they can provide the services at the cheapest possible rate. This means that advice will probably be provided by less qualified people supervised, perhaps, by a single lawyer. The “stack it high, sell it cheap” mentality will reduce the criminal justice system to a sausage factory where the quantity of cases trumps the quality of the service provided every time.

The proposals specify this in paragraph 23, suggesting that there is no need to be concerned about the quality of provision because work shall not be

“above the acceptable level specified by the LAA”—

the Legal Aid Agency. The plans also perversely propose the same fee to be paid, whether the case is resolved by way of a guilty plea or contested at trial. There is strong concern that this will inevitably lead to undue pressure being put on a defendant to plead guilty when in fact they have a defence.

The proposals will change the sort of people coming into the profession. This is not a plea for so-called fat-cat lawyers, but as the eminent barrister John Cooper QC put it to me yesterday,

“This is recognition, before it’s too late, that if the proposals go through we will be complicit in excluding many young people from less advantaged backgrounds from becoming part of what can only be described as the National Health Service of the Law”.

I have only one minute left. The Lord Chancellor showed his ignorance and lack of understanding of the profession. He showed ignorance today by not attending this important debate, yet the civil servants Box is full to the gunwales. The Lord Chancellor should sit down and meet for the first time the chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, Michael Turner QC, and Bill Waddington, the chairman of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association, and discuss alternatives to these undemocratic, unconstitutional and worrying plans.