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House of Commons

Wednesday 2 July 2014

The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock


[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions


The Secretary of State was asked—

International Inward Investment

1. Mike Freer (Finchley and Golders Green) (Con): What assessment he has made of the potential for international inward investment in Scotland after 2014. [904528]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr Alistair Carmichael): As part of the United Kingdom, Scotland has an impressive track record of attracting international inward investment, which recent figures have put at its highest level for 16 years. Scotland has strong potential to build on that record as part of the UK, the No. 1 location for Europe-bound foreign investment.

Mike Freer: Does my right hon. Friend agree that inward investment is boosted by Scotland being part of a single market and having a single currency?

Mr Carmichael: Indeed; I do agree with my hon. Friend. The people of Scotland very much understand that access to the pound sterling as our currency and access to that larger UK market benefit them, and they value them, especially the business community. We know that, because that is why the nationalists are constantly telling us that even in independence we would still be able to keep those things. They are wrong; it is cynical; and as we saw from yesterday’s poll, nobody is really being fooled by it.

11. [904538] Mr Brian H. Donohoe (Central Ayrshire) (Lab): However, it is the case that inward investment is faltering. I have had experience after experience of talking to foreigners who are not investing in Scotland as a result of the uncertainties and the possible likely divorce. Are we not by far better off as a united kingdom than we would be with a separate Scotland?

Mr Carmichael: We are very much better off as a result of being part of the United Kingdom, and I long for the day when again Ministers here and in Edinburgh can all concentrate on doing their day job of working together to get the maximum benefit to Scotland and

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Scotland’s economy, and jobs for the people of Scotland that come from inward investment—instead of a referendum distraction.

John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD): My right hon. Friend will be well aware that marine renewable energy presents a considerable opportunity for inward international investment as well as for export, based on the knowledge we have acquired. In that regard, it is vital that MeyGen’s project goes ahead. What discussions has he had with either the Department of Energy and Climate Change or the Crown Estate to enable that to happen?

Mr Carmichael: I have had a number of discussions, as I think my hon. Friend is aware, involving my colleagues in DECC and in the Crown Estate. I am very keen to ensure that no procedural difficulties will stand in the way of the development from MeyGen, which, as he and I both know, is a very exciting and potentially lucrative development for his area.

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): Inward investment into Scotland is at a 16-year high under a Scottish National party Government and in the run-up to an independence referendum. That contrasts with all the claims of doom and gloom from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Given that the UK Government were spectacularly wrong in their claims on inward investment, why should anybody trust the myriad Westminster scare stories?

Mr Carmichael: I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman gives me the opportunity to remind the House that of the 111 inward investment projects that were successful in 2012-13, 84 were supported by UK Trade & Investment. That is the sort of heft that is given to Scottish business by being part of the United Kingdom; that is what he wants us to walk away from.

Angus Robertson: The UK Government have launched a confrontational approach to the European Union. The Prime Minister went to Brussels last week and was outvoted 26 to 2. If smaller countries have no say in the European Union, why is it that a Luxembourger is the new President of the European Commission—from a country smaller than the city of Glasgow?

Mr Carmichael: I will take absolutely no lectures from the Scottish nationalists on the subject of confrontational approaches. It really is a mark of the desperation of the position in which they find themselves that that is the best they can come up with.

Mrs Anne McGuire (Stirling) (Lab): The Secretary of State commented on the Ernst and Young report, and it also identified that although investment was increasing, the number of jobs related to that inward investment was decreasing. I wonder what action the Minister can take, hopefully in co-operation with the Scottish Government, to ensure that there is greater correlation between investment and jobs created in Scotland.

Mr Carmichael: The right hon. Lady points to a direction in which sensible politics ought to go, and I would love to be working in that way with the Scottish Government. Unfortunately, however, it takes two to tango.

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Living Wage

2. Ann McKechin (Glasgow North) (Lab): What steps he is taking to incentivise employers in Scotland to pay the living wage. [904529]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (David Mundell): The Government support businesses that choose to pay the living wage, where it is affordable and does not cost jobs.

Ann McKechin: The Minister will be aware that many people in Scotland have started the holiday season and packed their bags, and many will be visiting the beautiful islands of Scotland, but last week the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers reported that foreign-resident seafarers who are working on the ferries are being paid as little as £2.35 an hour. That is a disgrace to Scotland, and I urge the Minister to use his offices to work with the Scottish Government to persuade the ferry companies to pay not only the minimum wage but a living wage to every single one of their workers.

David Mundell: I most certainly take on board what the hon. Lady says and I will make representations in that regard. I am sure she welcomes the fact that earlier this month the UK Government published a list of employers who had not paid the minimum wage. Unfortunately, two of them were in Scotland.

Mike Crockart (Edinburgh West) (LD): Mr Speaker, I know that you will be happy to hear that in May I employed an apprentice in business administration in my office and committed to paying her the living wage. Does the Minister agree with me that all MPs’ offices and Government Departments should set an example and move as quickly as possible to being accredited living wage employers?

David Mundell: The hon. Gentleman sets a good example, and certainly in apprenticeship schemes offered by Members of Parliament, I support the action he has taken.

14. [904541] Mr William Bain (Glasgow North East) (Lab): Seven out of 10 young people in Scotland who are unemployed are applying for benefit for the second time. Is that not testament to the fact that there are simply not enough secure jobs for them that pay the living wage? Why will this Government and their equally bad counterparts in Edinburgh not use the public procurement powers available to them to ensure that every Scottish young person gets the living wage?

David Mundell: I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman would welcome the fact that the number of those in the 16 to 19-year-old category in Scotland who are out of work has fallen by 4,000. Work is the way out of poverty, and that is what this Government are encouraging.

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): Does my hon. Friend not agree that the best way to achieve the living wage in Scotland and elsewhere in the country is by continuing to take millions of low earners out of paying income tax altogether?

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David Mundell: I absolutely agree. Tens of thousands of Scots have benefited from the fact that we have raised the personal allowance. Roughly two thirds of those on the minimum wage are now paying significantly less tax than they were when this Government came to power.

Mr Russell Brown (Dumfries and Galloway) (Lab): I know the Minister recognises that payment of the living wage will ease the pressures of the cost of living that many households experience, but in view of his recent admission to the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee that his Government’s benefits sanctions and welfare reforms have contributed to the increase in the number of food bank users, will he now apologise?

David Mundell: What I think politicians should apologise for is making the poor and most vulnerable into political footballs. Poverty is a scourge in our country, not an opportunity for a press release.

Mr Speaker: Order. In case the House is not aware, I can inform colleagues that the House of Commons has received its accreditation from the Living Wage Foundation.

Independence Referendum

3. Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): What steps he is taking to inform the public about the Scottish independence referendum. [904530]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr Alistair Carmichael): To inform the debate, a variety of information, including a range of detailed analysis papers and a booklet for each household in Scotland, has been published. I have also participated in public debates and will continue to do so to set out the benefits of Scotland’s remaining in the United Kingdom.

Pete Wishart: For which we are eternally grateful, but is not the best way to inform people to debate? Instead, we have the leader of the no campaign, his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, running a mile, feart to do just that? What about the substitute-designate? It will be a slaughter worse than the Bannockburn re-enactment if they put up the angry, agitated Alistair to debate with the First Minister. The Secretary of State himself could do it; he is good at this stuff—he could even take Rhona with him. But what we really need is the organ grinder, not one of the Alistair monkeys to debate with the First Minister.

Mr Carmichael: That was pitiful. I cannot believe it sounded good even when the hon. Gentleman rehearsed it in the mirror this morning. It is typical, though, of what we hear from the Scottish nationalists. They are desperate always to talk about how we will debate. They do that only because they want to avoid the actual debate, because they know that the force of argument is on the side of those of us who want to remain in the United Kingdom.

15. [904542] Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend make sure that before 18 September the public have full information at their disposal about the significant extra powers for the Scottish Parliament for which this Parliament has

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already legislated? It is perfectly possible for Scotland to have more autonomy without ripping up our country.

Mr Carmichael: That is exactly the position. As of next year, as a result of the Scotland Act 2012, the Scottish Parliament will have control over stamp duty land tax and the landfill tax, it will have a borrowing power and, come 2016, it will have the power to set a Scottish rate of income tax. Those are significant tax-raising powers. I want to see us go further on that. Of course, that will require Scotland to decide to remain part of the United Kingdom.

Graeme Morrice (Livingston) (Lab): Does the Secretary of State agree that third parties such as businesses and trade unions need to be able to make their voices heard in the referendum debate? Will he join me in condemning those people who continue to intimidate those who speak out against independence?

Mr Carmichael: I absolutely 100% and without any reservation condemn any intimidation, wherever it may appear. This is by a country mile the single most important issue that we, the people of Scotland, will ever have to resolve for ourselves. Nobody should feel that they are constrained in having their say or asking questions about what it would mean for them, their family or their business. Anybody who tries to silence people on the other side of the debate should be no part of it.

Sir Menzies Campbell (North East Fife) (LD): Is not the role of our Government to provide answers to the questions that those arguing for independence refuse to provide—either because they do not know the answer or because they do not want us to know the answer?

Mr Carmichael: Indeed, that is the case. It has been remarkable that on every occasion when we could have been given hard facts and information by the Scottish Government throughout this exceptionally long campaign, we have instead been given opinion and assertion. People are not stupid, though. They draw their own conclusions from that, as was apparent from yesterday’s YouGov poll in The Times.

Margaret Curran (Glasgow East) (Lab): This is the last Scottish questions before the referendum. People across Scotland know the magnitude of this decision and that if there is a yes vote, it is irreversible. That is why people need as much information as possible. Does the Secretary of State agree that when presented with the facts, most Scots do not want to turn their backs on the United Kingdom, and that a message of a strong Scotland with a strengthened Scottish Parliament is gaining support in every part of Scotland?

Mr Carmichael: The most important message that the people of Scotland have to get from any source is that the decision we make on 18 September is a decision from which there will be no going back. This has to be a once and for all decision. From that point of view I agree completely with the hon. Lady. Over the past 300 years, as part of the family of nations that is the United Kingdom, we have achieved a great deal of which we should be proud, and I and the people of Scotland do not want to walk away from that.

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Margaret Curran: I thank the Secretary of State for that answer, which is particularly important this week, as we celebrate the naming of HMS Queen Elizabeth. Will he ensure that people across Scotland are informed about the value of such UK contracts to the shipbuilding industry in particular? Does he agree with the shop stewards at Rosyth and on the Clyde that the best way to protect the shipbuilding industry in Scotland is to say no thanks in September?

Mr Carmichael: I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady and with the shop stewards at Rosyth and on the Clyde, all of whom I have met on a number of occasions in recent weeks. They are clear and unambiguous about the message that the hon. Lady has just articulated. The House should remember that that is not the view of a politician; that is the view of trade unionists—people who are charged with protecting the best interests and the jobs of their members. If they thought for a second that independence would be good for their members and that it would help to protect their jobs, I have no doubt that the trade unions on the Clyde and at Rosyth would be supporting it. The fact that they are not tells us all we need to know.

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): Will the Secretary of State ensure that Scottish voters understand that if they vote for Scotland to become a foreign country, they will lose the pound and all the stability and economic advantage that goes with it? Will he also make it clear that many of us in England—indeed, the vast majority—want Scotland to remain a vital and important part of our United Kingdom so that we can jointly share in our future prosperity?

Mr Carmichael: I agree with my hon. Friend that that is the view of most people in England, and in Wales and Northern Ireland. I look at how we have tackled the challenges we have faced over the past 300 years, and I see that over that time we have identified the problems and reached out from Scotland, to communities such as Liverpool, Newcastle, Manchester, Cardiff and Belfast, and tackled them by making common cause. That has worked for us, and I believe that it will continue to work for us.

Regional Air Connectivity Fund

4. Jim McGovern (Dundee West) (Lab): What assessment his Department has made of the effect of the regional air connectivity fund on Scotland. [904531]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (David Mundell): The regional air connectivity fund was announced by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury last year and was doubled to £20 million in the Budget. It has already been successful in securing the air link between Dundee and London, a vital support for economic growth in the hon. Gentleman’s great city.

Jim McGovern: I thank the Minister for that answer. Some £2.8 million came from the UK Government to retain the air link between London and Dundee. Is that not just one more example, albeit a crucial one for Dundee, of why Scotland is stronger as part of the UK?

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David Mundell: I absolutely agree. The air connectivity fund is a good example of the UK Government working to support economic development across all the nations and regions of our United Kingdom.

Mr Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (LD): May I ask the Minister, on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr Reid) and myself—this is not just a parliamentary pincer movement; it is close to the Secretary of State’s heart, and I am assured that he does have a heart, at least on Wednesdays—about Islay airport and Broadford airport on the Isle of Skye? They could both benefit if that excellent scheme were extended in conjunction with the Scottish Government: in the case of Islay, because it lacks a public service obligation and wants more commercialism; and in the case of Broadford, by re-establishing passenger links. Will he give that his full support?

David Mundell: I will most certainly take on board what the right hon. Gentleman says on his behalf and that of his colleagues. I am sure that everybody would welcome the opportunity to fly over the sea to Skye.

Mr Ian Davidson (Glasgow South West) (Lab/Co-op): Does the Minister agree that those who are using that fund to fly from London to Dundee later this week in order to see the launch of the aircraft carrier will be able in two different ways to see the strength of the United Kingdom?

David Mundell: Absolutely. The hon. Gentleman will have heard the Secretary of State highlight the importance of the flotation of the aircraft carrier on Friday, which will be a very important moment not only for Scotland, but for our whole United Kingdom.

Energy (Independence)

5. David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): What assessment he has made of the potential effect of Scottish independence on energy flows between Scotland and the rest of the UK. [904532]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr Alistair Carmichael): Scotland has a thriving energy sector which benefits from unrestricted access to the integrated Great Britain energy market. That supports jobs, keeps bills lower and spreads the substantial costs over 30 million households and businesses.

David Mowat: The Scottish Government have now decided to generate 100% of electricity from renewables by 2020. The implied subsidy for that is £4 billion a year, or £1,000 per voter a year. Has the Secretary of State had any discussions with the Scottish Government about who would pay for that in the event of independence?

Mr Carmichael: What I can tell my hon. Friend is that at the moment the cost of the subsidy required for the development of renewables is spread across the whole United Kingdom market. In an independent Scotland, that cost would have to be met by households in Scotland, which would mean a difference of between £38 and £189 in Scottish energy bills. We do exceptionally well from the subsidies that come to Scotland as part of the United Kingdom.

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Fiona O'Donnell (East Lothian) (Lab): Does the Secretary of State think there would be a market in the rest of the UK for expensive renewable energy from an independent Scotland, or is a single regulated energy market best for Scotland and best for the UK?

Mr Carmichael: The benefits and opportunities that come to generators of renewable energy in Scotland from being part of that single integrated market speak for themselves. The fact that we are being asked to leave that should be of concern to them.

Transition Costs (Independence)

6. Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East) (Lab): What discussions he has had with his ministerial colleagues on the transition costs of an independent Scotland. [904533]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr Alistair Carmichael): I have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues, to ensure that people in Scotland have the full facts about the economic consequences of independence. The Scottish Government have repeatedly refused to publish their own workings. I call on them today to publish the work they have carried out.

Sheila Gilmore: I thank the Secretary of State for that reply. The Scottish Government’s own Finance Secretary calculated, in an internal memo, that the cost of setting up a new tax authority alone would be some £650 million. Is it not right that the Scottish Government should give that and other, similar information they have to the Scottish people before asking them to vote for a pig in a poke?

Mr Carmichael: It is worth reflecting that that figure is in the public domain only because the document was leaked. The truth of the matter is that, whenever there is any difficult news to be had, the Scottish Government will go to any lengths to suppress it, because, frankly, they are prepared to tell us anything that they think will make us more likely to vote for independence.

13. [904540] Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): With the renovation costs of the Westminster Parliament expected to be £400 million a year every year for 10 long years, Professor Patrick Dunleavy said yesterday at the London School of Economics that the set-up costs for an independent Scotland would be £200 million and not the £1.5 billion that is on the Treasury website. Will the Secretary of State see to it that that figure is corrected and that the Westminster Government apologises both to Professor Dunleavy, an expert in this area for 30 years, and to the people of Scotland for that error and misinformation? [Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is talking out his colleagues.

Mr Carmichael: The hon. Gentleman is out of date. I can tell him exactly what Professor Dunleavy said yesterday:

“Scotland’s voters can be relatively sure that total transition costs over a decade will lie in a restricted range, from 0.4 of one per cent of GDP (£600 million), up to a maximum of 1.1 per cent (£1,500 million). This is a step forward in debate”.

He was agreeing with Professor Iain McLean and said:

“I am grateful to Iain for helping to bring it out.”

The hon. Gentleman should also be grateful.

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Housing Benefit

7. Mr Michael McCann (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (Lab): What assessment he has made of the effects of the distribution of housing benefit in Scotland. [904534]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (David Mundell): In recent months, I have met every local authority in Scotland to discuss a wide range of issues, including housing benefit.

Mr McCann: A report by my trade union, the GMB, shows that huge sums of housing benefit are paid to company landlords in Scotland. Bearing in mind the Secretary of State’s earlier answer, will the Minister meet me to discuss how we can bring together the UK, Scottish and local governments to ensure that we get best value for housing benefit and that we can create new houses and new jobs, rather than fill the pockets of company landlords?

David Mundell: I would certainly be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman, with a view to convening such a meeting.

Mr Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute) (LD): I want to thank the Government for recognising the extra costs of living in remote rural areas and giving councils such as Argyll and Bute extra money to give discretionary housing payments to their tenants. I hope the Government will continue to give extra money to such councils in future years.

David Mundell: The hon. Gentleman will know that I wrote to the Deputy First Minister of Scotland with an offer to executively devolve the power to Scottish Ministers to set the statutory cap on discretionary housing payments in Scotland. That offer has been accepted and we are working constructively with the Scottish Government to take it forward in relation not just to rural areas, but to all councils in Scotland.

Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): Will the Minister intervene with the Department for Work and Pensions so that we can have a system where someone who is sanctioned and taken off benefits when they have an appeal does not lose their housing benefit until the appeal is heard? Once the appeal is heard, they get their money back, but they then have the problem of finding that they are in debt to the local council. Can we not have a system that is sensible and fair to people who are sanctioned by the DWP?

David Mundell: I certainly take note of what the hon. Gentleman says, and I would be happy to meet him to discuss it further.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—


Q1. [904588] Charlotte Leslie (Bristol North West) (Con): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 2 July.

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The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.

Charlotte Leslie: A key driver of our welcome economic growth has been investment in new commercial enterprises. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the speedy completion of the Sainsbury’s and Bristol Rovers deal is a key part of Britain’s fight back to prosperity not only in achieving a new stadium for the south-west, but in unleashing hundreds of jobs, affordable housing, business growth and rail infrastructure plans? Will he do all he can to hasten the completion of this Sainsbury’s deal, which is so vital for our economy?

The Prime Minister: Having visited my hon. Friend’s constituency recently, I know how passionately she feels about this important development. I know that she will be delighted that the judge in question has dismissed the judicial review. We can now hope that this paves the way for the supermarket and the stadium to be built, and I hope that Sainsbury’s will press ahead with that. Not only will this mean a new home for Bristol Rovers, but it will mean more jobs, more growth and better infrastructure for Bristol.

Edward Miliband (Doncaster North) (Lab): It is four years since the Prime Minister announced his top-down NHS reorganisation. Can he tell us whether, since then, the number of people having to wait more than the guaranteed two months for cancer treatment has got better or worse?

The Prime Minister: The number of people being treated for cancer has gone up by 15%, and we are meeting the key waiting time targets, particularly the waiting time target for accident and emergency, which we met for April, even though the right hon. Gentleman had once again predicted a crisis.

Edward Miliband: That was a very specific question about cancer treatment: I asked whether things had got better or worse. After all, the Prime Minister did this big reorganisation and said things would get better. Macmillan Cancer Support warns that more lives are being put at risk. Cancer Research UK says,

“This isn’t just a missed target—some patients are being failed”.

The NHS has missed the target on access to cancer treatment for the first time ever. Is he really telling two of the most respected cancer charities that they are wrong about the target and that things are getting better, not worse?

The Prime Minister: What I am saying is that we introduced for the first time ever a cancer drugs fund, which is treating 50,000 people. That is what is happening. The number of people being treated for cancer is up 15%. This is all in stark contrast to Wales, where Labour is in charge—[Interruption.] Labour Members all shake their heads, but the fact is that Labour is in charge of the NHS in Wales, and it has not met a cancer target there since 2009.

Edward Miliband: Actually, the Prime Minister is wrong about that. In Wales, more patients start cancer treatment within 62 days than in England. We know why he wants to talk about Wales—because he cannot defend his record in England. Was it not interesting

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that, on the cancer treatment target, he could not pretend things were getting better, but he could not admit things are getting worse? Let us try him on another one: in the four years since his reorganisation, has the number of people waiting more than the guaranteed four hours in A and E got better or worse?

The Prime Minister: We have met our waiting time target for accident and emergency. Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman exactly how long people are waiting. When the shadow Secretary of State was Secretary of State for Health, the average waiting time was 77 minutes; under this Government, it is 30 minutes. That is what is happening under this Government.

Let me admit to a mistake, Mr Speaker. I have just said that Labour has not met a cancer treatment target in Wales since 2009. I am afraid I was wrong: it has not met a cancer treatment target in Wales since 2008. Of course, in Wales there is no cancer drugs fund; there has been an 8% cut to the budget; people are dying on waiting lists—and Labour is responsible.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me to defend my record over the past four years; I will. There are 7,000 more doctors, 4,000 more nurses, over 1,000 more midwives, and we are treating over 1 million more patients a year. Whereas the NHS under Labour had the disgrace of Mid Staffs, we can now see the NHS being properly invested in and properly improving.

Edward Miliband: I will tell the Prime Minister about our record on the NHS: the shortest waiting times ever, more doctors and nurses than ever before and the highest patient satisfaction ever. That is Labour’s record on the NHS. Now, it was a long time ago, but he did not answer the question. It was on a target that he set, on four-hour waits in A and E. Let me give him the figures for his target: before his reorganisation, the number of people waiting more than four hours was 353,000. After his reorganisation, that has risen to 939,000, an increase of 300%. Is that better or worse?

The Prime Minister: The average waiting time is down by more than half. That is better. But the right hon. Gentleman does not have to listen to me—he can listen to the shadow Health Secretary, who said that this is

“the best health service in the world.”

That is what he said. He was quoting the report from the Commonwealth Fund, which is an independent organisation. It ranked the United Kingdom—for the first time, and under this Government—as having the best health service anywhere in the world. It is better than in America, better than in Germany, better than in France, better than in Australia. [Interruption.] He says that is his record, but it has happened only under this Government, and I can tell him why. Mixed-sex wards have been virtually abolished. Infection rates have been halved. A million more patients have been treated. There is a cancer drugs fund for the first time ever. There are more doctors, more nurses, more midwives, more people being treated, and it is official: the best NHS in the world.

Edward Miliband: It is this party that created the NHS, and every time we have to save it from that lot opposite. Once again, the Prime Minister did not answer

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the question. More people are waiting more than four hours in A and E. What about those people whose condition is so serious that they need a bed in hospital? Can he tell us, since his reorganisation has the number of people waiting more than four hours on trolleys—something he said he would get rid of—got better or worse?

The Prime Minister: People are waiting less time to get into accident and emergency than they were under the last Labour Government. We remember what that Government gave us: the disgrace of Mid Staffordshire, for which they have never properly apologised. As for what they said about our plans, we have put £12.7 billion extra into the NHS and their view was that that was irresponsible. They oppose reform of the NHS, and we can see the effect in Wales: no reform, no money, longer waiting lists, no targets met and people dying on waiting lists. That is under a Labour Government.

Edward Miliband: The Prime Minister cannot answer any of the basic questions about his own targets in the NHS. I can tell him that the number of people waiting on trolleys for more than four hours has gone up from 61,000 to 167,000 on his watch. He promised that the reorganisation of the NHS would make things better, but it has made them worse: worse on access to cancer treatment, worse on A and E waits, worse on GP access. The NHS is getting worse on his watch, and there is only one person to blame: him.

The Prime Minister: If the right hon. Gentleman cannot do better than that, even on the NHS, he really is in trouble. Under this Government, millions more patients have been treated. There is a cancer drugs fund for the first time ever. Our health service is ranked officially the best in the world. We know what he would do, because we have heard from the director of policy, who said that no interesting ideas will emerge from Labour’s policy review—that is official—and his guru, Lord Glasman, has come out and said that he has “no vision.” Yesterday he misquoted statistics and got them completely wrong, and the managing director of the factory he was speaking in said that Labour’s policy would be a “bureaucratic nightmare”. I say to the people looking glum behind him, cheer up, folks—it’s only Wednesday.

Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen) (Con): It is good to be back, Mr Speaker.

Cherylee Shennan, a 40-year-old mother, was murdered in Rossendale on 17 March by Paul O’Hara, who was out on licence after having murdered his former partner in 1998. The introduction of Clare’s law or the right to know whether one’s partner has a history of violence—Cherylee did know of her partner’s history of violence—must be backed up by support from the police and the probation service, so that people in such situations know of the dangers that they face and so that we do not see another tragedy like the death of Cherylee.

The Prime Minister: It is good to see my hon. Friend back in his place. He makes an important point. The introduction of Clare’s law has made a difference because it gives people the right to any information about the potential dangers from a partner. I am pleased that that has been rolled out across the country. He is absolutely

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right that we need to do more with the police, the probation service and the Prison Service to ensure that more warnings are given in more cases.

Q2. [904589] Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): The Prime Minister will be aware of the housing crisis in London, but is he aware of the distinctive contribution of his colleague, the hon. Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon)? Through his £110 million family firm, he has bought up the New Era estate in Hackney. The firm intends to drive up—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order. The question will be heard. What people think of it is neither here nor there. This is supposed to be a bastion of free speech and the hon. Lady will be heard, however long it takes.

Ms Abbott: Families in Hackney face seeing their rents driven up, eviction and being put on the street. Are the activities of the firm of the hon. Member for Newbury the Prime Minister’s idea of compassionate conservatism?

The Prime Minister: What I would say to the hon. Lady is that we all know that we need to see more houses being built. We have seen 41,000 affordable starts over the last year and more than a fifth of those have been in London. We need more house building and more houses being provided. We will then see more affordable rents in the social sector and in the private sector.

Q3. [904590] Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) (Con): One in three of our nuclear test veterans’ descendants has been born with a serious medical condition. Given that our cross-party campaign seeks recognition and not compensation, including an ex gratia payment by the Government into a charitable fund to help those in need, will the Prime Minister, following our last meeting in April, clear the logjam, recognise the veterans and finally resolve this shameful chapter in our nuclear history?

The Prime Minister: First, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who has campaigned consistently on this issue in the House and outside it. He and I have discussed the matter. I am happy to tell the House that the Government recognise and are extremely grateful to all the service personnel who participated in the nuclear testing programme. We should be in no doubt that their selfless contribution helped to equip the UK with the deterrent that it needs. Following our meeting, I asked my officials to look again at the specific points and arguments that he made. I will come back to him as soon as possible.

Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough) (Lab): Last Saturday, I spoke to my 93-year-old constituent, Keith Ludrecius, who served as a merchant seaman throughout the second world war. He told me that he never thought he would live to see the day in this country when people who are in work still do not have enough money to live on. What does the Prime Minister have to say to Keith? Is it simply that this Tory Government make the rich richer and everyone else poorer, or is it just the inevitable consequence of his long-term economic con?

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The Prime Minister: First, I am very proud to lead a Government who have increased the basic state pension by £15 a week, which will have helped his constituent. On how we help people in work, what we need to do is to create more jobs. We have seen 2 million more private sector jobs under this Government. The second thing that we need to do is to cut people’s taxes. Under this Government, people can earn more than £10,000 before they pay any income tax. That is at the heart of our long-term economic plan and it is working for Britain.

Q4. [904591] Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): The world has seen the tragic and brutal murders of three Israeli youngsters, most probably by Hamas. Will my right hon. Friend give the Israeli Government every possible support at this time? Does he agree that, far from showing restraint, Israel must do everything possible to take out Hamas terrorist networks, and will he give the Israeli Government support in that?

The Prime Minister: What I say to my hon. Friend, who I know is passionate about these issues, and to everyone in the House, is that this was an absolutely appalling and inexcusable act of terror, and one can only imagine the effect on the families and friends of those poor teenagers, and what happened to them. It is very important that Britain will stand with Israel as it seeks to bring to justice those who are responsible. We also welcome the fact that President Abbas has firmly condemned the abduction and tried to help find those people. As my hon. Friend said, it is important that all security operations are conducted with care so that further escalation is avoided. The people responsible for this should be found and brought to justice.

Q5. [904592] Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): In 2011, the Prime Minister said that waiting lists “really matter”. Why, then, are nearly 3 million people on ever-lengthening waiting lists—the highest number for six years? What does he have to say to Katherine Sinclair, a constituent of mine, who has been waiting in pain for 33 weeks for a hip operation? Does not she “really matter”?

The Prime Minister: I say to the hon. Gentleman that he needs to look at the figures. The figures show that the numbers of people waiting longer than 18 weeks, 26 weeks and 52 weeks to start treatment—[Interruption.] The shadow Chancellor says they are getting worse, but they are lower today than they ever were when he was sitting in government—lower than at any time. We have the record from yesterday of the Leader of the Opposition using dodgy statistics. Yesterday he claimed that three quarters of the jobs in our country were created in London. That is totally wrong. Have we heard an apology? Have we heard a correction? Does he want to correct the record? He will do anything to talk down the British economy.

Andrew George (St Ives) (LD): The Prime Minister is aware—I have raised this issue with him before—of my long-standing campaign for serious investment in rail services from Penzance, of the independent and Liberal Democrat Cornwall council proposal for a train upgrade and train care centre at Long Rock, and of my 3,000-name

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petition, which I recently delivered to this House in support of that campaign. Will he visit my constituency with his cheque book and a favourable announcement?

The Prime Minister: I intend to spend a lot of time in my hon. Friend’s constituency between now and the next election, and I believe I will be bringing all sorts of good news for the people of St Ives.

Q6. [904593] Ian Austin (Dudley North) (Lab): Germany has three times as many apprentices as the UK, and the number of young apprentices has fallen. Long-term youth unemployment in Dudley is twice the national average, and we will attract secure and better-paid jobs only if we make education and skills our No. 1 priority. Will the Prime Minister make a start by ensuring that every public sector procurement contract provides apprenticeship places?

The Prime Minister: If the hon. Gentleman looks at the figures for Dudley North, he will find that the claimant count is down by 20% in the last year. He will find that the youth claimant count is down by 21%, and the long-term youth claimant count down by 28% in the last year. The fact is that in the west midlands things are getting better, with more people in work and more jobs being created. He should be celebrating Dudley rather than running it down.

Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot) (Con): The Prime Minister will be aware of the tragic death of my three-year-old constituent Sam Morrish from sepsis while under NHS care. Sam was failed by his GPs, out-of-hours services, the hospital, the primary care trust and the ombudsman. This must not happen again. Will the Prime Minister ensure that the ombudsman’s recommendations are implemented in full and that the systems of review within the NHS, and by the ombudsman, are radically overhauled to deliver proper transparency and accountability in a timely way? That family waited two years for justice.

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise that tragic case, and all our thoughts should be with Sam’s parents, who I know have had a meeting with the Health Secretary. It is shocking and saddening, as she says, to see how a whole succession of health services failed that family, and anyone who has lost a child, and lost a child that young, knows how harrowing and how dreadful that experience is. She is absolutely right: we must learn the lessons from that case, and make sure they are acted on and that they cannot happen again. Last week we launched a major safety campaign to prevent those sorts of tragic and—sadly—avoidable deaths.

Q7. [904594] Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): At the Tory billionaires’ summer ball, the Defence Secretary was sat with the lobbyist for the Government of Bahrain. Can the Prime Minister tell us whether they discussed the fact that Bahrain is still not regarded by the Foreign Office as a human rights country of concern?

The Prime Minister: What I think will be discussed is the fact that the Labour party just has to get one trade union to write one cheque for £14 million. When you

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look at the Labour party candidates and take out of the mix the fact that they have got son of Blair, son of Straw, son of Prescott, son of Dromey—when you take out the red princes—you will find that 80% of the candidates are union-sponsored. They have bought the candidates, they have bought the policy, they have bought the leader. We must never let them near the country.

Mr Brian Binley (Northampton South) (Con): The number of NEETs in Northamptonshire has fallen from 4,580 in March 2012 to 2,645 now thanks to a joint project set up by the local enterprise partnership and the Northampton Alive organisation. Will the Prime Minister congratulate those responsible for that success, and urge more MPs to get involved with their local LEPs, thus recognising their great value if constituted correctly, led imaginatively and targeted wisely?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There is interest in this right across the House. All parties are now committed to making local enterprise partnerships work and to not going back to the old regional development agencies. It is important that LEPs are business-led and it is important they are strong in every part of the country. Members of Parliament can play a real role in encouraging prominent businessmen and businesswomen to get involved with LEPs and in making sure they deliver for local areas.

Q8. [904595] Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab): May I take the Prime Minister back to the question of the private rented sector in Britain? Across London, there are thousands and thousands of families—people in work and on benefits—who are frightened of rent increases, frightened of short-term tenancies and frightened of the consequences, for themselves and their children, of being evicted or forced to move out of the area in which they live. What is happening in central London is social cleansing, and it is coming to the rest of the country. Will he give me an assurance that, in addition to any regulation of the agencies, serious consideration will be given to the need to bring back rent control to protect people and ensure they have somewhere secure and decent to live?

The Prime Minister: Where I would agree with the hon. Gentleman is on the need for greater transparency in the work of letting agents in terms of fees. There is a need for alternative options, which we have put forward, for longer-term tenancies, but in the end we must allow customers to choose what they want. Where I part company with him is on the idea of introducing full-on rent controls. Every time they have been tried, wherever they have been tried in the world, they have failed. That is not just my view; it is also the view of Labour’s own shadow housing Minister, who is on the record as saying that she does not think rent controls will work in practice. Perhaps he might want to have a word with her before coming to me.

Q9. [904596] Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): In the ’83 general election, a 13-year-old boy delivered leaflets around my constituency pledging that Michael Foot would take Labour out of the European Union. Does my right hon. Friend find it strange that that same boy, now leader of the Labour party, is not willing either to support the renegotiation of Britain’s terms of

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membership of the European Union or to pledge to trust the people of Britain in a referendum on our membership of the European Union?

The Prime Minister: I have always thought it terribly unfair to hold against people things they might have done in their youth. If that was the right hon. Gentleman’s idea of fun as a 14-year-old, then, obviously, we have to make room for everybody. The point is this: it is in the interests of the British people to have a renegotiation. [Interruption.] What is my idea of fun? It is not hanging out with the shadow Chancellor—that is no idea of fun. I feel sorry for the Leader of the Opposition, because he has to hang out with him all the time. What a miserable existence it must be to have sitting next to you the person who wrecked the British economy, and to have to listen to him, day after day, as he says to the British people, “We’re the people who crashed the car, give us the keys back.”

Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (Lab): The uncertainty surrounding the future of Scotland and indeed the UK has resulted in many among the business community in Scotland withholding significant investments in that country. Does the Prime Minister therefore agree with me that there is a moral responsibility on employers to inform their employees about the consequences, if any, of the separation of Scotland from the UK so that they can make an informed choice prior to the referendum?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point—that a huge amount of pressure is being put on businesses by the Scottish Government with all sorts of threats and warnings against speaking out and saying what they believe is the truth. I come across business leader after business leader—large and small in Scotland—who wants to keep our United Kingdom together and thinks it would be crazy to have border controls, different currencies and split up our successful United Kingdom. Together with the hon. Gentleman, I urge them to speak out, talk with their work forces about the strength of our United Kingdom and then vote to keep it together.

Q10. [904597] Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): This weekend, the cities, towns and villages of Yorkshire will be alive to cries of “Allez, allez” as the world’s greatest annual sporting event passes through our county. Will the Prime Minister join in people’s enthusiasm for le grand départ this weekend, and does he agree that this is a wonderful way to build a legacy for cycling and encourage more people to “get on their bikes”?

The Prime Minister: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. It is brilliant that the Tour de France is starting in Yorkshire, and I think it will be a fantastic event for our country while also providing a great advertisement for Yorkshire and all that the county has to offer. I am greatly looking forward to going and seeing some of the race and some of the preparations. It is going to be a magnificent event, and I will do everything I can to promote it—apart from wearing lycra.

Q11. [904598] Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): Will the Prime Minister make it illegal for recruitment agencies to advertise overseas for jobs in this country, unless they advertise them locally, too—yes or no?

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The Prime Minister: The short answer is yes. That is exactly what we are doing—saying that employment agencies cannot do that; they cannot purely advertise jobs abroad, and we are doing everything we can to stop that.

Mr Adrian Sanders (Torbay) (LD): We have a £12 billion tourism deficit in this country—the deficit generated between people going overseas and people coming here. One reason for that is believed to be our high VAT rates on accommodation and attractions. Will the Prime Minister look at that and ensure that that is not what is driving up that deficit?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to promote the south-west as a holiday destination. We should do everything we can to help. Obviously, the restoration of the transport links has been vital. It is difficult to have differential rates of VAT on some of these things, but everything we can do to promote the UK as a holiday destination—including, for instance, the brilliant fact that the Tour de France is coming here this weekend—we should do.

Q12. [904599] Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): Cancer Research UK has just launched its new strategy—a focus on tailoring treatment to individuals, which should prove more effective in combating cancer. How will the Prime Minister ensure that the NHS is in a position to enable access to radiotherapy and ensure that cancer drugs are available for all regions of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister: The cancer drugs fund has been a huge breakthrough not just in making available drugs but some important treatments, too. I hope that other parts of the United Kingdom will take up what we are doing with the cancer drugs fund. Another thing we can do is to make sure, by working with Genomics England, that we are sequencing genomes as fast as we can so that we can carry out the research necessary to see which cancer drugs will be effective on which patients in accordance with their DNA. This will be the modern way to do tailored medicine, and I am very pleased to say that Britain is well ahead of the pack when it comes to investing in our universities and science base as well as in our NHS.

Q13. [904600] Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con): Jack Gayton and Hannah Fountaine are two young constituents who now own one of the 108 properties in Rugby bought as a result of this Government’s Help to Buy scheme. Does the Prime Minister agree that the fact that Jack and Hannah now enjoy their own home and have made a start on the housing ladder demonstrates this Government’s support for those who want to work hard and get on?

The Prime Minister: I join my hon. Friend in congratulating his constituents. The Help to Buy scheme is working to get people on to the housing ladder. It is enabling people who do not have rich parents, and who cannot afford a big deposit but can afford a mortgage, to go out and buy the flat or house that they want. We have seen 30,000 people taking advantage of the scheme already, and it has also helped to kick-start investment in housing and raise the level of housing starts in our country.

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Q15. [904602] Mr Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): Is the Prime Minister aware that, as an out-patient, I have to visit a hospital on a regular basis, and hear from the front line about the problems in the health service? The nurses have lost a considerable amount of their real pay, and A and E services are bursting at the seams. Then there is the fact that nearly every hospital in Britain is running into financial difficulties. As a member of the Bullingdon club, is the Prime Minister proud to be surrounded by this wreckage? Remember, it is his legacy, not ours. Stop blaming the Opposition. Get it done, or get out.

The Prime Minister: I think the picture that the hon. Gentleman paints is completely wrong. Of course more people are going to A and E departments in our country—over a million more people—but we are meeting our targets, and waiting times are down by a half. The hon. Gentleman talks about nurses. There are 4,000 more nurses in our NHS than there were when I first stood at this Dispatch Box, and there are 7,000 more doctors.

What the hon. Gentleman ought to know is that we have cut the number of administrative staff, the bureaucrats with whom we were left by the Labour party. There are 19,000 fewer of those, which is why we are able to treat more patients with more clinical staff. That is a record of which we can all be proud.

Q14. [904601] Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con): It is thanks to our long-term economic plan that £200 million has been allocated to fighting potholes, including £3.3 million for Northamptonshire, much of

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which will be used in my constituency. Does not that infrastructure investment show that it is only the Conservatives who have a plan that puts Britain on the road to recovery, whereas the Labour party would drive the country’s economy off a cliff?

The Prime Minister: I think my hon. Friend is fully justified in taking a lot of credit for the work that has been done on potholes. He has raised the issue in every forum, including the House, over and over again, which is partly why Northamptonshire received £3.3 million specifically to spend on repairing roads. He will be pleased to know that that is enough to fill in a staggering 62,000 potholes. This is important, because potholes damage people’s cars, motorbikes and cycles when they are on their way to work, and mending them is good for hard-working families.

Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) (Lab): Arthur Jones, a 73-year-old Army veteran from Denbigh in my constituency, went hill-walking in Crete. He has not been seen since 19 June, and his family are frantic with worry. Will the Prime Minister ensure that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office continues its excellent work, and co-operates with the Greek Government to ensure that Arthur is found?

The Prime Minister: I will certainly do everything I can to help the hon. Gentleman with his constituent. I will have discussions with the Foreign Office about all the consular assistance that is being given, and about anything else that it can do.

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Points of Order

12.33 pm

Andy Burnham (Leigh) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just now, during Prime Minister’s Question Time, the Prime Minister appeared to suggest that the number of people waiting longer than 18 weeks for an operation had gone down since his reorganisation. I have the figures here. In April 2010, 20,662 people waited longer than 18 weeks. In April 2014, the figure was 29,417. The number has gone up. Do you not think, Mr Speaker, that the Prime Minister might correct the record before he leaves the Chamber?

The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I can tell the House and the right hon. Gentleman that the numbers waiting longer than 18, 26 and 52 weeks to start treatment are lower than they were at any time under the last Government. Those are the facts. The Opposition were caught out with dodgy statistics yesterday, and I think that they have just done it again.

Mr Speaker: We will leave that exchange there.

Ian Swales (Redcar) (LD): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In yesterday’s Finance Bill debate, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Shabana Mahmood) said that the tax gap was £32 billion when the previous Government left office and that it has now gone up to £35 billion. Official Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs figures show the tax gap was actually £42 billion when Labour left office, so there has been a fall of £7 billion under this Government. I know the Opposition are keen to regain some financial credibility, so I hope the hon. Lady will correct the record and also find time to congratulate this Government on their progress in—

Mr Speaker: Order. May I just say to the hon. Gentleman—and I say it in a cordial spirit—that that was another action replay? We have now had two action replays today, and I must strongly counsel colleagues against raising as attempted, but actually bogus, points of order what are really political points. Otherwise this phenomenon will multiply over the next nine months or so, which is undesirable. The hon. Gentleman has made his point and it is on the record, and we will leave it there—and I am grateful for his nod of assent to my ruling.

Shabana Mahmood (Birmingham, Ladywood) (Lab): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker—

Mr Speaker: There is no further to it, because the point has been made and I have left it there.

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Tomorrow is the second anniversary of the tragic Tornado collision when two Tornadoes collided over the Moray firth and three service personnel lost their lives. Yesterday the Ministry of Defence accepted liability for the collision, but it has not updated the House or appropriate parliamentarians on the MOD’s responsibility or answered questions on the service inquiry report, which was published on Monday. The whole situation is frankly disgraceful. What is the best route to

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ensure that the MOD answers to the House, to explain its responsibilities and clarify its liability, and to say when a warning system will be installed in both Tornado and Typhoon aircraft?

Mr Speaker: The response to the hon. Gentleman is twofold. [Interruption.] Order. If a Minister wishes to catch my eye, he or she is perfectly entitled to do so, but the hon. Gentleman raised his point of order, at least ostensibly, with the Chair and therefore perhaps he will rest content with my answer, and the answer is, as I said, twofold. First, it is up to Ministers to decide whether they think an oral statement is required. Secondly, in the absence of an oral statement, it is perfectly open to the hon. Gentleman to seek a debate in this House on the Adjournment. To the best of my knowledge, the hon. Gentleman has not thus far done so, but he might find that he is successful if he does. We will leave that matter there for today.

Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have notified the Justice Secretary of my intention to raise this point of order. Yesterday in Justice questions he claimed that my allegations about the selection process for the south Yorkshire probation service were nonsense and that there was a carefully constructed process of selection and a proper appeal mechanism for those who were not selected. I have here a letter from Angela Tinker, the human resources systems manager at South Yorkshire Probation Trust, to my constituent, Gwen MacDonald, in which she says:

“There was a random selection process and employee numbers were used to select between NPS”—

national probation service—“and CRC”, or community rehabilitation companies. It continues:

“Employee numbers were drawn out of a hat”,

which confirms exactly the allegations I was making, and also that yesterday the Justice Secretary inadvertently misled the House. Can you, Mr Speaker, let us know how he might have the opportunity to set the record straight?

Mr Speaker: There are two points here. First, everybody takes responsibility for his or her utterances in this House. There is a formal means by which a Minister can correct the record, if he or she judges it necessary to do so, and that is through a statement to colleagues. Secondly—and I say this in all politeness to the hon. Gentleman, as I did to another Member—Members should not use the point of order procedure to continue debate. Although I am greatly flattered by the extent of the powers that hon. and right hon. Members think I enjoy, they sometimes have a somewhat exaggerated notion of what, in practice, I can be expected to achieve. The hon. Gentleman is, I am sure, now an increasingly experienced and discerning fellow. Judging by the broad smile on his face, he knows that he has had a go and he has got it on the record, and he can now go and enjoy his lunch, resting content. We will leave it there.

Conor Burns (Bournemouth West) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker: I hope it is a genuine one. I have known the hon. Gentleman for 25 years and I hope he is not going to let me down.

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Conor Burns: We have indeed known one another for 25 years, Mr Speaker. As we were previously involved in politics together, we had a great reverence for this Chamber of Parliament and for hon. Members on all sides telling the truth to it on all occasions. You have correctly identified the mechanism that Ministers who have misled Parliament can use to rectify that. May I ask you what the correct mechanism is for other hon. Members who inadvertently, or deliberately, mislead Parliament?

Mr Speaker: The answer is that a Member can take the opportunity through an intervention or a speech, or through a personal statement, to correct the record if that Member judges it necessary to do so. But we have, in essence, a self-regulating procedure in the House, and the hon. Gentleman, as a keen student of procedure, will recognise the truth of what I have just said. We will leave it there for now, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for not denting my confidence in his tendency to behave properly.

Bills Presented

Affordable Homes Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order N0. 57)

Andrew George, supported by Mr Nick Raynsford, Mr Charles Kennedy, Jeremy Lefroy, Caroline Lucas, Mr Clive Betts, Stephen Gilbert, Mr Mark Williams, Alison Seabeck, Mr Adrian Sanders, Valerie Vaz and Mr Grahame M. Morris, presented a Bill to make provision about the availability of affordable homes; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 5 September, and to be printed (Bill 13).

International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order N0. 57)

Michael Moore, supported by Mr Andrew Mitchell, Annette Brooke, Mrs Anne McGuire, Alistair Burt, John Thurso, Mr Tom Clarke, Fiona Bruce, Roger Williams, Hugh Bayley, Jeremy Lefroy and Dr Julian Huppert, presented a Bill to make provision about the meeting by the United Kingdom of the target for official development assistance (ODA) to constitute 0.7 per cent of gross national income; to make provision for independent verification that ODA is spent efficiently and effectively; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 12 September, and to be printed (Bill 14 ).

European Union (Referendum) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order N0. 57)

Robert Neill, supported by Sir Tony Baldry, Guto Bebb, Mr Graham Brady, Sir William Cash, Mr Nigel Dodds, Mr Stephen Dorrell, Jackie Doyle-Price, Dr Liam Fox, Zac Goldsmith, Sir Gerald Howarth and Sheryll Murray, presented a Bill to make provision for the holding of a referendum in the United Kingdom and Gibraltar on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 17 October, and to be printed (Bill 15).

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Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order N0. 57)

Jeremy Lefroy, on behalf of Mr Richard Bacon, supported by Nick Herbert, John Mann, John Pugh, Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil, Mr Nigel Evans, Sir Edward Leigh, Jim Fitzpatrick, David Morris, George Freeman, Mr Philip Hollobone and Mr Graham Allen, presented a Bill to place a duty on local authorities to keep a register of individuals and community groups who have expressed an interest in acquiring land to bring forward self-build and custom-build projects and to take account of and make provision for the interests of those on such registers in developing their housing initiatives and their local plans; to allow volume house builders to include self-build and custom-build projects as contributing towards their affordable housing obligations, when in partnership for this purpose with a Registered Social Landlord; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 October, and to be printed (Bill 16).

Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order N0. 57)

Jeremy Lefroy, supported by George Freeman, Sir William Cash, Ann Clwyd, Margot James, Sir Tony Cunningham, Dr Phillip Lee, Sir Malcolm Bruce, Fiona Bruce, Charlotte Leslie, Julian Sturdy and Andrew George, presented a Bill to make provision about the safety of health and social care services in England; to make provision about the integration of information relating to users of health and social care services in England; to make provision about the sharing of information relating to an individual for the purposes of providing that individual with health or social care services in England; to make provision for removing individuals convicted of certain offences from the registers kept by the regulatory bodies for health and social care professions; to make provision about the objectives of the regulatory bodies for health and social care professions and the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care; to make provision about the disposal of cases concerning a person’s fitness to practise a health or social care profession; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 7 November, and to be printed (Bill 17) with explanatory notes (Bill 17-EN).

Mr Speaker: Gosh, the hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) is a busy bee.

National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order N0. 57)

Clive Efford, supported by Frank Dobson, Ms Karen Buck, Mr Andy Slaughter, Grahame M. Morris, Diana Johnson, Alison Seabeck, Shabana Mahmood, Steve Rotheram, John Healey, Mr Dennis Skinner and Angela Smith, presented a Bill to re-establish the Secretary of State’s legal duty to provide national health services in England; to amend the provisions of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 relating to Monitor; to repeal the

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regulations made under section 75 of that Act; to make other amendments to the provisions in that Act relating to competition and provision of private health services; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 21 November, and to be printed (Bill 18).

Tenancies (Reform) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order N0. 57)

Sarah Teather, supported by Tessa Munt, Tim Farron, Sir Peter Bottomley, Bob Blackman, Mr Andrew Smith, Sir Andrew Stunell, John Healey, Jeremy Lefroy, Mr Philip Hollobone, Nicola Blackwood and Fiona Mactaggart, presented a Bill to protect tenants against retaliatory eviction; to amend the law on notices requiring possession relating to assured shorthold tenancies; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 28 November, and to be printed (Bill 19).

Control of Horses Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order N0. 57)

Julian Sturdy, supported by James Wharton, Mr Philip Hollobone, Mrs Cheryl Gillan, Neil Parish, Jeremy Lefroy, Andrew Percy, Mr Graham Stuart, Ian Swales, David Morris and Caroline Nokes, presented a Bill to make provision for the taking of action in relation to horses which are in public places; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 October, and to be printed (Bill 20).

Mr Speaker: Never was there a more appropriate linkage between name and title.

Local Government (Review of Decisions) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order N0. 57)

Mr Mark Spencer, supported by Chris Heaton-Harris, Simon Kirby, Karl McCartney, Stephen McPartland, Caroline Nokes, Heather Wheeler, John Stevenson and Jackie Doyle-Price, presented a Bill to make provision about the procedure for conducting investigations under Part 3 of the Local Government Act 1974; and to make provision for cases where an authority to which that Part applies takes a decision that affects the holding of an event for a reason relating to health or safety.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 October, and to be printed (Bill 21) with explanatory notes (Bill 21-EN).

Off-Patent Drugs Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order N0. 57)

Robert Neill, on behalf of Jonathan Evans, supported by Annette Brooke, Sir Alan Meale, Dame Angela Watkinson, Dr Liam Fox, Robert Neill, John Healey, Glyn Davies, Dr Phillip Lee, Mr Elfyn Llwyd, Mr David Nuttall and Dr Sarah Wollaston, presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to take steps to secure licences for off-patent drugs in new indications; to require the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to conduct technology appraisals for off-patent drugs in new indications; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 7 November, and to be printed (Bill 22).

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Zero Hours Contracts Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order N0. 57)

Ian Mearns, supported by Grahame M. Morris, Ian Lavery, Pat Glass, Steve Rotheram, Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck, Andy McDonald, Kelvin Hopkins, Katy Clark, John Cryer, Jim Sheridan, Mr Dennis Skinner and Mr Ronnie Campbell, presented a Bill to limit the use of zero-hours contracts; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 21 November, and to be printed (Bill 23).

Mr Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley) (Lab): It’s a good Bill.

Mr Speaker: We are grateful to you, Mr Campbell, for your sedentary interjection.

Low Pay Commission (National Minimum Wage) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order N0. 57)

Dan Jarvis, supported by Margaret Beckett, Stephen Doughty, Jack Dromey, Julie Elliott, Lilian Greenwood, Mike Kane, Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck, Alison McGovern, Mr Jamie Reed, Mr Steve Reed and Alison Seabeck, presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to set a target for the Low Pay Commission to increase the minimum wage during the term of a Parliament; to require the Low Pay Commission to write to the Secretary of State if this target cannot be met; to require the Secretary of State to ensure that the Low Pay Commission has the power to set up taskforces in certain sectors; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 28 November, and to be printed (Bill 24).

Local Government (Religious etc Observances) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order N0. 57)

Jake Berry, supported by Mr Stewart Jackson, Mr Ben Wallace and Fiona Bruce, presented a Bill to make provision about the inclusion at local authority meetings of observances that are, and about powers of local authorities in relation to events that to any extent are, religious or related to a religious or philosophical belief.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 21 November, and to be printed (Bill 25).

Household Safety (Carbon Monoxide Detectors) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order N0. 57)

Andrew Bingham, supported by Tracey Crouch, Dr Philip Lee, Justin Tomlinson, Heather Wheeler, Stephen Phillips, Nick de Bois, Simon Hart, Pauline Latham, Caroline Nokes, Chris Heaton-Harris and Craig Whittaker, presented a Bill to introduce a requirement that a functioning carbon monoxide detector must be installed in all newly built and all rented residential properties; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 12 September, and to be printed (Bill 26).

Under-occupancy Penalty (Exemptions) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order N0. 57)

Yvonne Fovargue, supported by Paul Blomfield, Nic Dakin, Steve Rotheram, Sheila Gilmore, Dan Jarvis, Jenny Chapman, Mrs Mary Glindon, Graham Jones,

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Rosie Cooper, John Healey and Mike Kane, presented a Bill to exempt social housing tenants who claim Disability Living Allowance or who have occupied a property for at least six months or who have not been offered alternative accommodation from the size criteria provisions of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006, the Housing Benefit (Persons who have attained the qualifying age for state pension credit) Regulations 2006 and the Universal Credit Regulations 2013; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 28 November, and to be printed (Bill 27).

Transparency and Accountability Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order N0. 57)

John Hemming presented a Bill to make provision regarding arrangements for children involved in court proceedings; to make provision about the transparency, administration and accountability of courts and case conferences; to require the Secretary of State to report to Parliament annually on the number of prisoners who have exceeded their tariff and have not been released because they do not admit guilt; to extend the Criminal Cases Review Commission’s powers to obtain information; to make provision about consumer complaints in markets for public services; to amend certain sections of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 relating to contracts; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 17 October, and to be printed (Bill 28) with explanatory notes (Bill 28-EN).

Control of Offshore Wind Turbines Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order N0. 57)

Mr Christopher Chope, supported by Conor Burns, Richard Drax, Mr Tobias Ellwood, Dr Julian Lewis, Mr Robert Syms, Mr Peter Bone, Sir Greg Knight and Mr Nigel Evans, presented a Bill to restrict the height, number, location and operation of wind turbines situated off shore within twenty miles of the coast; to restrict subsidies available for such turbines; to make provision regulating the length, location and environmental impact of cables connecting such turbines to the national grid; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 16 January 2015, and to be printed (Bill 29).

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Responsible Parking (Scotland) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order N0. 57)

Mark Lazarowicz, supported by Sheila Gilmore, Mike Crockart, Katy Clark, Dame Anne Begg and Dan Jarvis, presented a Bill to amend Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998 to exclude from the reservations certain provisions relating to parking; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 5 September, and to be printed (Bill 30).

Health Service Commissioner for England (Complaint Handling) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order N0. 57)

Mr David Davis, supported by Mr Dominic Raab, Dr Sarah Wollaston and Alan Johnson, presented a Bill to make provision about the handling of complaints by the Health Service Commissioner for England; to require the Commissioner to notify a complainant of the reason for the delay if the investigation of the complaint is not concluded within a 12 month period; to require the Commissioner to lay before Parliament an annual report giving details of how long investigations of complaints have taken to be concluded and progress towards meeting a target of concluding investigations within a 12 month period; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 5 September, and to be printed (Bill 31).

Pavement Parking Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order N0. 57)

Martin Horwood, supported by Mr Jim Cunningham, Tracey Crouch, Kate Green, Mr Elfyn Llwyd, Caroline Lucas, Roger Williams, Lisa Nandy, Richard Fuller, Mike Thornton, Henry Smith and Greg Mulholland, presented a Bill to make provision for the safety, convenience and free movement on pavements of disabled people, older people, people accompanying young children, and other pavement users; to clarify, strengthen and simplify the law relating to parking on pavements in England and Wales; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 12 September, and to be printed (Bill 32).

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Finance Bill

[2nd Allocated Day]

Further consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee

New Clause 13

Pension flexibility: further amendments

‘Schedule (Pension flexibility: further amendments) makes further provision in connection with pension flexibility.’—(Mr Gauke.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

12.47 pm

The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 9—Pension flexibility: Treasury analysis

‘(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall, within six months of this Act receiving Royal Assent, publish and lay before the House of Commons any analysis prepared by the Treasury prior to the publication of Budget 2014 relating to the impact of changes made by sections 39 to 43 of this Act to schedules 28 and 29 to the Finance Act 2004.

(2) The information published under subsection (1) must include—

(a) any assessment made of the impact of the provision for independent face to face guidance on the 2004 Act;

(b) the distributional impact, by income decile of the population, of changes made by sections 39 to 43 of this Act;

(c) a behavioural analysis; and

(d) the financial risk assessment.”

Government new schedule 5—Pension flexibility: further amendments.

Mr Gauke: New clause 13 and new schedule 5 make provision to ensure that individuals who wish to make use of the new pension flexibilities announced by the Government do not face detrimental tax consequences if they take their tax-free lump sum and then defer a decision on how to access the remainder of their pension savings.

On Budget day, the Government announced radical reforms that will enable people with defined contribution pension savings to have more choice and control over their pension wealth from next April. The greater choice and flexibility that these reforms will give pension savers have been widely welcomed. There has been broad consensus that individuals who have been responsible and saved for their future should be trusted to access their pension savings in the way that most suits them.

We announced a consultation on the detail of these longer-term proposals, which has now closed. We will publish a response in the near future, and legislation will be brought forward later this year to implement the necessary changes, but the Government wanted to make sure that people who are approaching retirement now would not miss out. As a first step, we introduced clauses 39 and 40 to ensure that individuals nearing retirement this year can benefit from a wider range of

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options before next April. We expect that this will enable around an extra 85,000 people to access their pension wealth as a lump sum this tax year. In addition, 400,000 people will have the option of receiving significantly greater withdrawals from their pension savings, but we did not want to stop there.

Usually people lose the advantages of a tax-free lump sum if they do not decide what to do with the rest of their pension savings within six months of taking the lump sum. On 27 March, the Government announced that those who had already taken a tax-free lump sum from their defined contribution pension savings, but had not yet secured their pension, would be given more time to decide what they wished to do with the rest of their retirement savings. We also did not think it would be fair to prevent people from taking their tax-free lump sum now simply because they wished to wait to access their pension savings more flexibly from next April, so the Government promised to introduce new provisions in the Bill to ensure that people do not lose their right to a tax-free lump sum if they would rather use the new flexibility this year or next.

The provisions are technically quite detailed, but their purpose is not. Full pension flexibility for defined contribution savings will be introduced in April 2015, and until that happens we want people to be able to take their tax-free lump sum and to have until October 2015 to make their pension choices without tax consequences. The changes made in new clause 13 and new schedule 5 will enable people to take a tax-free lump sum and to wait until April 2015 to decide how they want to access their pension savings: by transferring the rest of their pension savings to another pension provider to enable them to access them more flexibly; by repaying the lump sum when the scheme that paid it will accept it in order to access the whole of their savings more flexibly; or by receiving the rest of the pension savings as a lump sum under the higher limits that clause 40 provides. Those changes also ensure that people who have the right to receive a tax-free lump sum at an earlier age, or of a larger amount than is normally allowed, can use the new flexibility and keep those rights.

New clause 13 and new schedule 5 help people who have worked hard to save into a pension, enabling them to take some of those savings tax-free now, and to take advantage of the new flexibilities for the rest of their pension savings.

Cathy Jamieson (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (Lab/Co-op): I understand that the Minister is trying to introduce an element of fairness into the new arrangements while avoiding unintended consequences. Can he give us some assurances about the time scale for the rules being brought in, and tell us whether he has done additional work to ensure that there are no unintended consequences?

Mr Gauke: We have been engaged in a consultation process, which closed recently, and have engaged fully with all interested parties more generally on this policy. I will address some of these points when I respond to new clause 9, but we will respond shortly to the consultation, setting out the details of how the policy will be taken forward. This is an important matter, and it is important that we get things right. There are a number of aspects to it, and new clause 9 takes us into some of those aspects that, although perhaps not relevant to the Finance

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Bill, are of significance none the less. I can assure the House that there will be plenty of opportunities to debate the details, given that legislation on the subject will be introduced, as the hon. Lady knows full well.

Ian Swales (Redcar) (LD): The Minister rightly says that on such policy matters, assessments are a normal part of Government practice. Will he confirm that the reviews will take account of any potential future cost to the public purse? For example, what if people have inadequate funds to cover their future care costs, as they have already spent their accumulated pensions, or if they have other recourse to the state because they have inadequate resources later in life?

Mr Gauke: During the assessment of the policy announced in the Budget, we considered all the various issues, including the consequences for the Exchequer in both the short and long term. We will say more about the specific interaction with social care and so on in the near future. I would make the point that the very people restricted by the old regime were the people who, over the course of their working lives, saved responsibly and ended up with a pension sum that demonstrated their prudent approach to saving. It is not unreasonable to believe that the vast majority of those people will continue to act prudently when given greater flexibility. As a matter of philosophy, both parties in the coalition Government share the view that when we can give more power and responsibility to people, we should do so.

Gregg McClymont (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (Lab): The Minister referred to the Budget and the documents published about this policy, but what was published was merely the estimated tax take for the Treasury. Nothing was published about the behavioural impact, the prospect of mis-selling or the interaction with social care. When I asked the Government via a freedom of information request to reveal the basis on which the policy was made, they refused to do so. Will we get more information as quickly possible about the basis on which the Government reached this policy position? The Minister is right, of course, that annuities need to be reformed, but the question is about the basis on which the policy was made.

Mr Gauke: On the question of social care, let me repeat the point that I just made: we will respond to the consultation in due course and set out our thinking on that point. As for the issue of mis-selling, we made it very clear on Budget day that it was important to have a guidance guarantee in place. We will set out details of how that will work in the near future, as the consultation period closed only relatively recently. It is important that we get that guidance guarantee right. That brings me to new clause 9.

New clause 9 would require the Chancellor to publish any analysis of the impact of changes made by clauses 39 to 43 of the Bill to schedules 28 and 29 of the Finance Act 2004. However, as I said in Committee, only clauses 39 and 40, which increase the amount that can be taken as a tax-free lump sum as a draw-down pension from 27 March 2014, make changes to schedules 28 and 29 of the 2004 Act.

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Dr Eilidh Whiteford (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Before the Minister fully leaves the point about how people might spend the lump sums, one concern that I have had is that people might be tempted to invest in property, for example, which could have the unintended consequence of boosting an already overheating housing market for the next generation. That is still prudent spending from those people’s point of view, but there could be unintended consequences for everyone else. I wonder to what extent that consideration featured in the Government’s thinking.

Mr Gauke: There are two points to make. First, we believe that individuals should be able to make their own choices. Of course, they should be provided with guidance, but essentially a system that relies on the state telling people precisely what their investment portfolio, as it were, should be is too restrictive, and does not perform the role that we should be performing. As for the systemic effect on the housing market, which was, I think, the hon. Lady’s central point, I do not think that our changes will have any such effect. Both the Governor of the Bank of England and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have made it clear that we need to ensure that we do not return to the bad old days and to the unsustainable housing market boom we saw some years ago. There are measures in place to reflect that, and we have the institutions in place to ensure that if there are problems they can be addressed quickly.

Gregg McClymont: I thank the Minister for giving way once again. Opposition Members become concerned—well, I certainly do—when Ministers refer to the state telling people what kind of investment portfolio to have. Most people have never invested in the way that that comment suggests. He is a well-intentioned and good Minister, but I become concerned when we think about investment for the majority of people in those terms. The fact is that on the day of the Budget the Chancellor said that there would be guaranteed advice, but that turned out not to be the case. It is now guidance, which is a very different thing. Unless we get that guidance absolutely right, there is a danger of the kind of mis-selling that Members on both sides will remember from the 1980s. It is crucial that we understand the way in which people tend to make decisions about these kinds of issues.

Mr Gauke: I agree that it is vital that we get the guidance right. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will understand that now is not the occasion for the Government to set out the details of how this will operate, but there will come a point when we will do that. There will be plenty of opportunity for the House to debate those matters. I have no doubt that he is looking forward to that opportunity and will scrutinise our policies on this matter with his customary vigour—[Interruption]—as indeed will the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Cathy Jamieson). While it is very important to get the guidance right, we instinctively support giving people greater flexibility and freedom. Given the tone of the hon. Gentleman’s intervention, I am not sure that he is entirely comfortable with that.

1 pm

Cathy Jamieson: I understand the point about the timing of the guidance, and I will discuss that in my speech. The Pensions Minister has said:

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“Face-to-face, the Chancellor used that phrase, and we will honour that, of course. But if face-to-face means individuals sitting down for an hour with someone every-where in the country, that would be very, very expensive. Face-to-face could involve groups, for example; a lot of the conversation’s generic.”

Some people may have concerns about what is being referred to in terms of guidance. Will the Minister give us some further information at this stage?

Mr Gauke: The hon. Lady, perfectly understandably, is seeking more information at this point. I do not think I am being in any way unreasonable in saying that we will set out the details of this in the near future. We are working very closely with interested parties, whether the industry or consumer groups, to ensure that we get this right. We have set out the broad principles behind our guidance guarantee, and we believe that we can deliver something that provides the protection that all Members want.

James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend East) (Con): I understand the need for a professional to offer guidance face to face and on a quality end-product. However, may I urge my hon. Friend to consider the use of the internet and technology to collect the basic information? It makes no sense for a qualified financial consultant to take one and a half to two hours to do a basic fact-find that is actually about data collection. It is much more efficient to do that on the internet and use the time spent face to face for guidance right at the end of the process.

Mr Gauke: I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s observation. Without getting too much into the details of what we will announce in due course, it is important to point out that there are various means and methods of delivering guidance and that different people will want different things. We have made it clear that face-to-face guidance will be available for those who want it.

Stewart Hosie (Dundee East) (SNP): The Minister said that he is discussing this with the industry and other interested parties. I welcome that because, as he will be aware, on the announcement of this plan, the share price of many businesses in the life and pensions field dipped quite sharply with the market discounting what might happen in future. Will he confirm that he is paying attention to ensuring that the life and pensions sector is protected while offering flexibility to people who have saved?

Mr Gauke: The purpose of the reforms is to ensure that there is a savings and pensions environment that is good for those saving for their pension and those claiming on their pension. We believe that the reforms that we have set out will result in greater innovation in this area. We do not think that the purpose of the rules is to protect particular businesses. Nevertheless, the industry has responded well to our proposals. Many see this as an opportunity to improve the culture of saving and have engaged very constructively with the Government. I hope that that addresses the hon. Gentleman’s concerns.

Ian Swales: I recently met representatives of a major financial institution who rightly see the potential for new products following these changes. I am sure that innovative companies will come up with products that

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meet people’s needs. On advice, will the Minister assure us that the system will be transparent as regards how advisers are rewarded and that we will not get into a situation where overt or covert kick-backs from product providers are the main source of income for those providing the advice?

Mr Gauke: My hon. Friend is trying to draw me into the details of what we will say about how the guidance will operate. It is important that we have a system that is transparent and maintains the confidence of the general public, and that is at the heart of what we are trying to do.

Gregg McClymont: I will not try to draw the Minister into the details. He rightly refers to the instinct to give people more control over their own lives, and that is something we would all agree with. However, I urge him to read the debates involving a Tory Minister in his position in the 1980s who talked about the revolution in personal pensions using language very similar to that used by the Minister and, more exuberantly, by his colleagues about these reforms. He should compare that with what was said in the 1980s, which led to the mis-selling scandals and some of the loss of confidence in pensions. Greater control, yes, but let us also be aware of the lessons of history.

Mr Gauke: I take that point in the spirit in which it was offered. I maintain that it is right that we give people greater control and flexibility. This is about ensuring that individuals are in the best position to make the best decisions for them. Guidance is an important part of that, and, from day one, the Government have been very clear that that was the approach we wanted to take. I suspect that there is, at least at some level, a philosophical difference between Members on either side of the Chamber on this point. I do not think that a Labour Government would have brought forward these reforms, but I welcome any extent to which we can have a consensus.

Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP) rose—

Mr Gauke: I will give way once more and then I should return to my speech.

Mr Campbell: The Minister will be aware that many people are glad that this Government have introduced greater control and flexibility, particularly in pensions. Given that the new individual savings account regime came into force yesterday, will he consider, at a very early stage, introducing flexibility to give people who are saving for their long-term future into retirement—whether through the new ISA or a pension—greater control, particularly as regards spouse-to-spouse transfers?

Mr Gauke: The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point. Indeed, I have just signed off a parliamentary answer to one of his questions about this. If I recall correctly, I said that these regimes, in essence, work on an individual basis but matters can be kept under review. I will certainly take his comments as a representation for future reform in this area.

The clauses I have been talking about increase the amount that can be taken as a tax-free lump sum and as a drawdown pension from 27 March 2014. In addition, the Government’s new clauses and new schedule make changes to schedule 29. As I have explained before, on

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Budget day the Government published a tax information impact note entitled “Increasing pension flexibility”, which covered the impact of the changes set out in clauses 39 and 40. That impact note has been updated to reflect the changes made by new clause 13 and new schedule 5.

As I have previously said, the changes made by clauses 39 and 40 are likely to be of particular benefit to individuals with smaller pension wealth, including women. The same applies to the changes that would be made by new clause 13 and new schedule 5. That is set out in the tax information impact note that was published on 27 June.

I have already mentioned that the Government published a consultation, “Freedom and choice in pensions”, on the broader measures announced in the Budget. That document set out the rationale and the relevant analysis behind the Government’s proposals and invited comments on the expected impacts. The consultation will inform the final shape of the Government’s proposals, including the guidance guarantee. The Government will set out further details in their response to this consultation, which will be published shortly.

James Duddridge: I always find terms like “shortly” confusing. Is “shortly” in the next few weeks, in the next the few months or before the next general election? Perhaps, while not giving an exact date, my hon. Friend might hone it down a little finer than the very broad term “shortly.”

Mr Gauke: I used the word “shortly;” I could have said “in due course,” but I hope that my hon. Friend is more encouraged by “shortly.” He will just have to be a little more patient, but I can assure him that it will not be very long before he will be satisfied on those details.

Let me say a brief word about guidance, which I have touched on already. The Government believe that, as people have greater choice over retirement, they will need the right support and guidance to make the choice that is right for them, so we are working to ensure that everyone approaching retirement with a defined-contribution pension can receive impartial, face-to-face guidance on the choices available to them. However, the guidance guarantee is not a tax rule, so I hope that hon. Members will understand that although it is a very important part of the radical reforms that we are introducing from April 2015, it does not form part of the changes being discussed today.

The Government have already published information on the impact of clauses 39 and 40, as well as on new clause 13 and new schedule 5, and have consulted further on their broader proposals. New clause 9 is therefore unnecessary. Whether that is enough to persuade the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun not to press her case, I somewhat doubt, and no doubt she will put it very reasonably, but I hope that she considers my response reasonable as well. Whether she considers it reasonable or not, that is my response.

The overall purpose of the changes that the Government are making today is to enable people who had recently taken the tax-free lump sum from their defined-contribution pension savings to use the new flexibility, while remaining

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in broadly the same tax position. I therefore hope that new clause 13 and new schedule 5 will be added to the Bill, and I request that new clause 9 is not pressed to a vote.

Cathy Jamieson: I want first to put something on the record. Earlier, the hon. Member for Redcar (Ian Swales) suggested that when the Labour Government left office the tax gap was £42 billion, but the most recent HMRC figures show that in 2009-10 it was £32 billion. I think that addresses the point that he raised yesterday with my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Shabana Mahmood).

To return to issues from today’s debate, as I observed in Committee, the amendment that we moved then and the discussion on it addressed some of the most important clauses in the Bill. The Minister suggested yesterday that I could make the most unreasonable things sound reasonable. I think that today he has done a reasonably good job of putting across the Government’s view. However, I would have to say at the outset that he has not said enough to convince me not to press our amendment—he still has time to say something during the debate—and I will explain why.

As I have said, the reforms provided for in these clauses are very important. Our primary concern in tabling new clause 9 and in pressing it is to ensure that those affected have the information that they need to make an informed choice, because that is very important indeed.

1.15 pm

It is also relevant to recap on what the measures in the Bill would do. First, they will increase the amount that savers can access through trivial commutation, capped draw-down and flexible draw-down. Secondly, those in defined contribution pension schemes can now withdraw more money from their pensions annually, and the threshold at which wealthier savers can have unlimited access to their pension pots has been reduced. Thirdly, for schemes that allow members to take their pension via a draw-down, the capped draw-down limit has been increased from 120% of the amount of an equivalent annuity to 150%. Fourthly, the amount of guaranteed annual income that savers must have to draw down their pensions flexibly has been reduced from the current minimum of £20,000 to £12,000. So, in essence, the rules for accessing pensions have been greatly liberalised with the aim of affording savers increased choice and flexibility.

In principle, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood has already said, we do not have a problem with supporting greater choice and flexibility, but we want to ensure that savers are not exploited in any way. That has been a very important principle for us from the outset. Indeed, over the past three years we have consistently advocated reform of the annuities market, and we have called for a cap on pension fund charges. Of course, it would be our view that the Government have delayed the introduction of the charge cap, and this extra year of excess charges will cost a saver with £100,000 up to £750 this year.

However, to return to the present, our primary concern now is to ensure that savers have access to the information that they need to exercise their new rights judiciously.

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Gregg McClymont: On that point, my hon. Friend, as usual, is making an eloquent, precise case. There is an issue not just around informed choice, but around our ability to predict our own longevity; there are substantial issues. The evidence is that it is very difficult for us to predict our own longevity, both for obvious reasons and in terms of biases inherent in our human nature. Therefore, this is not just about choice—although we think that is important—but about how one makes such decisions on one’s own.

Cathy Jamieson: My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. My understanding of the research is that, when asked to predict their longevity, people significantly underestimate it and do not always predict long enough into the future, particularly when anticipating their potential care needs or support needs. For understandable reasons, people do not want to think of those things during their earlier years, but increasingly they will have to do so.

I heard the Minister say that some of the issues that have to be dealt with, such as guidance and so on, do not form part of tax law. Of course he is correct on that, but there is an issue about a joined-up approach to government. Already we have concerns—I shall say more if time allows—about how all the Government’s policies on social care and some of the other economic issues that people have to think about will come together. It is important to ensure at every stage that there are no unintended consequences.

As the Minister accepted, we tabled our new clause, as always, in a spirit of being reasonable and sensible. Indeed, I was a wee bit excited when he seemed to suggest that some of the things we might be saying were worthy of further consideration. Of course, my excitement was short-lived, as he then said that he would not accept our new clause.

Quite simply, new clause 9 would require the Treasury, within six months of Royal Assent, to publish and lay before the House any analysis it prepared before the publication of Budget 2014 relating to the impact of the changes made in clauses 39 to 43 and the relevant schedules, and that the information published include any assessment made of the impact of the provisions for independent face-to-face guidance on the Finance Act 2004. That is important, because without it, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Gregg McClymont) said in an attempt to elicit information, which has not so far been possible, it will be difficult to scrutinise provisions in a Bill that is to come in due course, shortly, when time permits—whichever one of the time scales so beloved of Ministers is utilised. The new clause also asks that we be provided with information on the distributional impact of the changes by income decile, a behavioural analysis and the financial risk assessment. As our new clause and the points I have made show, our concern about some of the reforms extends to the face-to-face guidance that the Government have committed to providing.

We discussed this issue extensively in Committee. I think Labour Members made a number of valid and reasonable points on the potential pitfalls for savers who have money at their disposal—those who, perhaps for the first time in their life, have a significant pot of money and have to make a decision. Lest anyone suggest that our concern is patronising or that we are somehow

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not trusting people to decide what to do with, essentially, their own money, let me say that it is important to understand that for many people, having significant pots of money at their disposal will be an entirely new experience at a time in their life when, as we have heard, they may not properly have predicted what resources they are going to need or their own longevity. It is therefore a bit disappointing that the Government have not been able to answer our questions. Looking back over the


report of the Committee stage, I was struck by the amount of time we spent dealing with some of these questions and, unfortunately, not getting the answers from the Government. Some of the responses we got from Government Members were, I would say, misunderstandings if not misrepresentations of our own position, which led us to believe that the Government might simply not want to engage with those issues.

To ensure that the Government are held to account, we have set three tests for the pension reforms. The first is the advice test—ensuring that there is robust advice for people who are providing for their retirement and that measures are in place to deal with mis-selling. In Committee, I and others quoted a number of cases brought to us by financial advisers in our local areas and by constituents in which people had been given so-called advice—often, information provided by unregulated people—and had therefore made wrong choices, which cost them significant sums. We do not want that to happen again.

Gregg McClymont: On the question of guidance, the Pensions Minister’s comments about Lamborghinis were particularly unfortunate. Does my hon. Friend agree that the biggest danger is not that hard-working, sensible people will blow their own money, but that they will take it as cash and not invest it because they have no confidence in the financial services industry, so their money will not be working for them? Is not that as big a danger, if not a greater danger, than the Lamborghini sort of stuff the Pensions Minister raised?

Cathy Jamieson: If I did not know better, I would suspect my hon. Friend of having read my speech. I was just about to come to that very point. The infamous Lamborghini comment might have been made in jest, but that sort of joke is entirely lost on those who have already lost their savings because of poor or insufficient advice. My hon. Friend makes a very valid point indeed about people’s confidence in what they can do with their own resources. To an extent, the Government may have begun to acknowledge the need to expand the range of choices available and ensure that consumers have help to navigate those choices—I think that was the phrase used. That sounds pretty sensible and commendable, but we need to make sure that it actually happens.

The second test we have set is the fairness test—the new system has to be fair to those on low and middle incomes, which means they still should be able to access products that give them the certainty in retirement they want, and the billions we spend in pensions tax relief must not benefit only those at the very top. That is why we have called for restrictions on pensions tax relief for those earning more than £150,000 a year. The third test is the cost test: the Government have to ensure that the policy does not result in extra cost to the state. That point was made earlier, and I think the Minister, to his

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credit, understands that there is an issue with social care and pensioners having to fall back on means-tested benefits—housing benefit, for example—later in their life if they do not properly or sensibly manage their resources. As yet, however, the Government have not explained how all that will be joined up in policy terms. In our view, if the Government’s pensions reforms fail any of those tests, the negative impact on savers could be considerable.

In Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Chris Evans) talked about protecting people from the “sharks in the market”. That brings us to the vexed question of guidance. Going back to the Chancellor’s no doubt innocent slip, there is a serious point to be made about definitions. When pressed subsequently, the Chancellor said:

“There is a technical distinction between advice and guidance. The budget document exists, I don’t get up and read it out because it contains all the technical details of the Budget and we publish it at the same moment. The speech needs to also communicate in English so people watching it can understand what is meant.”

I understand that, but as I emphasised strongly in Committee, there is a world of difference between advice and guidance in technical terms and in terms of legality. The Government need to deal with that.

Dr Thérèse Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) (Con): I am listening carefully and trying to understand. Is the hon. Lady suggesting that the Government should be people’s financial adviser? I am not sure that is what the role of Government should be. I thought the reform was about opening up choices and making sure that people realise what steps they can take, not telling them what direction they should go in.

Cathy Jamieson: It is important that Government use language consistently and do not inadvertently mislead people about what they are going to get, whether it is guidance, advice or information, given face-to-face, over a telephone or through the internet.

The Red Book states:

“from April 2015, all individuals with defined contribution pension pots are offered free and impartial face-to-face guidance at the point of retirement”.

One might consider that a good and positive measure, but it raises some questions—questions that largely accord with the three tests we have set. First, there is a question about cost: the budget for guidance of just £20 million—£10 million each for 2015-16 and 2016-17—gives rise to some concern, as does its including no provision for this year. According to the tax impact and information note, the measures in the Bill will enable up to 400,000 people to draw down their pensions. I note that the Minister referred earlier to an updated tax impact and information note. Perhaps he can tell us whether he has revised any of those sets of numbers. We need to understand why nothing has been put aside for that free and impartial guidance in this financial year.

1.30 pm

My hon. Friends spoke about what people need at the point they make a decision, which was also raised in Committee. People need access to information and guidance

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in advance of drawdown, so we need to consider whether the point of retirement is the sensible time for financial planning.

Hon. Members will have noted the Government’s proposed allocation of £20 million over the two-year period, but it is questionable whether that will meet the need and the demand. Again, the matter was discussed extensively in Committee, but we did not get the required answers. For example, we are told that the sum is based on an expected cost of £70 to £100 per individual, yet the Association of British Insurers has estimated that 500,000 members of defined contribution pension schemes retire each year. If we take the lower end of the Government’s estimate and multiply it by 500,000, we get a total of £35 million, so there is a question whether the Government’s current budget for guidance would even be sufficient to meet the potential demand at a cost of £70 per head.

One industry insider, I understand, commented that

“the £20 million the Government is putting forward is a drop in the ocean”,

and, of course, the money is available only for the next two years, raising questions about what is supposed to happen after that. A further question is what savers can expect from guidance that costs between £70 and £100 per person. The Association of Professional Financial Advisers, for example, estimates that the average flat fee charged by an adviser for annuities advice—I say advice—is £681. We know that guidance carries none of the legal protections attached to advice, which is regulated. That no doubt accounts in part for the significant difference in cost between the two.

It is important to note the comments made by the Pensions Minister when he appeared before the Work and Pensions Committee on 29 April. He said that the Government’s plan was for 15 minutes worth of guidance per person. In Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn, who had significant experience in the financial services sector prior to entering the House, observed that when giving someone independent financial advice, it is not just their pension that has to be looked at, but their investments if they have any, their income, and the right product for them overall. He estimated that that could not be done effectively in less than two hours.

Advice and guidance are very different, and guidance begins to look less than adequate to meet some people’s requirements. Much confusion arises from the Chancellor’s comments in the Budget speech, which I accept were an innocent slip of the tongue, leading to a number of unintended consequences. We need clarity, not confusion, for people who are making major financial decisions. The pensions Minister told the Select Committee that guidance would

“lead more people to take formal advice”.

That has been endorsed by the Royal London insurance company, which said that guidance

“should be a rich source of referrals to financial advisers.”