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Schedule 4 will deliver confidence that donations are appropriately controlled. The rules will prevent undue influence by wealthy or foreign donors over the outcome of recall petitions while allowing legitimate donations to be made. The definition of a relevant donation is consistent with wider electoral law. It is based on what counts as a donation to permitted participants at a referendum under the 2000 Act. The definition of permissible donor is based on the definition relating to donations to political parties. That will prevent the overseas funding of recall petition campaigns without preventing UK electors, organisations or companies from donating to campaigners of their choice.

Schedules 3 and 4 provide proportionate regulation of campaigners seeking to raise and spend money, and schedule 5 adds openness. To ensure transparency and compliance with the regulations, details of reportable expenditure and donations to an accredited campaigner must be submitted to the petition officer at the end of the recall process. Those submissions will be available for public scrutiny for a period of two years.

Schedule 5 sets out what is required in a recall petition return and is based on returns for permitted participants in referendums under the 2000 Act, although with appropriate modifications. Responsibility for the administration and conduct of the recall petition falls to the petition officer. That includes receiving and publishing accreditation notices and spending returns from accredited campaigners. The aim has never been to create a highly regulated process, but to ensure, as in a constituency election campaign, that spending and donations are transparent. The Electoral Commission will have a number of advisory, reporting and administrative roles that are similar, although with appropriate modifications, to those it exercises in elections more generally.

Clause 17 amends section 62 of the Electoral Administration Act 2006. The Act contains an order-making power to introduce controls on loans to candidates at elections, recognised third parties at national election campaigns and permitted participants in a referendum. No orders have yet been made under this section. The amendment made by the clause will extend the order-making power to accredited campaigners in relation to a recall petition. The Bill’s approach is consistent with wider electoral law and will deliver three objectives. First, it will not hinder individuals and groups who have an interest in participating in the petition process. Secondly, the system will prevent disproportionate levels of spending or donations being made in an attempt to influence unduly the outcome of the process. Thirdly, those who spend significant amounts on campaigning will be appropriately regulated and transparent about what they are spending and who is supporting them. I commend these clauses and schedules to the House.

Lady Hermon: It is very kind of you, Sir Roger, to call me to speak when I have not indicated that I wish to do so. I moved on the Bench to indicate to the Minister that I was most displeased with the response to my earlier intervention. I feel that I need to—[Interruption.] I am absolutely delighted to be called. It is awfully kind of you to call me, Sir Roger. I was not scolding you—I am really pleased.

The Temporary Chair (Sir Roger Gale): I thought the hon. Lady was rising.

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Lady Hermon: I was indeed intending to rise. It is so nice of you to call me, Sir Roger.

This is a very important provision. I was under the illusion that the Bill would apply equally throughout the United Kingdom. I was encouraged by the Minister when he read out, very quickly and precisely, the carefully and very skilfully drafted words in relation to expenses, schedules and donations. The Minister built up my hopes by explaining that in Northern Ireland there would have to be a declaration when £500 was donated. However, exemptions will continue for donations to political parties under the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014.

We have the most unusual and completely unjustifiable situation in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland can be safe enough to host the G8 summit in Fermanagh, a border county that at one stage was the heartland of the Provisional IRA and where many people were killed. Northern Ireland was safe enough to host the world police and fire games. Thousands of police and fire officers came to compete and absolutely loved the experience. Despite that, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland introduced the 2014 Act, which extended the period of anonymity for donations to political parties. We are moving in the right direction and there is a time scale in which we hope to be able to remove that anonymity, but at present we do not know who donates to political parties. That is not good for the democratic process in Northern Ireland. It undermines public confidence in the political parties—as if we needed public confidence in Northern Ireland to be undermined any further than it already is.

Since the Belfast agreement, many people have tried to build bridges between the two communities. In some instances, they have been very successful. When it comes to elections, however, the people of Northern Ireland have no idea who is funding the large parties. I do not want to personalise the argument. I sit as an independent MP and that is what I stood as. I am sure the hon. Member for Belfast East (Naomi Long) would not mind me mentioning her. She represents the Alliance party in this House. Alliance party members on Belfast city council voted to stop flying the Union flag over Belfast city hall on 365 days a year and instead to fly it on only 17 designated days. The hon. Lady, who very courageously represents Belfast East and does not sit on Belfast city council, has been subjected to death threats, and her constituency offices have been targeted regularly. She and her staff have had to put up with the most vile abuse and intimidation, but she courageously defends her seat and represents her constituents. She will not be easily intimidated and I am just full of admiration for her.

I would have expected the Minister to provide Members representing small parties like the Alliance party or those sitting as an independent, as I do, some glimmer of hope that a recall petition could not be funded anonymously by large donations to political parties that could get together to unseat a very able MP. I would hate to think that that would be the outcome in Belfast East. The hon. Lady is a very feisty lady and I am sure she will fight the general election, but that is what the recall petition could do.

The Minister insisted that the Bill has to apply evenly across the United Kingdom in terms of the eight weeks for the recall petition and only four places where people can sign petitions in a constituency. That has to apply

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equally throughout the UK. Constituents and MPs in Northern Ireland are therefore entitled to know, as they are in Yorkshire, Devon, Cornwall or anywhere else in the United Kingdom, who is funding the recall petition that seeks to unseat them when they have been legitimately and properly elected in Northern Ireland, just as other MPs have been legitimately and properly elected elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

Thomas Docherty: I will be as brief as possible. I did not think that this part of the Bill would be contentious—I assumed that that would come with clause 18 and the recall provisions—but I have been somewhat surprised by some of the points made by the Minister. I have taken the opportunity just now, in relation to the points raised by the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon), to read through both the Bill and the explanatory notes. I have a great deal of sympathy with her arguments. As far as I can see—the Minister will have the opportunity to be “inspired” and rebut my arguments—there is not a sentence in either the explanatory notes or the Bill that says the provisions will not apply equally to Northern Ireland. The exception is, of course, the donations that are allowed from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland, but there is no specific reference to two different recall systems operating.

I suspect the Minister was not lucky enough to spend a great deal of time in Scotland in recent months during our referendum campaign, and I fear nor were those from the Cabinet Office. Many of the Government’s assumptions on collusion simply do not stack up with the reality of what we saw in Scotland. Let me explain. There was a concerted and clear effort by the Scottish National party and its supporters to co-ordinate activity. A number of organisations were set up—including Academics for Yes, Farming for Yes, Mums for Change and Christians for Yes—to receive significant donations from the same individuals, including Brian Souter and Mr and Mrs Weir, for the clear purpose of allowing multiple spends during the campaign.

There was a limit of £1.5 million that any one organisation could spend during the referendum, but the reality was that the yes campaign, through a very small number of donors, was able to stack up multiple spends. The reality is that it was impossible to prove on the ground that collusion was going on, even when brown envelopes were arriving through constituents’ doors with “Referendum information” on them containing four or five pieces of literature from Academics for Yes, Farming for Yes, Wings Over Scotland and others. Therefore, we are not convinced at this stage that the Minister has set out sufficient safeguards to avoid collusion by organisations.

7.30 pm

There is a valid point, which was made by the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) and the hon. Member for North Down. The hon. Member for North Down is not a member of any political party, so if I may take her as an example, without sufficiently robust procedures, it would be quite possible for three or four political parties to choose, in effect, to club together and each spend £10,000-plus amounts from multiple unaccredited campaigners, and dwarf what she would be able legitimately to spend, even if she could gather donors who would allow her—as I am sure they would—to spend significantly more than that.

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The problem is that throughout this debate we have been constantly referring to schedules or saying, “It will be coming forward in due course.” I want to place on record our belief that before this Bill gets to the Lords, the Government will have to do significant work listening to the interventions from both sides of the Committee to satisfy hon. Members.

Mrs Main: The hon. Gentleman is making a valid point, in that those groups would have one aim: not to get themselves in, but to get the Member out. Therefore, it would be a much more powerful group than any the Member could field on their own behalf.

Thomas Docherty: I entirely agree. There is merit in further discussion about that because, as the hon. Lady says, unlike in a general election, where there would be three or four competing parties each pursuing a different goal—trying, I would hope, to get their own person elected—in this case three out of four political parties might be pursuing one goal and able to spend £30,000, while the fourth party, the party of the incumbent, would be pursuing the other goal.

I urge the Government to have a careful think and to talk to Members across the House to see whether we can establish some rules. For example, I know that some hon. Members have suggested that rather than capping what each party could spend, we should cap the total spend on the two arguments—that is, for and against recall. I hope that Ministers will consider those arguments in the weeks ahead. We do not wish to detain the Committee; I know that Ministers are listening carefully—I am grateful to see some nods from the Treasury Bench. If the Minister assures me that he will undertake to meet the hon. Member for North Down to discuss her concerns and to meet the Opposition in the days ahead, I will not seek to divide the Committee on this issue.

Tom Brake: We have had a useful debate, identifying some areas where the Government could usefully do some more work on the Bill. As we have said on a number of occasions, the process that the Government want to follow with this Bill is one is that allows Members from all parts of the House to make suggestions.

Let me respond to the points made by the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon). One thing that she omitted—I am sure she remembered it, but she did not refer to it—is that for the recall process to start, there has to be a trigger. It is not as if organisations are lining up to try to unseat her or anyone else, such as the hon. Member for Belfast East (Naomi Long); there is a trigger that starts the process. However, I agree with the hon. Member for North Down that once the process has started, some organisations will have more money to bring to bear on the campaign than she, or I or other individual Members may have.

The hon. Lady has raised a point, which was reflected in the points that the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty) made about how to ensure a level playing field in expenditure. I am happy to look at the point he made about whether it would be practical to have a total cap on the for and against campaigns. However, I am sure that experienced campaigners will be able to find their way around that approach—[Interruption.] Not my party, of course; I was thinking more of the Labour party. So it would not be a guarantee that one side could not outspend the other.

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The anonymity of donations is an issue that the hon. Member for North Down and, indeed, other Northern Ireland Members raise on a regular basis. It would not be appropriate for me to put forward a solution in this Bill to an issue that has been ongoing for some time, but I hope she will acknowledge that at least some partial progress has been made on transparency—albeit perhaps not the full Monty that she would like to see us delivering. She knows much better than I do how complicated politics are in Northern Ireland and how difficult it is to find solutions that are accepted in all camps there.

The hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife has approached this Bill in a consensual, engaging way. He highlighted the importance of having safeguards against collusion among different organisations. I accept that that is a significant issue, just as it was in relation to, for example, the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014, where one of the biggest issues concerned the collective ability of third-party campaigners significantly to outspend others and the difficulties in identifying whether they were acting independently or as part of an organised campaign. Those concerns will also apply to this Bill; I acknowledge that. We need to be aware of the issue and ensure that as many safeguards as possible are put in place—which is why I have said that I would be happy to get back to him on his suggestion of capping both sides of the argument to ensure equality of arms in any recall petition campaign.

The hon. Gentleman raised a point about donations to political parties and the Member of Parliament. For clarity’s sake, let me put it on the record that donations to political parties will be declared and made public under the current legislation—the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000—rather than the Recall of MPs Bill. An MP who is an accredited campaigner will have to declare relevant donations in the same way as other accredited campaigners.

The hon. Gentleman also asked whether I would be willing to meet the Opposition to discuss their concerns about the Bill. We met earlier this morning, and I am happy to meet him whenever appropriate, whenever he feels there is a significant issue he would like to raise. Indeed, if the hon. Member for North Down would like to meet to discuss some of her concerns, Ministers would be happy to do that and to accommodate her.

Thomas Docherty: I do not wish to detain the Committee any longer than necessary, but I wonder whether the Minister can clarify something about his very helpful answer about MPs’ declarations. As I understand it, a Member of Parliament who is fighting a recall petition has not yet vacated their seat, so am I right in thinking that they would have to declare any donation made to the fighting of the recall while they were still an MP, regardless of the outcome of the petition?

Tom Brake: As the hon. Gentleman often does, he has come back with a very detailed question, to which I will respond in writing, as I have to conclude the debate on this particular grouping of amendments. I hope what I said has been helpful in setting out the Government’s position. We have identified some further areas where more work needs to be done. I commend these provisions to the Committee.

Clause 16 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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Schedules 3 to 5 agreed to.

Clause 17 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 18

Power to make further provision about conduct of a recall petition etc

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The Temporary Chair(Mr David Crausby): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: clause 19 stand part.

Government amendments 50 to 52.

Clauses 20 to 25 stand part.

That schedule 6 be the Sixth schedule to the Bill.

Tom Brake: Amendments 50, 51 and 52 seek to amend clause 19 and have been tabled in the name of the Deputy Prime Minister. I will also explain the effect of the other clauses and schedules in the group.

The Law Society of Scotland suggested that, as drafted, there is a circularity in clause 19 that requires clarification. We think that it is unlikely that the clause would be misinterpreted, but would prefer to clarify the drafting to avoid doubt. As drafted, the Speaker may appoint someone to take his place if he is unable to perform his duties. The circularity comes because if he is unable to perform his duties, he is also unable to appoint someone. The Government have therefore proposed these amendments to remove any ambiguity from clause 19. The effect of the clause is the same.

Clauses 18 to 25 are largely technical clauses. They allow the Government to make further regulations about the recall process and to amend or otherwise reflect existing legislation. Clause 18 provides for the Government to make regulations about the conduct of a recall petition. It is envisaged that regulations on the conduct of the campaign will be based on those that exist for elections, with amendments to address the particular circumstances of the recall petition.

Clause 19 mirrors existing legislation, which makes provision for the Speaker’s functions, such as issuing notice to the petition officer, to be exercised by another person in the absence of the Speaker. This can be a person appointed by the Speaker or it can be the Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means. As I have mentioned, amendments 50, 51 and 52 remove any ambiguity in this clause.

Lady Hermon: I could not possibly allow the Minister to move on so quickly from clause 18, which is very important because it ties in with an issue I raised earlier. He referred only to clause 18(1)(a), and I would like him to deal with paragraph (b), which provides that the Minister

“may make provision about the questioning of the outcome of a recall petition and the consequences of irregularities”.

As I raised earlier, if the Member who is being subjected to the recall wishes to stop the petition officer notifying the Speaker, that MP should have the opportunity to take legal advice and to seek an injunction to prevent it

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from happening. Will the Minister simply confirm that the relevant Minister will not take the opportunity to attempt to oust the jurisdiction of the court if a Member subject to a recall petition has perfectly understandable concerns about the irregularities experienced in the recall petition?

Tom Brake: I knew I would not get away without an intervention from the hon. Lady in this final group of amendments. I have more to say, and if I do not address her points, we can return to them later.

Clause 20 introduces schedule 6, which provides for minor and consequential amendments to be made to the Representation of the People Act 1983 and the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. For example, the Representation of the People Act 1983 will be amended to allow that the form of writ for a by-election can state that it is to be held as a result of a successful recall petition. The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 will also be amended to give additional functions to the Electoral Commission in relation to recall petitions. These amendments will give the Electoral Commission functions that are similar, albeit with appropriate modifications, to those it already exercises in relation to elections more generally. Further changes to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 made by schedule 6 ensure that the recall Bill can be successfully introduced into the landscape of existing electoral legislation.

7.45 pm

Clause 21 allows the Government to make any further necessary regulations under this Act, and sets out the procedure for doing so. The clause provides for the regulations to be made by statutory instrument.

Clauses 22 to 25 are formal clauses which, respectively, define the interpretation to be given to key words and phrases in the Bill, set out its territorial extent, provide details of when the provisions will come into force, and give the short title of the Bill. I therefore support amendments 50, 51 and 52 in the name of the Deputy Prime Minister, and I commend to the Committee clauses 18 to 25 and schedule 6.

Mr Heath: I have three brief points to make. The first echoes the point made by the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon) about clause 18(1)(b). I do not think it satisfactory in this instance to have something decided by further regulation. This is a sufficiently important part of the procedure to be built directly into the Bill, so I ask the Minister to look at that.

My second point relates to clause 18(3)(c). If we are to maintain the position that we have a limited number of designated places, it is not satisfactory for people to be allocated to a specific designated place. If there are only four places in my constituency where people can go to sign this petition, people should not be told which one is the most convenient because it might be the wrong choice given where people work or whatever. I would prefer clause 18(3)(c) to disappear.

Thirdly, on clause 19, the Minister has proposed three explanatory amendments, but I have to ask why on earth the Speaker should be able to appoint a person to perform his functions. We have a system here whereby we elect four special Members: the Speaker, the Chairman of Ways and Means, the First Deputy Chairman of

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Ways and Means and the Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means. If the Speaker is not able to carry out his functions, those responsibilities will fall naturally to the Chairman of Ways and Means and so on down the chain of command, as it were, in the Speaker’s Office. It is not appropriate for the Speaker to magic somebody else out of thin air to perform his duties when that person is not supported by the election of this House. This is a throwback to the old system whereby a Speaker was elected and everybody else was appointed by the Speaker. That is not appropriate. I ask the Minister to rewrite clause 19 to make it quite clear that in the absence of the Speaker, the Deputy Speakers will take on this responsibility.

Thomas Docherty: It is pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Crausby. I have just three or four brief points and one substantive one. Let me begin with the substantive one.

As the Minister knows, clause 18 is the one about which Opposition Members have the most trepidation—and not just because of experiences in Scotland, but because of the recall petitions in the United States and elsewhere, and indeed because of the events that occurred in Oldham, East and Saddleworth in 2010 and the subsequent conviction in the elections court. The hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) has pressed diligently on this matter —today, in Committee last week and, if my memory serves me correctly, on Second Reading, too. Labour Members have some genuine concerns about the material that might be issued during the recall petition campaign. It does not appear to us to be absolutely clear at this stage that both accredited and unaccredited campaigners are required to abide by PPERA. The Minister’s stock reply throughout the evening has been, “We will cover this by means of regulation.” We seek a specific guarantee that the Government intend to ensure that all campaigners are covered by the requirements of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act.

Mrs Main: Will the Member of Parliament still be working as a Member of Parliament during the period concerned? If people write to him saying “I want to know this from you in your capacity as my Member of Parliament”, does he have to declare the costs incurred for his staff or anyone who replies to any such letters? That really does need to be sorted out if we are to have a level playing field.

Thomas Docherty: The hon. Lady has asked an excellent question. It is not for me to speak for the Government—yet—but I understand that during the recall petition phase, a Member of Parliament will still be a Member of Parliament. I trust that the Minister will nod his assent to that. If the petition is successful, the seat will be vacated, and the person concerned will no longer be a Member of Parliament during the period leading up to the by-election.

We need to know more details in regard to a number of issues. As I said earlier, it would be helpful to both Houses if the Government could at least produce draft regulations before the Bill goes to the Lords, if not before for the Report stage in the House of Commons. We think that there is plenty of room for potential abuse by campaigners, who, if not covered by PPERA, could make a series of unfounded allegations. We are

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concerned about the £500 limit, because a large number of individual constituents who had not supported an MP’s position on another issue could choose to spend £499. Although the petition itself had been called for on specific grounds of wrongdoing, it would then be possible for someone to say “My MP did not support my position on issue x or y.” There needs to be clear guidance not just on spending limits, but on what is written on the leaflets. We want Ministers to confirm that everyone will be covered by PPERA.

The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr Heath) made a valid point about the Speaker. I appreciate that we are not engaging in a broader debate on clause 19, but I think that there is scope for us to consider not just the question of who will appoint a Deputy Speaker, but the question of what will happen if the Speaker himself, or herself, is subject to recall in the future. The Government may say that if the Speaker were in prison, he or she would clearly be absent, but that might be for only one day. An expenses offence might be involved, if our proposed amendment is accepted on Report. We hope that the Government will consult Members on both sides of the House, and will consider clarifying the rules—either on Report or in the House of Lords—to ensure that if the Member of Parliament concerned is the Speaker, there will be a specific procedure enabling the Speaker to be recused from that process.

We have had a long and fulfilling debate, but I think that Ministers have plenty of homework to do. We would give them a C minus today, but they “could do better”. So far they have shown considerable attitude, if not aptitude, and we hope that when we return to the Bill on Report, their homework will be better.

Tom Brake: Let me respond briefly to the points that have been made.

The hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon) was rightly concerned about the possibility that a Member of Parliament could challenge the recall process. Regulations will set out the details of the way in which questioning about irregularities will take place, and the impact that irregularities may have on the outcome of the petition, but the courts will, in certain circumstances, be able to rule that the outcome of the petition is invalid. The hon. Lady may not feel that that is a substantial enough answer to her query, but I shall be happy to meet her if she wants to make further points or to be given further clarification.

My hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr Heath) mentioned the limited number of designated places for signing, and the fact that they would be designated: in other words, people would have to go to specific signing points. As he probably realises, the purpose is to ensure that people cannot double-sign. If people could go to any of the four places, they might choose to move from one to another—

Mr Heath: It would be very simple to check.

Tom Brake: It would, but that is why the Government want to designate a place of signature, as happens when people cast their votes in an election.

Thomas Docherty: Let me help out the hon. Gentleman, who does not usually need any help. According to my recollection, he was not disputing the issue of multiple

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signing. It was a question of who decided which petition station the constituent was assigned to, which is a slightly different issue.

Tom Brake: I may have misunderstood the point that my hon. Friend was making. I thought that he was questioning why someone would have to go to a designated signing point, as opposed to being able to go to all of them.

Mr Heath: I do not want to delay things, but if there are four designated places, and there is a long period in which to check whether someone has signed in more than one place, it will not be like a general election, in which people turn up on the day and the result is announced that night. There is no reason why the electoral registration officer cannot detect that someone has visited more than one polling station. However, it may be greatly to the convenience of a person, particularly in a very large constituency, to go to one designated place rather than another to sign, and that may not be the one that happens to be the closest to that person’s house.

Tom Brake: I entirely understand that point, although I suspect that had my hon. Friend, in his previous guise, been at the Dispatch Box, he would have made the point that I have made. While in theory it is perfectly possible to check whether someone has signed at different locations, in practice, given that 20,000 people might potentially be signing the petition, it might be quite a hard task for the petition officer to undertake.

As for my hon. Friend’s point about the Speaker, the answer is that the provision follows existing legislation, which is exactly the point that he was making. However, I shall be happy to reflect on whether we need to do anything more.

The hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty) wanted to see draft regulations before the Bill reached the House of Lords. I am afraid that I cannot give him that assurance, but I can undertake to make any information that we can provide in advance available before the Bill goes to the Lords. The hon. Gentleman also raised the issue of the Speaker, although he made a slightly different point: he wanted to know what would happen if the Speaker himself was recalled. I think that the Government have understood that point and have covered all bases, but we have offered the hon. Gentleman a meeting, and I should be happy

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to explain in a further meeting why I think that the House would be able to respond to the scenario that he has in mind. I am grateful to all Members for giving their views. As I have said, these clauses are largely technical, but they are essential for the smooth introduction of a recall power that fits into our existing electoral system and uses safeguards to ensure that recall will be a fair and transparent process. In addition, the Government have tabled amendments 50, 51 and 52 to remove any ambiguity in clause 19. I therefore believe that clauses 18 and 20 to 25, and schedule 6, should remain part of the Bill in their current form.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 18 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 19

Performance of the Speaker’s functions by others

Amendments made: 50, page 13, line 3, after “person” insert

“who is, if a relevant circumstance arises,”

This amendment and amendments 51 and 52 remove a potential ambiguity in clause 19(1).

Amendment 51, page 13, line 4, leave out from “functions”)” to end of line 7 and insert—

‘( ) For the purposes of this section, a “relevant circumstance” arises if—

(a) the Speaker is unable to perform the Speaker’s functions because of absence, illness or for any other reason, or

(b) there is a vacancy in the office of the Speaker.”

Amendment 52, page 13, line 11, leave out subsection (3) and insert—

‘(3) If a relevant circumstance arises and no appointment under subsection (1) is in force, the Speaker’s functions are to be performed by the Chairman of Ways and Means or a Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.”—(Tom Brake.)

Clause 19, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 20 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 6 agreed to.

Clauses 21 to 25 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair.

Bill, as amended, reported.

Bill to be considered tomorrow.

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International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill (Money)

Queen’s recommendation signified.

8.1 pm

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Mr Desmond Swayne): I beg to move,

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill, it is expedient to authorise any expenditure incurred under or by virtue of the Act by a Minister of the Crown or Government Department.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Will the Minister give way?

Mr Swayne: Of course.

Philip Davies: I just wonder whether the Minister felt any embarrassment about bringing forward this money resolution the week after a report showed how much money his Department gives out that is either wasted or goes in some form of corruption.

Mr Swayne: I think my hon. Friend may not have read the report, as I have done.

Philip Davies: Oh, I have!

Mr Swayne: One of the things we always discover with reports is that there is always an expectation, or a request, that the Department for International Development will do more, which is the case at present.

We have several very successful programmes for the reduction of corruption. What we have had from the International Commission for Aid Impact is essentially a request that we develop further programmes to deal with corruption at the local level and reduce its impact on the lives of ordinary people. As a DFID Minister, I am happy to consider everything we can do to achieve that, and I regard the report as a useful pointer.

I reject entirely the allegations that any of the current programmes have led to an increase in the level of petty corruption. I think the report has got the wrong end of the stick. It is not clear to me where that information has come from and it is certainly not clear in the report.

Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): The problem is that when we have a departmental budget that, almost uniquely, is awash with money and is growing all the time, and where there is a limited number of countries under very difficult circumstances to which it is being directed, that must increase the possibility of corruption. That is what this report is saying, and that is what we are saying. That is why we are concerned about the amount of taxpayers’ money being wasted.

Mr Swayne: The issue before us this evening is the money to be spent in achieving a Committee stage for the Bill, rather than the total amount of money spent as a result of the principle of the Bill, which is what we dealt with in the second week of September. I agree with my hon. Friend, however, that it is absolutely vital that we develop programmes, schemes and methods of

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ensuring that every single penny is spent as it should be, and that it should not be wasted in corruption. I also draw my hon. Friend’s attention to the fact that the principle of the Bill was agreed overwhelmingly by the House—166 votes to seven. It is the will of the House that the Bill proceeds.

Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) (Con): I am sorry if I sound unhelpful but I have gone through every report in the independent audit and there are things that will concern the public, such as the review of the trade development work in southern Africa where we have discovered a payment to the Government of Zimbabwe in contravention of UK Government policy. We do need to keep tight control over money that is spent, or the taxpayer will feel that they are being fleeced.

Mr Swayne: It is vital that these matters are investigated and answers are given and that proper schemes are in place and enforced to ensure that the money is spent correctly. The purpose of this money resolution, however, is to give effect to the will of the House, clearly expressed in September, that this Committee proceed.

Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con): Why, therefore, are the Government not bringing forward a money resolution for the European Union (Referendum) Bill—or, for that matter, the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for St Ives (Andrew George), because he will be on his feet in a moment if I do not include him?

Mr Swayne: I would welcome being at this Dispatch Box to move a money resolution for the European Union (Referendum) Bill.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Go on then.

Sir Edward Leigh: Go on then.

Mr Swayne: Unfortunately it is not within my gift to do so. That is a matter for the business managers and the usual channels to sort out. I wish it were my decision; I wish I could gratify those wishes, but unfortunately I am unable to do so.

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): As the Minister has said, this money resolution gives effect to the strong will of the House to see this Bill go forward. Does he agree with me that the very purpose of our development assistance is to help countries to grow—to develop and to establish stronger government systems—and to tackle the very corruption that inevitably occurs in some of the poorest countries in the world, and that actually we need to build a virtuous circle in respect of these issues, and not just pick things out one by one, as some Government Members are trying to do?

Mr Swayne: I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. He is absolutely right. That is the purpose of this motion today; its purpose is to give effect to the will of the House so that the Bill can move into Committee.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Swayne: I am spoilt for choice. I give way to the hon. Member for St Ives (Andrew George).

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Andrew George (St Ives) (LD): I entirely endorse this motion, but as the Minister said a moment ago, its purpose is to give effect to the clearly expressed will of the House. The House also clearly expressed its will on 5 September when we debated the Affordable Homes Bill. I do not understand why the Government are not bringing forward a money resolution for Bill No. 1.

Mr Swayne rose—

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Dawn Primarolo): Order. Minister, before you are tempted down that route, I would just like to remind the House that we are only debating the money resolution with respect to this Bill, and no other agreed or not agreed or yet to come before the House money resolution, so no Member should tempt the Minister to speak on any money resolution except the one before us today. That is important because we have only 45 minutes.

Mr Swayne: I am guided by your advice, Madam Deputy Speaker, but the fact is that I am no more able to gratify the hon. Member for St Ives than I am my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg). The fact is that this money resolution gives effect to the will of the House so this Bill can move into Committee.

Mr Bone: I think the Minister made a slight error with his numbers earlier. I think he was referring to the voting on the closure motion, when the debate was curtailed. The vote on the question on Second Reading was 164 to six. Will he enlighten us as to how the decision is made to bring money resolutions to the Floor of the House?

Mr Swayne: I stand corrected; my hon. Friend has clearly examined the record more scrupulously than I did. On his second question: that is a mystery to me. It is not for me to determine which Bills have money resolutions and which do not. That is a question that he might properly put to the Leader of the House on Thursday at business questions, because it is effectively his decision. The irony is that this Bill would not have required a money resolution in order to go into Committee had it not been for clause 5, which sets up a new body. The fact is that it is my intention to persuade my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Michael Moore) to amend the Bill in Committee by taking out that offending clause.

Michael Moore (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) (LD): I am happy to put on record the fact that the Minister and I have been having constructive discussions, and I hope that we will be in a position to bring amendments to the Committee together to deal with the matter that he has just raised.

Mr Swayne: I am glad that there is unity across the House, on that matter at least.

Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): Will the Minister explain the process behind this particular money resolution? In an era in which the country knows that the Government have no money to throw around, what process did he go

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through to determine that there should be expenditure on progressing this Bill, which, if it is passed, would have serious implications for public expenditure?

Mr Swayne: The process is simple. We discussed it a great deal on Second Reading, but my hon. Friend is now effectively attempting to reopen that debate. The Bill was approved according to the clearly expressed will of the House, but it concerns a pledge that was in every party’s manifesto.

Mr Bone: The Minister has got to the crux of the matter. This should be a Government Bill and it should be debated in Government time. It should not have to be pushed through by this back-door means.

Mr Swayne: I hardly think that a private Member’s Bill could be referred to as being “pushed through” in that way. If it had been a Government Bill, my hon. Friend might well have complained about the operation of the Whips and about it being railroaded through; he has often complained about that in the past. Surely he does not think that that is happening with a private Member’s Bill; that is absolute nonsense.

Philip Davies: The Minister keeps repeating that approval of the Bill was expressed with the clear will of the House, but he also announced that 164 Members voted in favour of it. The last time I looked there were 650 MPs, so on what basis does he think that 164 Members represent the clear will of all 650?

Mr Swayne: The reason I keep repeating that the clear will of the House was expressed on that occasion is that it manifestly was. As my hon. Friend knows, the will of the House can be expressed through a majority of one. The fact that so many Members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Bill’s Second Reading shows that that clearly was the will of the House. He is an aficionado of the House’s procedures on Fridays, and he will know that to get more than a quorum on a Friday is a substantial achievement. The fact that the House was filled with so many Members was a tremendous tribute to their strength of feeling and support for my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk’s Bill.

Mr Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab): I can understand why the Minister is getting excited, or even angry, but I urge him not to do that. The hon. Members who are putting him under pressure are not representative of this Parliament, and it is this Parliament that has the right to decide whether there will be a money resolution, just as we have the right to decide whether the Bill makes any more progress.

Mr Swayne: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his concern. I assure him that I can take the pressure. As for the excitement, I am excited about the progress of this important Bill, and with that in mind, I urge hon. Members to support the motion.

8.13 pm

Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op): It has been a pleasure to watch the debate for the past few minutes. Watching Members on the Government Benches has been a bit like watching one’s mum and dad arguing.

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I want to say a few words about the Bill, and about why we will be supporting the money resolution this evening. I am grateful to the Minister for outlining the financial implications of the Bill. The Labour party stands for a just society not only within our own borders but across a just world. More Labour MPs than any others voted for the Bill on Second Reading. The rights and benefits that we have established for people in the UK derive not from those people’s nationality but from their humanity. We must do all that we can to establish those same rights and benefits for the rest of the world’s people.

Mrs Main: I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept the words of the previous Minister of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Sir Alan Duncan), who said:

“it would be fruitless for us to invest in aid to relieve the plight of the poor in the short term if we did not seek to bring about lasting change.”

He went on to emphasise the importance of tackling corruption. Given that so many aid programmes are showing as either amber/red or red, it is important that we ensure that taxpayers’ money goes to the needy and not to the greedy.

Gavin Shuker: It is hugely important to ensure that aid gets to the right people. Indeed, the reports to which the hon. Lady referred in an earlier intervention make it clear that those who lose out the most are the poorest people in the poorest parts of the world where there is the most corruption. It is up to the Government to defend those people. I want to be generous and say that this challenge is faced by all developed nations when rolling out their aid programmes. I also agree with the hon. Lady about spending the money effectively, which is why I believe we can do much more to make the Department for International Development a real force for good in the world in relation to global institutional reform. It should not simply be the charitable arm of the UK Government. That should be our focus as we take the Bill through Parliament.

We live in a global community, yet every 10 seconds a child dies from hunger and malnutrition. A population more than three times the size of Birmingham dies each year from water-related diseases, and 1 million children die on their first and only day of life.

Richard Fuller: The hon. Gentleman just mentioned the charitable arm of the Government. Will he explain how that is different from the charitable feelings that we have as individuals?

Gavin Shuker: The hon. Gentleman has set me up nicely to explain the dualism involved. There is a belief among those who have latterly signed up to the cause that we have a responsibility to spend a significant proportion of our GDP on aid, but that that action represents the end of the process. They believe, for example, that we are getting value for money by buying a certain number of mosquito nets or toilets, or by digging a certain number of wells. In fact, we have to tackle the institutions that reinforce inequality in the first place. We should not therefore view DFID as the charitable arm of the UK Government; quite the opposite—it needs to be a force for transformation.

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Stephen Doughty: My hon. Friend is making an extremely strong point. The British people are donating extraordinarily generously at the moment through the Disasters Emergency Committee’s appeal to tackle the spread of Ebola in west Africa, yet Conservative Members are chuntering in their seats and attempting to frustrate the Bill at this crucial time. The House has expressed its will to support countries such as Sierra Leone in developing strong health systems that would prevent outbreaks of diseases like Ebola in the first place.

Gavin Shuker: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. I commend the Government for the work they are doing in Africa to tackle Ebola. We should be proud that this country is stepping up to the plate while other nations could do much more. However, it is institutional issues such as a lack of universal health care coverage—which we might have an opportunity to do something about in the post-2015 discussions—that will decide the fate of people in future outbreaks. We should not lose sight of that fact.

Philip Davies: The hon. Gentleman said earlier that we should not be judged solely on how much we are spending, and I agree with that wholeheartedly. However, this Bill is precisely about being judged on how much we spend. It does not do any of the other things that he thinks worth while. Does he therefore agree that we should ensure that the money we are already spending is spent properly before we consider increasing it, rather than doing what the Bill seeks to do, which is to increase it first then come back later to see whether it has been spent properly?

Gavin Shuker: It is clear that we need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. I do not view it as inconsistent to raise our budget over the coming years in line with a set figure that we have been signed up to for a long time, at the same time as tackling corruption. That policy will form a safeguard for future generations, which is why it has cross-party support.

Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con): The hon. Gentleman makes his case with his customary passion and commitment to the cause. The Minister explained that we needed to agree to the motion in order to put the Bill into Committee so that we can then take out clause 5, which makes the motion necessary. If that is the case, what will the Opposition do in relation to clause 5?

Gavin Shuker: Those discussions are going on between the right hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Michael Moore) and the Government at the moment. It will ultimately be a matter for the Committee to decide, but we are certainly open to any measures that would ensure that the Bill reached the statute book in good time. This should be agreed on a cross-party basis, and I believe that we would all be in a much stronger position if we went into the next election with this legislation in place.

Mrs Main: The hon. Gentleman mentioned Africa. One of the commissioners of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, Diana Good, who oversaw its work there, said:

“We had a number of grave concerns, from the £67 million unused money and misreporting to excessive expenses, against the

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background of a programme which was regarded as a flagship but failed properly to take into account the impact on the poor. DFID just relied on the assumption that the poor would benefit”.

We owe it to the British taxpayer to ensure that the poor are helped, not just to assume that they are being helped.

Gavin Shuker: We absolutely do. The hon. Lady makes an extremely good case for additional scrutiny. The Opposition hope that we do scrutinise the Department for International Development effectively. I simply point out that as we discuss this money resolution for a Bill about the total size of the envelope, we must not lose our sense of momentum in holding the Government to account. However, I say to the hon. Lady that those are slightly separate issues, and it would be good for the House if we made progress on the resolution.

Mr Bone: The shadow Minister is being very generous in giving way, and I have a high regard for him. He has talked a lot about the issues in the Bill, but we are discussing the money resolution. Does he agree that the tradition in this House is that if a private Member gets a Second Reading, which is difficult to do, a money resolution ought to be forthcoming so that the Bill can be discussed in Committee?

Gavin Shuker: I note that the hon. Gentleman has had considerably more time in the House than my good self—I believe he first sat on the green Benches in 2005, making quite an impact ever since—so I shall leave it to him to follow up that point with Ministers. It is true that we are committed to the Bill, and it is clear that we support the money resolution tonight.

The resolution focuses on money, not just integrity. It is therefore appropriate for us to reflect on the benefits that stem from our being a world leader in international development. Globally, we can see the true impact of poverty and the lack of opportunities, and how inequality and poor governance fuel extremism and hate. If we want the situation to change permanently, the only long-term solution is to invest in development.

Philip Davies: The money resolution states that it will

“authorise any expenditure incurred under or by virtue of the Act by a Minister of the Crown or government department.”

How much money is the hon. Gentleman prepared to throw at it? The resolution says “any”, so how much money is he prepared to hand over?

Gavin Shuker: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will know, from his preparations for what I hope will be an entertaining speech, that the wording is fairly standard for a money resolution.

Our total spend is currently about 0.7% of GDP, and that will obviously be enforced by the Bill. Forgive me for saying that the general public may be misled—though certainly not by Members of this House—to believe that the amount we are spending is much greater. When asked, they said that on average 19% of our GDP is sent overseas, and when asked how much they thought should be sent overseas, they aimed for about 1.5%, so I am perfectly content with 0.7% to protect the poorest in the world’s community.

Sir Edward Leigh: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

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Gavin Shuker: I will, but I do so for the last time.

Sir Edward Leigh: To get back to the money resolution and the very important constitutional point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), does the Labour party think it is right and proper for the Government to expedite a money resolution for one private Member’s Bill—this Bill—but not for the European Union (Referendum) Bill, which many of us view as equally important?

Gavin Shuker: The vagaries of coalition politics are new to us all, including Opposition Members.

Mr Tom Clarke: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Given that we are debating a money resolution for the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill, is it in order to expand the debate to deal with matters European?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Dawn Primarolo): I would say to the right hon. Gentleman, as I have already told the House, that this is not a general debate on the policy of money resolutions; it is specific to the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill. Members have referred to others in passing, but they are not the subject of this debate. We are using up time in a time-limited debate. I am therefore sure that Members will stay in order, and I will certainly keep them in order by not allowing them to expand the debate to any other Bill.

Gavin Shuker: The Bill will be truly memorable, given the recent interventions.

The challenges we face are often global, and they require global leadership. It is clear that if we want to achieve a post-aid world, the 0.7% target must be met. That will require consistent leadership by developed nations; and passing the Bill, for which tonight’s money resolution is obviously needed, can only enhance the opportunity to encourage other developed nations that have made commitments to step up to the mark.

Money is only a small part of the story, because global leadership is also needed. That is why we will guard against DFID becoming the charitable arm of the UK Government when it can be an instrument for global development and change. It is true that the 0.7% target is enough to provide the most effective anti-malarial vaccine to every child in need, send 50 million children to school and provide sanitation for nearly everyone who needs it, but development is about much more than a single vaccine, sending one child to school or punching a hole in the ground. It is about providing a platform for empowerment and self-sustainability that will end the need for aid in our lifetime. I think that I speak for Members from across the House when I say that that should be our aim. We may disagree on the route to achieving it, but Opposition Members believe that passing the money resolution is a serious step forward, and we are backing it and the Bill.

8.26 pm

Michael Moore (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) (LD): It will not surprise the House to hear that I support the money resolution. I am delighted that the

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Government have introduced it, and I am grateful to them for it. I welcome the speeches made from both Front Benches—

Philip Davies: And Back Benches.

Michael Moore: And especially from the Back Benches. They have helped to shine a light on some of the issues involved in the Bill. I am not too hopeful about reaching agreement on them during the remaining stages of the Bill, but I hope we might do so.

On 12 September, we had a very striking result—whether it involved the whole House or otherwise—with 164 right hon. and hon. Members in favour of the Bill and only six opposed to it. That demonstrated that there was broad support across the parties for the idea of putting the United Nations target for official development assistance at 0.7% of gross national income into law.

During that debate, many interventions and the speech of the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) opposed the principle of the Bill and raised concerns—such concerns have been raised again this evening—about how official development assistance is spent, whether it comes from UK taxpayers or from others across the world. I expect and hope, assuming that we have a money resolution and can go into Committee tomorrow, that the hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth) will make many of those points and ensure that the Bill is thoroughly scrutinised in Committee.

Mr Bone: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the progress he has managed to make with his Bill. Does he agree that, given the majority he achieved, it would have been absolutely outrageous if a money resolution for his Bill had not been brought forward?

Michael Moore: I can see where the hon. Gentleman is going with his intervention, but may I just say that decisions about other Bills, to which he may or may not be alluding, are way beyond my pay grade? Selfishly, as far as my Bill is concerned, I quite agree with him.

I welcome the fact that the efficiency and effectiveness of our official development assistance spending was a central feature of the debate a few weeks ago, as was entirely right. As currently constructed, the Bill includes a proposal, in clause 5 and the schedule, to introduce an independent international development office. The money resolution is required because of that provision, and it is fair to say that the specifics of the proposal have led to some discussion between the Minister, the Department and others who are interested in this matter.

Philip Davies: Given that the office is the right hon. Gentleman’s initiative and that the money resolution is specifically about it, how much does he have in mind for its cost?

Michael Moore: As little as possible, and that is the key to this whole process and to the discussions between the Government and me. Those discussions will be developed further in Committee if that is the will of the House. Specifically, we are talking about not only the principle of spending this degree of taxpayers’ money on official development assistance but appropriate scrutiny. I have listened carefully to the Government’s concerns, and I hope that we can find something that respects the principle, but does not burden the taxpayer with the undue costs of the machinery of government.

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Philip Davies: Let me try again. If the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to put a figure on the cost, will he at least give us a cap, or is he asking us to write a blank cheque for his Bill?

Michael Moore: I am not asking for a blank cheque. I certainly accept that this House needs to take a view, in due course, on how much should be spent. [Interruption.] That will be a matter on which the House can reflect on Report and beyond. The important principle of scrutiny is one on which Government Ministers, shadow Ministers and others agree. I hope that it will not be difficult to come to an agreement in Committee that will respect the principle of scrutiny.

We have a huge responsibility to the developing world to ensure that we help them out of poverty and into a much more hopeful future. We also have a responsibility to taxpayers in this country to ensure that the effectiveness and efficiency of that development assistance is appropriate and that this House is scrutinising it. I hope that we will be able to deliver that in Committee and when we report to the House in due course.

8.31 pm

Mr Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab): I did not expect to speak in this debate. To be honest, I did not expect the debate to go on for this long. During my time in the House, I have managed, as a result of coming high in the ballot for private Members’ Bills, to have the privilege—I am trying to keep in order, Madam Deputy Speaker—of introducing what are now two Acts of Parliament: the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986 and the International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Act 2006.

Getting a private Member’s Bill through the House is no easy achievement, and I was able to do it thanks to wonderful support. There is also the challenge of getting enough Members here on a Friday—something that ought to change—so when we address the specific issue before the House tonight, let it be remembered that many, many Members turned up on a Friday to give their overwhelming support to this Bill.

Having referred to the two Acts with which I was associated, let me ask this: was it unusual for a money resolution of this kind to be introduced? No, it was not. When the first Act on disability went through the House, the Prime Minister was Mrs Thatcher. Mrs Thatcher was no spendthrift, but she was very obliging. Her Government introduced a similar money resolution.

Sir Edward Leigh: The right hon. Gentleman is a very valued and experienced Member of this House and a real parliamentarian, so will he confirm my understanding that it is absolutely unprecedented for a Government deliberately to block a money resolution for a private Member’s Bill? Therefore, really we are talking about double standards, and that is not fair to Back Benchers.

Mr Clarke: I seek to support the money resolution before the House. That is where I stand. As the Minister has said, it is not a great request; it is almost an administrative matter. We do not even know at this stage—it is subject to the discussions in Committee—whether the clause the resolution covers will be agreed between the right hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh

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and Selkirk (Michael Moore) and the Government. But are we so mean that we will not even allow discussions to take place? The raison d’être for supporting my International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Act 2006 was that we wanted to see more scrutiny. We did not want taxpayers’ money simply being thrown away. We wanted to address the very serious problems of world poverty, which this Bill does.

Stephen Doughty: My right hon. Friend is making some powerful points. Does he not agree that both the previous Government and the current one have seen tackling corruption and ensuring that effective aid is spent well as absolute priorities? The Department for International Development is regarded as one of the most successful Departments delivering development assistance globally. The very fact that some Government Members can cite concerns about some of the programmes is a testament to the fact that we are open and transparent and open to auditing, and that should be celebrated.

Mr Clarke: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. What this Bill seeks to do is build on the Act that I introduced. In reality, Members who introduce private Members’ Bills can only go as far as the Government of the day are prepared to go. I know that the right hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk will have been involved in all sorts of discussions with Ministers, and I know that that will continue. The Committee, which meets tomorrow, has a say in the matter as well. To give the Committee scope to deal with the principles that the House endorsed on Second Reading, the Minister has rightly judged that there is a requirement for this measure. Some people are extremely mean-minded; perhaps it is because they are opposed to the principle of 0.7%. I say to them with respect that the House has already decided on that matter, and it had the right to decide because each of the three major parties had that commitment in their manifestos.

Sir Edward Leigh: What we are saying is that the Government have to be consistent. If they are pushing this money resolution on the basis of a Back Bencher’s Bill passed by Back Benchers and the Government, then they cannot block another money resolution on another Bill. That is all we are saying. It is totally inconsistent and an attack on the rights of Back Benchers.

Mr Clarke: To be perfectly frank, I will not be drawn into the arguments about another Bill. I came to the House tonight to support the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill money resolution. If there is a debate on other matters, then let that take place. The right hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk has made his case. I am appalled that we are having this discussion. Given that the principle has been decided, the major political parties have made their commitments and there was such a high level of support on a Friday for this Bill, this administrative necessity should be put before the House and approved. I might get even more angry if I say any more, so I will not. The case is made. I invite the House to do the decent thing and pass the money resolution.

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8.37 pm

Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) (Con): I will be brief because I know that there are other colleagues who wish to speak. We would be doing a disservice to the House and to members of the public if we did not point out that there are some serious concerns about the way that aid is used. We are not expecting people not to want to help the poor; we want to help the poor. I went through all the reports today, and I am sorry to say that, under the transparency of assessment of the programmes, so many of the programmes are failing to deliver aid because of problems with corruption and problems in those countries. Today, we owe it to people to scrutinise what is being spent on behalf of the British public.

Stephen Doughty rose—

Mrs Main: I am sorry but I will not give way, because the next speaker will be an Opposition Member and so many Government Members wish to speak.

On the work just in southern Africa, ICAI has said:

“The shortcomings that we saw in the programme and its serious deficiencies in governance; financial management; procurement; value for money; transparency of spending; delivery and impact, as well as its failure to use DFID’s body of knowledge in trade and poverty, have led to a marking of Red for the programme.”

The public expect us to be helping the poor and needy; they do not expect this. If Opposition Members have not been through the aid programmes, I would ask them to do so, because there are serious concerns about people lining their pockets and corruption. It is very difficult to get this sorted. Unfortunately, some of the reforms are not being put in place in some of the other countries. I suggest that before we start throwing more money at the problem, we help DFID by scrutinising these aid projects, and ensuring that the money we currently spend is well spent and getting to where it is supposed to go. I am pleased that DFID has dropped the innovative side of trying to find things to throw money at, because, unfortunately, “innovative” was not always in the best interests of the poor.

Philip Davies: Is it not worse than that, because the money resolution we are discussing is not about giving any more money to anybody in need or in any overseas development—it is about creating a whole new organisation of bureaucrats? That is what we are being asked to pass; it does not give any help to anybody in need.

Mrs Main: My hon. Friend is absolutely right about that. The report published on 31 October says:

DFID has not…developed an approach equal to the challenge, nor has it focussed its efforts sufficiently on the poor. While some programmes show limited achievements, there is little evidence of impact on corruption levels or in meeting the particular needs of the poor.”

Surely that is what all of us are interested in, rather than just throwing money at the matter. I will bring my remarks to a close, but I caution against rushing this through before we tackle the fact that we are not delivering money to the poor.

8.40 pm

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): I rise to support the money resolution and the case made by the Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Luton South (Gavin Shuker) and my right hon.

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Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke). I am disappointed listening to Conservative Back Benchers, because it seems that they are attempting to undermine the clearly expressed will in this House in a vote on a Friday and to use this debate to pursue other agendas. That is disappointing because DFID helps some of the poorest people in the world, who are suffering from diseases such as Ebola and so on


The hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) is waving her report at me. I have read many reports about DFID’s effectiveness over the years, and the fact that those reports are available, that they are read by Ministers and by the Opposition and that questions are asked is testament to DFID’s openness and transparency in its programme. It is very misleading to quote selectively from those reports and not refer to the vast majority of DFID’s programmes, which are extremely effective in delivering poverty eradication and tackling some of the big challenges in our world.

Philip Davies: The hon. Gentleman seems to be missing the point of the money resolution: the Government are already spending the amount of money that he wants spent on overseas aid. That is not at issue here; we are being asked to sign a blank cheque to create a new bureaucracy and organisation which does not give any money to poor people around the world.

Stephen Doughty: It is more bluff and bluster from the hon. Gentleman: the type of rhetoric about blank cheques and throwing money at problems. If that is the view, would these Conservative Members say we should not be supporting the efforts against Ebola in west Africa, or we should not be helping to immunise children across the world, to educate people or to strengthen the Governments who need to be in place and to be strong to tackle the very corruption these Members are talking about?

Mr Bone: The hon. Gentleman is making a powerful speech, but it is more like one for a Second Reading debate. The issue we are dealing with today is a money resolution. If the will of this House was expressed by 283 votes to nil, for example, would it not be right for the Government to introduce the money resolution measure? Is that not the approach that has been taken in this House in years gone by?

Stephen Doughty: You have given a clear direction already, Madam Deputy Speaker, that Members should not be drawn down other routes about other money resolutions. We are talking about the money resolution for the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill, which was passed by a clear will of this House. I am extremely disappointed that some Conservative Members are attempting to frustrate that, insert other agendas and rhetoric, and create a misleading impression of a Department that is regarded—and has been, whichever party has been running it—as one of the leading Departments in the world for tackling poverty.

Corruption has been spoken about a lot, but both the previous Government and this one have spent significant time on strengthening anti-corruption activities. By ensuring development, growth and strong Governments, we create a virtuous circle that tackles the very corruption and problems these Conservative Members seem so exercised about. It is a shame they do not often turn up for more debates on international development to talk about

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some of these issues and engage constructively on them, rather than trying to bring in other agendas. As I said, we can look at plenty of reports about DFID. It would be misleading to suggest there is no corruption in the world—of course there is. Of course there are challenges in programmes and programmes that can be dealt with more effectively, but we ought to be proud of the fact that we have the systems in place to establish that, instead of suggesting that the whole development programme is a huge mess and none of it is making any difference—that is patently not the case. I want to stand firmly in support of this money resolution and stand against the nonsense, bluff and bluster we have been hearing from some Conservative Members.

8.44 pm

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I think that there is a lot of misunderstanding tonight. We seem to be hearing arguments for and against 0.7%—I happen to think that it is a bad idea—but that is not what we are discussing; we are discussing a specific money resolution. Nobody outside will understand the importance of what is happening here, which relates to the conventions of Parliament and the way that Parliament works.

The Bill should clearly have a money resolution, as should all private Members’ Bills that pass through this House—[Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) makes a good point, so I will correct that statement. In my view, there should be a debate on a money resolution for private Members’ Bills that receive a Second Reading. That is what we have tonight, and that is right. That does not mean that we have to vote for the money, but we have to be able to discuss it.

What people are up in arms about tonight is the fact that for a previous Bill that received a Second Reading the Government did not move a money resolution. When the House votes by 283 to zero, one might think that is a pretty clear indication of what it thinks. What we are saying is that if we let this procedure carry on unchallenged—

8.46 pm

Three quarters of an hour having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings on the motion, the Deputy Speaker put the Question (Standing Order No. 52(1)(b)).

The House divided:

Ayes 295, Noes 7.

Division No. 66]


8.46 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Baker, Steve

Baldry, rh Sir Tony

Banks, Gordon

Barwell, Gavin

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benn, rh Hilary

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Betts, Mr Clive

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman, Bob

Blears, rh Hazel

Blenkinsop, Tom

Boles, Nick

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, rh Annette

Brown, Mr Russell

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Sir Malcolm

Bryant, Chris

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, rh Paul

Burt, rh Alistair

Burt, Lorely

Cable, rh Vince

Cairns, Alun

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Chishti, Rehman

Clark, rh Greg

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Creasy, Stella

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

Davey, rh Mr Edward

David, Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Docherty, Thomas

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doughty, Stephen

Doyle, Gemma

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Dunne, Mr Philip

Durkan, Mark

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Farrelly, Paul

Farron, Tim

Featherstone, rh Lynne

Field, Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Gale, Sir Roger

Gapes, Mike

Garnier, Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Gilmore, Sheila

Glen, John

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hague, rh Mr William

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hamilton, Mr David

Hammond, Stephen

Hands, rh Greg

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harper, Mr Mark

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Heald, Sir Oliver

Healey, rh John

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Herbert, rh Nick

Hermon, Lady

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Hosie, Stewart

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hughes, rh Simon

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Hunter, Mark

Huppert, Dr Julian

Irranca-Davies, Huw

James, Margot

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Jenrick, Robert

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Graham

Jones, Mr Marcus

Jones, Susan Elan

Kawczynski, Daniel

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Lavery, Ian

Laws, rh Mr David

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Lewis, Brandon

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Long, Naomi

Lopresti, Jack

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

Maynard, Paul

McCabe, Steve

McCarthy, Kerry

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McDonnell, John

McInnes, Liz

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McKechin, Ann

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, Andrew

Miller, rh Maria

Milton, Anne

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morden, Jessica

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Ian

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Onwurah, Chi

Opperman, Guy

Owen, Albert

Paice, rh Sir James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, rh Mike

Penrose, John

Perkins, Toby

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Phillipson, Bridget

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Reid, Mr Alan

Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Robertson, rh Sir Hugh

Robertson, John

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rosindell, Andrew

Russell, Sir Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Sharma, Alok

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Simmonds, Mark

Skidmore, Chris

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Smith, Henry

Soubry, Anna

Spellar, rh Mr John

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, rh Sir Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Syms, Mr Robert

Tami, Mark

Teather, Sarah

Thurso, rh John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Truss, rh Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Twigg, Derek

Uppal, Paul

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Wallace, Mr Ben

Ward, Mr David

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, rh Steve

Weir, Mr Mike

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whittaker, Craig

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Wilson, Phil

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wright, David

Wright, rh Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Harriett Baldwin


Jenny Willott


Davies, Philip

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Jackson, Mr Stewart

Leigh, Sir Edward

Mills, Nigel

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Dr Matthew

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr Peter Bone


Mr Philip Hollobone

Question accordingly agreed to.

3 Nov 2014 : Column 625

3 Nov 2014 : Column 626

3 Nov 2014 : Column 627

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

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


That the draft Broadcasting (Independent Productions) (Amendment) Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 21 July, be approved.—(Mark Lancaster.)

Question agreed to.



That on Tuesday 11 November, notwithstanding the provisions of any existing Standing Order of this House–

(1) the House shall sit at twelve noon;

(2) the moment of interruption shall be half past seven o’clock;

(3) the sitting in Westminster Hall shall begin at half past two o’clock and may continue for up to two and a half hours, excluding any period during which the sitting may be suspended owing to a division being called in the House or a committee of the whole House; and

(4) the proviso to paragraph (1)(c) of Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business) shall have effect as if instead of the reference to eight o’clock on Tuesday there stood a reference to half past eight o’clock.—(Mark Lancaster.)

Question agreed to.


Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Dawn Primarolo): With the leave of the House, we will take motions 6, 7 and 8 together.

3 Nov 2014 : Column 628



That Mr Julian Brazier and Mr Adam Holloway be discharged from the Defence Committee and Richard Benyon and Dr Julian Lewis be added.

Home Affairs


That Tim Loughton be a member of the Home Affairs Committee.

Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments


That Mr Andrew Robathan be a member of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.—(Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.)


Acocks Green Post Office (Birmingham)

8.59 pm

John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): The petition is from 573 residents of Acocks Green.

The petition states:

The Petition of residents of Acocks Green and customers of the Post Office in Acocks Green and others,

Declares that the Petitioners oppose the proposed move of Acocks Green’s Post Office branch from 1100 Warwick Road to 1131 Warwick Road; further that the proposed new location has fewer serving hatches, a significantly narrower pavement and, unlike the current location, no canopy above the pavement for when customers have to queue; and further that the Petitioners are concerned about the viability of the new host company and its store, and therefore the long term security of the branch.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to listen to calls for the Post Office to reject the current proposals for the movement of the Acocks Green Post Office and seek alternative, more appropriate proposals.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


3 Nov 2014 : Column 629

Blackpool Airport

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

9.1 pm

Mark Menzies (Fylde) (Con): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to hold this Adjournment debate on the future of Blackpool airport, which is an extremely important issue facing my constituency and the Fylde coast. I know that all matters relating to the prosperity of Lancashire are of great interest to you, so it is a great pleasure to see you in the Chair this evening.

Blackpool’s first venture into aviation came more than a century ago, back in 1909, after which the airfield went on to play an important role in the UK’s early aviation history. In fact, the sister of aviation pioneer Amy Johnson lived in Stanley park in Blackpool, which resulted in her often paying a flying visit. It was in the 1930s that commercial flights first began operating from Blackpool, but following the outbreak of the second world war the airfield played a crucial role in the support of the Royal Air Force.

In the post-war years, the airport expanded rapidly, accommodating helicopter flights for gas rig workers and attracting scheduled flights from budget airlines, including Jet2.com, Monarch, Ryanair and smaller operators to Ireland and the Isle of Man.

Hon. Members may know that the airport was owned by Blackpool council until 2004, when it was sold to City Hopper Airports. During this time the airport grew rapidly, with passenger numbers rising from 266,000 in 2004 to more than 560,000 in 2007. In 2008, Balfour Beatty bought a 95% stake in the airport from City Hopper and gave a firm commitment to develop the airport as a commercial going concern.

The ensuing global position, however, saw most airports across the world experience a fall in passenger numbers. This saw Blackpool airport’s passenger numbers decline from just under 600,000 in 2007 to 262,000 last year. During that time the airport lost a number of flights from carriers such as Ryanair, with subsequent financial losses averaging approximately £2 million a year.

Blackpool airport has the ability to operate with extended flight times. During that period of downturn, the main passenger contract with Jet2.com required the airport to remain open for long hours and provide a certain level of safety and operational staff cover. The consequence was that the operational costs of the airport were in excess of £5 million a year, with little chance of recovering that sum from the number of passengers being put through the airport by Jet2.com.

Due to the significant losses being generated at the airport and the complications with the Jet2.com contract, Balfour Beatty announced in August 2014 that it had put the airport up for sale. Following a failure to find a buyer, it was announced that the airport would close on 15 October.

Many of my constituents have expressed to me their concerns that the airport’s closure seemed to proceed at breakneck speed, with insufficient time allowed to find suitable buyers. Although many of us in this House would have liked to see this situation handled differently, I want to concentrate on the next steps to secure the future of Blackpool airport.

3 Nov 2014 : Column 630

Since the airport was put up for sale, I have been in regular contact with Mr Stewart Orrell, the managing director of infrastructure and investments for Balfour Beatty. In our meetings, I have impressed upon him the need for Balfour Beatty to work constructively to find a suitable buyer for the airport and to ensure that staff who have lost their jobs in the process receive the required support to find alternative work in the meantime.

I have also had conversations with potential buyers and investors, my fellow Fylde coast MPs, the Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, and the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill), who is in his place, to discuss ways to make the airport a more viable business.

I want to see what Government assistance might be on offer for those who wish to become involved in the airport’s future. I wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Transport outlining a range of potential measures to save the airport, including a possible reduction in air passenger duty for regional airports. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard) and I had a subsequent meeting with the Chancellor, at which we continued our discussions about the airport. The Chancellor listened intently to the points that we made and made clear his commitment to the Fylde coast. He said that he would work with me and my colleagues to find a solution that would increase the likelihood of aviation being retained on the Blackpool airport site.

In recent months, the Chancellor has outlined his vision for a northern powerhouse. If done correctly, that has the potential to make the north of England the engine that drives Britain’s economy once again and an area that competes not just with London, but with the great economic conurbations of Europe. For that to be achieved, connectivity and transport infrastructure will be crucial. Good transport links are at the heart of the proposed northern powerhouse. Although there has been much talk of HS3 and proposed road infrastructure improvements, viable regional airports will also have a vital role to play. It is for that reason that I feel passionately that Blackpool airport should be retained as a commercial airport. With the correct support from Government, it will remain a transport infrastructure asset for Lancashire and the north-west.

In order that that can happen, I have a number of requests to put to the Minister. While some of them will fall within his remit, others may fall within the portfolios of other Ministers. First, I appeal to those who are interested in operating a commercial airport to work with the liquidators, Zolfo Cooper, to ensure that the necessary equipment is retained on site so that the airport can continue to operate. That would include, for example, baggage-handling equipment, firefighting equipment and assets relating to air traffic control. When I spoke to Zolfo Cooper today, it informed me that it will be between six and eight weeks before a liquidation sale will proceed. It is important that interested parties contact the liquidators well before that deadline.

I have made it clear that I do not want Blackpool airport to go the same way as Manston airport in Kent, where there was a fire sale of assets that put the immediate future of the airport in doubt. May I take this opportunity to urge Blackpool Airport Properties Ltd, which is owned by Balfour Beatty, to give assurances that it will

3 Nov 2014 : Column 631

maintain the runway, taxiways and terminal buildings until an operator is found? I ask the Minister to work with colleagues across Government, in particular at the Home Office, to ensure that equipment relating to airport security and customs and immigration procedures is available to future operators as soon as they come forward.

A number of aviation businesses, such as flying schools, private jet service companies and helicopter operators, are currently working from the site and are facing uncertainty. It is crucial for the immediate future of the airport that those aviation businesses are retained. One of the largest operators is Bond Offshore Helicopters, which provides logistical support and personnel transport for the Morecombe bay and Irish sea gas rigs. I have been informed that it is temporarily operating out of BAE Systems’ Warton aerodrome, which is also in my constituency, while the future of Blackpool airport is decided. I understand that that is for a three-month period. I would not wish to see it go on any longer than that. I will speak to Bond Offshore Helicopters and BAE Systems to make my feelings clear: the company must remain at Blackpool airport.

Blackpool airport may be eligible to benefit from the regional airport connectivity fund. I would very much like the Government to offer that, should a suitable airline come forward to provide such a service to London.

Another source of Government assistance that I would like Ministers to explore is whether Blackpool airport could be considered for development capital through the regional growth fund. I believe that airport runways are strategic national assets that can only grow in importance, and they should be protected and supported by the Government to ensure their future viability.

Blackpool airport is about 400 acres, and I have been told that a viable airport business on that site would require only 220 acres to maintain an airport service. That leaves well over 100 acres that may be suitable for commercial development, and if done in a carefully planned way that would not only raise capital for the airport’s development, but it may also attract new businesses that seek to use the runway and hangerage facilities. Down the road in Warton we have an enterprise zone that sits adjacent to a runway and has been zoned for aviation, energy, and advanced manufacturing. May I suggest to the Government that the Warton enterprise zone be expanded to include excess Blackpool airport land that may be deemed suitable for commercial development?

Let me make it crystal clear, however, that if any developer is seeking to buy the airport, viewing it as a glorified brownfield site, simply to redevelop the land in its entirety for housing, retail or commercial use, I would find that completely unacceptable and fight it every step of the way. Such an act would be tantamount to economic vandalism, and would betray the hopes of local people and those across Lancashire who have supported the airport through thick and thin. To those developers thinking of going down that path, I say, “Don’t bother, and think again.”

Although the airport may be closed for now, I remain determined to work for its future and to keep the airfield working as it is a proud part of the Lancashire and Fylde economy. I feel the airport has the ability to be a successful commercial venture, and with the correct support and as Member of Parliament for Fylde, I will work with interested parties, including Blackpool and

3 Nov 2014 : Column 632

Fylde councils, the Lancashire enterprise partnership and any potential investors, to secure its future. I believe in Blackpool airport, and I ask us all to work together to secure its future because Lancashire deserves it.

9.11 pm

Mr Gordon Marsden (Blackpool South) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for Fylde (Mark Menzies), my constituency neighbour, on securing this debate and on giving an excellent speech that summed up most, if not all, of the very strong arguments for why Blackpool should retain its airport in an operational state. He was right to draw attention to Blackpool airport’s long history and tradition, which goes back to 1909, as well as to its contribution during the second world war as the place where thousands of aircraft pilots were trained.

Today we must realise that the airport is of benefit not only to the people of Blackpool and the Fylde, or even to the tens of thousands of passengers who have used it every year for leisure and indeed business travel, and who now find themselves bereft of that opportunity because of what is—we hope—its temporary closure. The airport has the economic potential to be a crucial part of not only the sub-economy in the Fylde area but the economy of the whole of Lancashire, and I want to say a little more on that point.

The hon. Gentleman, quite rightly, referred to operations out of the airport, and at the time of closure the airport site was supporting 11 tenants, with important small businesses employing up to 200 people. That made up about a £20 million contribution to the sub-regional gross value added, and included, as the hon. Gentleman said, commercial passengers, offshore helicopters, general and corporate aviation, fuel sales and estates and commercial land development. Whatever problems there may have been, and whatever the disputes between Balfour Beatty—the owner of the airport—and Jet2.com, we must not lose sight of the fact that the businesses that were operating there were doing so in an expanding economic climate. We need only to look at the map of Liverpool bay—as I have done when wearing my hat as shadow maritime Minister—and at the sheer amount of activity going on to see that, so we must take that point into account. There are strong arguments and feelings among my constituents in Blackpool, not simply because of passenger usage or the airport’s heritage, but because of its economic value.

The issues raised in the debate are crucial. As the Minister knows, there are general problems with smaller airports in the regions. I will not stray from the topic of the debate, but I wrote to the Minister about the regional air connectivity fund. I was grateful for his positive response. As the hon. Member for Fylde has said, the Minister indicated that if new people come in with new flights, Blackpool could bid. However, it is not only a question of the air connectivity fund. It is also a question of what enabling mechanisms there might be for any new bidders to come in and take the airport on. The role of Lancashire enterprise partnership is potentially crucial in that, which is why I am glad that it is seriously considering what it can do with the support of the Fylde coast MPs to get that side of things moving.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the situation for anyone who wants to use the land for building or retail purposes. I entirely concur with his sentiments but,

3 Nov 2014 : Column 633

more importantly, so do the two councils—two thirds of the airport is in Fylde and the other is in my constituency, but Blackpool airport retains residual shares. I am glad that both councils have so far indicated that they would set their face against that form of development.

I shall conclude on one important point that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. There are bidders and potential discussions, but as you well know, Mr Deputy Speaker, it is one thing to have bidders and another to close the deal. One thing that might be needed to close the deal is the reuse and remodelling of that extra acreage to which the hon. Gentleman referred. Therefore, I would say both to him—I am sure he would agree—and to the Minister that that could be a crucial enabling facility for getting those potential bidders to sign up to the deal. I therefore ask the Minister to give an assurance that he will discuss the matter with the Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, or at least send the message to him.

Hon. Members are pulling together with Blackpool council and Fylde council. I pay tribute to the work of Blackpool council officers and John Jones, the transport cabinet member. We all want a successful future for Blackpool airport for the sake of the regional economy, and for the people of Blackpool and the Fylde coast, but we need that little bit of extra help and leverage from Ministers and the Government.

9.17 pm

Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mark Menzies) on securing the debate. I endorse everything he and the hon. Member for Blackpool South (Mr Marsden) have said. I will not repeat the points they have made but make one or two small observations.

The position has caused great concern on the Fylde coast for several weeks. It is right and proper that we debate it in the House of Commons. Many people in the aviation sector have told me that they are surprised that Blackpool lasted as long as it did. They say, “It was only the 29th busiest airport in the country. How could it possibly have had a long-term future?” Superficially, their point is attractive, but I should point out to the Blackpool naysayers that there is a profitable coastal airport over in Humberside—it is the 33rd busiest in the country and yet manages to turn a profit.

If we are thinking about the future of Blackpool airport, it is worth looking at what Humberside has achieved on limited means, and at how it has built a profitable business. First and foremost, Humberside has had good, strong growth in charter flights. We recognise that Balfour Beatty and Jet2.com have not had the easiest relationship. I urge Jet2.com to engage more constructively with any potential buyer about their possible future use of Blackpool. Jet2.com needs to show commitment and support to the airport. We should also recognise that many Jet2.com employees have lost their jobs at Blackpool airport as a consequence of the decision. They deserve a voice in the debate.

The hon. Member for Blackpool South (Mr Marsden) rightly pointed to the high degree of activity in the oil and gas sector in Liverpool bay at the moment. It is worth noting that Humberside has a major oil and gas operation that sustains what it is doing.

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The third crucial leg of what makes Humberside profitable is that it is has a connection to Amsterdam. I am quite sure that the Treasury does not want to hear this, but links to Amsterdam are an excellent way for passengers to try to avoid paying air passenger duty. If one looks at passenger usage figures for Humberside, one sees that the flights to Amsterdam contribute the most passengers. It would be an excellent addition to Blackpool’s portfolio of routes if KLM or a similar operator were to introduce an operation to Amsterdam or, for that matter, Frankfurt.

Those three sets of circumstances could together make an airport like Blackpool profitable once again. Many constituents have written to me to say how distressed they are that one of the country’s first airports, with a fine proud heritage, has somehow fallen into obsolescence without anyone really seeming to take much notice, as though there was nothing that could be done. The local MPs here today have at least made the point that there is plenty that can be done, providing there is great optimism. If we can secure this precious enterprise zone, and if the local enterprise partnership steps up to the plate and delivers on its potential in terms of economic regeneration, Blackpool airport will once again reopen and have a profitable mix of routes that will make it sustainable in the long term. I urge all our constituents not to despair at this stage, but to hope that the many potential buyers out there can engage fruitfully with the other airlines and local councils.

9.21 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mark Menzies) on securing this debate on the future of Blackpool airport. I commend him for his engagement with those who have been striving to secure a future for the airport.

In recent years, increasing demand for commercial air travel has heightened the need to improve the capacity and efficiency of UK airports. This is absolutely essential to meet the Government’s commitment to maintain the UK’s aviation hub status. In our aviation policy framework published last year, we recognised the crucial role that regional airports play in providing airport capacity and the vital contribution they can make to the growth of their local economies. Indeed, I like to refer to them as local international airports, rather than just regional airports. The Government are therefore determined that the UK continues to benefit from the services that regional airports offer. We welcome the ambition many of them are showing through investing in their infrastructure, increasing accessibility and facilitating more services to more destinations. I have also been impressed by the efforts many airports are making to diversify into different activities, such as aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul, business aviation and other support services, and providing space for other, non-aviation businesses.

I am aware of Blackpool airport’s proud history, which goes back as far as 1909 when the UK’s first official public flying meeting took place there. In the 1930s, the pioneering Railway Air Services operated commercial schedules to the Isle of Man, Manchester and Liverpool, with connections to other UK destinations including London. As RAF Squires Gate, the aerodrome had an illustrious history. During the second world war it served as a base for operational RAF coastal command squadrons

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patrolling the Irish sea and eastern Atlantic, and for specialist reconnaissance and technical training schools. The Ministry of Aircraft Production set up a huge shadow aircraft factory close to the aerodrome for Vickers Armstrong to manufacture and test more than 3,500 Wellington bombers between 1940 and 1945. Airline services resumed from 1946 and the airport enjoyed relatively steady commercial air operations for many years, allowing a lot of people in the Lancashire area to experience their very first foreign holiday. However, services and passenger numbers declined steadily from the 1970s onwards, as charter operators moved to other, larger airports.

In recent years, Blackpool airport has struggled to attract and retain consistent air passenger services. However, like many other smaller airports, Blackpool airport has more strings to its bow, and also serves as an important base for a number of aviation-related support and maintenance businesses, as well as flying training schools and business and general aviation operators. In fact, Blackpool airport played a role in the 1983 general election campaign, when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was spirited to the Fylde coast via the airport for one of her final election rallies. I was therefore very sorry to learn in August that Blackpool airport’s owner, Balfour Beatty, was putting the airport up for sale and that it would close in mid-October if no buyer came forward. Unfortunately, as we know, no buyer was forthcoming, and the airport’s owner issued a statement on 7 October confirming that the closure would go ahead on 15 October. The final commercial flight departed for the Isle of Man at 5 pm that day.

I fully recognise concerns in the area about the impact that the airport’s closure could have on the local and regional economy, and the reduction in travel choice and opportunity. However, in the first instance this is essentially a commercial matter for the airport’s owner. As hon. Members will understand, airports in the UK and the airlines that use them operate in a competitive, commercial environment. The UK’s aviation sector is overwhelmingly in the private sector, and this Government support competition as an effective way to meet the interests of air passengers and other users. It is for individual airports to take decisions on commercial matters, which will of course include questions of services and future viability. Equally, airlines take similar commercial decisions in regard to the routes that they operate and from which airports. It is not open to the Government to compel airports or airlines to operate services.

I know, however, that my hon. Friend the Member for Fylde and other parliamentary colleagues from the area, from whom we have heard tonight, are involved in ongoing discussions to secure the future of the site and retain an aviation presence there, as well as working with local partners, including Blackpool council, to explore the potential for turning the airport into an enterprise zone. The airport continues to work with general aviation businesses and others based on the airport site to discuss options for them to remain there in the longer term. I warmly commend all those collaborative efforts and very much hope that a resolution can be achieved that will maintain aviation activity at the airport.

Taking a wider view, the Government remain committed to rebalancing the economy and supporting regional development. Hon. Members will know that Lancashire’s local enterprise partnership was successful earlier this

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year in securing over £230 million from the Government’s local growth fund to support economic growth in the area. Let me restate our determination that the UK should continue to benefit from the contribution that regional airports can offer. The Chancellor recently announced that applications will now be allowed for start-up aid for new air routes from UK regional airports. To be eligible, airports must handle fewer than 5 million passengers per annum and meet new European Union state aid guidelines. The Department for Transport is working with the Treasury to determine how the funding process will operate in practice. We hope to be in a position to announce routes that can be funded in the new year.

As hon. Members will also be aware, the independent Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, has been established to identify and recommend options to maintain this country’s status as an international hub for aviation. In preparing its interim report, the commission undertook a detailed assessment of the UK’s future aviation demand and connectivity requirements. The interim report, published last December, details a shortlist of long-term options for further study to increase airport capacity, along with recommendations for the short term to make the best use of our existing infrastructure. The commission also recognised that, in the short and medium term, the Government do not have effective levers to redistribute traffic to less congested airports, even if it were desirable to do so. All the shortlisted long-term options are now the subject of more detailed analysis and consultation by the commission. To protect the integrity of the process, the Government will not comment on any of the shortlisted options.

I was asked a number of questions. First, I was asked what the Government can do to step in and prevent the liquidator from selling off the airport’s fixtures and fittings. I can report that the Insolvency Service has confirmed that Blackpool Airport Ltd entered creditors’ voluntary liquidation proceedings on 7 October and that a liquidator was appointed on 16 October. Matters concerning the disposal of the airport’s assets are for the airport’s owner and the appointed liquidator, and we heard that it would be six to eight weeks before a sale could proceed. The liquidator has a duty to ensure that the maximum levels of realisation from sales of assets are achieved to ensure the best returns to the creditors. In the meantime, there is an important window to explore other aviation-related options.

We heard about other forms of aviation, particularly helicopters. I can comment on the North West Air Ambulance helicopter operations from Blackpool airport. The North West Air Ambulance charity has confirmed that its service will not be affected by the airport’s closure. The charity has confirmed publicly that whatever happens, it has a number of measures in place and that emergency services will not be affected. The airport continues, too, to work with other aviation support businesses and general aviation operators based at the airport site to discuss options for them to operate from the site in the longer term. I know that Bond Offshore Helicopters was mentioned in the debate.

I appreciate that the hon. Member for Blackpool South (Mr Marsden) is the shadow aviation Minister, and I particularly value his contribution through correspondence. He is speaking as a Back Bencher in this debate, but I understand how important this issue is

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for him—not only locally as the local Member of Parliament, but nationally in respect of our overall regional airport policy. When it comes to bidders, it is important to make the best use of all the land on the site and to capitalise on the opportunity. The hon. Gentleman asked me to be a messenger to the Government, but I do not think he needs me to pass on the message, as I am sure his contribution to tonight’s debate will have gone out far and wide to all interested parties.

My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard) rightly drew attention to the fact that passenger numbers, freight numbers and aircraft movements have declined and mentioned the success of Humberside in that regard. Yes, Humberside has opportunities for oil and gas, but one of the biggest problems for Blackpool by comparison with Humberside is that it is not quite so close to an airport that is as strong and competitive. My hon. Friend mentioned the

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fact that a KLM route from Schiphol will benefit to an extent from the distortion of air passenger duty, but I must point out that any questions about APD should properly be directed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is interesting to note that what precipitated the problems at Manston was in many cases due to the fact that the KLM service was withdrawn.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Fylde once again for securing this debate. I underline the fact that the Government are committed to improving the capacity and the efficiency of UK airports to maintain the UK’s aviation hub status. Although fully aware of the importance of regional airports in this, the Government are unable to intervene directly in Blackpool’s case, as it is ultimately the responsibility of the airport’s owner to determine whether or not it is commercially viable.

Question put and agreed to.

9.32 pm

House adjourned.