Ministers repeatedly claim that these problems are nothing to do with them and are simply the result of people living longer. But when our population is ageing, when more people are living with long-term chronic conditions and when the NHS faces the tightest financial settlement of its life, we should not cut the very services that help keep people out of hospital and living at home, which is better for them and better for the

21 Jan 2015 : Column 319

taxpayer. We should not remove the very incentives that improved GP access and close a quarter of walk-in centres, so that more people end up in A and E.

We should not slash social care budgets by £3.5 billion, so that half a million fewer of the most vulnerable older and disabled people cannot get help to get up, washed, dressed and fed. Forty per cent. fewer people get home adaptations such as grab rails, which prevent falls, and 220,000 fewer people get meals on wheels. We should not cut 2,000 district and community nurses, who are essential to helping elderly people get back home from hospital, and prevent people with long-term conditions ending up in hospital in the first place. We should not cut training places, so that hospitals are now spending £2.5 billion on more expensive agency staff and hospitals such as mine in Leicester have had to recruit 260 nurses from Spain and Portugal.

Moreover, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) so powerfully explained, we should not force through the biggest back-room reorganisation in the history of the NHS, wasting £3 billion, distracting the entire system, making thousands of people redundant only to re-employ them elsewhere in the system, and creating even more layers of bureaucracy, so that no one knows who is responsible or accountable for leading the changes that patients need on the ground.

In case the House needs reminding, I should say that the Government have created not only NHS England, alongside Monitor, the Care Quality Commission and the Trust Development Authority, but regional NHS England teams, local area teams and commissioning support units, as well as clinical commissioning groups and health and wellbeing boards. No wonder there is so little leadership in the system.

Labour Members make no apology for holding this Government to account for their record. After all, their Prime Minister promised people that his top priority in government could be summed up in three letters: NHS. I would hate to see what happened in a service he is not so bothered about.

Labour Members know that people want hope—the hope that there is a proper plan to get the NHS back on track. That is exactly what Labour will deliver. We have set out our plans for immediate action to ease the strain on A and Es by making sure that there are enough GPs in emergency departments and enough clinicians on NHS 111; stopping walk-in centres from closing; getting nurses to return to practice; and making sure that councils, the NHS and voluntary organisations identify the older people who are most at risk of going into hospital so that they get the right support to stay at home.

We have also set out a long-term plan for investment and reform so that our care services are fit for the future. We will provide an extra £2.5 billion on top of this Government’s plans to get the GPs, nurses and home care workers we need to transform services in the community and at home.

Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): Despite the £40 million structural deficit and a dodgy PFI deal that the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham)

21 Jan 2015 : Column 320

shackled my local hospital to, in the past four years we have increased the number of nurses by 14% and the number of doctors by 9%. On the subject of apologies, would the hon. Lady like to apologise for her party’s dodgy £63 billion encumbrance of PFI off-balance-sheet deals that have been forced on my constituents and others?

Ian Austin: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it in order for someone who has not been in the debate at all this afternoon to stand up and make these sorts of points during the wind-ups?

Mr Speaker: There is no breach of order; that is a matter of taste and judgment for individual Members.

Liz Kendall: I make no apology for my party’s record on the NHS. When we came into government, people were dying on waiting lists for operations. People could not get to see their GPs, and mental health services had suffered. I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman would be pro reforms that help to keep his elderly constituents at home and oppose the cuts to social care that make that so much more difficult.

We have set out our plans to bring together physical, mental and social care across primary and secondary services in a single service to deliver truly personalised care and support, shift the focus to prevention, and get the best value for taxpayers’ money. We are going to help family carers get the health checks and breaks they need to stop them from reaching crisis point, and give them one point of contact with care services so that they do not have to battle all the different services.

We have a radical programme to improve public health, which is the biggest long-term challenge we face, by helping people to do more to help themselves: setting limits on sugar, salt and fat in food marketed to children; improving food labelling to tackle the impending obesity crisis; and taking tough action on tobacco, which this Government have abjectly failed to do. We have a bold national ambition to transform physical activity in our schools, communities and workplaces. That is what we need to put the NHS on a sustainable track in future by making sure that the health of our population improves.

People want a serious Government who face up to the problems in the NHS, not deny they exist or try to sweep them under the carpet. They want a Government who will deliver the real investment and real reforms we need to make sure that our care services are fit for the future. They want competence, not chaos, and a long-term plan that puts the NHS on the real road to a strong recovery. That is what Labour will deliver. I commend this motion to the House.

6.49 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Norman Lamb): The NHS across the UK, including urgent and emergency care services, is facing enormous challenges. By the end of this Parliament, there will be nearly 1 million more over-65s than there were at its start, which means substantially more patients with more complex health needs, but such pressures are not unique to England. All hon. Members need to think very carefully about how we pursue the debate on the challenges and pressures that the NHS is facing. Patients and the NHS do not need or want cynicism and party point

21 Jan 2015 : Column 321

scoring. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) were absolutely correct to make that point.

Sarah Newton: Does my right hon. Friend agree that the pioneer programme in Cornwall is really leading the way, with the provisional results showing a 41% reduction in A and E and in-patient visits?

Norman Lamb: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. The Cornwall pioneer programme is doing the most amazing work making innovative change, involving Age UK alongside local doctors, and it is delivering real results.

Why does the Labour party make constant claims that the NHS in England is in crisis, when the position is so much worse in Wales, where Labour is in power?

Ian Austin: Will the Minister give way?

Norman Lamb: In a moment.

Why does the Labour party claim that the reforms are to blame when there has been no reform in Wales, yet the position there is worse? What people need and want is an open and honest debate about what should be done to secure the future of the NHS. The motion is about the pursuit of votes, not the interests of patients. If Labour Members—

Several hon. Members rose

Norman Lamb: Let me make this point.

If Labour Members are concerned about the interests of patients, why do they not agree to the suggestion by Professor Bruce Keogh, a respected clinician, for an investigation into safety in the Welsh NHS? Why do they remain silent?

Andy Burnham: The Minister accuses us of bringing politics into the NHS, but did not he and his colleagues put politics at its heart when they signed up to a Tory agenda to put market forces at the heart of the national health service?

Norman Lamb: That is absolute rubbish. Indeed, one of the right hon. Gentleman’s predecessors, the right hon. Member for Hull West and somewhere—

Mr Speaker: The right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle, rather than “somewhere”.

Norman Lamb: I apologise, Mr Speaker. The right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson) spoke very candidly about the role of the private sector under the previous Labour Government, which the shadow Secretary of State constantly seeks to deny.

Ian Austin: Will the Minister give way?

Norman Lamb: No. I need to make progress, and I have very little time.

21 Jan 2015 : Column 322

In a Guardian debate yesterday, in which I took part, Peter Carter, the respected chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, spoke of the need for political consensus

“so that we stop this ridiculous points-scoring”,


“frankly is destructive and does nothing to enhance the quality of the debate.”

Let us take his plea on board. I have argued for a non-partisan review of NHS and care budgets this year —whoever is in power—which would engage the public. We should all commit to that.

Labour claims that it will increase funding, but its proposed way of doing so appears to be unravelling before our eyes. Lord Mandelson has described the mansion tax as “sort of crude” and “sort of short-termist”. In the debate, the hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) cast doubt on how much the policy would raise.

Before I address the main issues, I want to pick up the remarks made by the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle, who raised important issues about mental health. He talked about the case of his constituent, Beth. It is intolerable that she has been shunted around the country. I have met the right hon. Gentleman, and I am happy to engage with him again. It is unacceptable for this to continue to happen. That is why there is an urgent need for children’s mental health services to be reformed, and our taskforce will soon report on the essential changes that are necessary.

Liz Kendall Will the Minister give way?

Norman Lamb: I do not have time.

I am pleased that the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle endorsed the case for access and waiting times standards in mental health, which I think will have the same transformative effect as they had in cancer care when his party was in government. As my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich North (Chloe Smith) said, why is mental health not in the motion? It certainly ought to be.

Liz Kendall: Will the Minister give way?

Norman Lamb: Let me make this point.

I acknowledge that several Members, including the hon. Members for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith) and for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock), raised distressing cases. I offer my personal sympathies to everyone who has been let down by the system. Such cases should motivate us all to strive to do everything that we can to improve how our NHS operates and to address the areas where it falls short.

The Opposition claim that the move from NHS Direct to NHS 111 has increased the demand faced by accident and emergency departments. There is no evidence to support that claim. Only 8% of calls result in a recommendation to go to A and E, and 30% of callers say that they would have gone to A and E if NHS 111 had not been available.

An accusation has been made about the impact of local authority cuts on social care. I remind the Labour party that the Government were faced with a £160 billion black hole in the public finances and had to act to sort

21 Jan 2015 : Column 323

that out. There is still no proposal from the Labour party to increase the funding for social care. The claims that it makes are hollow, without the money to go with them.

Let us look at one of the key indicators: delayed discharges from hospital. From August 2010 to November 2014, delayed days attributable solely to social care decreased from 38,324 to 37,000. The position is not as simple as some people suggest. Social care is performing incredibly well under difficult circumstances. In Cambridgeshire, there is the brilliant development of a service for older people to address their needs in innovative ways.

It has been claimed that the closure of walk-in centres has led to the current pressures on A and E. Again, we need to look at the evidence. A report by Monitor found that the reasons why local commissioners decided to close walk-in centres included that they were replacing them with urgent care centres co-located with A and E departments or other models of integrating primary care staff in A and E departments. The situation is not as simple as is suggested by the claim that walk-in centres have been closed and A and E has been left to pick up the burden.

The Opposition have said that the ambulance service is failing. In fact, ambulance services nationally are delivering nearly 2,000 more emergency journeys every day than in 2010. Ambulances respond to the majority of life-threatening cases in less than eight minutes. The Government have provided an additional £50 million to support ambulance services through this winter. It is right to take clinical advice to ensure that target response times are clinically based to avoid the unintended consequences of ambulance crews being driven crazy in the pursuit of targets, when it is patient safety that should be prioritised.

I come to the solution. In the short term, the Government have made an additional £700 million available to the NHS to cope with the pressures this winter. The right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) did at least acknowledge that. In the longer term, we need to focus on stopping the crises from occurring in the first place. We need a much greater focus on prevention, better integration of health and social care, and the implementation of Simon Stevens’s forward view.

I thank NHS staff for the amazing work that they do, often under great pressure, and the tremendous commitment that they make. We owe it to them and to the public to ensure that our NHS is protected and enhanced. Most people who use urgent and emergency care services receive effective, timely treatment. That is as it should be. Patients and their families should get the right advice and should get a response when they need it. We set the toughest standards in the world, and rightly so. We all know that those standards are under pressure across the UK, so let us be open and honest about that.

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

Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.

Question agreed to.

Main Question accordingly put.

The House divided:

Ayes 228, Noes 312.

Division No. 135]


6.59 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Kevin

Bayley, Sir Hugh

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Berger, Luciana

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blears, rh Hazel

Blomfield, Paul

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Champion, Sarah

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Sir Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

Darling, rh Mr Alistair

David, Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Galloway, George

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hancock, Mr Mike

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Jowell, rh Dame Tessa

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGuire, rh Dame Anne

McInnes, Liz

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miller, Andrew

Mitchell, Austin

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Phillipson, Bridget

Pound, Stephen

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Mr Steve

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Robertson, Angus

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Sarwar, Anas

Sawford, Andy

Seabeck, Alison

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheridan, Jim

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, Angela

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watson, Mr Tom

Watts, Mr Dave

Weir, Mr Mike

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Woodcock, John

Woodward, rh Mr Shaun

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Ayes:

Julie Hilling


Tom Blenkinsop


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Alexander, rh Danny

Amess, Sir David

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Steve

Baldry, rh Sir Tony

Barker, rh Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, rh Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Sir Malcolm

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, rh Paul

Burt, rh Alistair

Byles, Dan

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Cash, Sir William

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, rh Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davey, rh Mr Edward

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duncan, rh Sir Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evans, Mr Nigel

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Featherstone, rh Lynne

Field, Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, rh Damian

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hague, rh Mr William

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Sir Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Sir Oliver

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Hunter, Mark

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, rh Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lamb, rh Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Sir Edward

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Sir Peter

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Main, Mrs Anne

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, rh Esther

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, rh Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Dr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Paice, rh Sir James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Paterson, rh Mr Owen

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, rh Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Sir John

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, rh Sir Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Sir Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simmonds, rh Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, rh Sir Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, rh Sir Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, rh Sir Peter

Thornton, Mike

Thurso, rh John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, rh Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walter, Mr Robert

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, rh Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, rh Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, rh Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Tellers for the Noes:

Dr Thérèse Coffey


Harriett Baldwin

Question accordingly negatived.

21 Jan 2015 : Column 324

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21 Jan 2015 : Column 328

Deferred Divisions

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 41A(3)),

That, at this day’s sitting, Standing Order 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply to the Motion in the name of Secretary Theresa May relating to the Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism.—(Mr Wallace.)

Question agreed to.

21 Jan 2015 : Column 329

Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism

7.16 pm

The Minister for Security and Immigration (James Brokenshire): I beg to move,

That the draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2015, which was laid before this House on 19 January, be approved.

Seventeen people were killed and a number injured in the appalling attacks in Paris earlier this month, while in December we saw deadly and callous attacks in Sydney and Pakistan. There can be no doubt that the terrorist threat we face is grave and relentless. The threat level in the UK, which is set by the independent Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, remains at “severe”, meaning that a terrorist attack in our country is highly likely and could occur without warning.

We can never entirely eliminate the threat from terrorism, but we are determined to do all to minimise the threat from terrorism to the UK and our interests abroad, and proscription is an important part of the Government’s strategy to disrupt terrorist activities. The two groups we propose to add to the list of terrorist organisations, amending schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000, are Jund al-Aqsa, also known as the Soldiers of al-Aqsa, and Jund al-Khalifa-Algeria, also known as the Soldiers of the Caliphate. This is the 17th proscription order under the Act.

Under section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Secretary has the power to proscribe an organisation if she believes it is currently concerned in terrorism. Given its wide-ranging impact, the Home Secretary exercises her power to proscribe only after thoroughly reviewing the available evidence on the organisation. The cross-Government proscription review group supports the Home Secretary in her decision making process. Having carefully considered all the evidence, the Home Secretary believes that Jund al-Aqsa and Jund al-Khalifa-Algeria are both currently concerned in terrorism.

Jund al-Aqsa is a splinter group of the al-Nusra front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. Since September 2013, the group has acted against the Syrian Government. It is a foreign fighter battalion comprising a variety of nationalities, as well as a native Syrian contingent. The group is primarily operating in Idlib and Hama. It is believed to be responsible for the attack on 9 February 2014 in Maan village, which killed 40 people, of whom 21 were civilians. In July 2014, it supported the Islamic Front in an operation to seize Hama military airport. In August 2014, the al-Nusra front released a document summarising its operations that included details of an attack targeting a resort hotel conducted in collaboration with Jund al-Aqsa.

Jund al-Khalifa-Algeria is an Islamist militant group believed to be made up of members of dormant al-Qaeda cells. It announced its allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in a communiqué released on 13 September 2014. In April 2014, it claimed responsibility for an ambush on a convoy that killed 11 members of the Algerian army. On 24 September 2014, the group beheaded a mountaineering guide, Hervé Gourdel, a French national. The abduction was announced on the same day that the spokesman for ISIL warned that it

21 Jan 2015 : Column 330

would target Americans and other western citizens, especially the French, after French jets joined the US in carrying out strikes in Iraq on ISIL targets.

In conclusion, I believe it right to add both groups to the list of proscribed organisations in schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000. Subject to the agreement of this House and the other place, the order will come into force on Friday 23 January.

7.20 pm

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): I thank the Minister for his statement and I am grateful for the Home Secretary’s letter to my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary. On the basis of the Minister’s statement and that letter, the Opposition will support the Government’s motion.

We recognise, of course, that events in Syria, Iraq and northern Africa are fuelling a rapidly evolving network of inter-related terror groups who pose a real threat to the UK and our allies. It is absolutely right to use all legal measures to try to counter the spread of these groups and to ensure that they cannot establish themselves in the United Kingdom.

In this case, we have two groups with close links to other proscribed groups. Jund al Khalifa-Algeria is an Algerian-based Islamic militant group, linked to al-Qaeda and hoping to establish a caliphate in northern Africa. The group is affiliated to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Secondly, Jund al-Aqsa or Soldiers of al-Aqsa is a splinter group of the al-Nusra front, and it is just three months since we proscribed JKI—Army of the Islamic Caliphate, another splinter group of the al-Nusra front. In common with the al-Nusra front, the JAA is largely based in Syria, and as a group has attracted many jihadists from outside Syria. JAA started out as a campaign against the Syrian Government, but in recent attacks the group has seemed happy to target innocent civilians.

At this point in a proscription order, I normally have to conclude that we will take the assurances of the Home Secretary that she has sufficient evidence that the groups are conducting the activities described. This is obviously because the Opposition do not have access to the same intelligence as the Government. In this case, however, there is no need to see sensitive information to conclude that these are terrorist groups. Far from hiding their activities, they are actively boasting about them on social media, using YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to spread images of the most horrendous violence, alongside messages justifying it. These are not groups that want to hide; these are groups that are actively recruiting.

The JAA YouTube channel was opened on the 28 July 2014, apparently replacing a previous YouTube channel that had been closed down. The latest Twitter account opened in September in English, again replacing an account that had been closed down. The English Twitter account—we looked at it just yesterday—has 1,460 followers. Tweets declare fallen supporters to be martyrs, and there are links to YouTube videos and other Twitter pages run by JAA. One of these pages is the official JAA Twitter page in Arabic, which has some 17,500 followers.

The videos on the YouTube channel are even more disturbing. Let us take, for example, the video uploaded on to the official JAA channel on 21 September 2014.

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This video depicts JAA fighters engaging with Government forces—kicking, hanging, abusing the bodies of the dead and taking part in training exercises. It seems quite clear that this video is intended to glorify grotesque violence as a form of extremist propaganda. This video has been viewed 13,000 times, attracted 40 comments and has been “liked” on the YouTube rating system 96 times.

I have met Google in the past to discuss YouTube’s hosting of terrorist propaganda, and it is supposed to be taking down extremist content when it comes across it. The Home Office’s counter-terrorism internet referral unit is also supposed to be identifying this content and getting it taken down. Here, however, is a whole YouTube channel run by, as we know, a known terrorist organisation and including sermons advocating terrorism and videos of violent terrorist acts attracting thousands of views.

At one level, there is an irony that these extremist terrorist groups, rallying against western consumerism, are happy to use these enormous western companies to spread their message of hate, but there is also a very serious point. As the Minister said in an earlier speech to the House, the

“effect is that a listed organisation is outlawed and is unable to operate in the UK. It is a criminal offence for a person to belong to…support…arrange a meeting in support of a proscribed organisation, or wear clothing or carry articles in public which arouse reasonable suspicion that an individual is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation.”—[Official Report, 2 April 2014; Vol. 578, c. 948.]

A very brief look at what was available on social media enabled me to come across deeply offensive and worrying videos and tweets. I am very pleased that we are proscribing the organisations that produced them, but I think that the Minister should bear in mind that social media companies are making such videos and tweets available for everyone to see, and consider what more can be done about those companies.

7.25 pm

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): I will be very brief.

As is normal in the case of proscription orders, the whole House is united in support of what the Government are doing. As far as I can remember, no order of this kind has ever being opposed, because we trust and accept the good faith of the Minister when he tells the House that dreadful organisations are seeking to propagate terrorism, which is indeed true.

I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) raised the issue of the internet. As the Prime Minister said recently, it is the “dark net” that gives so much succour to those who are indulging in terrorist activities. The Home Affairs Committee has tried to encourage internet companies to take firmer action on many occasions, but, as the Minister knows, this material is still on the net as we speak.

Many organisations such as those that we are proscribing today recruit through the net. In the past, there was one-to-one grooming of those who wished to become jihadists; that activity then moved to the madrassahs and then to the universities, and it is now taking place in our prisons. It is, however, the internet through which organisations that seek to change the face of Governments —in Algeria, in particular—are operating.

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I hope that the Minister will continue to do what I know he has started to do, and ensure that the net is free from these agents of destruction. I am happy to support the order.

7.27 pm

Sir Hugh Bayley (York Central) (Lab): The hour is late, and I do not intend to detain the House. I think that the Government are right to proscribe Jund Al-Aqsa and Jund al-Khalifa-Algeria. However, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), it is important not just to proscribe terrorist organisations, but to work to reduce their influence—and, indeed, that of other organisations that the Government may be forced to proscribe in months to come—on young people in our country.

The protest that took place on the Sunday after the appalling killings in Paris united the whole of Europe, and people from beyond Europe. It is difficult to think of any other demonstration that could have brought together the President of Palestine and the Prime Minister of Israel, who walked side by side. However, if we are to prevent young minds in this country from being poisoned by propaganda of this kind—particularly through the web—it is important for us to work with Muslims in this country. The vast majority of them have absolutely no truck with violence, which they consider to be a denial of the principles of Islam, but we need to ensure that they counter, within their own community, the lies and falsehoods that the terrorists are propagating.

More Muslim parents are talking to me in York, which does not have a particularly large Muslim population. They tell me that they want more to be done to deflect young people from these dangers. I hope that the Minister will say a little about what the Government are doing in relation to Muslims in this country.

7.29 pm

James Brokenshire: With the leave of the House, and in thanking right hon. and hon. Members for their support for the order this evening, let me respond first to the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson). Yes, of course we are vigilant in seeking to combat the use of messages on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter or any other social media platform, including the new ones that appear. That is precisely why we have the counter-terrorism internet referral unit with which the hon. Lady will be familiar. It has taken down 72,000 individual items since it was established in 2010. She highlighted a video and the original has been removed, but it continues to be put up in different places. That is why we have the CTIRU to flag that and to work with industry to take it down.

The hon. Lady and other right hon. and hon. Members made a broader point about the role and responsibility of the internet industry. We are obviously flagging these items, but the industry has a responsibility to take action when it identifies such images. A number of companies do that, but there is more to be done for them to realise their responsibilities and take further action. Indeed, the Prime Minister’s comments on this subject after the publication of the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report on Woolwich identified that challenge and how we all need to do more. The social media companies and the internet industry certainly need to do more.

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I entirely endorse the comments made by the hon. Member for York Central (Sir Hugh Bayley) about working with communities. That is precisely the approach the Government take. We are seeking to ensure that we challenge ourselves on what more we can do and that is why the provisions in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, which is currently in the other place, put on a statutory basis our work on counter-radicalisation and the Channel de-radicalisation programmes.

We are doing work in government, but there is also work in communities. Some incredible British Muslims are taking a stand and showing leadership, such as the 100 imams who wrote a letter condemning the actions of ISIL and groups such as Families Against Stress and Trauma. Through their programmes, there is an outlet that prevents people from being radicalised and going down that pathway. This is clearly a broader and wider debate. We have debated some of it on the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, but proscription can be an important way for the police to get further evidence, which can lead to prosecution of those who belong to groups that are not proscribed.

I am grateful to the House for the support it has shown this evening. I hope that we will remain vigilant, whether online, in communities or more broadly, to ensure that we do our utmost to protect our country and our citizens and to confound and confront those who would do us harm.

Question put and agreed to.

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

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

Social Security

That the draft State Pension Regulations 2015, which were laid before this House on 26 November 2014, be approved.— (Mr Wallace.)

Question agreed to.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): With the leave of the House, we shall take motions 5 to 8 together.

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

Social Care

That the draft Care and Support (Market Oversight Criteria) Regulations 2014, which were laid before this House on 3 December 2014, be approved.

That the draft Care and Support (Business Failure) Regulations 2014, which were laid before this House on 3 December 2014, be approved.

That the draft Care and Support (Eligibility Criteria) Regulations 2014, which were laid before this House on 3 December 2014, be approved.)

That the draft Care and Support (Children’s Carers) Regulations 2014, which were laid before this House on 3 December 2014, be approved.—(Mr Wallace.)

Question agreed to.

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

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Road Traffic

That the draft Motor Vehicles (Wearing of Seat Belts) (Amendment) Regulations 2015, which were laid before this House on 8 December 2014, be approved.—(Mr Wallace.)

Question agreed to.

Madam Deputy Speaker: With the leave of the House, we shall take motions 10 to 12 together.

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


That the draft Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (Amendment) Regulations 2015, which were laid before this House on 15 December 2014, be approved.

That the draft Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (Amendment) Regulations 2015, which were laid before this House on 15 December 2014, be approved.

That the draft Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme and Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (Amendment) Regulations 2015, which were laid before this House on 15 December 2014, be approved.—(Mr Wallace.)

Question agreed to.


Rules on marches and demonstrations

7.34 pm

Sarah Champion (Rotherham) (Lab): I am presenting this petition on behalf of the businesses and residents of Rotherham who have signed a paper and online petition to try to get the Government to recognise the devastating impact repeat marches in our town centre on Saturdays are having on our economy and sense of community.

The petition states:

“The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to consider the rules regarding marches and demonstrations, including looking specifically at the thresholds that are used to ban marches and demonstrations so that they include a provision to consider the economic impact of such marches as well as looking at the restrictions that are in place on the frequency, location, time or date of marches and demonstrations.”

Following is the full text of the petition:

[The Petition of residents of the UK,

Declares that the threshold to ban marches and demonstrations is currently measured in terms of public safety, not economic impact; further that there are currently no restrictions on the frequency, location, time and date of marches; further that the Petitioners believe that marches and demonstrations are having an impact on the lives and trades of residents in Rotherham; further that the Police and local council in Rotherham have tried their best to minimise the disruption to traders in Rotherham of marches and demonstrations to ensure that businesses stay open; further that when marches and demonstrations occur in Rotherham significant parts of the town have to close; further that the Petitioners believe such protests and marches are having a devastating impact on local communities; and further that a local petition in Rotherham on this subject has received nearly 300 signatures.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to consider the rules regarding marches and demonstrations, including looking

21 Jan 2015 : Column 335 specifically at the thresholds that are used to ban marches and demonstrations so that they include a provision to consider the economic impact of such marches as well as looking at the restrictions that are in place on the frequency, location, time or date of marches and demonstrations.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.]


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Standardised Packaging (Tobacco Products)

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

7.35 pm

Ann McKechin (Glasgow North) (Lab): There are now only a few weeks until Parliament dissolves, but tonight I want to urge the Government, even at this eleventh hour, to do something that can save hundreds, if not thousands, of people across the country from a premature death. They still just have the time to undertake one major reform that they promised long ago: the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes. However, despite almost three years of consultations and reviews and clear evidence both at home and abroad to support regulation there has been a deafening silence for over eight months. Why is the Prime Minister prevaricating? I hope the Minister can answer that question this evening and show her resolve to be serious about this nation’s public health.

We have debated this issue many times but the need for tonight’s debate is simple: plain packaging works. Too many people suffer from diseases brought on by smoking and too many young people are still picking up the habit for the issue to be ignored until after the election.

Sadly, my own city, Glasgow, has one of the worst records for smoking-related premature deaths in the country. Of those who take up smoking, only about half will manage to stop before they die, and two thirds of current smokers started before they were 18 years old, so the early teenage years are the key period to hook people into the habit.

The cost to patients, their families and our NHS is still too high despite the considerable improvements in treatments and drugs over recent years. In Glasgow, according to the latest Scottish Public Health Observatory’s tobacco control profile there were over 1,900 deaths from lung cancer in 2012 alone and almost 47,000 smoking-attributable hospital admissions over that year. Almost 28% of the city’s population smokes against the Scottish national average of 23%. Even a small percentage drop in those figures would make a really big difference to a lot of people, save lives and alleviate the pressure on our health services.

Successive Governments over recent years have put in place a range of measures to assist public health. Duty on cigarettes has been routinely increased in Budgets above the prevailing rate of inflation and this has undoubtedly made a significant difference. However, the impact is clearly plateauing and there is evidence that in the poorest communities in particular the rise of the black market in cigarettes could be acting as a block on further smoking reduction.

Increasingly, non-economic measures need to be introduced to further limit the habit, the most obvious being the ban on smoking in public places. It was not without controversy when introduced, but with Scotland taking the lead it has transformed our communities, reducing overall smoking levels. It has been of benefit to workers and non-smokers alike, but if we are honest the smoking ban has also led to more people switching their drinking, and in turn smoking, habits to a domestic setting, rather than necessarily quitting.

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Cessation services via GPs and local councils have become better organised and more comprehensive. The Local Government Association in England is producing a new report this weekend on cessation services, but has informed me that councils are committed to spending over £140 million in England on cessation services this year, and this is undoubtedly a sound investment.

The Government are to be commended for taking forward the legislation introduced by the previous Labour Government to prohibit the display of tobacco products at the point of sale, with all shops being subject to the ban by April this year. This, along with the ban on public advertising, has helped to change perspectives about the normality of smoking.

We know that children and young teenagers can be influenced by a complex range of factors and we must do more to protect them against the harm that smoking brings. Attractive colours and packaging have a strong influence on young people, and tobacco companies have not been slow to find other, indirect ways of promoting their products. In a presentation to an industry conference back in 2006, Imperial Tobacco’s then global brand director, Geoff Good, acknowledged that the tobacco advertising ban had

“effectively banned us from promoting all tobacco products”,

but noted that

“the marketing team have to become more creative…We therefore decided to look at pack design.”

In fact, the industry was even happy to admit this in its response to the Government’s consultation on the future of tobacco controls. Philip Morris stated in its response that

“packaging is an important means…of communicating to consumers about what brands are on sale and in particular the goodwill associated with our trademarks, indicating brand value and quality…placing trademarks on packaged goods is thus at the heart of commercial expression”.

I struggle to imagine what the good will of a cigarette might actually amount to, but there is no doubt that the industry has exerted enormous pressure to stop this move.

It is no coincidence that the colours and graphics used on these packs are designed to attract new and younger users, and research shows that this increased emphasis has had an effect. Between 2002 and 2006, there was an increase in the proportion of young people aware of new pack design from 11% in 2002 to 18% in 2006. As the Minister is well aware, the systematic review commissioned by her own Government of 37 different studies provided evidence of the impacts of plain packaging. Each of the 19 studies that examined perceptions of attractiveness found that standard plain packets were rated as less attractive than branded packs. The studies also showed that the awareness of health risks was higher with standard packaging. Younger respondents were more likely to perceive that standard packs would discourage the take-up of smoking. All those findings back up the case that such a change would have an impact on young teenagers who were tempted to smoke.

In Australia, where plain packaging legislation was introduced in 2012, smoking rates have fallen dramatically. Daily smoking levels are at an historic low of 12.8%, and the average number of cigarettes smoked is now just 96 per week, compared with 111 in 2010. Fewer young people in Australia are trying cigarettes, and

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those who do so start at a higher age than in the past. Opposition to plain packaging among the public has also fallen steeply since the legislation came into force.

Some have argued that such a move will open the doors to a massive black market, and I note that that allegation has been reported in The Daily Telegraph in the past week. However, the main driver of black markets is economic: the difference between the actual value of the good and the price set for the consumer. It should not be beyond the wit of the authorities to devise a form of unique marking to stem counterfeit products. As the Minister will be aware, Sir Cyril Chantler stated in his report last year that he had found

“no convincing evidence to suggest that standardised packaging would increase the illicit market”.

The Trading Standards Institute has helpfully advised me today that, having reviewed the proposed regulations, it understands that standardised packs will retain the same security features as those found on existing tobacco packaging. It is the institute’s professional view that standardised packs would provide no new challenges in terms of detecting illicit products.

We know from what has occurred in Australia that tobacco companies have been forceful in pursuing their opposition at every step of the way. On the day that the Australian Government passed their legislation, Philip Morris and a number of other producers immediately launched a lawsuit to challenge the law. That challenge was rejected by the Australian domestic courts in 2012, but Philip Morris was not prepared to give up. In addition to taking the domestic action, it rearranged its assets in order to become a Hong Kong investor and use the 1993 bilateral trade agreement between the two countries to initiate an investor dispute arbitration. That case is due to be heard next month in Singapore, behind closed doors.

In addition, the company helped to finance a separate World Trade Organisation action brought against Australia by five tobacco-producing states. Australia refused each of those countries’ first requests, as allowed under WTO rules, but Ukraine made a second request in September 2012, which led to the establishment and composition of a dispute panel. The panel was composed in May 2014, but no report has been adopted and this matter is still outstanding. Similar industry pressure in New Zealand led by British American Tobacco has led to a long postponement, despite the fact that the legislation was introduced in its Parliament more than a year ago.

Using the same ISDS dispute procedure that the UK Government are so keen to support in the current EU-US negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership—TTIP—Philip Morris is suing tiny Uruguay over its decision to increase the size of health warnings on cigarette packets from 50% of the cover to 80%. We now await the outcome of this David and Goliath struggle, but it does raise the question as to why our Government are not more questioning of the possible impact of investor-state dispute settlement clauses on our public health policy, given the lengths that the tobacco industry is clearly prepared to take.

We need the UK to be brave—to face up to the industry giants and act in the interests of the public we serve. The Minister will be aware that the Scottish Government have sensibly agreed that legislation should be brought in throughout the UK at the same time and

21 Jan 2015 : Column 339

have given their assent to regulations being brought in by this Government covering Scotland, too. I want her assurance tonight that she will act on this agreement to give the boost to public health that is so needed in my city.

Over the past few years there have been several well-supported public campaigns calling on MPs to act, and recent polling has shown that a majority of the public are in favour of this proposal.

Sir George Young (North West Hampshire) (Con): The hon. Lady will be aware that a range of views may be held among Government Members, but may I assure her that within my party there is a strong body of opinion supporting what she is saying and joining her in urging the Government to take action?

Ann McKechin: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his support tonight. This matter should, I hope, elicit cross-party support, because the health of our young people is a key issue that all of us should be deeply concerned about.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making a powerful speech tonight. May I take her back to an earlier point at the beginning of her speech and highlight the fact that if this measure is not introduced by the Government soon, it will be delayed until probably after the summer, as a result of which, indirectly, thousands of lives will be lost?

Ann McKechin: Yes. As I have said before, half those who take up smoking will not be able to stop, and we know that every week hundreds of teenagers across the UK take up the smoking habit. So every week that we delay has a direct health impact in our local communities.

The Minister’s own review, the Chantler review, concluded when it reported in early April last year that branded packaging plays an important role in encouraging young people to smoke and in consolidating the habit, irrespective of the intentions of the tobacco industry and that the body of evidence showed that plain packaging is very likely to lead to a modest but important reduction over time on the take-up and prevalence of smoking. The Minister is already on the public record as accepting that standardised packaging is

“very likely to have a positive impact on public health”—[Official Report, 3 April 2014; Vol. 578, c. 1018.]

and as wanting to proceed as swiftly as possible. I have no reason to doubt her intentions, but time is running out.

The Prime Minister must allow Parliament to vote on plain packaging regulations before the election. He must heed the advice of health professionals, 4,000 of whom signed an open letter to The Guardian demanding urgent action, and ignore the protestations of his Australian spin doctor Lynton Crosby, whose tobacco industry links are said to have scuppered the push for plain packaging in 2012 when the Government pushed the issue into the long grass. Too many people are needlessly dying prematurely because of smoking and too many young people are still being hooked.

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Paul Burstow (Sutton and Cheam) (LD): This is a very important debate. As the chair of the all-party group on smoking and health, may I say to the hon. Lady that what we need to hear from the Minister tonight is that the Government write-around has started and that the regulations will be laid, so that we can have a vote?

Ann McKechin: The right hon. Gentleman is right about that, because these regulations, which need to be laid by the end of this month if they are to be approved in time by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. That is why we need to use the precious time that we have in this Parliament between now and the end of March to save lives and reduce the burden on the national health service. I hope the Prime Minister, his Government and the Minister who responds will listen to that call and start to act on behalf of everyone.

7.49 pm

Dame Angela Watkinson (Hornchurch and Upminster) (Con): I draw Members’ attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I thank the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Ann McKechin) for allowing me to make a brief contribution during her debate—doubly so, because she did not withdraw her permission when I told her that I was going to disagree with her. Similarly, I thank the Minister.

I speak as a lifelong non-smoker. That is my choice, and it is a choice open to everybody. Nobody is forced to smoke. The Government have already invested heavily in existing strategies: television adverts, which were extremely effective—particularly the one about not smoking in front of children in one’s car—street hoardings, newspapers and magazines, smoking cessation treatment free of charge in GP surgeries and pharmacies, and anti-smoking advice in schools. My own schools are very effective in giving citizenship classes warning about the health risks of smoking. There cannot be anyone in this country, young or old, who does not know about the health risks of tobacco. Nobody smokes in ignorance.

Plain packaging has the laudable purpose of deterring children from starting smoking and helping smokers who wish to quit, but there is no reliable evidence that plain packaging will influence smokers in general or children in particular. In Australia, where plain packaging was introduced in 2012, both youth smoking and sales of illicit tobacco increased in the following year. There are many complex social reasons that lead to youth smoking, but packaging is not one of those factors. Currently 3% of under-15s smoke in the United Kingdom—the lowest percentage in a generation. I have asked people who were buying cigarettes in my local newsagent whether plain packaging would influence their tobacco purchasing habits, and they find the idea laughable.

Standardised packaging would be bad for exports, bad for retailers, particularly small shops, bad for jobs in warehousing, distribution, marketing, design and packaging, and bad for the Treasury, but very good for criminals, making the illicit trade much easier. What would follow—bottles of wine with plain labels, or bars of chocolate in plain packages as we are controlled and someone else makes our decisions for us?

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Let us try to be positive and sensible. Let us clamp down on illicit sales of smuggled cigarettes in our neighbourhoods, and enforce a new ban on purchasing tobacco for under-18s, as with alcohol. Let us support shopkeepers in their role as gatekeepers to age-restricted products, encourage “No ID, no sale” signs in shop windows, and enforce stiff penalties against retailers—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. I hesitate to interrupt the hon. Lady, but time is very short. I hope she will draw her remarks to a close because the Minister has a speech to make.

Dame Angela Watkinson: I am very aware of that, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Let us enforce stiff penalties against retailers caught selling cigarettes knowingly to children and let us not forget the responsibility of parents to know how much pocket money their children have to spend and what they spend it on. In short, the policy of plain packaging is well intentioned but misguided. It will do more harm than good. It will not work and I oppose it.

7.53 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Jane Ellison): I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond to this important debate and I congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Ann McKechin) on securing it.

As other Members have said, tobacco use remains one of our most significant public health challenges and reducing smoking rates is a key public health priority for this Government. The burden of smoking places enormous strain on the NHS and holds us back in the battle against cancer. This is why the Government have committed to and delivered on a comprehensive set of tobacco control measures, which include a ban on smoking in cars with children present, making it illegal for adults to buy tobacco products on behalf of children, outlawing displaying tobacco in shops and working to introduce age of sale requirements for e-cigarettes. Standardised packaging is part of this strategy and I am grateful for tonight’s opportunity to provide the House with an update on this policy.

It is important to acknowledge the enormous progress that has been made so far. Smoking rates in England are at their lowest level since records began. Today, around 18% of adults are smokers, down from around half of adults in the 1970s. Almost 2 million fewer people in England are smokers compared with a decade ago. Assuming that the downward trend of the past years continues, that equates to around 15,000 smoking-related deaths avoided during the course of this Parliament.

We know that most smokers start young, and we want our children to grow up free from the burden of disease that tobacco inflicts. The very good news is that the rates of regular smoking by children in England are also falling, with 8% of 15-year-olds smoking now compared with 15% in 2009, achieving the target set out in our tobacco control plan two years early. However, around 8 million people in England still smoke, so there is no room for complacency. The hon. Member for Glasgow North is right to draw attention to regional differences in smoking rates—including in her own area,

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where more than one in four people smokes. I think that she will agree with me that there is a concerning link between those rates and deprivation.

I wish to pick up on what the hon. Lady said about prevarication and delay. I have always been clear about the need to follow a robust process and ensure that all issues relevant to the introduction of standardised packaging are properly considered. That includes the implications for illicit trade, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch and Upminster (Dame Angela Watkinson) mentioned, as well as the legal issues.

Nick de Bois (Enfield North) (Con): Will my hon. Friend give way on that point?

Jane Ellison: I am afraid that I am really short of time.

Nick de Bois: Just a brief question.

Jane Ellison: I am very sorry, but I have been left very short of time.

The challenges that the tobacco industry is likely to bring to the regulations have also been carefully considered. It is vital that all stakeholders are heard and all evidence is carefully considered and evaluated. Ministers must ensure that that is done as thoroughly as possible so that any decision taken is solidly based on the available evidence.

Over the past few weeks and months, the Department of Health has carefully considered all responses to the most recent consultation and taken into account all the information and evidence on the public health implications as well as the wider issues, including the legal ones. I commend my officials, who have worked tirelessly to provide me and my ministerial colleagues with essential and valuable advice with which to make a decision.

As the House has already heard, I asked Sir Cyril Chantler, an eminent paediatrician, to undertake an independent review of whether the introduction of standardised packaging is likely to have an effect on public health, in particular in relation to children. I would like to thank him again for delivering such a thorough report.

Sir Cyril’s report concludes that, if standardised packaging were introduced, it would very likely have a positive impact on public health and that the health benefits would include health benefits for children. Following the publication of his report, we also held a final short consultation in summer 2014, seeking new and additional information, relevant to the policy, that had arisen since the last consultation.

Earlier this month, the chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser, Professor Dame Sally Davies, provided me with her review of the evidence and also of the criticisms of the Chantler review that have been put forward by the tobacco industry. Dame Sally has made it clear that she

“does not believe there is evidence to show that the process or the conclusions of the Chantler review are flawed and there is now accumulating evidence to support the conclusions of the review.”

It is her view that the evidence does support the introduction of standardised packaging.

There have been particular concerns that standardised packaging would increase illicit trade. In his review, Sir Cyril addresses those concerns and concludes:

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“I am not convinced by the tobacco industry’s argument that standardised packaging would increase the illicit market, especially in counterfeit cigarettes.”

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has also undertaken a detailed assessment of the potential impact of standardised packaging on the illicit market. It concluded:

“We have seen no evidence to suggest the introduction of standardised packaging will have a significant impact on the overall size of the illicit market or prompt a step-change in the activity of organised crime groups.”

The assessment is expected to be published in full soon.

We are also giving careful consideration to any and all potential legal challenges that may be brought against the Government as a result of introducing standardised packaging. As the hon. Lady knows, litigation by the tobacco industry is always a risk when introducing tobacco control legislation.

The Government are committed to reducing the numbers of young people taking up smoking and to helping smokers who are trying to quit. Our comprehensive approach to tobacco control is working. Fewer people than ever now smoke and cancer survival rates are at record highs. However, we cannot be complacent. We all know the damage that smoking does to health. Tobacco causes over 80,000 deaths a year, and around 600 children in the UK start smoking every day, as the hon. Member for Glasgow North said in her opening remarks.

The Government are completely committed to protecting children from the harm that tobacco causes. That is why I am announcing today that we will be bringing forward legislation for standardised packaging before the end of this Parliament. A consultant respiratory physician told me last year that he is confident that the introduction of standardised packaging will end up saving more lives than he would be able to in his entire career.

I thank all the people who have campaigned for this policy and all those who have contributed to the consultations—the 2012 consultation and the 2014 consultation. I hope that the thousands of other clinicians who have written to me, and to colleagues, over the past weeks and months will welcome this important progress. I want to reassure the House that I will provide further details about the introduction of the policy in due course.

Legislation—even new laws on packaging—will not solve all the problems relating to tobacco. Effective tobacco control depends not just on Government action; local authorities also have a key role, which is why we gave local government responsibility for public health. It is best placed to take forward local plans, based on local circumstances. We see a wide variation between the levels of smoking in our nation—during pregnancy and among young people—and we see that the policy of local action has been vindicated. Local authorities, supported by Public Health England, can advise on effective local action and share experience of what works.

Standardised packaging has the potential for huge public health benefits, but we must not forget that other measures will also contribute to reducing smoking rates. I remind the hon. Member for Glasgow North that Sir Cyril Chantler’s report advises that any policy

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of standardised packaging must be seen in the round as part of a comprehensive policy of tobacco control measures, and that is how I see the potential for standardised packaging working in this country. Effective tobacco control depends on taking a multifaceted approach, and that is what we are doing.

Only this morning, I was speaking to a number of local government leaders and hearing their reflections, and I know that many local authorities as well as health charities have also addressed the Government on this subject. Legislation to end tobacco displays has already been implemented for large shops such as supermarkets, as I mentioned. All other shops selling tobacco, including corner shops, will need to end their displays of tobacco on 6 April. The display of tobacco products in shops can promote smoking by young people and undermine the resolve of adult smokers trying to quit—and we know how many adult smokers are trying to quit.

While I have the Floor, I can give the House an update on smoking in cars. We laid the regulations to end smoking in private vehicles carrying children on 17 December 2014. The regulations have been considered by the scrutiny Committees, and I expect that we shall have a date for the debate soon. The regulations make it an offence to smoke in a vehicle if a child is present, and for a driver to fail to stop someone smoking in such situations. They provide for the police to be able to enforce against these offences and, if approved by Parliament, the regulations will come into force on 1 October 2015—again, as part of a comprehensive tobacco control strategy. We will also continue social marketing work in this area, with Public Health England running campaigns to raise awareness of the health harms and of the new offences. It is not my desire that people should be fined as a result of ignorance, and I want to ensure that as many people as possible are aware of the new policy.

As I mentioned earlier, we have also introduced legislation to make it illegal for an adult to buy or attempt to buy tobacco for anyone under the age of 18. Through regulations we plan to extend the scope of this offence to cover e-cigarettes. The Department is currently consulting on those draft regulations to introduce age-of-sale requirements for electronic cigarettes, as we already have for tobacco, and that consultation will close on 28 January.

I thank colleagues who have attended the debate, many of whom have expressed strong views about this policy. All of those views have been extremely carefully considered. The hon. Member for Glasgow North referred to the desire to make UK-wide legislation. I can confirm that I will be speaking to my ministerial colleagues in the devolved Administrations and I hope they will follow us to make this a UK-wide measure.

We will bring the regulations before Parliament in this Parliament. Should Parliament support the measure, we will be bringing the prospect of this country’s first smoke-free generation one decisive step closer. I thank the House for its attention tonight and colleagues for all their input into this policy making. I commend the policy to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

8.4 pm

House adjourned.